Subscription based SMBs face unique challenges when it comes to integrating subscription and membership information with their accounting systems. Aayush Patel, Financial Controller at Fishburners, Australia’s growing co-working space for tech startups, describes how they address some of these challenges to create better processes for their finance team
Q: Tell us about Fishburners and the problem you’re solving.
A: Fishburners is Australia’s largest community of tech startups. Back in 2011, Peter Davison, a seed investor of Paypal and Mike Casey, founder of GradConnection decided to create a space for aspiring tech entrepreneurs to learn, communicate and collaborate. Since then, Fishburners has continued to be a highly collaborative community with world class founders from different backgrounds and expertise. We have had more than 1000+ founders walk through our doors and in the last 18 months we have tripled our membership size and expanded to Brisbane, Australia and Shanghai, China.
Q: What are some of the services Fishburners offers for startups?
A: Fishburners’ main offering provides coworking space to startup founders and teams. We provide options such as a dedicated desk, community hot desk and virtual memberships. Membership includes meeting rooms, idea space, perks from our sponsors, pro bono sessions from industry experts, check ins with our city manager, community events, workshops and more. Fishburners has always been a founder focused community, providing opportunities for our members to grow their startup.
Members have mentioned that our biggest value add is our community of like-minded entrepreneurs who advise and support each other in their ventures.
Q: When did you decide that you needed a subscription management system?
A: Since scaling to 3 locations and tripling our membership base in less than 18 months, we realised that we needed a subscription or membership management product to support us as we grow. With growth came the challenge of billing, invoicing and member management. After extensive research, we decided to use Chargebee, a subscription billing and management product that integrates with Xero. Before Chargebee, we used Xero in isolation for our invoicing and accounting. However, this was very manually intensive and human error prone, and we realised that we had to change our process to scale efficiently.
Q: What are some of the benefits of using a billing & subscription management system like Chargebee?
A: The biggest benefit is the ability to sync comprehensive membership data from the subscription management and billing system, like invoices, payments and taxes into Xero. This has been a huge timesaver for us.
Chargebee also has a simple, intuitive UI, and their built-in customer portal enables our members to access, edit and pause their subscriptions. Our customer service team no longer have to make these changes and the freedom of self-service has helped improve the customer experience for our members. Other benefits include Chargebee’s easy integration with our payment gateway, multi-currency support, and tax-supported invoicing. The payment recovery/dunning feature has also helped prevent bad debts.
Q: Why was connecting your subscription management system with Xero important to you?
A: Prior to our search for a subscription management system, we used a payment gateway to charge our members, while Xero was used for invoicing and accounting. Our gateway data needed to be reconciled with our invoice data. But because the gateway wasn’t integrated with Xero, our team would spend time manually matching Xero invoice data to gateway charges on bank statements. This process was prone to error and it also wasn’t the best use of our time.
Since Chargebee integrates with both the payment gateway and Xero, we can now automate the entire process without any hassle, whilst simultaneously managing our memberships in one place.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about how you handle reconciliation using Chargebee & Xero?
A: We use Chargebee’s Chrome plugin to simplify the reconciliation process. The plugin matches our payment transactions with our bank statements in Xero, after which we can reconcile with a click of a button. The Chrome plugin has been superb and it has helped our finance team to reconcile payments with ease.
Q: Have you had to change any internal accounting processes as a result of using Chargebee and Xero?
A: One of our biggest concerns before we decided to use Chargebee was the potential of having to change our existing finance operations and processes. We were pleased to find out that the simple usability of both softwares has enabled us to keep most of our previous processes intact, it’s just eliminated the manual parts.
Q: Has the integration had any other benefits for your team?
A: The integration saves our finance team 8 hours a week from manual work. Before we used Chargebee, our customer service team did not have access to Xero, given the sensitive nature of the financial data that was stored there. This meant that they would have to request the finance team for any billing information they needed about a customer. Chargebee’s role-based access helps them directly login to the billing system and access restricted data. The product therefore serves as an excellent source of truth for not just our financial data, but all our cross-functional membership data.