March 23, 2023

Episode 208: Ben Borodach, Co-Founder & CEO at april

Ben Borodach has spent his career working at the intersection of finance and technology. He helped scale Team8 Group into a multi-hundred million AUM fund, and initiated and helped sell several FinTech companies to PayPal and Bitsight, among others. During his tenure at Team8, Ben also spearheaded the firm's strategy arm and its US office as well as launched an award-winning cyber ETF and Ph.D. program. He has also been an advisor and contributor to the World Economic Forum on issues relating to central bank digital currencies.

Prior to joining Team8, Ben was a FinTech strategist at Deloitte Consulting, where he advised the largest US banks and insurers on their business, technology, M&A, and venture strategies.

Most recently, Ben co-founded april to bring more equity to the tax experience for all Americans. The company's vision is to democratize access to the tax code, enabling any company to develop and incorporate tax features and filing into their application.

Ben graduated from NYU with a degree in Economics and Business with Dean's List and Presidential Honors Scholar distinctions.

Julian: Hey everyone. Thankyou so much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast. Today we have BenBorodach, co-founder and CEO at april, where the company's vision is todemocratize access to the tax code, enabling any company to develop andincorporate tax features and filing into their application. Ben, I'm so excitedto chat with you and as we were discussing before the show, there's obviouslya, a lot of unrest with financial institutions and write up to taxes and ofcourse it comes up for the regular individual.

And so, I'm really. Fascinated not onlyabout the different and changes and way technology is kind of helping peoplestay up to date on the, changes. And and I think more and more as I'm not sureif you're a TikTok connoisseur like myself people are getting their financialadvice and even tax advice from the platform and, and learning new ways thatthey can either, use or, or move their, their assets in ways that they don'thave to say, pay extra taxes that are unnecessary.

So, more so interested in your insights.How that whole experience is and how, how it's been working with companies andindividuals and kind of keeping all the information, like you said,democratized to everyone. And but before we get into all that, what were youdoing before you started the company?

Ben: Hey Julian, thanks forhaving me here today. Yeah. Obviously we're living in in uncertain times andfolks. Both, I think curious and, and cautious about what they do with theirmoney and Yeah. And where they get their financial advice. I've, I've spent myentire career working in financial services and early stage FinTechinfrastructure.

I started my career at DeloitteConsulting, where I was advising the largest US banks and insurance companieslike Citigroup and American Express and AIG on their future businesses, theirdigital transformation and their m and a and venture strategies. And then aboutsix years ago, joined a company called Team.

Which is a US-Israel hybrid venturecreation company. We were primarily building companies in the cybersecurityspace, and I led their expansion into the US and built a number of FinTech andcybersecurity companies that we sold to firms like Bit Sided Moody's and PayPaland and others, and then started april. About two years back.  

Julian: That's incredible.The, in terms of, the experience and amount of wealth and knowledge that youhave in terms of scaling companies, and, and I'm curious in, in yourperspective what you've seen. I'm sure whether it's a different type of productor similar products or services that companies may have kind of a prescriptiveway that they can scale or grow once.

Hit certain, say, milestones or certainkey features that the company has. And I'm curious to hear what are thosefeatures that companies that, that are ready for growth, that are ready toscale? What do they have? Is it something operationally is something withleadership, it's something about the product and the market and how that fits.

What in your opinion do you companieshave that, that are, say, ready for that scaling challenge, not, zero to oneor, or one to 10, but beyond that and, and what they need to be successful,what have you seen?  

Ben: Yeah. I think in theindustry we talk a lot about product market fit. I think that definitionprobably has gotten sort of stretched a little bit in recent times.

But essentially it means that you havea, a product that you can define what it is and you've got a group of peopleand you can define who they are and you understand what problem set that youare addressing for them and, and basically understand sort of what, what is thevalue proposition? And you've got a product that's, That is servicing thisneed.

And there's different ways to measurethat, right? We, me measure that through retention and ltv. And, and we'd lookat that differently. I think what got added to the mix, in the last year, whichI thought was sort of in some ways a little bit comical, is we added uniteconomics and we, oh, you need unit economics.

And I think unit economics are reallyimportant for a business, not just a product to be able to scale. And I thinkthat that's sort of, , the grounding or the reality, which is that we're notjust building products, we're also building businesses. Yeah. And so while foundersdon't necessarily need to have positive unit economics in day one, they need tounderstand that what they are selling on a fundamental level at some level ofscale, they can sell for more than a cost to create.

