Open banking is the most disruptive force the financial industry has seen in decades. Revolut was one of the first companies to recognise its potential. Daniel Hogan, co-founder, COO and CFO of Ember, sheds light on how Revolut’s bold approach paved the way for his company.
What is Ember?
Ember is a new-age accounting system built for modern business owners. By automating finance, tax and business admin, Ember replaces clunky spreadsheets and expensive accountants with beautiful, intuitive software, with language you understand. It’s the boring stuff automated and the important stuff centralised: you can process payroll and VAT returns from straight within the app, and see your tax position in real time, all the time.
Where did the idea come from?
Having worked as independent contractors in the UK, myself and Aaron – Ember’s CEO – were struck by how time-consuming and labour-intensive the accounting process remained for anyone without a finance degree: hours spent decoding HMRC’s website, precious time wasted categorising expenses, and finally relenting to paying an accountant £150 a month to make the problem go away. Realising how much of this process could be automated (and how much money we could save), we set out to build a system that would dramatically simplify the lives of self-employed people by addressing the real pain points with software as slick as social media.
Since then, we’ve raised £250,000 in pre-seed funding and put our product into the hands of contractors across the UK. We’re developing at a rapid pace and launching new features every week as we scale.
How does Ember work?
Ember wouldn’t be possible without open banking, a FinTech innovation that gives financial service providers secure access to customers’ financial information. By connecting straight into our client’s bank feeds, we’re able to bring all their business transactions into one place, creating a centralised ‘hub’ where all of their admin tasks can be taken care of. From there, our nifty machine learning model takes over, automatically categorising transactions, optimising tax-efficiency and getting to know the nature of each business’s financial needs.
How has Revolut impacted Ember’s growth?
Whilst open banking remains a relatively new and unknown phenomenon around the world, Revolut was one of the first companies to capitalise on the innovative potential of the shift. Because open banking essentially transfers ownership of financial information from the bank, who traditionally held it, to you, the consumer, Revolut saw an opportunity to bring greater transparency, simplicity and control to the consumers' banking experience. And it has done just that, becoming the UK’s most valuable Fintech start-up – with a valuation of £4.2 billion – in the process.
Seeing how Revolut was able to seamlessly simplify the banking experience made us question why similar thinking had not been applied to the accounting process. Having used Revolut in a personal capacity since 2015 we were already fans of Revolut’s mission and approach, but had never thought our interest in its infrastructure would help us identify a gap in the market. With confidence in the power of open banking as a foundation for Ember, we pursued the idea with full conviction and have been able to offer our own clients seamless integration through our own API.
Does Ember use Revolut Business?
When setting up Ember, we knew exactly where to look for a business account geared for growth. With Revolut Business, everything is about efficiency and value. We were set up with an account in a matter of minutes, saving the hassle and expense of a high street bank, and have benefited from faster payments technology and flexible access to our funds all the time throughout our journey so far. When we were raising money, Revolut Business was super helpful in providing a stable place for our raised funds. And at every turning point where we’ve needed more flexibility with currency exchange, Revolut Business has shown full understanding of our business mission and life stage.
What’s next for Ember?
We believe in an economy powered by small business, where everyone is able to work freely and flexibly, with no barriers to contracting or going it alone. We’ve managed to bypass the recruiter, the landlord, the salesman in every other aspect of working life – so why is the accountant still very real, very ‘necessary’, and very expensive? Ultimately, our vision is to elevate small business owners by automating the entirety of the business admin process – from starting a company to closing it down, and everything in between.
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