June 8, 2023
After starting out as a CPA at Deloitte, Brett Turner worked in a financial reporting & GAAP specialist in Controller roles prior to his time at Amazon managing SEC reporting. After leaving Amazon, Brett developed a strong track record for building, financing, and growing tech startups as a CFO. Prior to starting Trovata in 2016, he raised over $100M through equity and debt financings with successful exits at 3 enterprise startups generating over $500M in shareholder value.
Julian:Hey everyone. Thank you so much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast.Today we have Brett Turner, founder and CEO of Trovata. Trovata empowerseveryone to analyze, report, forecast, transact, manage cash like a pro, nomatter who your business banks with. No, it required. Brett, I'm so excited tochat with you, not only from your wealth of experience as a founder andentrepreneur, but also what you're building at Trovata and really just, thedifferences I think you can illuminate a lot of us on as founders on, how totransact at different levels of businesses.
How to incorporate,your company in, in their flow and their growth and, and would really love tolearn more about that. But before we get into all that with Trovata, what wereyou doing before you started the company?
Brett:Yeah, no, great to be on the show, Julian. Yeah, it's been a journey. As youcan see, I got a little bit of gray hair there, right?
So, a little morethan 20 years experience. Started out as a CPA and was a, i I didn't last inthe, in the auditing world at Deloitte. Very long. I, quickly got tired of thatquickly, but I, I gravitated into startups and just have always, I got intothe, which is an odd, odd thing to do, kind of get into accounting if you wannabe an entrepreneur, but at the time it was just really where can I go anddevelop some, some good grounding skills, learn about business.
Get enough to, tobe dangerous and then kind of go from there. So, it was a great, it was a greatway to learn and, and finance, accounting, you just, you learn about, it'sespecially like what we're doing now in terms of cash flow. It's, it's alwaysbeen at the heart of what I've been doing and. Cash is the lifeblood of everybusiness.
So if everything issort of grounded in cash, you pretty much are gonna touch cash. You're gonnalearn a lot about every aspect of transacting throughout business. So that wasthis, this career as, as a controller. And in early stage startups spent sometime at Amazon managing their s e c reporting.
And this is backwhen they first launched Amazon Prime, back in 2004. Yeah. 2005 was in theircorporate finance group. And then from there we moved into a, a CFO role. Somanaged a part of three high growth venture back startups over the course of abouta little more than a decade.
All of those threecompanies were all selling into the enterprise regulated industries, kind ofthese. Harder businesses. All of those raised a little more than a hundredmillion across those three. All they, all three of those thankfully scaled andsuccessfully sold. And, and sort of the next big thing was what next?
And then, herecomes Trovata.
Julian:Yeah. Well, it's so fascinating thinking about even early on, like yourperspective into businesses and, and seeing how, they operate and, and whatwere you seeing kind of. And was there anything surprising in terms of, wherethe cash flow was coming in or how businesses were operating?
Were they operatingat a deficit or were they actually profitable? What were you seeing that wascommon and, and maybe even surprising at the time?
Brett:Yeah, I think the, the big, I was a little bit of a what, what I was so curiousand fascinated by is that here even in the, in the accounting world, you hadall this e r p systems or accounting systems, you had all of this.
Data, but itreally, if you're just gonna use it for closing the books or producing thefinancial statements, I mean, is that how helpful really is that, I mean,especially today's day and age, they've got become so compliant driven. So areyou really gonna operate your business off of financial statement?
There's just somuch more in depth insight that you needed so early on in my career, the, thepart that sort of, I don't know, helped me a lot and I've just, it was.Building a data warehouse in those days, getting your data out of your e r psystem and then unlocking all of this, this, trove of data, all this valuableinsights, and then gleaning those insights, putting it in a way, kind of get itto the, your frontline or customer facing decision makers.
I mean, if it's intheir hands, they're gonna be able to utilize it in a powerful way that'sreally gonna drive impact and help your business. So that, that was early on,discovering that, and that just became a lot of fun because the more I didthat, They appreciated it. They felt like armed with real great data to helpthem.
But then it createdthis, this bidirectional flow, cuz then they were starting to teach me aboutthe business, why it mattered. And that was really valuable too.
Julian:Yeah. But it's fascinating. Like, does that, is that just a function of mostbusinesses just having that like disconnect or distance between, these twoseemingly, I guess they, they, they're kind of a cause and effect, but reallythey, they.
There's arelationship between them two, because, you can understand pricing models thatmuch more, you can understand your return on investment, your cost foracquisition, if so, like illuminating to how your business actually acquirescustomers on the front side versus, how all this operating cost effects oroverall profits.
Right. Is that justthe function of the, of a business to be separate like that or,
Brett:yeah. Yeah. I mean, there's, there's all this data there and you kind of havetwo different things that are happening and have, you've always heard like, Andwhether you're kind of managing your own finances personally, right?
You, you get asense of or if, if you're even in a small business, you, you look at the p andl and you say, Hey, our business, made a million dollars, or but then you'relike, it doesn't feel like we made a million dollars because, everything isgoing outta our bank account so much faster than what is reflected on thefinancial statements.
Like, what's goingon? What gives? And I think that that aspect of just cash flow. And all thetiming differences. And then you have all of this in your accounting systemthat's really governed by this thing called Gap. Yeah. That's really drivingthe as a standard all of the way. You have to account for things according tothe S sec ultimately.
