For new startups, the search for product/market fit is a considerable obstacle. For Cincinnati startup Sqrl, however, that same obstacle led the Brandery-graduated team to create something newer, better and more suited to the markets at play.
Last week, Sqrl became Incline
. And with the transition comes so much more than a new name.
Sqrl, the Brandery
startup that raised over $600,000 in venture funding over the past two years, focused its energy on creating an app that easily transmits accounting information from client to accountant. When faced with several product/market fit blockers, the company decided to develop an entirely new product better suited to a growing gap in the world of business accounting.
"With Sqrl, we weren't seeing the uptick that we wanted," says Craig Baldwin, co-founder of Sqrl and Incline. "We started to realize that the real success was not in telling accountants what they should be doing but instead providing the services ourselves."
Baldwin and his co-founder, CEO (and CPA) Ryan Watson, were acting on another realization as well. In the accounting game, a noticeable gap in service appears — when it comes to accounting services, most companies, large or small, will hire an accounting firm, hire a bookkeeper or do the work themselves with an online service. More often than not, the complex services provided by a large accounting firm (not to mention the price tag involved) can be too much for smaller business. The bookkeeping and/or online software strategies, on the other hand, do not offer enough.
"Most small businesses need something in between," Baldwin says. "They need more than a bookkeeper who will simply reconcile their transactions; they need an advisor when making big business decisions. Tech hasn't allowed that to happen yet."
Incline is currently building proprietary technology that will provide tech-enabled accounting for startups and small businesses. The team expects to release the initial version of their product later this summer.
"The first thing we're working on is technology that will automatically reconcile transactions," Baldwin says. "It will be similar to Mint.com but with less vague categories that can be more easily worked into financial statements. Using technology will keep our costs really low, allowing us to have the types of conversations you want to have with your clients."
The Incline team has set up shop in Over-the-Rhine and has attracted nearly 20 businesses to their client roster. OTR-based companies like Pho Lang Thang
, Noble Denim
and fellow Brandery alum Strap
are among the first to truly benefit from their services. By offering a fixed price model, Incline deems itself an ideal accounting service for those businesses that want tech-savvy service at an agreeable cost.
To bring in new business, Incline has also put a significant amount of effort into staying community-driven. They currently hold small business luncheons at their office every Friday, and a monthly small business happy hour is coming soon.
As for the name, Baldwin and Watson, who are native Ohioans themselves, took inspiration from the city they now call home.
"We wanted one word that represented growth as well as something that was historical about Cincinnati," Baldwin says, alluding to the newly revitalized historic Incline District
in Price Hill. "Our goal is to be more geographically focused, and we're starting here."