When Yoni first got in touch with me about what he was doing at MRGN, I was immediately interested in his vision. My experience serving clients as a public accountant and my years of internal finance in the start-up world had given me a clear sense of the value of the imagined product. I had known and worked with a lot of small business leaders. While they were all motivated and resourceful, most of them did not want to spend hours poring over spreadsheets. Financial management was often that overwhelming chore they couldn’t really afford to spend the time or money it would take to get right. MRGN would address this pain point by simply taking the user’s basic numbers and using them to generate budgets and forecasts without all the spreadsheets. I knew how helpful small teams would find MRGN if it could allow anyone to effectively moonlight as CFO.
Small company teams are lean, but usually, they’re also versatile and full of knowledge. That’s part of what lends them their hallmark agility. Being able to adapt quickly to shifting circumstances enables small and emerging organizations to compete by staying responsive to their markets and customers. When time that could be used on revenue-generation disappears down a black hole of hours spent on error-prone, manual manipulations, that agile edge takes a hit. The last few years have given us all a healthy respect for the power of unexpected circumstances. Business leaders are best prepared when they assume that pressure points will develop and that recalibrations will be necessary. For a team without internal finance operations, this poses a particular challenge. Being able to use a solution like MRGN to quickly forecast and compare a range of scenarios vastly improves the ability of a small organization to play to its strengths. Instead of stressing over unwieldy number cells, they can focus on making the right decisions in real time and moving forward with confidence.
In the business world, no matter the industry, the thing that unites us all is our numbers. Along with my appreciation for people and analysis, that was actually one of the things that first attracted me to accounting and finance. I knew that my skillset would allow me to work across industries and locations, because it touches them all. MRGN’s focus on this area of business operations coupled with its user-friendliness and range of features, lends it similar versatility. In every sector, small-scale operations are governed and propelled by the same numbers game that drives larger ones, but while the bigger fish hire professionals, companies with less market share are often forced to wing it. I’m excited about the potential MRGN offers to users across the small business sector to close this gap and succeed.
The last three years have been a weird and wild adventure. The ups and downs, trials and tribulations of a startup are absolutely unpredictable. We’ve shuffled through several software engineers, hit walls with fundraising, didn’t necessarily know what we were doing all the time, but that is all to be expected.
As all of that was happening, we had to keep our sites on the future development and growth of, what was a side project, and is now a fully fledged organization. We honed in on a vision, raised capital, and found a stride with our engineering team, thanks to our rockstar CTO, Vivek Elayidom.
Fast forward to October 1st, 2022, just a week or so ago, and we’re finally live and available for the world to employ. The platform is stable, and we are continuing to build more and more features that are solely focused on bringing value to the customer.
We are so thankful for those who have helped us along the way; DataPower Ventures and Ride Home Fund, for the belief and support in their investments. Des Hague and Bonnie Siegel, for their guidance. Jeremy Sterns, Chris Sanchez, Max Lapping, Will Frederick, Sam Sudakoff, Lee Offir, and so many other advisors that have leant their vast knowledge and experience to MRGN’s aspirations. And, to the countless new friends and colleagues that have opened their networks to us.
Looking forward, we are close to terms on more investment capital than we asked for, we’ll be launching some substantial improvements to the platform in the coming months, and we are participating in four large conference competitions, all of which have advanced us to the quarter and semi final rounds. We’ve received a commitment from a large restaurant chain to onboard in the coming months, and will have a proposal in with the mayor of one of the most tech-supporting cities in the country.
But! And, there’s always a “but”. We have a long way to go before we make the impact on small businesses that we’ve envisioned. Small businesses are still suffering, and we must change that!
Thank you again to all those who have supported MRGN’s journey for the last three years. We can’t wait to see what’s in store!
This article is intended to help any SMB owner/operator secure its company’s data, with seven specific recommendations. But first, a story to explain why it’s important in the first place.
My mother ran a corporate meetings and events business for over 20 years. One day her CFO called in a panic, “I can’t print checks through the accounting software and the accounting data isn’t displaying right in the reporting mode”.
Fast forward, it turns out that the accounting software was hit with ransomware, specifically a file extension virus called LockBit. All her accounting files were encrypted, meaning the files couldn’t be accessed.
The company then received an email that read something like “You’ve been hacked, now please call this number XXX-XXX-XXX to pay and the files will be un-encrypted” At-least the hackers said please!
How did this happen? To this day, we don’t know exactly, but there were a few proposed causes: the CFO may have opened a wrongful email with a link (commonly referred to as a phishing scam) or the company’s firewall may have been compromised and never patched by the existing outsourced IT service provider (meaning never fixed/updated) and the hackers stole logins and passwords as a result.