So when you kindlook at these different ways, you have all this information that's sort oflocked in your E R P system and then you have all this live living dynamic.Cash flow, and at the end of the day it, it gets pretty easy. This you have alittle more time to account for your month end process.
Month end close. Weall know that, right? And your finance team is doing that. But then on the cashside, it's like, at the end of the day, it's pretty simple. I need to make surethat I have more cash coming in the more than than what's going out. And if, ifthat, if that equation doesn't work out on a day-to-day basis, then you've gotproblems and that's liquidity.
So that sort ofsums it up. And so at the end of the day, like you have all of this data and,and then what do you do with it?
Julian:Right, right. And fast forward a little bit, thinking about your time as a VPof finance and and cfo, when you were coming into companies, where was thestate of that whole process and, and seeing those cash flow?
Were they runningat a sophisticated level or was there a lot that needed to be kind of puzzledtogether and, and, and brought together to really understand and, and, andscale that company? Because without knowing where you are to baseline, it'simpossible to, to build on top of that. Cuz then it's like, it's like a, it'slike a Jenga it's like a Jenga tower Right.
With pieces pulledout. Yep. At some point it's gonna top. But what were you coming in, what werecompanies operating at when you would come in and what, what did you have to doto get them to, to be efficient and effective and understand their cash flow?
Brett:Yeah, I think early on it was so I, I just kind of built up a little bit of aspecialization of just.
Kind of helpingkind of get, get a, get an early stage company's ducks in a row. You typicallyhired because the board is saying to the founders or the other stage folks,like, you need a little more discipline. You need a finance person. So kindathat first finance person coming in, helping kind of mature the company in away.
And, and usually,yeah, it's, it's building some process, put some discipline around, budgetingand planning and those kind of things. And so, yeah, you, you are, cleaning upa lot. You're, you're kind of, there's a lot of stuff. So I, I think at the endof the day, there's, that's, I would say par for the course and in, in thestartup world.
Your, which makesit fun also, which makes it daunting for, maybe it's not, not everybody's cutout to do it because it is hard, but you're really reinventing the businessevery few months, and that that's happening rapidly in the early going, as thebusiness starts to slowly mature. Maybe it's every six months, then it startsto lengthen as you go.
But because ofthat, it's, it's a very disruptive process. You're constantly it's verydynamic. It's changing all the time. So naturally things are gonna build up andyou need. You need to be able to handle that, but even so, my first threestartups, it was probably more, more what not to do than to do, because, andthere's a couple of them were fairly high profile.
Yeah. One of them wasthis company, ESSIC, which was broadband via satellite before the, the days ofElon and Google, putting satellites up. I mean, that was way ahead of its time.Right? Yeah. A billion dollar capitalization by. Bill Gates and Craig McCaw,the big, tech pioneers in Seattle.
And, and so, but italso was a spectacular failure, right? So at the, you sport of learning.Thankfully I wasn't really a founder in those days. I was, the person that wasmore of a junior executive, but just incredible learnings when those are thingsare happening. So take advantage of it.
Learn. You're,you're, there's only upside cuz you're even, you're, when you have those, thosefeelings, you're, you're kind of learning along the way. And that for me was anincredible education over the first, seven, eight years of my career. When Iwent to Amazon after that was really taking a break for a little bit beforebecoming a cfo, take a break from, from startups.
And I thought,okay, I'm gonna. I'm gonna learn so much about how it's done. Amazon then evenstill was relatively small to where it's today was 8 billion in revenue. Butstill 8 billion in revenue is not a small company. But even then, coming in andmanaging all the, subsidiaries worldwide and consolidation and tax accounting,a lot of complex areas there, there were, there was also surprisingly, therewas a lot of stuff that.
Felt like, cleanupon, on aisle five. There was a lot of that at Amazon. It's like, how can thathappen? This is big companies, but at the end of the day, in those days, Amazonis growing really fast. So wherever there's growth, there's gonna be a lot ofdynamic things happening. And, and usually in the, in finance, you're alsogonna see a great insights, but you're also probably gonna see a little bit ofthe chaos behind the curtain as well.
Julian:Yeah, it's almost like, in, in in engineering, right? It's like technical debt.Like you, you almost. Expect that as you scale and grow your product from MVPto next version and, and, and beyond I'm not sure, if you have a story that youcould share of, of a time where, you know, one of the companies you've evenworked at as a, executive or the founder was having say, a cash flow problem,and, and how did you turn it around?
Was it somethinghad to do with the product, how you were operating internally and what you werepaying for from a procurement standpoint? Yeah. Any stories or any anecdotesYeah. That you could share where, where you had that issue and you turned itaround and how you did?
Brett:So, I, I would say it's probably one of the biggest ones is really relative tothe early, it's sort of the early days of what Trovata was, the company that,part of now.
It was so rightafter Amazon left there in 2005 to to be to run finance for n it for a companycalled Worldwide Packets. And it had kind of a storied beginning because one ofthe, the original founder of that business was, was one of the two inventors ofethernet. So, the ethernet cable, like he was, one of the, his name was BernerDanes.
And so he put 30million of his own money into this company and had sort of this, his, he movedup from the Silicon Valley. He grew up in, in Spokane, Washington. So I movedfrom Seattle to Spokane. The start of, it's not a big start of community inSpokane. Right. So, but oddly it was based there, but that's where he grew up.
He was putting abunch of money in, so, he was gonna do that wherever he was gonna do it. Right?Yeah. So, I moved from Seattle. It, it was after though that company wentthrough a lot of turbulence because it started around 2001. The internet, thebubble bursting in those days. And then it kind of went through a really rougheconomic patch.
