Create and share a detailed and accurate financial model in just minutes | Simon Ritchie - Blox
Simon: Blox is a new platform we’re building. We’re on a mission to help leaders that are in business to reimagine how they make decisions today. Most big decisions today are made using either gut feeling and intuition or for things that are a bit more complex with a few more factors involved. Most of us turn to a spreadsheet, but spreadsheets can be really hard to use. And there are lots of leaders who are not spreadsheets experts. They’re not financial experts.
With Blox, you’ll be able to build a financial to help you make a great decision to understand the factors that impact that decision and be bold, be brave, but without having to spend hours on YouTube on Google, figuring this stuff out. That’s what we’re doing with Blox.
Blox best features
Simon: It’s financial modeling. What we focus on is making it really easy for leaders. You jump into a model that you build within there. You’ve got different blocks that help you with a decision. You might have a model, which is for a full financial model, and so you’d have a block in there for subscription revenue planning if you’re a SaaS company or revenue planning. Maybe you’re an agency, and you’re trying to do some project modeling. You can have different blocks, and we guide a user through the process of drawing out assumptions from their head. It’s very easy to throw in assumptions. In a lot of financial models, when you’re planning for the future, you are throwing in growth assumptions.
How much am I going to grow? How many new customers are gonna get every period? Or how will my price change over time? We make it really easy for a leader to plug those assumptions into the model, and then we calculate everything from there and mix it. We have a really nice summary at the end so they can understand the plan. They can drag sliders around to see the sensitivity, see what would happen if they increase prices, and decrease prices so they can really understand what’s going to happen.
Then the other thing we’re really excited about is we’re working a lot with AI right now to actually configure and tailor a model to a customer to take a lot of the time out of onboarding new customers. As soon as we have somebody’s website, we are able to tailor a financial model just for them without them having to spend hours building it from scratch.
Start using Blox for free
Simon: We have pricing on our website. We’ve launched our free offering already, it’s an alternative to Excel. We’re trying to make the entry-level low friction. Everyone can come in. And then the pricing starts from as little as 13 pounds per user per month or $15 per user per month. And it scales up, but it depends on what features you need. We have different pricing tiers, so if you have larger teams, if you need integration, if you need lots of scenarios, those are the things that affect the pricing.
What are the integrations that you offer?
Simon: We’re working on integrations right now to typical accounting software. You can source your data from Xero, QuickBooks, or Sage. For sales planning, you might be sourcing your data from a CRM like HubSpot, Salesforce, et cetera. We also have a variety of other tools like ChartMogul, we’re working with a lot of SaaS companies.
Who exactly can use your product?
Simon: We’re focusing right now on making financial modeling easy for leaders, any leader who has a big decision to make. You might be a leader thinking about the new pricing, you might be thinking about fundraising, and you want to know how much should I raise. Or how much runway do I have right now? You might have a big partnership coming up, or you might have a really complex project proposal to put together. We can help in lots of different ways.
On our website, we have different models that you can pull down, and you can use those models for different use cases that you have, and we’ve got more and more coming all the time. For the user, we’re tailoring it, we’re making it available for leaders, but it also is very useful for finance people as well. Lots of finance people are spending their spending hours, days sometimes their entire careers devoted to building financial models in Excel. Those people as well could use Blox to support the business. They could be running the model, building their models in blocks, and then getting their business leaders involved in plugging in assumptions and going through different scenarios in there as well.
Do you have any success stories that you can share?
Simon: We’re quite early in our journey. We just started last year. We’re still onboarding early customers right now. We just opened up the product, and we ran a successful beater last year with some early pilot customers, and we opened up the product in February this year, so we’re onboarding customers. There are some fantastic success stories already. Recently a customer was offered the chance for some additional funding, but the investor wanted to see what they would do with that funding. They had a pretty quick turnaround, so they wanted to see what will they do. With this increased funding, how will they spend it, and what will it mean for increased?
