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Getting to know you: Colin Hewitt, CEO and CoFounder, Float

Based in CodeBase Edinburgh, Float is a cashflow forecasting tool which helps small business manage their finances, stay out of the red, and plan for the future. Float integrates with Xero, FreeAgent and Quickbooks Online to give users real-time financial data. By projecting their future cash in the bank, it’s easier for Float users to make the right decisions for their business.

Where did your passion for digital come from?

I was lucky enough to get access to the web when it was just getting started back in 1995. It was all very new but I loved being able to connect with people from all over the world. That was the main thing that got me interested. The mix of art and digital coming together online also really inspired me; it still does. 

Since then I’ve been lucky to see good friends start their own fantastic digital initiatives, while trying to make my own mark too of course. I actually ran a digital agency for ten years prior to Float, so I’ve been in the digital industry for a while now.

Where do you see yourself/your company in five years?

The accounting industry has finally realised that this isn’t 1918 and that it must adapt for the digital era. It still has a long way to go though, and I’m confident we can play an important part in shaping this industry in years to come.

Float because I saw a massive opportunity in cash flow. It’s a challenge that plagues every company, business owners are being kept awake at night thinking of their bank balance and dreading the prospect of going into the red; or worse. That won’t change overnight, and in five years’ time, I hope we’ll be helping even more businesses to dispel those fears and plan for the future.

Today, we have customers all around the world, but our main markets are the UK, US and Australia. We are expecting to grow our presence in these markets over the next five years, while looking for new regions to expand into.

Looking to the future, what do you see as being the next big thing in tech?

I think for better or worse, VR and AR are going to be a huge part of the next decade, especially for kids. It’s so immersive, with so many possibilities, but it’s also really worrying to think about coming back home from work to your kids and they can’t see you or hear you. It’s bad enough with tablets at the moment!

Another really likely development will be the rate at which we interact with bots for mundane activities like booking appointments, tasking machines to do these jobs and speaking to machines in the same way we would humans. Amazon, Apple and Google are all really innovating in this space with AI and their smart assistants. 

Any new products, services, events coming up for your business? 

We’re always updating Float and listening to our customers to make sure that the service gives them more of what they need. Expect a couple of big updates on this front in the next 6 months, as Float’s forecasting becomes even more accurate, flexible and helpful.

We’re going to be attending Xerocon Brisbane 2018 in September, which is one of the biggest events in the accounting calendar. Australia has always been years ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to cloud services, and accounting is a totally different beast there. I’m really looking forward to engaging more with the Australian accounting community. It’ll be nice to get a bit more sun than we’re used to in Edinburgh in September, too!

If you could give one piece of advice to an emerging business/startup, what would it be?

Getting on top of your business’s finances makes you feel better about everything else happening in your business. What do I mean by that? Start by systemising all the aspects of the bookkeeping part of your business and try to automate them where possible. A good bookkeeping process means you can have reconciled up to date Accounts weekly or even daily.

This means you can actually keep on top of cash flow and that that’s the number one job of every business leader to make sure the business stays afloat (See what I did there?)

Aside from finances, I think start-ups need to give thought to their office space and their plans for growth. Co-working spaces like CodeBase are a God-send for precisely this reason, since you can scale up without all the associated costs and effort. These spaces are also a ready-made network, which can make it much easier to meet talented people who can help you grow your business. 

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

I love being a part of shaping the future of a whole industry. The accounting industry is about to change massively over the next decade, alongside banking, finance and payments.  

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