And then thecompany was reinventing itself. Moderna, the big VC outta Seattle, or kinda themain VC there was, was jumpstarting, the company with the new round. I came inwith a few other executives to kind of help as part of that journey. And so,but right away, so here's kinda the set and scene right, right away.
My first stint asreally a, CFO. In a CFO role, I'm going into a board that's got the earlyinvestors who have been there for a long, long time, and then the new investorswho came in on the more of the recap round. And right away it's just allbasically, financial VCs around the table.
Yeah, yeah. Andright away, of course, people were asking me, cash oriented questions like allabout cash flow. Nobody cared about like the. More of the traditional, financemetrics. It's all about cash burn, cash utilization. Hey, we're spending allthis money on this, on this new flagship product, like, how much did we spendlast month?
Right? It's allthese very real things. And there, there were questions that were really hardto ask or what, what was our, this, what, what's called the in finance, thequote to cash cycle. So just seeing the efficiency of cash from the timeyou're. Building up a product, have inventory, you have logistics, you'resupplying that to on a sale.
We use big channelpartners like at, at and t or loose and altel through big customers like at andt or Comcast. So everything has this lifecycle and there's all thesetouchpoints and if there's any inefficiencies along the way, like cash isgetting stuck. And if you're, even if you have, we'd raised 60, $70 million.
But even so, That'sa pitance when you're competing against like Cisco and Juniper. So everythingwas like cash utilization. And when I didn't have good answers, then even ourown executive team is looking at me like, Hey, aren't you the finance guy? Howdo you not know? Aren't these basic finance questions?
They seem like it'sus. And so it was, it was hard. It's like, I'm, it's feel like I don't have theanswers. It's, it's making me look bad and I'm making our team look bad. Sothat's when I basically, after it was like the third meeting, I finally justsaid, forget it, I'm. I'm just, I'm basically gonna figure this out and I, Iwent to work building this cashflow model and this forecasting model and, andthen, right away would have some results, but then I kept making it better andbetter and it took me about a year, moonlighting kind of on the side buildingthis.
And it basicallyallowed us to get really, really precise on forecasting cash through thatentire cycle. So then it was like, it was maybe the. The two or three meetingsin coming in there and one of our board members who's always asked the mostcritical questions, we start throwing out questions like, AR turns and, allthese different cashflow questions.
And it was like,oh, no problem. It's, I start rattling off all these answers and then theboard's like, oh, this is, and so there, it just really started to set the toneand you could see the confidence just lift. But everybody on our side of thetable, the management team, it's like, Hey, we know our stuff.
We know ourbusiness. We understand all the cash implementations and that. That had a a bigconfidence boost. To everybody. And it, and it carried over. And, and even theboard, some of the VCs were then telling their, CFOs, their portfolio companiessaying, Hey, you gotta call, I wanna introduce you to Brett to get this, likethis special model, and then to call me and it's like, well it's, it's notreally a product, so I don't, I don't know, do you really want this?
And, or the CFO callme, he's like, Hey, you're making me look bad over here. Like, you're supposedto have some secret model. Like, what's up? So, but that whole aspect was justso critical and, and that it, it really, impressed upon me that, when you, whenyou know, if you understand the underlying cash flow and all the implicationson the business, and you can, visualize, you can see it, you could tell thatstory.
It's just reallyimpactful to not only just help you as a company, but it, it just carries overto everybody across the team.
Julian:Yeah. Well it's fascinating to think about like what were the sort of variablesor indicators to, to kind of help you predict where things would go. I'm, I'msure because of the flow and where it had to stop, whether it's through vendorsor procurement or investing in certain parts of the business, there's a certainmaybe latency when that cash would be freed up.
And what were someof those signals that you started to see and build upon that predicted orallowed you to predict, with almost complete accuracy? How much time it wouldtake to or from, from cash being created to cash being utilized?
Brett:Yeah. What, what we did was we, we, it was sort of, kind of pioneering, gettingaccess to banking data, so transactions, balances, and then basically creatingthis bottoms up cash flow model.
And then it wasgetting some of the intelligence from the er. Excuse me, the e r p system tothen augment that, like what were the under underlying flows if there's atransaction, what, what does it mean? What is it? Why do we spend this money?And so, or what does this deposit mean? Is it. Is it deposit from a customer oror is it from an investor or whatever.
So you, you, you,you look at these, so at the end of the day when you could kind of, you kind ofhave to build a bit of a closed loop. If it's just part of it, it's hard toglean the insides cuz it's kind of getting, you're getting part of the story.You don't have all the context. So the key was closing the loop and when youcan kind of get this fully end-to-end aspect, like, and, and then we, we'd havethis, this opening of weak cash balance.
All your, youractivity that happened during the week, all categorized by functional type andthen end of week balance. It was basically like a p and l except cash based.All the things you might learn in finance 1 0 1 is like, oh, cash accountingis, child's play. It's all about accrual and, and there's, accrual basedaccounting is what runs financial statements for investors and s e c reportingand all that, but just the core aspects of cashflow.
Allows anybody, anybusiness operator, to under, they, they understand their business, theyunderstand what the Xs and Os mean, and when you have that, like, it's just anincredible operating tool. So it helped, yeah, that, that, that was it. Youcould kind of see, so I could basically see if basically the cash flow that wasbeing paying, let's say our, our vendors for suppliers that ultimately led tobuilding up product that went into inventory.