And I think that's the fundamental definitionof any business. And so I think that that's sort of an ingredient that thatpossibly got. In, in the up times a little bit, and it's something that, inapril we're very focused on. And I think before you go and scale your business,it's critical that you understand that you are able to sell your product.

Yeah, maybe not necessarily today, butthere's a clear pathway where you can sell your good or service for more thanit cost to create.  

Julian: Yeah. And, and it's,it's interesting that you talked about, just the simplicity of, selling yourproduct at more than a cost to create. And how has that model kind of changedand what caused, was there any catalyst that caused the focus of uniteconomics?

Something that there's all thesecompanies, say Amazon, for instance, is, is a company that runs at a, anegative, right? They typic tend, tend to run in, in, in, negative cycles andnot be on paper in the positive. There's so many reasons why that occurs, but Iguess on a smaller level, for other companies, what was the catalyst?

Was it a change in venture funding? Wasit a change in the overall macroeconomic environment for companies to focus onthis in particular? Is there anything that you thought of as a change oranything that you can speculate.  

Ben: Yeah, I, I think it'sa combination of a couple of things. Yeah. I think first of all, we saw, numberof businesses from the last decade play out.

Yeah. And it turned out that maybe theynever could achieve positive unit economics. . Meaning that they never couldsell their good for more than it cost to create. And then I would argue whatyou have is not a business, you have something else. And I think we saw that ina number of, high-flying Yeah.

Pre ipo, post IPO companies, that thatdidn't really work out. And so I think that was probably gonna happen. Right.And I think we just saw the acceleration of that mentality from the marketbecause the, the public market was willing to value, was willing to valuecompanies based on top line revenues.

And what we saw was really a return to afocus on earnings. Mm-hmm. . Right. Ultimately a, as an investor, I have theoption to buy what we call the risk free rate. Right? Which is I can go buy UStreasuries. Yeah. I can get a return of a few percentage points. And so if I'minvest. In a business, I want to know that that business will have earnings insome future state that they can pay, to a dividend to shareholders.

And I think what we saw is thatcompanies that had no line of sight to being able to pay a dividend if theywanted to, Amazon maybe elect not to. But I think we could agree that if.Amazon wanted to turn a profit and wanted to maybe grow their business slower.They probably could. Right. And, and so I think that's sort of the delineationthat happened in the market over the last 12 months.

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. Well said.And what in particular was the catalyst to start april? What did you see thatwas a need for a lot of companies, and obviously I think most people are, Idon't wanna say tax illiterate, but, but we all have chi, there, there's a lotof time that's spent into understanding a lot of the updates that get.

And consecutively, right? And, and, andeven not as individual, say taxpayers, but for businesses in particular, and,there's a bunch of grants and write-offs and all these things that can be superbeneficial to companies, but I mean, it's harder to know what to do. So whatwas the catalyst for april and what gets you excited about kind of the missionthat you're, you're that, that's driving the company?

Ben: Yeah, look, we'reaiming to embed tax solutions wherever people make financial decisions, and Ithink that that's at the heart of understanding, and I think you hit it spoton, Julian. So for example, you know the tax code has grown by 10 x over thelast couple of decades. We went to. We went from 400,000 words to like 4million words.

Yeah. . And, and what we've done is we,we have, and that's just a federal tax code, and we have a great big country of330 million Americans, and we've actually built a tax code that's verymalleable. Yeah. And so we address lots of specific situations. We havespecific credits and deductions for families and for businesses and for it,it's, it's basically our, it's not really just about revenue collection and theway that we typically think about taxes, the.

Federal tax system. And we can also talkabout states is essentially our socioeconomic contract, right? It's how wedrive incentives. It's how we give people money that need it. I mean, we domany things through our tax system. It's much broader than just tax. And Ithink the core driver behind this is to allow.

That access for everyone. You know rightnow there may be laws for everyone, but only a small subset of individuals thathave the me and companies that have the means and the resources can afford,yeah. To have access to the laws in a way that they can use them to get ahead. Andso our mission at april is really.

To, to make the law more available andmore accessible. And the way we do that is by bringing these applications intoday-to-day services that consumers are used to interacting with, like theirpayroll or their bank or their investment account. And by doing it in a waythat's simple and, and elegant, I think we can just think of like one reallybasic example, which is sort of the opportunity hiding in plain sight.

We're in tax season right now and we'reall trying to figure out what. . Yeah. And the reality is that most of thethings that we could have done as Americans to influence our financial positionthrough taxes happened last year. Yeah. It's already too late. And so we'rebasically engaged in this.

