Martin Chee discovered his love of challenges from an early stage in his career. The biggest and most exciting challenge for the entrepreneur has been building new businesses from the ground up. His latest business creation is Amaka, an accounting integration product that perfectly syncs sales transactions into an individual’s accounts package in no time.
Amaka’s ability to automate data entry has led to it being used by business owners and individuals around the globe. Amaka continues to grow having recently entered the United States marketplace and further expansion into Canada and the United Kingdom is on the horizon.
As CFO, Chee has overseen the incredible growth of the company in just a short time. He no longer has to wear so many hats, but keeps his finger on the pulse of everything the company does. Chee recently sat down with Totalprestige Magazine to talk about Amaka, his career, and the future of the company.
Martin, Amaka is an accounting software program that allows users to synchronize their data. What led to the launch of Amaka and how easy does it make life for SME businesses?
Amaka was born out of a desire to create complex accounting integration products that were easy to understand and use. In the market there is a huge demand for solutions to manage the flow of information between business apps and accounting software. There are now literally thousands of apps that can be used and integrated to run a business and this trend has created pressure to adapt and adopt at a very fast pace. Within the software integration space there aren’t many approachable plug-and-play solutions and we wanted to address this problem. It is often the case that these types of products can have a relatively steep learning curve and additionally there is a level of product expertise that needs to be combined with accounting knowledge to really get the most out of them. We make life for SME businesses easier by building simple to use yet highly configurable products. We combine these products with a hands-on support service delivered by individuals with an accounting background, that allows our customers to spend less time configuring and monitoring the performance of an integration product and more time running their business.
According to Amaka’s website, it “evolved out of the growing need for businesses to rely on multiple software applications”. What was life like for a business before Amaka compared to now?
In many instances, businesses moving onto our platform were manually entering data into their accounting software package, or in the case of generating reports, were downloading this information from say, a POS system and collating multiple reports into a single report that would give them a particular view of their business that they wanted. These processes can be susceptible to user error as well as being time consuming.
In April 2020, Amaka continued its expansion into the United States. The company already has offices in both Australia and Poland. How significant is it for Amaka to expand into the US?
The US is an important market for us, however, other than size, we think the US has a lot of untapped potential in terms of a significant number of apps, which are currently either unintegrated with accounting software packages or integrated very poorly. Accounting integrations are notoriously difficult, and this is often reflected in poor user ratings, in particular when built by vendors lacking a deep understanding of accounting and bookkeeping best practices.
Are there plans to expand into other areas or is the US the main focus of the company right now?
We are fairly region agnostic overall but in the short-term the US will consume a significant amount of attention given the level of localization required for some products (especially when it comes to managing taxes). We are already in many countries by way of the products that we offer. The UK and Canadian markets are also on the road map for the near term.
We assess our opportunities using a number of metrics and, in that, obviously is a consideration for the size of the potential user base. Depending on what the integration is, we do factor in the amount of localization required to cater to the needs of the market. For example, while the US is a very large market, there is a significant amount of localization work that typically has to be done when it comes to handling taxes correctly.
How did Amaka’s recent partnership with Square come about and how will that improve the brand’s ability to perform at a high level?
We have previously done quite a lot of work in the POS integration space throughout the years. We were referred to them by a mutual contact who had dealt with us in the past and after discussions we were commissioned to build the official integrations with MYOB and Xero. In terms of the impact on our branding we obviously like to associate ourselves with partners that are innovative and understand and appreciate the level of expertise associated with delivering and supporting an integration. In addition to that, it is generally necessary that there is collaboration between technical teams to make sure the product is satisfying all of the necessary user requirements. In terms of performing at a high level, for us it is really our day to day business. Whether working in collaboration or independently we are always accountable to our customers at the end of the day.
You have only been the CFO of Amaka since July 2019. What led you to the company as CFO?