And I, if you kindof see that started building up, it was an early warning sign of like, okay,we're not, we might be building up too much inventory relative to our, ourdistribution or our, our sales and fulfillment. And if we start doing that,then you don't wanna do that. You're gonna have your, all your cash is sittingin a warehouse in this product that you've built up.
And you don't wantthat. You want customers buying it and shipping it out the door. You'rerecognizing revenue off that and you're getting paid off that. Right. So theseare, these were important things where. In a lot of companies, you can, you,you get these stumbling blocks and you get this congestion, and yet in thatwhole, in that whole process, it, it allowed us to, to see that and manage itmore effectively, have really good stats and measurement so we could try toavoid those, those problems.
Yeah. Which, whenyou're, when you're a startup, even, for us that. We, we'd raised a lot ofmoney and we're, it's sort of a bigger stake startup, but still, like you,you're, you're still operating on a pretty thin margins of risk in terms ofcash, right? So if you start burning too much, you might then have to raisemoney more quickly.
That's gonna havean impact on your cap table. Can you raise it at that time? That's that time.So all of those have really big implications. That's why, that's why cash is soimportant.
Julian:Yeah. In, in thinking about obviously the journey from, when you, when youfirst kind of conceived, Trovata and, and now to what it is today, what's keptyour company steady and, and, and what in particular, have, have you facedtimes where you at risk of, of, say running out of runway or, not having thecash flow you need to, operate.
And what, what didyou, who did you lean on in that time? As being a founder is a lonely kind of ajob, unfortunately. But there are certain people, in, in your network that comeout to, to, to kind of, aid you at at times like that. And we'd love to hearJack just kind of how that journey, how'd you say steady, but also times whereyou felt like Sure.
Things were reallyat risk. Yeah.
Brett:Yeah, it's, it's definitely a journey and it's, it's not easy and no matter, soTara's my seventh startup, so even so you, you always think every time thoughit's like, oh, it's gonna be bigger, better, faster, all that. And it, at theend of the day, like there's no shortcuts to building a great company.
It's always hardand there's always these moments where there's, certainly is this time, thiswas probably the, the most risk that I'd spent in previous ones I had. Foundingpartners, so you kind of lean on each other a little bit. This one, I startedthe business solo. It was harder. Now, at the same time, I, I'm a huge believercuz the, one of the core aspects just even our culture is all about the team.
So you have to havepeople around you, you have to, people that you're doing this. Journeytogether. And, and surrounding yourself with, really great people who aregonna, help you is, is just so key in, in those, in those moments. Cuz you aregonna, you are gonna get tested and tested a lot and often, so you gotta,persevere through that.
But, but yeah,it's, it's definitely a a journey. And in terms of the, yeah, the other thingthat's kind of helped, just having a finance background. One of the thingsreally early on for me as more of an operator in startups was. Really the,what's called a financial operating plan and what that is, and a lot of, ifyou're a founder that has an engineering background, you can relate to yourproduct roadmap, right?
Yeah. So in thesame ways, it's sort of your financial roadmap. And what it does do is it whenyou're, when you build that out and nobody enjoys doing it, it's hard and youhave to, because what it does is it forces you to think through every aspect.Of how you're gonna make money, how you're gonna make payroll, who you can hire,when you can hire them, all those kind of things.
So all, all of thataspect goes into that. And it, yeah, you have to answer those questions and youhave to answer 'em honestly. And it, it is sort of a closed loop processbecause that's how finance works. So you, you have to, you have to answer itmore completely, end to end. So by doing that though, going through thebusiness, thinking ahead, it's like you're visualizing.
What happens inmonth three and year three and you're thinking out, you don't have to get toofar, but you're going out at least, a year to two years. And, and, andtherefore understanding if I raise this amount and I raise 3 million seedround, how is, how far is that gonna get me? And is that far enough?
What, what are the,what's ultimately the milestone I have to achieve? And then kind of workingback from that, what does that 3 million give me in terms of is it gonna meanenough time? I'm gonna have to hire a certain number of people and, all thosethings. You, you, you're then starting to do a fairly basic math on how thatworks and some of the calendar math to Yeah.
To see that thatis, is gonna be enough. And I think that that aspect is just, I don't think isdone enough. Like it's ingrained in me, but what, what it does do when you dothat, because then you, you're, you're not really surprised as much. So whenthings happen, you kind of already know. And, and, and in some ways, for a lotof people, finance is a little bit of a scary thing.
So it's like, Idon't want to ask the those hard questions because, and so then you're almostlike, you're sort of at risk of hitting the wall, and then you're Yeah. Thenyou're surprised when it happens. Reality is, doing, kind of forcing yourselfto kind of go through those paces is you're gonna have a better idea.
And when you do,you'll be a little more eyes wise, wide open as you go through thatprocess.
Julian:Yeah. And what would you say, like, in terms of insights, I can think aboutwhat's, what's helped our company especially, we're in the process of kind oflaunching a new product, is this understanding, what strategies are gonna leadus to get to that objective.
And what do we havein place that's maybe not, leading us to those positives. It's also, it's, it'sa lot of tinkering and back and forth, which is uncomfortable, but, but it's alittle bit, it offers that sense of clarity as you move forward. And, and, it,it just, it's a lot more yeah.
Proactive in, in alot of ways to, to being able to be a little bit more innovative or creative oreven just doing the things that kind of Sharpen your product. Like customercalls or client calls or all these things are not scalable, but really have a lotof longevity.