Compliance data collection, dataaggregation activity, when the time we should be spending is during the year sothat we can get more credits and deductions or understand decisions that we canmake that will allow us to have better outcomes. Yeah. And so by embedding itwithin applications that people are using, we can also allow that.

To estimate what taxes they'll owe.Yeah. To optimize their taxes so they can minimize their bill or take advantageof credits and deductions that are available to them and ultimately file fasterwith less cost and less friction.  

Julian: Yeah. What inparticular? I don't know if you have a number what is the number for thepercentage of or, or amount of money that companies are leaving on the table tonot either be whether, whether they're paying too much taxes or, or they're nottaking advantage of, of ways to get money back?

Ben: I think it, it, it's agreat question. I think it really depends on the segment where you are in themarket.

So we release the state of the AmericanTaxpayer report. We can send it to you afterwards and it's available on ourwebsite. Yeah. We surveyed 5,000 Americans. And, really depends, and I thinkthat's sort of at the crux of what we're saying is right now we have very fewsolutions. We have TurboTax and a couple of others, and it's one solution forevery.

We have thousands of banks. Why is thereonly one way to file your taxes? Yeah. And so, there are people that need theirrefunds. So we have $300 billion Yeah. Remitted through tax refunds accordingto the IRS every year. But there's probably a, a smaller subset of Americansthat are really getting that, those refund dollars, that need that money tofund their day-to-day life.

Right. Or to pay for their childcare.And we call those sort of the refund. There's a different set of, of Americansthat are maybe more of those financially minded types that want to be really ontop of their finances, and they just have anxiety over the fact that tax isprobably the largest or second largest line item on their home p and l.

Yeah. And they don't know what it is allyear. And so they're trying to make decisions, should I go on a vacation orwhat should I do? They feel like they don't have the information available tothem. And so I think that's part of the way that we see the world also is we'rea big country with different needs and we've gotta bring more solutions tomarket.

Yeah. So that we can better serve. Alltaxpayers with solutions that, that meet their different needs.  

Julian: Yeah, it's incredibleto talk about just, the, the amount, not only of, of people kind of leavingmoney on the table, but also what you, you, you mentioned before the, thetimely of all, all this, which is, one thing that that always kind of trips meup each year is that all the financial.

I guess strategies that I should havedeployed are already too late to deploy. And I'm curious, what are, what aresome of those strategies just off the top of your head, that companies orbusinesses or individuals can start kind of looking into, or maybe it's an areawhere, where there's resources where we can find outside of april or inside ofapril.

How can we be more informed throughoutthe year and what are some ways that we can do that and implement that in ourdaily lives?  

Ben: Yeah, it's a greatquestion and I think one of the challenges with it is that it varies so much onon these. Sure. I don't mean to, so I'll give you a few examples. I don't meanto be sort of redundant on it.

And we have a tax policy team whose solejob it is to track them. So there's a new ev electric people tax credit that weknow about. So like when folks are going to buy a car, they may not realize andI think it can be pretty significant. up to $7,500. Yeah. They may not realizethat, Hey, I'm going to buy a car and actually this electric car is actuallyless expensive because of this tax credit that I could have gotten.

Or you might have, for example, a motherwho is, maybe debating taking night classes and is, not sure if she can affordchildcare to be able to go take a course that might put her in a position toearn a higher wage for her family. And so by not knowing that there's a childindependent care credit available, that she can reap the benefits of if shepays for qualified daycare for a child to go take this course.

Yeah. She may not know. And she, shemight be looking at that and say, oh, this is several thousand dollars whenshe, if, if she knew about that, that credit, sure. She, she knew she'd getsome of that money back. And I think on the most basic level, you look at, thisgroup of Americans that are getting these, these larger.

Some of them, not all of them, but manyof them are, sort of overpaying the irs. Yeah. In some ways it's a collectionagency and it's naturally incentivized to make sure that as a collector it'seasier to get more money. But your job, your your, your, your job as a citizenis to pay the IRS what you owe.

You don't need to overpay them. Sure.And so these W four forms we. That sort of help employees understand how muchthey're supposed to be paying the government on a, on, out of every paycheckare very complicated. And so we've developed a solution where you can sort ofdecide where you want to be on the spectrum.

Do you want to pay exactly, do you wantto overpay a little bit? And you can sort of take control over your situationand make sure that you're compliant, but also that you are, you have thosefunds and you can use it to pay down. You can use it to invest or you can useit in any way that you want.

And so I think all of this is about,understanding, understanding that tax affects everybody. Yeah. And it's aboutgiving people the, the optionality. to have control over their specificcircumstance.  