While this isn’t an article about what to do after a ransomware attack, here are a few tidbits: The company had cyber-insurance and had to pay the hackers (I’ll get to this later), the company had to pay an external cybersecurity firm to do remediation (a series of efforts to detect, contain, and restore) in this case, to clean the accounting files and data, and the company had to switch from an on-premise server to a cloud-hosted provider (I’ll get to this later as well, but think Google Cloud Project, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services)
So, what can you do? Here are seven recommendations effective immediately:
1. Change your mindset about security. Think about the security of your small business as risk mitigation. You must get comfortable with the fact that you can’t eliminate all threats or attacks, but your goal is to reduce the likelihood, its impact, both financial and operational, and make decisions that reflect this.
2. Buy security software. If you don’t know where to start, maybe ask another small business owner/operator for recommendations. If you want to learn about the software on your own, there are many software review sites for SMBs like SoftwareAdvice, GetApp, G2 Crowd, Capterra, and many others that will help provide a potential list of security software to explore and even connect you with an expert. You can also hire an outside IT or security firm to take this off your plate.
3. Train your team. In the story above, there is a high likelihood that a member of the team wrongfully clicked a link in a phishing email that then allowed the hackers to get access to logins/passwords. It’s important to train your staff on how to identify these emails and the dos/don’ts. You can more easily hire an IT firm to train your team and/or you can buy a “security awareness training” software to achieve the same outcome.
4. Setup online backups. Make sure your databases are backed up multiple times per day. In case you are hacked, you have a way to clean and restore from your last backup. Talk with your internal IT personnel or your external IT firm about this.
5. Update your operating system. In the story above, this was done after the fact where the company had to make the switch for better protection in the future. Switching to a cloud provider like Google Cloud Project, Microsoft Azure or AWS allows your small business to get top-level security protection used by the largest companies in the world. Make sure to issue updates to these operating systems, and don’t ignore them, because new security protections are being administered in these updates.
6. Passwords and Multi-factor authentication. Require employees to create complex passwords that are unique. To protect your network, there needs to be multi-factor authentication in place, so that your employees use a combination of passwords and random codes generated by text message. You can talk to your internal IT personnel or an outsourced IT firm about this.
7. Get cyber insurance. Going back to #1, nothing is foolproof. Technology is changing so fast that cybercriminals have the advantage. So, having protection in the event you do experience a ransomware attack is always preferred. This protection will give you piece of mind and mitigate liabilities to your SMB.
By no means is this list exhaustive, but it’s intended to bring awareness and support discussion with your small business team!
I want you to come with me to the year 2006. If you could go back in time and give yourself some tips about investing, developing a business, or where to focus your attention, what might you tell yourself? Or what if we were to go back to 1992? What might you advise yourself at that moment?
Now you might wonder what these two seemingly arbitrary dates have to do with anything technology or AI. But they’re not arbitrary at all. These were two of the most significant inflection points in recent human history. 2006 was the year before the release of the iPhone, and 1992 was the year before the release of the internet to the public. Each of these events split the trajectory of human history in entirely new directions.
By splitting, I mean that there is a clear divergence between two ways of living, operating, thinking, etc., in our personal and professional lives. I can think of very few companies (if any) that chose not to adapt to the internet and have thrived to become a market leader. Similarly, companies that didn’t embrace the smartphone revolution will have left significant opportunities on the table, if not left the table altogether. Splits used to happen every so often. But now, technology is causing splits to be more frequent and significantly more impactful.
I suggest that we are approaching a similar inflection point that is happening as you read these lines on your computer or phone. We are entering the First Age of AI – where there will be another split from the trajectory we’ve been on, to a new trajectory that is faster, more abundant, and more promising, IF you’re ready.
A trajectory of non-AI Enabled companies vs. AI-enabled companies.
We are entering an age where being an AI-enabled company is becoming a must for any firm to have short and long-term success. Until recently, AI was more of a feature than a foundation. Some companies used AI, others didn’t, and it wasn’t that big of a deal if you didn’t. But, these scenarios where you can thrive without being AI-powered are quickly disappearing for companies of all sizes.
In the course of my work, I advise governments, NGOs, investors, startups, and enterprises about the most impactful trends and technologies shaping the world and then apply those global insights to their local circumstances. While AI is essential for every company, it is not essential that every company become an AI development company. Small and medium-sized companies can easily take off-the-shelf products like MRGN to optimize and streamline their financial livelihoods, doing in seconds what used to take teams weeks. Or, AI products like NarrativeX, which empower any business to create and tell a compelling narrative that resonates with investors, customers, partners, and the broader marketplace.