Yeah. And, andcurious, in, in terms of your experience too, thinking about like how do youdefine, or were there times where your product, say, reached a, a certainvolume where he kind of, had a ceiling of growth and how did you kind of, didyou add new products onto that?
Did you offer it adifferent way? As we scale startups, I feel like. Sometimes we hit ceilings formost of the time, but there's obvious, often some creativity that comes out ofthat. Were there moments during Trovata where, where you had to, kind of buildbeyond what you had?
Brett:Yeah, I mean, I, I think my experience is more on the enterprise startup whereusually it's something that you're doing is, is gonna be pretty bold andambitious, so it's gonna, it has a lot of runway so it.
It it's usuallyalmost the other, the other side of the risk. You typically have to raise alittle bit more money. You're probably gonna need a little more people to kindof build and get there. And, and then when you do it, you, you'll have a littlemore runway in terms of and maybe the, the market potential is a little bitbigger, right?
It's, it's yeah,it's a little bit higher stakes poker, right? So it's a little more risk causeit's, they're a little more moving parts. But at the same time, I think thebig, yeah, go ahead. Yeah,
Julian: Iwas gonna say, do you start with like an initial partner in those cases? I, Ifeel like I've heard that kind of as a common theme.
When you goenterprises, you almost want that partnership to be able to kind of buildthrough them. Is, is that where you started? Is that the typical route or isthere different ways about it?
Brett:Yeah, I mean, you're definitely you definitely want it to be a team game asearly and often as you can.
And I think that'sthe biggest part of this too, as I would say. You, you definitely wannasurround yourself with people who are, are gonna be have skills and have thingsthat, that are just different than you. And maybe how they even, they, theyeven think differently than you right now. It, that's a, that can beuncomfortable cuz I think from a team perspective, you have to be reallyunified.
And so there's kindof two approaches, and this is a big part of kind of our cultural ethos.Israel, is, is you can, as you can make the mistake, I think of. Hiring a lotof people that are just like you and think and believe in all that stuff.They're like, and they're, they're probably not gonna challenge you as much cuzyou guys are gonna always be in, in sync.
Right. And, andyou're, you're, they're not gonna be very diverse. But you're also at risk to,there's a lot of stuff that you're not seeing. So the beauty about having avery diverse team is that you're covering all these bases. You want the e everyaspect of as diverse as you possibly can. Now, on the flip side though, if youhave a, you're generally gonna hire people that are really, a gravitated star.
So people who aregonna be a little more strong-willed, more passionate, what you want. They'regonna be a little more opinionated, right? And so when you have a very diverseteam, you're also gonna get a whole melting pot of opinions, right? So the keyin that I think is, and part of our, like the culture that we have at Trot isthat like, you have to be able to it's more of this building that unity is howare you gonna do that when you have, and we probably have one of the most.
We all know thatit's no secret. We'll probably have the most, divisive time in our nation'shistory. Right? Nobody can agree on anything. So, and then you have big dividesthat, that, so therefore you need to get there. But then you, you, the onus isthen tie it all together. And I think that's the piece that you have to be.
Uncomfortableaspect, well, there's gonna be friction and tension and knowing that there's,there's really healthy tension. And then, then there's other unhealthy tension.But the big piece of that is that you really have to to really become a unifiedteam is you really, if, if there's any sort of individual agenda or a littlebit of an ego or whatever, you ha, everybody has to be willing to check thoseat the door.
Myself included,because at the end of the day, if we, if we're gonna be on mission together, wegotta make it about that. And when you, when you do that, that's I think alsowhat makes it fun, because then everybody can rally around that, that commondenominator and then, That trust and rapport and now you're in a groove on whatreally matters.
You'll still have,you'll still have tension, but that's where really good healthy tension is kindof that iron sharpens iron. You're really gonna, like, if they'll be, they'llbe an opinion because there's a passion about seeing that the company, if theydon't do this, it's gotta. It's gonna cause these consequences.
And those arethings that forces you to confront and have those conversations. And those arereally, really good things because at the end of the day, in a startup, it'sall about d de-risking the pathway. Okay? Wherever you can de-risk thebusiness, I mean, that's what it's about. That's gonna heighten your chancesfor success along the way.
Julian:Yeah. And thinking about risks and, and more, whether it's external or internalfor Trovata today, what do you view as some of the biggest risks for yourcompany?
Brett:Yeah. I think that one of the things that when you start out, in every, everycompany, you're trying to figure, do you have a good idea? Okay, how are yougonna make money and your go to market strategy, and you're kind of goingthrough the whatever checklist you have, right?
And there's, andthen pretty soon you, you feel like, okay, it's, you might wanna do some softpitches to VCs that you know, because they, they're gonna ask hard questionsand. And, and, and do it as if you're truly gonna raise money. Because ifthey're gonna put money in the li they're probably gonna be really critical,right?
So that's good. Youwanna be, you wanna test your thesis. And when you get through that process andit holds up, I think then then you can start to say, okay, do we got somethingor not? Then it's like, how are we gonna execute, which is entirely differentart and different process, and, and it, people are the, the, such a keyingredient for that.
So I think allalong the way, for me, the big thing is, Once you get into that mode, andthat's where Trovata is today, what's one of the reasons why I loved maybehaving been, a lot of gray hair and some of that is making mistakes or, or evenbetter maybe seeing the mistake, but not actually being in the line of fire.
