Breaking Spreadsheet Boundaries for Next-Gen Financial Analysis

November 2, 2023 Theresa Rex

Controller drawing future financial analysis plan on translucent board

Financial analysis is key to making informed decisions and building strategic plans. It empowers organizations to accurately measure their financial health, identify trends, and make informed decisions for growth and profitability. However, in a future business setting, traditional financial analysis tools can be time-consuming, error-prone, and inefficient. This is where modern tools like Equals come into play, which attempts to build a spreadsheet for this era's work. And today, we speak with the company's CEO and Co-Founder, Bobby Pinero.

Bobby has a decade of experience as an analyst. His most significant contribution was during his nearly 8-year tenure at Intercom, where he played an essential role in establishing and expanding the Finance, Analytics, and Business Operations departments. When Bobby started at Intercom, the company was under $1M ARR and had a team of around 20 people. By the time he left, the company had grown to approximately $200M ARR and 700 employees.

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Megan - 00:00:18: Today my guest is Bobby Pinero, CEO and Co-founder at Equals. Prior to Equals, Bobby spent nearly eight years at Intercom, building finance, analytics, Biz Ops, and several other functions. He joined when Intercom had under $1 million in annual recurring revenue and 20 employees, and left when it had $200 million in annual recurring revenue and 700 employees. He then started Equals with another early Intercom employee. Equals is a passion project. It's the tool he wished he'd had as an analyst. Bobby launched Equals in the middle of 2021 and is proud to say that some of the very best companies in the world are using it today. Bobby, thank you very much for being my guest today.

Bobby - 00:01:33: Thanks, Megan. Excited to be here.

Megan - 00:01:35: Yeah, today we're going to be discussing your journey as an Analyst at fast-growing startups to founder of your own company and why you feel it's time for spreadsheets to be reinvented. I'm looking forward to hearing your story, so let's get started. First and as always, if you could just tell us a little bit about yourself and your career journey and how it is that you got to where you are today.

Bobby - 00:01:57: Yeah, of course. So I started my career at that. I've always known that I wanted to go into earlier and earlier-stage companies. And I think I've always known that I wanted to start my own company, but I started in kind of the opposite place of that. I started in one of the biggest companies in the world. So I started my career at IBM as a Finance Analyst within their corporate finance team. I did that for a couple of years and quickly learned. I mean, it was a great place to start my career. I learned a lot of the basics of how to be a professional, how to work in Excel, how to make models, how to make presentations, and things like that. And then also quickly realized the type of company I didn't want to work for. I felt like I was a cog in a very big machine and I didn't get to kind of see the impact of my work. And I really wanted to have more ownership over the things that I was doing. And so that was, did that for about two years and moved into a smaller company with about 150 person startup at the time. And that was a, got a feel for kind of what it looks like to run a finance team in a small company. Learned a lot of practical skills, SQL being one of them, I'm sure we'll touch on that. I have lots of opinions about finance folks learning SQL. And that then really set me up for the opportunity that really changed my career, which was the job that I took at Intercom. So I joined Intercom when it was a 20-person startup. Intercom then kind of, exploded in popularity and we went from, I was there for about seven and a half years, I built the finance team, the analytics team, the biz ops team, a few other functions, legal data science teams, Data engineering, things like that. And we grew from 20 people to about 700 folks in my tenure there. And I was a part of raising our Series B, Series C, Series D, actually two Series C's every board meeting. And just learned a tremendous, tremendous amount about what it's like to build a finance team, what it's like to build an accounting team, what it's like to build a company. And then from there, 700 people felt too big for me. And so I left and I'm sure we can touch on the story, but ultimately decided to start my own company with somebody that I met at Intercom. He was actually Intercom's first employee. The company's called Equals and we've been at it for about two and a half years. And what we're trying to do is build essentially the tool that I wish I'd had for myself in that time, building out the finance team at Intercom. It's a next-generation spreadsheet. It's a spreadsheet that's connected to all the places where modern technology companies work with their data. So any data warehouse, any database to tools like Salesforce, Stripes, QuickBooks, Google Analytics, (Google AdWords) , et cetera, et cetera. And then we help analysts automate a lot of their work. So get a lot of the time back from doing a lot of the kind of manual and error-prone type of work to actually generating insights, which is my favorite part of that job.

Megan - 00:04:47: So speaking of the next generation, talk to us about how the landscape has changed for finance professionals over, let's say, the last decade. And what do you feel or feel like the biggest challenges were that were faced by finance professionals?