Ultimately, they wanted to see increased revenue or an increased long-term growth potential based on the extra investment that they were taking on, so they were able to jump into Blox, use one of our models very easily, tailor it, just plug in assumptions around additional hiring that they would do without investment, additional spend on marketing, and what that would mean for increased revenue growth over time. Really straightforward. That was very successful. Another company is saving 18 hours a month on what they were previously doing with manual spreadsheets.
How competitive is this space?
Simon: There are lots of other players in the broader space. I’ve worked in finance, I was previously an accountant. I found accounting to be quite rigid and very structured. It wasn’t for me, let’s just say that. But what I loved was helping leaders make decisions by understanding the data that was in front of them. For a long time, I was the guy that they were turned to when they needed some spreadsheets. Some data turned, twisted, analyzed, and aggregated.
That’s how I kind of started out my career and got into this space of decision analytics, space, financial planning, and modeling space. You’ve got a lot of players that started out as typical enterprise financial planning software. You’ve got some players like SAP, Oracle, and IBM, they have financial planning products. They’re very complex and very hard to use. You have some newer tools that were born in the cloud, like the company I worked for for a long time called Anaplan. That was very successful. And then you have some newer tools that are starting to be a bit easier and a bit more self-serve. Most of them focus on finance teams, and so they build the features that finance teams need.
How is Blox different?
Simon: What we heard when we did our research was there was nothing that was really easy for a leader. And really easy and quick for them to use at the moment when they have a big decision to make. Most people still turn to a spread. That’s the key alternative. That’s the change in behavior that we’re planning to drive. As we bring blocks to the market, people will see, okay, there’s this really fantastic tool.
It’s quicker, it’s faster, and it’s easier than a spreadsheet. I don’t have to remember where to put dollars in my formulas. I don’t have to remember if I put it before I copy and paste. No more of that random nonsense. But it’s ingrained in us. We learn, we teach spreadsheets to kids when they’re in high school and college, and university. It’s a big behavior change that we’re driving, but, that’s the plan.
Fundraising in 2023
Simon: We bootstrapped to the early part of our journey last year. We actually started as a spin-out of the company where I was working, and an early team of us spun out. From there, we bootstrapped the first season, and then we raised venture funding in November. We’re just kind of looking to close that round. We’re still in the midst of raising our first pre-seed. Looking to make some announcements on that in the next couple of months.
It’s been interesting, let’s just say that. We’ve had success. We’ve already closed over 450,000 in our round, and we’ve got a really good pipeline for the rest. I’ve found that because we are pre-revenue. There are lots of early-stage ventures who say they’re early-stage ventures, but they’re really not. They want to see that you are further along your path, a couple of years into your journey, already generating revenue. This is probably fine in certain cases for us because the alternative to our product is Excel, which is very feature rich and very well-known. There are lots of capabilities and features that we have to build before we can get users across on mass. We’re still on our journey, we’ve launched our free product. We’ve focused more on angels and some investment funds who really understand the space for us.
Simon’s previous company was acquired for $10B
Simon: I was previously involved at a company called Anaplan. Very, very successful startup in the planning space, the most successful startup scale-up in the planning space. We grew like a rocket ship. We floated on the New York Stock Exchange in 2018, and I had the great privilege to be there on the stock exchange for the IPO I am really excited and determined to go back again with Blox.
And then it was acquired last year for over 10 billion. So really successful outcome. What we did there was focus on serving large enterprises, helping them with really complex financial modeling planning solutions, and what we’re trying to do now is bring a lot of that knowledge and make it really easy for leaders in smaller businesses. With that kind of story, with the founder market fit that we have and a fantastic early team, we have been able to raise money, but it’s a challenging environment.
Why you should reward your employees with shares in the company
Simon: I was an early employee, I joined just after they’d raised a big round, and they were just launching a European office. I wasn’t on the founding team, but a big part of the journey, I was there for eight years, actually. The company rewarded me with shares, and I really believe in that too. I think it makes a big difference for all if you are in a company and even if you own just a few shares and you don’t really know what they’re going to be worth. It changes behavior, and I really believe in that.