Slip ties is thebest way to do it. You get to learn from that. Other people's mistakes havementorships along the way, but when, when you, you have all that, that benefit,you're, you're getting, really dialing in and, and, and, and, and, Is thisworth really pouring yourself into? And I think from that standpoint, what I,what I felt was so excited about Trovata from the very beginning, we had somany of these things going for us, then it's just about execution risk.
And I still think,for us that's our biggest risk. It's execution risk. And when you can get riskin that category, I mean, that's the best place for it to be, because at theend of the day, the only thing holding you back is yourself or your collective,team to do it. And, and those are the things that, that's where you want itbecause yeah.
I mean, if you'regonna, you get this aspect, it's, it is about, kind of, this competing to winthat theme. That is kind of the undercurrent, a lot of what you're driving for.I mean, that's where you want that risk to be and, and it also makes it thatyou know that much more fun when you're, having those wins along the way cuzyou know together like you're doing it.
Julian:Yeah. There, there's just, when you get it to that point, from, at least myexperience, it's like you have opportunities to be active and take, take, newcreative ways to, whether it's target a customer or, promote your product or.What have you, like as you scale your business? It, it creates the opportunityfor activity, which, I'd rather do that than, than, push something against,uphill that that that's not gaining momentum.
And thinking about,the momentum that you've had at Trovata, what's the long-term vision? Ifeverything goes well, what's the long-term vision for the company? That you seeit?
Brett:Yeah. It's just been so blessed to, be on this journey. It's been now. Going onstart, started this, the company really in stealth to kind of spend even timebefore that.
It's sort of in, insome ways for me, it's sort of this 10, 15, 20 years in the making. Like thisis the product that I always wish that I had for so many years in my career.Understanding all those aspects of what we, what we do and can identify with somany different finance, accounting, treasury folks out there.
Right. So I think beingin the, this first. Couple of years. It's very tenuous. It's very hard. Like,like anything, there's these moments that I'm looking in the mirror and, or, ormy wife's looking at me saying, really? But, but you, you persevere and becauseof the excitement and you know that you're on on track, you have thatconviction.
And I think nowthat we've been, we've been in market now for four years, we're getting closeto 200 customers. We've got. Amazing customers. Like one of our first customerswas Stone Os, the speaker company. And we got JP Morgan is an investor, and,and, and that, that ha that was interesting not having our first investor as abank because they're referring customers, which that's the best help you canget.
Right. So that'sbeen a real blessing. So when you have, we've got now four banks as investorscapital One, Wells Fargo as well, and a b out of Australia. And we've got, the,the customers that we have from. Snowflake to crispy cream, donuts and, yeah.DraftKings, all these great customers.
So when you look atbeing able to kind of make that impact, and then it's as the, the, the businessis scaling and, and you just see, you're able to get to, you also see peopleand, and, and hitting strides and kind of growing. In ways, with the businessand keeping, keeping in stride with it, seeing them, grow professionally andyou just being part of that is, it's, is is really, really rewarding.
Julian:Yeah. I love this next section I call my founder F faq. So I'm gonna hit youwith some rapid fire questions and we're gonna see where we get. First questionI always like to ask is to open it up. What's particularly hard about your jobday to day?
Brett: Ithink the. It's, it's a daily process.
You, you have to bein the details and you have to be pretty maniacal about it. And that means, it,it's, it's not going away. It, you can't turn it off. So it's, it's not anormal job. It's, it's definitely a, a high impact sport. And that's just theway it is Now. You get the thrills of that. You also get the, it can befatiguing and you have to be able to.
Be somewhatself-aware and regulates and, or, you find yourself hitting the wall and it'slike, I ran too hard today. So, but, but that's that kind of goes with theterritory, both kind of the pros and cons.
Julian:Yeah. Yeah. What, what's, a lot of founders think about the flywheel andgetting the flywheel going.
Obviously, JPMorgan was such a great partner to yours because of this partnership with themreferring customers. I'm sure that was extremely helpful and valuable. How doyou as an early founder get that flywheel going? If you say have littleresources, have little network, but have, a decent idea about a product marketfit, have a lot of traction, gaining momentum, how do you continue thatmomentum in a landscape where there's, it's just competitive wherever you goand, and differentiating yourself is a challenge.
Brett:It's a great question. I think honestly, there's. Not every business will havea natural flywheel. And I think that it might mean you're, you're having towork extra hard cuz you're having to, manually fill a couple of those, thosegaps that just, it just might not naturally be there or might not come for awhile.
So you have tobuild up, I think for our, our flywheel. And of course, like a lot of folksAmazon's. Virtuous cycle on an napkin. Of course, I worked at Amazon for alittle while, so of course I'm thinking, okay, what's my, what's my, I wanna, Iwanna see that this business has a flywheel built in before I even start it.
Wouldn't that becool cuz if we had that, it's definitely gonna make the journey a littleeasier. And that doesn't mean it happens on its own though, so we're gonna haveto work really hard to kind of establish that. And I think that's the, ourflywheel early on was basically we were the first company to build APIs andcorporate banking.
So if you think ofin the world of. Plaid or Nessi. Or yolie, it's on the retail core of the bankor small business and consumer. Those APIs didn't exist. And even in then, APIsare slow and there's still even screen scraping. But with, in the world ofbanks, they had to be APIs cuz you're talking big customers has to be secure.
