Rob te Braake of Insight Matters tells us how they offer financial reports and analyses to help digital businesses.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Rob te Braake: We have had an interesting year during COVID-19. My partner and I are both location-independent entrepreneurs. We were previously living in Thailand, but due to the pandemic, we have “by accident” moved to another country (Hungary) as we traveled here when the borders closed. However, so far, we are doing very well – last December we’ve welcomed our son to the family, so it has been strange, but for us, a good year.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Insight Matters.
Rob te Braake: I’m a Dutch entrepreneur with a background in finance and strategy. My current company, Insight Matters, provides productized services of financial reporting and analysis for online businesses (e-commerce, agency, Saas, etc.). I founded it in 2020, as I noticed in the consulting business I was running at the time, that there were so many online business owners that lacked critical financial reporting and insights but simply couldn’t afford CFO consulting rates. I have been advising and coaching dozens of digital companies globally for years, and these experiences naturally evolve into today’s Insight Matters.
Before that, I had co-founded multiple clean-tech companies in China after leaving a corporate career in ING bank.
How does your company innovate?
Rob te Braake: To start with, our business model is innovation. Productized financial analysis services are practically non-exist in the market, let alone about such services tailored to online businesses.
We clearly see a pain point here: the absence of actionable financial reporting and business analysis in digital businesses. Those are common practices in the big corporates but were unaffordable and ignored by the self-funded entrepreneurs. However, having clear financial insight is ultra-critical for any business owner.
Moreover, we have incorporated a whole range of cloud-based tools (in terms of data visualization, data processing, and presentation) in our services. Many of these innovative solutions are still largely ignored by most of the finance industry.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Rob te Braake: Coronavirus does not directly impact my business – from the start, we’ve set it up as a fully remote team.
Indirectly, however, we are actually benefitting from it. Almost all of our clients –all are early starters in the digital businesses– are doing better during the pandemic, especially those in e-Commerce.
In the long run, the pandemic leads to mainstream adoption of remote working, it also leads to more acceptance of remote service providers, so we expect more opportunities, too.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Rob te Braake: The most difficult choice, especially during the pandemic, is how to balance work and life. As we are having a baby during Covid-19, we have been taking social distancing very seriously. It often led to working too much in the house, and the line between private life and work blurred.
It’s an ongoing struggle, but the approach that is working for now is to deliberately ‘timebox’ the full agenda – so also timebox the ‘non-work’ hours.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Rob te Braake: The impact of the pandemic is limited in that sense. As my team has always been working remotely, we’re natives on Zoom, Slack, Calendly and Click-up. On the management side – we’ve had more experience in advising our clients on if, when or how they should cut costs, downsize their teams or take other actions to not only survive the pandemic but to prepare for the next phase after COVID.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Rob te Braake: We’re a front runner in making financial insights available for entrepreneurs. On the one hand, our main competitors are accountants/consultants that charge very high rates for tailored advice, and on the other hand, AI-driven tools that provide ‘not-so-intelligent analysis. Although the AI tools are getting better, they lack the ability to truly understand the business owner’s vision and ideas, severely limiting the value of the insights.
Our plan to stay ahead is to keep improving efficiency and automation where possible, and at the same time keep training and growing our analysts to provide ever better and tailored insights.
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