We’ve set that up here at blocks from the beginning to make sure that everybody is involved in some way. It’s obviously hard to work out what that means, but. But ultimately, that was really fantastic for me in the previous company and was a big part of how we were able to bootstrap how I’m able to build this business, not take a salary for a year. All these things that you have to do as an early-stage founder. Right now we are a team of 11 right now, and we’re based between the UK and India.
What has been your biggest challenge since starting Blox?
Simon: I’m somebody who’s good at finding a way and figuring it out. And I have a decent amount of energy and drive to go and tackle for certain things to tackle anything that’s in the way. We had a couple of really fantastic founding team members, which was great. My background is more in product and accounting, so I really understand this space, this planning. I’ve done product management and worked with engineers and pro designers to build products. I’ve done customer success before, so actually get on enabling and onboarding new customers.
The biggest challenges for me have been fundraising and which was just a whole new space. I’d never been involved in fundraising before. Figuring out how that works, where you go for fundraising, and how long you should spend on it. How you should, how you can do it in a way that it doesn’t take up all your time because you’ve got a bus business to build. That was a challenge. And then sales and marketing same thing. I haven’t been involved in creating a website, optimizing for SEO, or creating blog content, all of this stuff is brand new for me.
As a product founder, I wasn’t expecting just how much work and energy. I’m now at the point where actually I’m loving it. It’s fun. We’re kind of moving through and through from different stages. It’s a rush when you try and sort of work these things through, get because get kind of take leads and especially we’re not monetized right now, but we are, we’re treating it like we are. We’re working with people, we’re trying to get them through to the point of decision. Do they go with us? Yes. No. It’s been a challenge, though, but it’s been a lot of learning.
Is this your first start-up?
Simon: This is the first startup of my own as founder and CEO. I’ve been in senior roles in scale-up before. I was the chief product officer of a London-based startup. For a while, but this is my first time in this very early stage of birthing something brand new, finding product market fit, et cetera. I’m really enjoying it. It’s challenging, it’s hard to switch off, but you know. I have a good support network. I have a wife and four kids, so they require me to get offline at a good time every evening. And then, I end up just sort of jumping back on the laptop whenever I can finish off everything.
What’s your best piece of advice for starting founders?
Simon: It’s good to focus on the problem, not the solution. We spent a long time just thinking about this problem, diving in, and researching it. And then the other thing that I thought was because you hear a lot this, this advice, you know, focus on the problem, not the solution. There’s a point where you’ve got enough info, or you’ve, you’ve kind of researched it enough, and then you have to make that big, bold decision. You have to be brave, and you have to go after it. And so that’s where I would say that a lot of people, they like, they’re good at thinking.
Some people even take the time to, you know, stop watching Netflix every night and use that app, use that time to be productive and research a problem. And you can do that while you’re working somewhere else. You can have a little side hustle going on. There’s a point where you’re like, I’ve learned, I’ve researched, I’m ready, I’ve searched internally, and I know this is a problem I’m excited to solve, and I’m willing to put in the work. I’m willing to put in two years to really go after this. And now you just have to make that big, bold, bold decision and go after it.
And that normally means taking the step, taking the plunge. Quitting your job or arranging a spin-out, or paying for somebody to build you something. I think that would be my advice, to understand the problem. But there’s a point where you’ve gotta make a big, bold decision, and when you get to that point, then don’t be afraid to just actually just go for it. . Go after it. Be brave. Trust in yourself. Believe that you can do it, and I think that great things will follow.
What’s your favorite SaaS product apart from Blox?
Simon: I’m here in the UK, and we have a product called Seed Legals that I am in all the time. It’s a tool for startups, it helps me with all my legal, it helps me with my managing my cap table with fundraising, with all sorts. I’m not very good at sitting at that kind of paperwork and process. And they’ve made it really easy. I would go with Seed Legals. I think it’s a game-changer for me.
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