And so that wholeaspect of if we can build the APIs and we can bridge that gap for the bank'scustomers. Then the banks will take notice. They'll see the experience that webuilt on top, that customer, their customers are using that. We did that. Andthen they're gonna say, well, we have more customers than just that.
They're gonna beinterested in us. And then they're gonna wanna make those referrals. Andbecause those other customers, which they have a lot of, and that you want to,to work with, they're gonna make those intros. And then when they do that,you're getting, sales and revenue. Yeah. And then you're, so that's whatstarted to kind of, circulate for us.
And once we didmore of that that's where the banks kept inve, investing in partnershipshappening. And, and that's why this aspect for us as a FinTech is a littledifferent maybe than the normal FinTech. A lot of fintechs are like, Hey, wewanna disrupt the bank. We wanna. We want to be the bank or we wanna change allthat, the status quo, the, the big institution, we can do it better.
And, and I, and Ithink there's a lot to that, that needs the, the banks need to be pushedbecause if they don't get that push, they're probably not gonna change. Right.But in our case, they're also a different way to impact change in this. Part ofit was, a, a JP Morgan or a Wells Fargo on the large corporate side thatinstitutional banking is.
Is not going away.That's not gonna change. Or you're not gonna, so I think the part of that was,okay, how do we, how do we help them? How do we actually help them become techcompanies? Because they're not, and they know that some, some of 'em aren'tadmitting it, especially in the early days. But how do you bridge that gap?
And so you kind ofbuild this. You, you kind of have to, and it's hard to work with banks cuzthey're really slow and, and they're painfully difficult to work with at times.But, but if you can establish that, if you can create some patience, if you cankind of find the right ways to connect. And in this era the breakthrough is, isbanks are now building APIs and investing in those now.
So it became anatural way for us to kind of. Work with them, almost like be their tech arm.And so that became a, a good way to kind of help them. And it helps us, ithelps the customer. It's, everybody wins. Not that that doesn't always happenin, in every yeah. In every startup, right.
So I learned earlyon from a mentor when you're disrupting something, you're always looking atlike, how do we win? But he's like, don't forget to ask the question. Okay? Ifyou, if you win, who loses? Because nobody's gonna go. Just like, lets you justwalk in and take the market.
Like somebody'sgonna, if you're, if you're taking eating out of their bowl, like, they'regonna, they're gonna retaliate in some way, right? So, I think all of thosethings, but for us, it, it, it aligned, it aligned really, really well. And,and we're able to do that, with the banks and, and, and kind of, we're, we'rekind of still early on in the story.
Julian:Well, it's brilliant. I, I love, I love, offering value at that level with thisapi and then essentially, I, and my guess my question that's actually superrelevant to what I'm doing now. How are you able to then, once you congregatedthat amount of value, offered value to the small businesses through this APIfunction, how are you then able to bridge the gap with the relationship withthe banks without looking, say predatory or like you were doing a bait andswitch type of technique?
Because it, it's alittle bit of a finesse if not done well versus saying, Hey, Here's the valuewe've added to your customers. We feel that we can continue and consistentlyadd this value. I'm sure you've seen it on your side, how can we partnertogether? Is it about the way you communicate it?
Yeah. What, whatare ways you kind of bridge those two sides without I guess, yeah. Spoilingrelationship?
Brett:Yeah, it's a great question. I think the, the, for us identifying what we weregonna do, what the, the bank does and is never gonna do. And then for us it's,there's sort of this growing gap between the banks, the institution of banking,and then the institution of the e r P system or the accounting system.
Right. And financeis being done. Cash finance on either side, that growing chasm, nobody'sfilling. The, the only void it, the, the, the way it's done today is it'sonline banking, which is the bank's answer. It's tech, which is. A website withhyperlinks and information, it's not a product, right? So that's the problem.
And then whathappens? Every customer just uses Excel or spreadsheets to kind of manage andbuild models and kind of manage your cash. So that's growing and getting worse.Needs to be more automated. Everybody has these needs, and so for us it waslike, okay, if we're gonna fill this gap and if we're successful, we're gonnabuild this product right?
Squarely in thisproblem space. But we gotta recognize that what matters to the bank, it, it'snot doing these things. So we can do them, but if it's something that the bankreally wants to do or is doing, It's probably a good idea not to do that.Right. Thankfully, the, the banks aren't real tech companies, so they're, it's,it's a, it's a pretty good, case that they're not doing it.
But on the, even onthe ERP side, you're, you're having to have interoperability or connect inwith, like, integrate with NetSuite or Oracle or sap, right? So what do thoseguys want? Well, there's aspects that they need on the cash side and. But alsodon't try to do things maybe on a certain workflow or a payment workflow thatthey're doing because they kind of pride themselves on doing that piece of it,right?
So I think once youkinda identify again kind of that, if you're gonna win, who's gonna lose? Liketry to try to understand that really, really well navigate really, really well.It's one is it's going to help you be more focused. But it's also gonna helpallow those partners not to be threatened, cuz generally they're gonna beincumbents and then they'll, more likely, you'll likely create some, some, someadvocates and some allies, which if they, if they do that or partnerships,they're likely to kind of open up their Rolodex with, with customers for you.
And so it just, it,it does provide sort of a little bit of an operating flywheel to that, thathelps helps as well.
Julian:Yeah. Yeah. If I'm, if I'm able to summarize that it's, identify, whatincentivizes each party and, and really figure out if one person succeeds, whodoesn't succeed in this model.
