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Scott Zandbergen is responsible for growing and leading Wave’s professional network of accountants and bookkeepers (the Wave Pro Network), as well as leading the Wave Payroll product strategy. He joined Wave after 14 years at accounting giant Sage, where he developed that organization’s networks of accounting and bookkeeping professionals, and later led the Product Management & Product Marketing teams. Under Scott’s guidance, the Wave Pro Network both provides feedback on Wave product development, and connects with Wave end users to answer questions and offer accounting services.
Based in Toronto, Wave Accounting is a free online accounting application focused on small businesses with 9 employees or less, featuring unlimited invoicing and expense tracking, accountant-approved tools and reports, personal finance and more. Wave recently won Deloitte’s Companies-to-Watch award, and closed a $5 million Series A investment round led by Charles River Ventures.
MO: What’s your favorite part of working at Wave?
Scott: Joining a startup was initially a bit of a culture shock for me, but I have to say, I love the energy and the “get ‘er done” approach to doing business. In my previous company, I was accustomed to spending my days in meetings, pitching & re-pitching business cases, seeking buy-in with executives, etc. At Wave, being a small company, we move at a lightening quick pace, have the ability to turn on a dime, and are always prepared to respond to market conditions. I’m really enjoying being close to the customer again, and staying focused on what matters most. We’re building solutions that help small business owners become better business people. It’s a very motivating & rewarding experience.
MO: How did the experience you gained at the accounting giant, Sage, contribute to the success you’ve achieved at Wave?
Scott: I have to attribute so much of my success to Sage, as I had the opportunity to experience a variety of roles – from account management to business development to product management & marketing. I think there are two big learnings that I’ve been able to take away, and apply at Wave. The first is the importance of influencers, and how building relationships with the right organizations and individuals can really be a big driver of both customer acquisition and customer retention. The second is around the importance of staying market-driven, listening to your customers and prospects, and responding accordingly. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of getting excited about your own technology, and solving problems that no one seems to have. I’m a big believer in staying very connected to your customers & prospects, listening to and observing their pain points, then determining the best way to solve those issues in an innovative way.
MO: Have you had any mentors during your career? Any people that have influenced or inspired you during the course of your career?
Scott: I reported to the General Manager of our business unit at Sage for about 7 years. She was the most driven, analytical and focused leader I have ever had the opportunity to work with. She set the tempo for the entire business unit. I had the good fortune to work very closely with her, and learned many invaluable lessons along the way.
MO: Wave Accounting is a free online accounting application. If you’re offering your application for free, how are you making money? What does your business model look like.
Scott: Yes, Wave Accounting is 100% free. We work with many companies that provide products & services for our target market, and present very compelling offers in our application. For example, we have aggressive offers from Dell, American Express and Capital One. We also have offers from companies that provide online backup tools and email marketing services. When our customers take advantage of these offers, Wave gets paid. We like to look at Wave as being the procurement department for our growing customer base (now approximately 200,000). By leveraging the size of our customer base, we’re able to secure great deals for customers that they may not have been able to get on their own.
We have a couple of guiding principles when it comes to embedding these offers into our application. First, the offer must be relevant to small businesses – so things like shipping services, office supplies and wireless. This means you won’t see weight loss ads or dating sites. Second, the offers will not disrupt our customers’ workflow. In other words, the offers are not intrusive to getting your accounting done.
Additionally, we launched our first paid application, Wave Payroll. This is in-line with our strategy of launching ancillary products that will complement the free accounting product.
MO: What are the biggest advantages of using Wave?
Scott: Simplicity! We’ve taken the difficult task of accounting & bookkeeping, and made it easy. We put a HUGE focus on design. We’ve also made it easy to connect Wave directly to your online bank & credit card accounts, so that we can take care of the data entry for you. Of course, since Wave is a cloud-based application, you can use Wave from any device with an Internet connection. This makes it easy to do your accounting when & where it’s convenient, plus you can grant access to an accountant or bookkeeper to securely login to your books from wherever they are. Lastly, by tracking your business in Wave, you will always have great visibility into health of your business, and be able to make data driven decisions.
MO: Can you tell our readers why they should be excited about Wave Payroll?
Scott: Wave Payroll is our first fee-based add-on solution. It’s currently available in Canada, and we’re planning a US launch later in 2012. Like Wave Accounting, Wave Payroll has taken a very complex task and made it easy, even for the smallest of businesses. Not only did we build a game changer in terms of product design, we’re also providing a very simple pricing structure. In Canada, we’re charging $3/employee per payroll (with discounts for companies with 10+ employees), and bundling direct deposit and government filings & remittances all in that one flat fee. There are no setup fees and no nickel & diming for other services.
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