Julian: Yeah. Thinking aboutbusinesses and, and how it affects them and, and, and the way they kind ofprioritize, whether it's, whether it's, going in a certain direction with theircompany or, or you know, operationally how they pay their employees or anythingkind of along that nature.

How can those individuals be betterinformed and how are they being informed? Prior to that, was it, working with atax accountant and. It's hard to trust the tax conscience. Tax conscience orlike barbers if, if you choose the wrong one, you're gonna be looking at it inthe face for like too long.

start to, it's gonna start to reiteratesome kind of frustration, but no, all jokes aside. Yeah. How, how can peoplerunning companies be better informed and how are they being informed prior to,company like april?  

Ben: Yeah, I think it's agreat, it's, it's a really good point and I, I think there's great taxprofessionals in this country that are doing a fantastic job serving clients.

Yeah. They're also structuralchallenges. We are producing fewer licensed tax professionals on a yearlybasis. Older professionals are retiring or passing away, and so naturally wedon't have the labor force really to service this stuff. And these people havea hard job. Yeah. They have a lot of paperwork that comes in and they're stilldoing a lot of manual data entry and it's.

Cost effective. And many of them wannabe moving upmarket and want to be doing higher value things. Many of thesepeople do not want be entering data, in a simple tax return. Yeah. They want tobe structuring complex entities. They want be helping people get advice so thatthey can make better, they can take advantage of, of our tax law to make betterdecisions.

And so, the way we see that is pairedwith just a general trend towards digi digitization. And capabilities likemachine learning and ai, we see a, a bigger opportunity for, for digital ordigital assisted services in the marketplace. Yeah. And when you, when youthink about businesses in particular, small businesses, not just a bedrock of,of our country, but we also have, and we call these, these individuals, theside gig dynamo, yeah.

Okay. In our, in our taxpayer report.But, but it's a growing population and it's a growing population that's notwell served, not just in. , but in financial services in general, yeah, becausethey're not a corporation, they don't have the means. This could be like yourlocal barber. It could be an Uber driver, it could be someone that's free,freelancing on the side, producing content and maybe has a couple of peopleworking with them, but doesn't necessarily have the, the time and the resourcesto start spinning up, full enterprise suite of, of financial accountants andadvisors.

And, and I think on the one hand, thisgroup of individual. Doesn't necessarily have financial products, bankaccounts, investment accounts, tax products that, accounting products that arereally built for them. And then on on the tax side, they also typically getcharged a lot more money because they have more complexity, even though theymight be earning the same amount of money or less.

Yeah. Than someone that might just havea simple. job or w2. And, but on the other hand, there's all theseopportunities available to them and they can take deductions on their businessexpenses, and there are certain credits that are available to them. So ifyou're, if you're, if you're an Uber driver, you might be able to, depreciateyour car.

And, but these things get fairlycomplicated. Yeah. And so then you find yourself not necessarily earningmillions of dollars, but needing to pay fairly expensive advisors. And so whatapril. Is we integrate with your other ecosystem of apps that you're using. Sothis could be like your accounting service, your bank account.

We pull in that data for you. So ifyou're a small business owner that has a fairly sort of, simplistic businessfootprint, you might have a sole prop or an llc, we're actually able to pull inyour information from your accounting suite and we can pre-populate that formcalled the Schedule C already on your behalf.

And so what it does is it eliminateswork. You've already done the work to do your accounting because you're gonnado that and we can leverage the work that you've done and pull it into yourpersonal tax return and save you the time.

Julian: Amazing. And, and whatdoes say the influence of, crypto and those type of asset classes that arebecoming more and more popularized and people are either paying or storingmoney and them using them as a savings account or investment account?

How are. How's the evolution of thatwhole sector becoming more and more impactful in, say, taxes and how we will befiling taxes in the future? Anything that, that you've seen or, or can predictfor the, the future?  

Ben: Yeah. I actually wrotean article on this on, on CoinDesk, and I'll share some insights on that in aminute.

I think at, at, at its most basic level,crypto is just. . Another good example of how the world is changing, right. Butour tax law was written a long time ago. Yeah. And our tax software was built along time ago. And so it's just indicative of the fact that we need newsolutions that are digital forward, that are mobile first.

Right. That are machine living driven,machine learning, driven that and and can understand and live within anecosystem. Yeah. Right now tax apps are on an island. Yeah. And our financesare becoming inextricably, inextricably intertwined. And I think crypto's agreat example. Something where, you've got network layers and app layers andstaking and we're bringing lots of the whole ideas, bringing differentcapabilities that were disjointed under one, under one infrastructure.

