Hearing the capstone presentations of 20 aspiring business owners in a FastTrac New Ventures program last week inspired me to talk to Shagun Malhotra, who recently told Crain's New York Business what she learned at FastTrac en route to taking second place in SIBL's 2010 New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition.
Shagun, here's your opportunity to crow a bit about your innovative business venture, SkyStem.
SkyStem LLC, offers a proprietary account reconciliation system (ART), an on-demand software platform with a web-enabled data management system for General Ledger Account Reconciliation. Our experts configure ART to a company's balance sheet via personalized implementation, process analysis, training, and customer support. The result is an automated, affordable, and flexible methodology to create multiple reports and provide live status and tracking for accurate balance sheet maintenance.
Why this slightly fanciful name SkyStem?
It's a one-word name that captures our ability to make financial data easily retrievable and meaningful at all levels of an organization. ART is designed to give different views into the same balance sheet data from the “Sky to the Stem through the means of a System.” Given that this is delivered via the cloud, the Sky allusion makes it even more applicable and fun.
”Features tell but needs sell." What's the need SkyStem is meeting?
From my years as an auditor, both external and internal, I knew first hand the gargantuan challenge of account reconciliation. In my experience, multiple businesses within one company can have disparate ways of keeping information, different styles of effecting reconciliations, even varying ideas of what a reconciliation is. When overworked accountants deal with reams of paper documentation, auditing becomes a nightmare fraught with inaccuracy. So... I developed a solution. ART is a user-friendly, PROCESS CENTRIC system that transforms manual account reconciliation and consolidates the often daunting tasks of preparing, managing, tracking, monitoring and reporting on this data.
How did you use StartUP's $5,000 cash prize?
After raising money and creating a product, the hardest thing for an entrepreneur to do is to sell it. Adopting a new system from a startup with no established history represents a risk that decision makers typically resist unless sold on its long-term bottom-line results. Therefore, I invested the $5000 prize money in the sales cycle to identify qualified leads, educate companies about the product, and provide demos.
Aha! Leads! In a recent piece on the ALA @your library site, you credit SIBL resources with generating your sales calls. Which online directories at SIBL produced the best lead lists for you?
For creating lists of target companies sometimes even with key decision makers' contact information, I would recommend: Reference USA, which gives executives, revenue, etc. for the "Fortune 1000"; Mergent Online, which provides all of the above plus names of auditors; ID Exec with even more executive identification: D&B Million Dollar Directory, and Hoover's.
With your CPA and CIA credentials are you active in professional associations?
To date, I have focused on meet ups to learn from those who have “been there,” get product feedback from an unbiased audience, and identify potential partners/employees/investors. Advisors at the city's Business Solutions Centers and the SBDC at Baruch College helped me. At upcoming meetings of the NY chapter of the Institute of Internal Auditors I’ll seek the specialist perspective on my product from potential users.
Last month, you joined the NYPL supporters to lobby Albany legislators for library funding. What was your pitch to elected officials?
Kristin, I used the 500+ applications to the NY Start Up 2010 Business Plan competition to show that there are plenty of people considering entrepreneurial ventures which, in turn, create jobs. And I reported from first hand experience that SIBL provides cash-strapped startups with essentials: advisors, training, meeting rooms, networking, and premium databases for business research—all free. So from my heart I could honestly ask for continued library funding because SIBL directly supports small business and in turn, the NYC economy.