Using AI products like these will give any business a competitive edge and allow teams to focus on what they do best while using AI to augment, streamline, and supercharge every aspect of their business. Knowing what you know now, what would the “you” 10 or 20 years from now advise you to do today? Are you ready to enable your company and put the power of AI at your fingertips?
Christopher Sanchez, Founder & CEO Emergent Line
To me, one of the benefits of MRGN is the ability to create a platform that provides standardized financial reporting and planning across a variety of industries. As an investor, one of the primary tasks necessary in conducting due diligence is the ability to assess the financial performance of a company and compare that across a peer-set of competitors.
What is beautiful about MRGN’s solution is the ability to conduct apples-to-apples comparisons of a target company against its primary competitors. Many times, in the investing world, a valuation of a company is computed based on its forecasted future earnings. Many small-and-medium sized businesses sometimes lack the acumen or skill set to effectuate this and therefore hobble themselves from being considered as investment targets because of the lack of forward-looking projections. What MRGN can provide is an elegant solution by which both companies and investors alike can come in alignment about a company’s future financial potential AND discuss the substantiation behind those projections by double-clicking into the underlying assumptions and metrics being used to drive those forecasts. MRGN makes this all possible.
What is even more exciting is MRGN’s turnkey cloud-based accessibility; what this presages is an ability for investors and third-parties in the future to access MRGN’s platform using APIs and pass-throughs to conduct seamless due diligence on prospective targets already using MRGN’s solution. What this means is highly efficient investment screening as investors will no longer require flat, unformatted excel files to be transmitted back and forth to analyze a company’s performance. What is even more exciting is the ability of investors to astutely monitor the health of their portfolio by leveraging the standardized reporting capabilities of MRGN to winnow pain points in their companies’ businesses. Not only does MRGN create favorable governance abilities for investors but it also allows them to seamlessly partner with their portfolio companies to create financial operating models that can be used to attract investors in future fundraising rounds.
MRGN’s ability to incisively simulate various scenarios can help companies and investors understand the various dynamics at play in fundraising rounds vis-à-vis capital type, dilution, runway, burn rate, and debt/leverage. MRGN is truly the heartbeat of a small business because it helps companies and investors partner in understanding and improving the health of growing businesses.
In my career as a software developer, I have always pursued smaller startup companies. The reasoning behind this was to hopefully find a team I enjoyed and a project I had passion for. Where I could “make a real difference“ if you will.
While in search of a new opportunity, I stumbled upon MRGN. I noticed they were an early stage startup creating a financial budgeting platform. At first I’ll admit I was a little intimidated at the thought of diving into the finance realm. But after reading a little more about the company and their aspiration to make budgeting easy, I was convinced this position would be great for me. Maybe I could learn something along the way!
Right off the bat, I was introduced to a small but amazing team already hard at making this idea a reality. I was shown the very up to date and carefully chosen tools and technologies I would be utilizing to help accomplish tasks and features of the application. It was clear from the beginning that I made a good choice by joining the MRGN team. They were not only aiming for a quick release of the product, but were doing so in all the right ways. From state management to dev-ops, everything integrated so well to make this process highly optimized.
Many startups often are so focused on the end goal and getting their product live, they underestimate or disregard many key considerations such as infrastructure, frameworks/libraries, task management etc. I was shown this was not the case with MRGN. Shortly after I joined, more members were joining the team. Together we quickly became a tight knit team. Communication between everyone was great and it really helped accelerate things.
Although I was a little intimidated by working on a financial platform, I instantly became both comfortable and excited. Many of my tasks I was assigned involved building things that incorporated financial lingo I was unfamiliar with. But even without an explanation from other members on the team or a good old google search, I was able to piece it all together on my own using the app. I was sure I wasn’t going to be the only one with technical business related questions. However, the team already had that covered. MRGN was created to make all of this easier. The onboarding process and application flow is so seamless and user friendly. Everything is comprehensible and I even had the pleasure of creating tool-tips that answer any questions a user might have including myself! Backed by an amazing knowledge base for more in depth explanations and help.
My choice to apply and join the MRGN team has been nothing but rewarding. I found exactly what I was looking for in my search. From a software engineer’s perspective, this experience has been a home run. I am truly proud to be a part of such a great team and robust product. I can not wait to see how much of a positive impact MRGN has in the future.