And that's, it's not dissimilar to whatwe're trying to do in tax. I think if you look at the crypto, the crypto marketin particular, crypto did some things that kind of broke typical reporting.Yeah, right. So, in the early years, And I've spoken about this on some other,on some other podcasts is, in the early years there was just not guidance,right?

No one knew is this capital gains, is itcurrency, is it regular income? I think the IRS actually, to their credit, hasdone like a pretty good job. People may not like it that you've gotta paytaxes. I mean, I think you should pay taxes on it. But I think the IRS has comeout, they have pretty good resources in defin.

If you're staking, treat it this way, ifyou're trading, if you've got a, sort of an airdrop, do it that way. And so Ithink there is, decent guidance out there. I think the challenge that cryptohas is it's, it's got a velocity of transactions Yeah. Happening acrossplatforms that just doesn't exist Yeah.

Really for most people. And so that kindof broke the sort of typical reporting mechanisms. Yeah. And then you, you havesolutions like tax bid and Coin track. And Zen Ledger and others that are helpingpeople sort of, I had to, when I was doing this, I had to reconcile it andexcel myself.

And now you've got solutions that are,are helping you reconcile things like false basis and so on. And from an aprilperspective, we don't wanna be involved there. We just need your reconciledinformation. Yeah. But there are solutions that are kind of helping with thereconciliation, right.

And so we take that reconciled view ofhow much income did you earn across accounts or how much. , how much did yougain or lose against what you put in? Yeah. And then we can take that and wecan prepare your taxes and that actually fundamentally doesn't look all thatdifferent than just reporting other stock and bond sales.

Yeah. The, the problem is really areconciliation problem. It's sort of like a. A precursor to being able tofile.  

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. Tell us alittle bit more about april and, and how much traction you've had so far and,and what's particularly excited about for you in this next year and the, the,the growth that you'll be seeing and anything new that, that you really excitesyou about the, the movement and the, the, I guess, the velocity that april'smoving at.

Ben: Yeah. It's excitingtimes. I think we, we kind of ended up attacking an opportunity that was hidingin plain sight, really big market. impacts a hundred percent virtually of theUS population. Tough pain point and one that, hasn't really seen change in alot of years. We're fortunate now that we have, over a dozen clients, thousandsof users across different apps and ecosystems, and I think what we're findingis that there's a real appetite to try new solutions.

People are open to trying new things andthe two or three main things that we talk about is taking tax from an island.and embedding it into apps and ecosystems that you use. The other thing that wetalk a lot about is the transitional period that we're in in financialservices. Our view on the world is that the last decade in financial serviceshas been all about the shift to digital.

Yeah. And I don't think we're sayingthat that's necessarily complete, but I think we've seen it play out, mostcompanies have reasonably good interfaces now. There's a lot of work now tobetter orchestrate, and that's where we see that opportunity of going fromdigital to intelligent. Yeah, and when we think about sort of the financialapps of the future, we believe that it's gonna all be about orchestration.

I, as a user, can log into an app thatfeels and looks like it's built personally for me in my specific use case, Ican get my investments, I can transfer. And it seems to always be a step ahead.Yeah, and that's sort of what we're missing right now. It's, we kind of havethe different pieces, but they're kind of clunky and they don't really worktogether.

And so we think that tax is afundamental piece of this, first and foremost, because it's something we allhave to do and it, it's a big pain point, but also because it's sointerconnected to everything else that I do. Right. Right. It, it, it relatesto my entire user profile, and it's something that can help me get organizedand help me drive at my financial outcomes.

When we look at, at these opportunities,as an end user, just as an anecdote from a, from a tax perspective, right now,existing solutions in the market are digital. Right? They took these hundredsof forms that we have Yeah. that have thousands of questions and they just, youused to fill it out by hand or your accountant would fill it out by hand andthey made it digital.

Yeah. Which is cool, and it made sense.And for 20 or 30 years it was like the best we could do. But now things shouldbe intelligent. And what intelligent means is that the, the app should learnabout me and as. Talk to the app and I start conversing with it and say, I'm asmall business and I'm an Uber driver, I should get a different experience thansomeone who's got, who's a homeowner with two kids and has a W2 job.

And so we've got this really big system.We talked about the federal tax code. You also have over 40 states with taxcodes. It's really big and it's, and it's overwhelming and people areintimidated by it. And so what we're seeking to do is build something that'smore tailored. Not just because it, it, it saves time, but also because itgives, it gives you, as a taxpayer confidence, it lets you understand what isdirectly related to your situation and what am I supposed to take out of this?