And then throughthat process as you're seeing what alignment you can find, then youessentially, kind of, kind of reflect on, on how to continually grow each kindof aspect. And what my. I guess I, I, I think everyone's idea as a founder ishow do I get as much of this automated as possible? Like, as many partnershipsfunneling me and new clients and as much of the value being, iterated upon almostin an automated fashion to hone in the product and that, that expand.
And it's just soexciting to see, where Trovata is now and how you were able to put those piecestogether to get it, to where you, it, it really does seem like every party isgetting value. People are connecting to the right, resources. You're not doingthings that other companies are trying to do and compete with them more,collaborate and just providing this inner web, and it sounds like because it'senterprise, the complexity of it is definitely, common versus, kind of smallercompanies.
Brett:Yeah. And, and, and I know that sounds it's not always the case, Ben and Starsfor a while where Yeah, there's, there's times where you know, you're not gonnamake friends cuz you're just flat out going to disrupt this space. There areincumbents there, and you're gonna poke the bear and you're, you're gonna,they're gonna turn around and bite you once in a while.
So you have to havea strategy around that too. So I think part of it is just making sure that thebiggest thing is you're aware of it, you understand, maybe how those reactionsare gonna take place when you do that. And, and, and having a really goodstrategy on so you're not caught flatfooted and you, you expect that.
Nobody's gonna giveyou anything. It just, it doesn't happen in life, right? You, you gotta, yougotta be ready, you gotta work hard. You gotta go after it. And I think it'sjust another one of those things that if you kind of really think through, putyourself in their shoes, how are they gonna react? You can, you can navigatethrough that as, as best you can.
It's, it's notgonna be easy, but, get a, get unscathed as as possible going, going throughthe The journey of innovation.
Julian:Yeah. Yeah. Second to last question here, cause I know we're coming close totime. If, if you were to think about it, whether it's early in your career now,what books or people have been impactful to you that have left kind ofsomething with you today?
Brett:It's good. I, I don't I dunno, for me, I, it's like I I, I, I'm always kind ofget bits and pieces for just so many. Like, I just feel like every. So manypeople you meet, you like there's, we're all kind of, flawed people in someways, but you get, you kind of see something that somebody's good at and kindof, that's, that's something I can kind of take, and, and learn from.
And I think that'sbeen a lot of kind of theme in my career, just from people who I've kind ofspent time with innovating. I, there was a, a guy This, this startup worldwidepackage, like a guy that I work closely with, he's probably the best financeoperator. This guy Matt Fry, was a mentor early on for me.
He, he reallytaught me the value of a really sound operating model and think through it,which makes you a, a better operator. The, the, the the CEO of that business aguy who kind of had won Entrepreneur of the year, in Toronto with the previousstartup, he kind of had a big high flyer even prior to that.
He, he told me astory once where he said where it, his company, he, he took public and kind ofwent wired to wire, which is was pretty cool. And he said it was, yeah, it wassome, one of the junior investment bankers on the team, said to him, it's like,man, you guys just came outta nowhere.
And he goes, yeah,just a 12 year overnight success story. So this, this, this aspect of like,it's not easy, people recognize it sometimes when. When you, you get that brandawareness, but like, there's a lot of hard work to get there and, and, and, andyou know it. Yeah. And just you.
So I think there'sjust a lot of those. But I, I, my. Even my parents, just from my dad being alittle more soft spoken, being more principled and person of integrity. My momprobably the hardest working person that I, that I knew growing up. Growing up.She's never not working hard.
And then my andthen even my, every day, my, my wife will she's just so wise and she, my, mywife, we have four daughters together, so, Like if I ever need to, any kind ofgrounding, like she's there every day to remind me. So at the end of the day,the big part of this aspect of being on the journey in startups is like youjust have to roll up your sleeves.
You have to bewilling to work hard, and you have to humble yourself. And when, and whenever,and we, we all have our moments, where you kind of forget that a little bit.Like all of a sudden right around the corner is, is a, is a slice of humble pieand, and, and it gets you grounded. Thi this sport will get you grounded reallyquickly.
The, the moreyou're in it. And I think all of that is good because then it, it gets youfocused on the on the right things. It gets you, really seeing the, the best inpeople and being able to work with the, the, people of character who are reallygonna add value at the right time and the right roles.
And, all of thatkind of goes into it. So, maybe a long-winded answer, but it's, it's a littlebit all over the map, I guess.
Julian:I, I love it. And, and I appreciate you sharing and, last little bit before wegive you a chance to give us your plugs and share where we can find you and bea fan.
Is there anyquestion I didn't ask you that I should have? Anything you left on the tablehere today before we close out?
Brett:I, I don't think so. This has been fun. Yeah, it's good to, good to share and,and yeah. Good, good to good questions.
Julian:Appreciate it Brett. And last little bit is, where can we be a fan of yours?
Give us yourLinkedIns, your Twitters. Where can we be not only a supporter, but a fan ofwhat you're building today?
Brett:Yeah, abso, I mean, we're pretty, I think pretty easy to find, Trovata trove ofdata trovata.io. And plenty of plenty of stuff there. I'm, I'm on, on LinkedIn.I don't know if my, if I even know it, my link, I dunno, Brett, Brett Turner orsomething like that.
I think it'sprobably fairly easy enough to find, but but yeah, great to be with you.
Julian:Amazing, Brett. Well, thank you so much for being on Behind. Company Linestoday. I hope you enjoyed yourself.
Brett:Absolutely appreciate it. Thanks for having me.