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Getting to know you: Roan Lavery, CPO, Co-Founder and Head of Design, Free Agent

FreeAgent is an online accounting application for freelancers and micro-businesses in the UK. It helps them manage their daily admin, make smarter decisions about their business and relax about tax. We launched in 2007, hewn from the frustration that managing company finances was just too damn hard for most of us. Since then we’ve doggedly stuck to our mantra of demystifying accounting and redefining the relationship people have with their finances.

Where did your passion for digital come from?

 I got my first computer, the ZX81, when I was 6 and I’ve loved tinkering with them ever since. Over the years I developed more of a passion for design and user experience, so being able to combine my interests in technology and design to make things that people find useful is the ultimate expression of that. I’m very grateful to be able to come to work each day and build a product that helps so many people with running their business

What’s your favourite thing about the industry?

I love the fact that it changes so frequently and quickly. We’re seeing major shifts in the banking and accounting industries right now, largely driven by technology shifts. Being part of that is really exciting – there’s always something to learn and a chance to learn new things.

What’s your role and what does a typical day involve?

I’m the Chief Product Officer here at FreeAgent, and I manage the product management and design teams. Grandiosely, that means I’m responsible for communicating the vision and strategy of the business, so it can be turned into an actionable product roadmap. The reality is generally more prosaic though, and my days are often spent checking in on the product and design teams, making sure everyone has what they need to be successful, and we’re collaborating effectively as a business.

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

In our industry everyone is talking about artificial intelligence and machine learning. Accounting and banking often involve fairly mundane and repetitive tasks, and advances in AI mean that much of these tasks will be automated in the near future. This is something we’re actively looking at right now, and we see it offering huge time savings to our customers.

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

If you think you’re going to be a high-growth business then get a strong senior team in place early, to spread the workload of running the company. I see too many early stage founders try to do all the strategic work, and often end up overstretched and not executing well. This means finding (and paying) people that you can trust to run important parts of the business, so it often feels like a big gamble, but the alternative is you will struggle to scale effectively.


 If you were speaking to a classroom full of 3rd year high school students how would you pitch the industry as the best place to be?

 There are very few industries around right now that will offer you the same opportunities in terms of learning, growth, job satisfaction and financial reward as the tech industry. It’s quite simply the most exciting and rewarding industry to be involved in right now, and if you want to have an impact in your life then it’s a great place to be.

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