Running a small business is hard enough. The last thing any entrepreneur needs is to spend loads of time completing the books or spending a fortune on an accountant.
Billy’s Billing looks to take the pain out of accounting and make taking care of the bills simple. Founder and CEO, Toke Kruse, sat down to tell us more about what his accounting software does and the metrics for success that matter most (including table tennis!):
What’s Billy’s Billing about?
Billy’s Billing provides accounting software that is uniquely tailored to the needs of small businesses, freelancers, startups and entrepreneurs. We call it “accounting software in plain English,” because we’ve avoided the specialized accounting terminology and the detailed, complex rules and procedures found in other accounting programs. Our cloud-based app is simple, straightforward, intuitive, easy to learn and use – and it’s even a pleasure to look at.
What’s the greatest thing about Billy’s Billing?
The greatest thing about Billy’s billing is really its user-friendly simplicity. It is truly meant for “regular people” – people who don’t have an accounting background or the time or desire to learn all about accounting, with its special terms, rigid details and requirements, and sometimes perplexing ways of thinking about financial matters that are really very simple.
Please share some specific numbers that highlight your growth.
We’re entirely self-funded. Our current revenues are $1,000,000 yearly. We serve 17,000 users. Our U.S. launch [was] September 1, 2014.
How’d you come up with the name Billy’s Billing?
Our whole concept was to make accounting chores easy, understandable, accessible and even (incredible as it might seem) fun. As part of all that, we knew we had to have a friendly, cheerful and relaxed look and feel, even though we were dealing with numbers, bills, invoices and the like – stuff that’s usually quite cold and impersonal. We wanted our app to have a personal feel, and so our “mascot” – and your host – is Billy, and the app is named for him. Billy went through quite an evolution himself, which you can read about here.
What was your first computer? How old were you when you first got on the world wide web?
My first computer was self-built. I bought all the parts from a technical shop (similar to the shop in the movie “Steve Jobs,” where they sold their first motherboards). I was 14 when I first use the www, and my first email was a Hotmail.
What time do you usually start work each day? How many hours a day do you usually work?
I usually get what most people seem to think is a very early start – four or five in the morning. Between Billy’s Billing and other enterprises, 10- to 12-hour days aren’t uncommon. To me, what I do isn’t so much “work,” the way so many people think of it. It’s a game, a challenge and a stimulating, rewarding pleasure.
What’s the very first thing you do at work every day?
My first action is to get oriented to the day ahead by reviewing the day’s to-do list (which is always written the night before), and refreshing my mind on the single most important task I’ve decided to accomplish that day.
When do your best ideas come to you?
While I’m in a shower. I’m relaxed, and my phone is not with me – obviously!
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
I started the company with just two people – myself, and my IT wizard partner, Sebastian Seilund. Today I have 15 people working for me at Billy’s Billing, in Denmark and in the US.
A lot of people have big ideas. What gave you the confidence to actually go after yours?
GOOD question! When I first started in school as a kid, I failed. BIG time. I was one of the bottom three in my class. I realized I would really have to work to get my ideas through. I did work hard, and by the time I finished high school I had the second-best record in the entire school. At that point I realized anything was possible.
Remember the early days of starting up? Describe the struggles you went through.
I wanted to scale my first little company, but I didn’t have a clue how to do it. I had a real tough time getting more customers. At that time sales wasn’t a big part of my work; I focused on the product.
How do you handle frustration? What has been your biggest professional frustration?
I do sometimes get frustrated, but I try to stay focused on things that bring my companies the most value. I don’t let small problems annoy me. My biggest frustration was having to dismiss a former partner; to put it bluntly, he was lazy, and just along for the ride. He didn’t deliver any value to the company, or make useful contributions. Even so, strict contracts made it very hard to get rid of him!
What’s your office environment like? Do you listen to music? Watch movies? Play video games?
It’s very calm. Everybody wears ear plugs or headsets. We used to have a table tennis table set up, but for the moment we’ve downsized a bit to save on rent during a crucial phase of our U.S. launch. We’ll have it again soon though, that’s for sure.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
It will be bigger – and we’ll have table tennis back in the office again! We will be among top ten accounting software companies in the U.S., with about 50 people on the team, and a presence in several countries outside the U.S.
Who or what inspires YOU?
Steve Jobs and my dad are both big inspirations, and role models too. Here are a couple favorite quotes from Steve Jobs:
“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”
“If you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much.”
How’d you fund this venture?
We’re totally self-funded. Where’d we get the money? From earlier successful ventures!
What other advice do you have for other entrepreneurs struggling to get started?
Start small, finish big. Just get started! Test your ideas and products. Jump in and start selling to real customers sooner than you think you should. You learn by action. Yes, you’ll make mistakes – that’s great! It’s probably the best way to really learn, and to evolve your business.
When’s the last time you went on vacation and where did you go?
Actually I’m on a short vacation right now! I’m back in my home country of Denmark for a visit. This is also where Billy’s Billing first started, several years ago. Now I make my home in San Francisco, where we are right in the midst of launching our new US version.
What would you do if you had a year off and $500,000 to spend (on something other than work)?
Travel more. I’d do a road trip across the entire US. AND invite my friends to San Francisco for a big party!
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur? If not, what’ll make you feel successful?
Yes, I do consider myself a success – and I’m just getting started. Not all of the 10 businesses I’ve launched have been successes, but I’ve learned tremendously from every one, and overall the trajectory is UP, man. Stay tuned for MORE and BIGGER.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
- @kaspertidemann – a great guy and excellent writer about life and technology
- @emberjs – the big new technology framework; very interesting (and a little nerdy)
- @Benioff – interesting CEO of Salesforce; well worth following
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