Julian: Yeah. What are some ofthe biggest challenges that april faces today?

Ben: The tax code is reallycomplex and there's, when we look at this, there's a reason. We haven't seennew providers in market in three decades. Yeah. And, and the tax, the tax codehas grown exponentially. You have to do integrations with the federalgovernment and the states.

You have to be perfect. So it's not likeyou can release a normal consumer app or you can kind of be good enough, right.You've gotta get people's taxes right. They're either sort of right or thewrong and, and it just creates a really high barrier to entry. And so when welooked at this, we said, know, our mission was to be a national tax companywithin two years and.

We feel like we're well on that waywhere we are right now. And, and the goal is to become a national tax company,but it's really challenging. Yeah, and I think, when you look at sort of, we'rebig proponents here of not, we believe in democracy, so we believe that thevoters should decide what Congress should do and Congress should tell treasuryand IRS what to do.

But I think, when you look at the sizeand scale of the tax code, it, it does create an opportunity for our business.As an American you can also understand why there's real reason to simplify someof what goes on there. A so it's easier, but also so that, it's more we, we canget more solutions to market faster.

Julian: Yeah, yeah. Well said.And everything goes well. What's the long-term vision for april? I know yousaid national national wide lead use company, but is it anything beyond thator, or what kind of do you see as the end goal?

Ben: There's, there's avariety of different outcomes, that we could have, we, we could expandhorizontally and also build applications for tax professionals. Mm-hmm. , wesee a really big opportunity there. Mm-hmm. , we also see an opportunity tobuild other products for consumers that are extensions or, or related to tax.

So we we're also launching soon productsthat, that relate more to what I mentioned, which. Estimation products andoptimization products. Yeah. So you could think of many different kinds of taxoptimizations. So the one we discussed was all around the paycheck, but youcould think about something that's geared for investors around tax lawsharvesting.

Yeah. You could think about one that'sgeared towards small business, around making estimated taxes. And the list can,can go on. We've got like a list of like over 12 apps that you can build andthen you've got an e. Of apps that people can use during the year and then, andthen one sort of single app that you can ultimately use to file and becompliant with irs.

Julian: Yeah. Amazing. And soexcited to see what that is going to allow in terms of individuals who maybehaven't been as, as, as I, I guess, proactive with certain tax laws or certainbenefits that they can accrue over time. And that would be an exciting shiftfor me as, as a, a user slash as a fan of, of what you're working on, which isthat proactivity and that ability to kind of take that agency back.

I love this next section. I call it myFounder faq. So I'm gonna hit you with some rapid fire questions and let's do,we'll see what we get. First question I always love to ask is, what'sparticularly hard about your job?  

Ben: Yeah. Being the CEOof, of an early stage FinTech company, your job is changing all the time.

And we're in a market where there's alot of externalities. The venture market is changing, the overall economy ischanging. You have high inflation, and that's also putting pressure on, on ourclients, the banks, investment companies, and. Of, of, of their customer base.And so, in, in time where people are under pressure, it creates opportunity,but it also sort of, the, the heat is on, as they say.

And so you've gotta be very responsiveand you've gotta be very adaptive.  

Julian: Yeah. Do you have afavorite tax code or tax break that people say underutilize, that you couldshare with us on the show?  

Ben: I don't necessarilyhave one of those. Our tax team probably would, I think one that. Flagged whenwe were thinking about building the company, which I actually haven't seen yetcause we haven't tackled Hawaii yet.

Yeah. Is supposedly in Hawaii there issupposedly some kind of credit or deduction if you care for a certain type oftree on your property. Really . And I think that that gives you, yeah. But Ithink it gives you a sense of like, when you look at the, the, the tax law,it's meant to deal with very specific circumstances.

And so the, the base of people that maybe in. In a state where there's a lot of farming yeah. Or there's a lot ofdrilling or there's a lot of financial sectors, it's gonna look like totallydifferent. And so you end up with, also the values. I saw not, not necessarilytax related, but I think Montana or there was another state that was working onsort of not allowing, foreign purchase of certain land.

Yeah. Which would be really hard to doin some states. And so I think, you. , the way that California does somethingdifferent than Missouri does something different than New York is reallyinteresting. And I think in this country, we should just celebrate that morelike, it's fine.