Bobby - 00:05:04: Yeah, I think that, and this is, it's for finance folks. And I also think of it really for anyone who's kind of in a sort of analytical or supportive type function and in business. I think the biggest challenge has been we now have so much information about our businesses. We track everything, right? It used to, you go back 10, 15 years ago and when you were measuring your business, you had your PnL, you had your balance sheet, you had your cashflow statement, you looked at your bank account and there were a few kinds of inputs that you use to understand what was happening in your business. Today, especially if you're a software company and if you're a finance person working in a software company, I mean, you're trying to measure every single interaction that you have with a prospect, any person that comes to your marketing site, how they convert through the funnel, what happens when you change pricing? What happens when they use a certain feature in your product? How does that impact your retention? How does, that impact your cost of goods sold? How does, that impact the number of marketers that you need the number of customer success people, or the number of support folks, how does that impact your ROI on your marketing spend? And so it's all, you're measuring everything and it's all interconnected. And so I actually think one of the biggest challenges for finance folks is your role isn't just finance anymore. It's not about planning. It's not about creating a financial statement or a forecast. It's about, you need to be able to cut outside of just those kinds of areas of domain expertise, you need to be able to have a conversation with the marketing leader about a campaign and how you're going to measure the efficacy of that campaign. You need to have a conversation with the product person or the engineering leads about the return on investment for engineering or a new product and what impact that's going to have on the business. And so you really just are, you're having to kind of navigate all of these different areas of the business and you need to be able to get all that information, pull it all together, and make sense of it. And so just the cognitive load that ends up falling on a finance person today is just so much different than what it was, I think 10, 15 years ago.

Megan - 00:07:15: And with so much data available today, how do you avoid drowning in a sea of data and how do you know where to start with it?

Bobby - 00:07:24: Yeah, that's a great question. I think you have to, as silly as it sounds, I think as a finance person, you kind of have to approach the business as if you were the CEO and the owner of it. And you have to think about what are the things that are absolutely, if you were the person running the business if you were the person that's ultimately making the decision, what are the most important things that you would need to know? And so that I found for me is like a really helpful forcing function for just getting really, really clear on a few key things. Because yeah, like you said, and like I kind of talked about, we can analyze anything and everything. And so you need to just approach the work here as the marketing team might ask for 10 things, the sales team might ask for 15 things, the product team might ask for 10 things, but your perspective still needs to be as if you're the CEO, as if you're the owner of the business as if you're the person that's making, ultimately, all of the decisions. And that helps you really kind of narrow down what you should look at, what you report back on, and what ultimately the executive team is looking at.

Megan - 00:08:27: Great advice. So talk to us about your move from employee to founder. You mentioned that very early on in your career, you had thoughts of becoming an entrepreneur. But when did you realize that you had a product that people needed?

Bobby - 00:08:43: Great question. So over the course of my career, I would always keep, I kept kind of two lists running. One list was, I called it the Overheard List. And this was just a list of, and this was actually a good way for me to become just a really effective Analyst and finance person. But it then led into kind of my practice of ultimately coming up with ideas for becoming a founder. And the Overheard list was really simple. It was just, a list of ideas of analysis that I wanted to do across the company. And it'd come from things that I'd overheard in meetings, in lunch chats, at water cooler conversation, and one-on-ones at happy hour. Obviously, this is a pre-COVID world where we spent more time in person together. But I just write down ideas of different analyses I wanted to do because I'd hear somebody say something that didn't have any backing or maybe I heard somebody have an opinion about something. And so I'd just go prove it out and I'd go do the analysis myself. And the time that I had it, I'd go ping them and I'd say, “Hey, I heard you say, wow, we're much better at converting leads in this geography for X, Y, Z reason”. And I went and pulled the data and see if I could confirm or negate that. And so as I started doing that, then I started solving kind of real problems for people in the organization. And so the natural thing for me from there was let's just keep a list of ideas that I have for problems that I have or problems that I see across the company. And I just would keep a list of ideas and then it just, anytime something came to me in a meeting and it was just ideas for little companies or little products that I wanted to build. And I would come back to it every once in a while. And then when I was leaving Intercom, it wasn't clear to me that I was going to start a company. In fact, I was probably, I was pretty afraid to go do that. I remember my, natural kind of inertia was for me to go and do the same thing that I'd done at Intercom already at another company after all that was, I had so many lessons that I learned the second time would go much better. Oh my gosh, it'll be so much easier. I know it'll be easier to hire people. I'll know what to expect. All those things. And as I was going to interview, and then I remember I was signing, I was about to sign an offer letter with a great, another fantastic, fantastic series, a company. There were 20 people as well. I was going to join as their first finance hire. And I just felt, I felt depleted doing it. Like thinking about it. It just felt like it was like the small part of me was dying. It felt like this like an energy drain for me. And then I just kept going back to that list of ideas. And it was an Equals for the idea for Equals was one of a few that were at the very, very top. And I just kept circling it and kept going back to it. And I kept just getting energized by it. And then as so happens, the universe kind of sends you serendipitously. My Co-founder ended up coming up to me out of the woodwork and he had just left the company that he'd started and he was like, “What are you doing? We should start a company together”. And I pitched him on the idea for Equals. And within three days, we spent hours and hours together over the course of those three days. And after those three days, we were like, “We're doing it. We're in, let's go, let's start”. And that was it.