The CFO role came about in formalizing some of our business structuring, moving out of early stage start-up territory, where as a founder you are wearing many hats, to then having the right personnel in place that you can focus on specific functions within the business. That being said, I am still very heavily involved in product development at a business and technical level, which I enjoy.
In less than a year, Amaka has grown tremendously. How exciting has the company’s growth been?
Very exciting! The growth in customer numbers has been a validation of the products we have been building. The technical and development aspects of the business have been incredibly challenging to get right and, over time, our development team, in particular, has done an amazing job in building the right infrastructure to enable us to push out quality products quickly.
Your past as an entrepreneur has been quite exciting. You are a co-founder of BarBooks, 5.5 Degrees, and Amaka. What is it about being an entrepreneur that excites you and motivates you to build new enterprises?
I enjoy the challenge that building a business from scratch presents. It is a very different feeling when you are in control of the critical decision-making early on that can have a profound impact on the overall success of a business, versus coming into an established business where there are already rules, systems and resources in place (often that you have to fight with). I also love the fact that with new enterprise you are allowed to exercise your creativity in so many ways. At the start there aren’t really many boxes to stay inside of until you create them.
Martin, you are also a certified accountant with years of experience. How has technology changed the way accounting is done in 2020?
The accounting industry has undergone an enormous amount of change off the back of advancements in technology. I would say one of the largest changes alone is the removal of the need to complete and submit paper forms through software and software integrations. This has freed up countless hours of time for accountants all over the world. There is definitely a shift toward data entry automation, AI and data analysis that has been occurring more intensely in the past few years, whether it’s the automation of bill entry or the automation of the analysis of a particular business function such as inventory management. More and more accountants are required to understand how to curate different software for their clients in order to help efficiently run their businesses. Accounting software has also exposed many tasks and functions performed as part of the accounting profession to the everyday individual. Things that accountants might have taken care of for their clients in the past have now been made very approachable to the point that they can be managed internally by the business or even largely autonomously by software. Accounting is a very rules-based profession and so very susceptible to software disruption in general. This trend will continue and begin to accelerate in the near future.
What does the future hold for Amaka and yourself as an entrepreneur?
For Amaka the vision is to be able to expand the product offering so that we are able to support accounting app integrations endlessly as well as provide automation tools that will not just save time but provide valuable information insights. Many software organizations are realizing that accounting integrations require specialist knowledge and expertise in both building and supporting them on an ongoing basis. We would like to be seen as a standard setter for accounting integrations both from a product perspective as well as in the quality of the support we provide.
Martin, what is a day in your life like?
Hectic! Every day is different but often there is a lot of time spent in meetings as well as on the phone. I have a lot of contact with different stakeholders in different capacities, ranging from dealing with the board and founders, working with partners and other third parties, as well as spending a lot of time with customers and the development team internally working on product design and enhancement.
My time is mostly dictated by the immediate needs of the various businesses. For example, recently we acquired a business in Barbooks and so quite a bit of time was spent with the board in working on the terms of the deal, negotiating with the seller and quite a bit of due diligence work. On the Amaka side, as we have launched quite a few new products recently, I have spent a lot of time working with customers and the development team during the beta process prior to official releases.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I can eat a whole tub of ice cream in a single sitting and, so generally try not to buy it in the first place (as I can’t be trusted).
What makes you smile?
Spending time with my 17-month-old daughter.
What scares you?
Being away from family for too long. I often have to travel to the Philippines on business and it’s not a good feeling missing out on time with the family.
It’s exciting being involved in the integration space. In our business, we have a firm belief in the need to provide great support to our customers in conjunction with the products that we develop. While software can displace and replace people and their involvement in certain processes, the reality is that everything is moving at such a rapid pace that there are few people with the expertise required to manage and implement these technologies. We aim to be able to provide this expertise as a service and ultimately allow people to focus on the core of what makes their business successful.
For more information on Martin Chee and Amake Accounting Integrations, please visit https://amaka.com/.