We're a diverse country. We have lots ofpeople and yeah, lots of different ways to do things. And I, and I think thatthe fact that our tax code accounts for it and that we have a state that wantsto incentivize tree. . Yeah. It's also great.

Julian: Yeah, it's incredibleto think about how it could kind of, it, it almost supports others to take careof or work or, or kind of work in a, in a collaboration with, the governmentto, to take care of things like wildlife or, or, preserve certain parts of thecountry or, or even like you said, get paid back for areas that, that are maybesubject to a little bit more activity from, from whether it's large companiesor.

It's cool to see how it couldcollaborate. It actually benefit, both in a lot of ways. And kind of shifting,shifting gears here to the next question is thinking about technology and howthe impact of going digital and thinking about how founders are able to buildand scale products at, at a crazy, at a much higher, much rapid, much morerapid rate than before.

What was the challenge that you saw as afounder building technology? Building something that is so complex like and,and has to continue to say, up to date with tax laws. Tax laws as, as the yearsgo on. What are some of the biggest challenges that you've seen in buildingtechnology?  

Ben: Yeah, I mean, I thinkthe opportunity is that it's amazing how many.

How the stack gets built up. So Istarted building my first company when I was at nyu. Yeah. 13 years ago. Andthe cloud was still relatively new and it was like a novelty. People were like,yeah, you don't have to go buy servers anymore. Like the cost to start acompany has gone down. Yeah. And you can spin this thing up and you don't haveto manage it all.

And now, like, if you see how far we'vecome, like you've got Yeah. Payroll used to be hard and, and, and then you'vegot gusto and just. And, and, and these guys. So, the amount of things that areout there that you can leverage to automate to offload so that you can reallyfocus on the core, I think is, unbelievable.

Yeah. And so it just makes the abilityto actually focus on innovation and focus on the places where you can actuallybuild something that's truly different and it's gonna move the market ratherthan dealing with things that you can, offload is, is moved tremendously. Whenwe look at our. We've applied, I dunno if you saw that.

Chat g p T. Yeah. Four came out and theywere looking at tax as or just gt G P T four rather. And they were looking attax as like a major. Yeah. Focal point. And for us we've been leveraging AIand, and, and LLM since the beginning. It was part of our cortex bet. And we'reusing human assisted AI in order to meet our objective of Yeah.

Of being national within two years. And., the, the level. And that's like something no one ever necessarily would'veconnected. And when we told people we were doing them, they're like, what? Whatare you for now? Now what are you talking about? Now? Everyone's like, oh, thisis, this is totally obvious.

And we're like, yeah, we know we've beenat this. I think that, I think the tough part, in the market, which is justmarket cycles, is that, you, you wanna be in a market where, things start from.. And I think, when you, when you look at where tech is overall mm-hmm.

we work really hard to be a trustedbrand, to be a trusted partner to our clients. We've done, we're financiallyaudited, we do a cybersecurity audit. We've gone through great lengths, but. Ithink there's like overall a little bit of technology skepticism Yeah. In themarket just because of how fast we move.

The, the innovation cycles couldn't keepup with the capital deployment. Yeah. And I think there there'll be a littlebit of recovery of getting back to real innovation and real tech and productsand letting those speak for themselves and letting some of this noisedissipate. And so I think like the, the fallout from the boom in Boston istough.

But, but I'm at least optimistic thatwith a little bit less noise. The real products and platforms will shinethrough and have an opportunity to speak for themselves.  

Julian: Yeah, well said. AndI, I a hundred percent agree with that point. And, and especially seeing,especially on the show, being, being able to talk to so many founders andcompanies and everybody's who, who's still growing and is successfullybuilding, or, whether it's new product or innovating or building new customerbases, they operate at such an efficient way and in such a, a really impressivelevel in terms of, understanding that themselves as a.

Their, their ltv, their profits andlosses and, and really understanding the core functions of their business andhow it operates to then make strategic and intelligent moves to scale and buildteams. And I, I'm, I'm with you. I'm really excited to see a lot of thesecompanies come out and, and I think it'll be impressive at the maturity atwhich they, they will be, be present at, at, at such a earlier stage thanbefore.

Which gets me pretty, pretty pumped. Ialways love to ask. Question because I love how founders extract knowledge outof anything they ingest. Whether it was early in your career or now, what aresome books or people that influence you the most?  

Ben: Yeah, I've beenfortunate to be influenced by a great group of, of people.

And I think in, in a large part, wellyou could say whether it was by good fortune or, or whether, my decision makinghad something to do with it, but when. When I had started my first company whenI was 19 at nyu, I had taken a, a course with a gentleman named Larry Lenihan.And Larry was one of the founders of First Mar Capital, pretty well known, fun.

