While some might debate the potential for generative AI in the profession, for accounting and business management solutions provider Puzzle there is no question: AI is here to stay and it will supercharge the entire landscape. The company’s generative AI-based accounting system, designed specifically for startups, stands as a testament to this idea, with the new technology built into every aspect of its product, reflecting their confidence in its efficacy. It doesn’t just automate tasks and provide insights, it learns based on the user’s patterns to grow more efficient with time.
Puzzle is a comparatively new company, having launched just this past July after emerging from tech investment firm General Catalyst’s Creation Fund incubator. It was developed at least partially with the ongoing shortage of accountants in mind, with the product’s automation and insights aiming to provide users with at least some of the financial confidence in decision making that they need to advance.
CEO and founder Sasha Orloff discussed his recent activities and future plans with Accounting Today.
How would you describe what your company does?
Orloff: Puzzle is modern accounting software, designed with startups in mind. There are three key differences to Puzzle:
- It is the first generative-AI accounting system, automatically drafting financial statements in real-time.
- You get both automatically reconciled cash and accrual books, providing reporting for running a business (cash) and taxes (accrual) at the same time.
- You also get automatically generated spending and cash insights, revenue recognition and variance analysis, traceable to the vendor/transaction level.
Key benefits are focused on accountants spending more time on high-value work with their clients. Puzzle automatically drafts financial statements and cash reconciliations, allowing accountants to focus on high-value items and exception handling. Puzzle’s artificial intelligence system learns with every categorization and edge case, getting faster and smarter every day. For example, categorization rules are created automatically. Built-in natural language processing allows clients to respond in plain English when assigned unknown transactions. Puzzle’s AI proposes the correct chart of accounts mapping. Finally, an intelligent month-end checklist automatically identifies and verifies anomalies and inconsistencies in the books, ensuring accuracy before client hand-off.
What was the last big initiative or project your company completed?
Orloff: A case study with Ramp and Burkland & Associates showed Puzzle sped up month-end closes by 25% with two-fold faster spend categorization. Puzzle’s automation helped Burkland reduce time spent on reconciliations by up to 20%. This allowed them to take on more strategic work.
What is the most exciting new thing you’re working on?
Orloff: Automated revenue recognition. This allows companies to see their revenue on a cash, accrual and annualized basis, with easy pivots across GL account, customer or product line. See more here.
What differentiates your company from others similar to it? What makes you different?
Orloff: According to the Wall Street Journal, 17% of the accounting industry has left the industry, causing stress for accounting firms and businesses. For this reason we focus on two key priorities: automation to reduce stressful hours and allow accountants to take on more clients, and financial intelligence, helping prompt more meaningful discussions between entrepreneurs and finance experts. Both of these allow accountants to focus on high-value work with their clients, and business owners to get meaningful insights faster.
What is the biggest challenge facing companies like yours right now? How do you work to address it?
Orloff: Our biggest challenge is the biggest challenge of our clients, which is not all systems have real-time APIs, so integrating with more partners is a key priority. For example Bill.com just deprecated their API. Justworks payroll doesn’t have an API at all. American Express has no API. So getting real-time data is one of our customer’s top priority, and therefore is one of our top priorities.
What is the biggest tech challenge facing accountants today?
Orloff: Technology is changing accounting fast, which can be scary. But accounting’s true value is when we can understand a company’s financial health, and spend more time helping business owners improve their business.
What is the biggest challenge with selling to this market? Of being a company whose customers are primarily accountants?
Orloff: We think accountants have some of the highest pain tolerance in software. They deserve better software that is built to help them spend more time focusing on improving businesses and less time preparing reports.
If your company has been experimenting with generative AI, how have you incorporated it into your business?
- Ask AI – Get answers to accounting questions by simply asking in natural language.
- AI lookup – Automatically identify and categorize vendors just by writing a description.
- AI categorizer – Categorize transactions in plain English, no coding needed.
- Smart month-end checklist – Software automatically reviews financials to catch errors and inconsistencies.
If you could telepathically transmit one (non-marketing or sales) sentence into the head of every accountant in the world, what would that sentence be?
Orloff: AI will not replace accountants, but will augment your skills and allow you to focus on more strategic, satisfying client work rather than repetitive tasks. Puzzle’s vision for the accounting profession is that, though often reduced to compliance work, accounting done right can greatly improve clients’ financial health; Puzzle provides software to help accountants get back to that core advisory role.
Puzzle at a Glance:
Employees: Approximately 50
Working closely with: About 15 accounting firms
This is part of our regular Vendor Spotlight series, where we highlight technology vendors that are fueling the accounting profession’s digital transformation.
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