And the title of the class was, Wasready, fire, aim, and the whole concept was, I, and so the concept of the classwas you, you put an idea together in a team, and then if you, and then if you,the winner will get a salary, which was an astonishing $12,500, but we won.Woo. And that was, that was cool.

But I think it was sort of thatpermission mm-hmm. to try something and, and that was like a novel. But youknow, 15 years ago you had to go get your law, it. Your parents expected you togo get that law degree. Yeah. And go work in a sort of job in a place theyunderstood. And this concept of like, no, you don't need to write a 30 pagebusiness plan and have it signed off from some, very senior executive just,yeah.

It's, it's a digital era. Come up withan idea, write some code, ship it to market, get feedback cycles. And I thinkthat sort of, that permission of like, what, what really mattered at the end ofthe day, so early before my career it even really started Yeah. Was, was. ,like liberating, formative, and then in the last, yeah, it was really quiteliberating, especially for someone like me that like couldn't really understandwhat they should be doing in life.

My, I was raised by two lawyers and I'mlike, this is intellectually interesting, but I don't think it's for me, and Idon't think most of my peers at NYU were going to work on Wall Street and I'mlike, This is way too buttoned up. Yeah. Probably not for me either, but I likefi, I like, I like the motifs of finance.

Sure. So I ended up finding this thingcalled FinTech entrepreneurship, which , then became then became, then became athing. And yeah. I'll give you one other example of of someone that I got towork with over the last five years. Was was another gentleman named Nada whoused to run the sort of NSA equivalent in Israel.

Yeah. Oh wow. Had a lot of, interestingstories and had seen a lot of interesting things had dealt with crises and,and, at a, at a national scale, when it was really life, life and death. And,and so he had left the army and the military after many decades career and, andwas building cybersecurity companies and, getting to spend four or five yearswith him, long, long flights and nights going to client visits and, and seeing,he would work a lot.

Chief information security officers thatwere, also going through the throes of it, security incidents, demandingboards, unknown risk. Yeah. And just seeing the way that he would advise them,be a counterpart to them and deal with uncertainty. Like I think we'regenerally living in uncertain times and just, and just sort of how do you, howdo you embrace uncertainty and deal with it and be able to move?

confidently. Yeah. But also understandrisk and understand sort of where you can fail, but recover and what's anexistential failure? Super valuable at an, at an early stage entrepreneurialcareer and, and that, and that's the life of an entrepreneur. It's a, yeah.It's, and I talk, with other entrepreneurs, that's one of the commonalities weall have.

Life is just uncertain. Yeah. Anythingcould happen. And this last week was like, a great example of that, right? Asanything can kind of happen at any minute. You have to still have your teamsand carry out your jobs and also manage that long tail uncertainty at the sametime.  

Julian: Yeah, yeah. Well saidman. Well said. I, I know we're coming through the close of the show and I wantto give you a chance to let us know where we can find april and support you asa founder. But last question is is there anything I didn't ask you that Ishould have or that you would have liked to answer?

Ben: I really, that caughtme kind of by surprise. I, I thought the questions were, were created and and,and covered a really wide range, on, on personal background. And, and I think,what, what maybe is like in important, just like also when we look at like theeconomic, situation is, they're, and we talk about internally also like toother founders.

Yeah. Like the most important thing isjust to remain calm. and create a plan. And so that's, what we're sort offocused on here is being attentive to, to our clients and focusing on, on whatwe can control, which is I think is just a great, great advice. And, and anyfounder, can, can practice.

Julian: Yeah, yeah. Ben, Iknow we're coming to the end of the show and it's been amazing learning fromyour experience and, and not only about, ways that companies and individualscan u utilize tax code, but also, ways they can be proactive, which I'm, like Isaid, time and time.

Particularly excited about and thatability to really give people the, the freedom and agency to, to, make plansand plan long term. But last little bit is where can we find you? Let us knowthat your websites are your LinkedIns, your Twitters, your Instagrams. Give usyour plugs. Where can we be a supporter of you as a founder and, and startplaying with the technology.

Ben: Yeah. If you're abusiness that wants to integrate april you can find us on andreach out and, we're ready and open for business to support all kinds offinancial partners that. Integrate tax features and products into theiroffering.  

Julian: Amazing. Well, Ben,it's been such a pleasure having you on the show.

I really hope you enjoyed yourself, andthank you again for being here today.  

Ben: Thanks for havingme.  

Julian: Of course.

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