Megan - 00:12:07: That's awesome. What a great story. So looking back on that experience, do you have any advice for other people who are considering venturing out on their own to maybe minimize the risk associated with that or the fear, overcome the fear associated with it?

Bobby - 00:12:25: Yeah, I guess the first thing I'd say is it's going to be scary no matter what. And I think to the extent that you can embrace the fear. I remember the first year I started when I was working on Equals, I wrote down little, I had goals for myself at the beginning of the year, and then I wrote down just little quotes and there's a, a quote by Childish Gambino. And he says, “If you're afraid, you're doing it right”. And I kept looking back at that all year, cause I was terrified and I still, and still some days I wake up and I'm like, “what am I doing?” This could all fall flat. And so I think there's, you're going to be afraid and that's part of it. And it talked to any entrepreneur and you asked them, did you know it's going to work? Did you know it was going to be as, and I think most would be, most didn't actually know they were just jumping into the uncertainty and kind of you learn to sit in that uncertainty. And so that's part of the journey. The things that I'd say that just like the practical advice, I'd say the thing that I know that's worked really well for me has been solving a problem for myself. I think that's made it a lot easier solving a problem for a buyer that I know really well, solving something that I wish I'd had myself has just made it a lot easier for me to connect with folks, to connect with customers, with prospects, to do marketing, to create content. And so not saying it's not possible to the tons of examples of people that have started companies for in spaces that they don't know, or they don't come from. But for me, that's been a really, that's made the journey a lot easier and a lot less scary. And then, maybe the other piece I'd say here is I'm just so lucky that I have a Co-founder who started a company before. And so this is obviously the first Equals the first company that I've started. But Ben, my Co-founder, he was Intercom's first employee. And then after Intercom, he left to start his own company. And he did that for a few years. And I have learned so much from him over the course of the last few years. In terms of the mistakes that he made in the last company, the things that worked really well. There's not a day that goes by where I don't. Learn something from that previous experience. And so having a Co-founder that you trust, you know works really well with you, but then also somebody who's kind of been there, done that before has just been, for me, it's been incredible.

Megan - 00:14:50: And how do you think your eight years as an analyst equipped you to make the move to founder? I mean, I guess you started at a company with 20 employees and saw it grow to 700. That's basically like kind of watching a startup, like a successful startup. So, talk to us about just how your experience prepared you to branch out on your own.

Bobby - 00:15:13: Yeah. The thing for me, I mean, joining a company and this is my journey. And I think there's a lot to, there's obviously a bunch of different paths and folks come at this in all sorts of different ways. But for me, the thing that really worked was joining this company when it was 20 people and yeah, I was an Analyst and I got to be a part of under, I got to build all the initial frameworks for the business. I got to do all of the modeling. I got to do all of the investor decks. I got to do all of the board decks. I got to know investors as a part of that, those processes, which then ultimately set me up to go and raise money from them in the future. But the thing I learned the most was just what it takes to build a company from an incredible amount of hard work. When you're in a company of 20 people when you're in a company of 700 people, you're so focused on just the small part of the small sliver of the business that you're analyzing or the small, the chunk of the business that you're contributing to. But when you're in a company of 20 people, you're doing everything. You see everything you're there's, you're working on pricing, one day. You're working on customer support, the next day. You're working on the billing system, the next day. You're working on it, I set up Intercom first, retargeting ads, and Google AdWords. I mean, it was, you just get to see anything and everything and you learn. You just learn so many kinds of facets of the business and then you learn, you build confidence that you can do it. You build the confidence that it can happen and that you join a Startup not just hope that it works out but making it work. And I don't know. I feel like that for me has been, as I've kind of entered my founder journey, it hasn't felt all that different. It's just, “Okay, we have an idea. We have a thing that we want to make work”. I feel a lot more ownership and responsibility and I feel a lot more skin in the game, but I also feel like it's just a puzzle we got to figure out. It's a business we have to build. And that's a lot of the same way that I felt in the Intercom days.

Megan - 00:17:19: And what have you found to be the greatest benefits of starting your own business, Have there been any benefits that have surprised you?

Bobby - 00:17:27: I think that for me, the things that I've enjoyed the most have been getting to work outside of finance. And I know that sounds silly, but I've just, it's been so fun to get to work on product, to get to work on marketing and positioning and sales and higher engineers and branding and design. It's just a whole new world. And I've just been challenged and stimulated in a way that I'd not really ever since the very, very beginning of my career when I was learning kind of everything from scratch. And so it's just really kind of challenged me and pushed me in all sorts of different directions. And then it's also just given me a ton of appreciation for, so if I ever go back to being a finance person or joining another startup and being a CFO, I just have so much more of an appreciation for each one of those functions. Like it is so much harder than you imagine to sit down and write the copy for a marketing site from scratch. When you're staring at a blank page and you're like, how am I going to tell the story of this product and why somebody should use it? It is way harder to do that than it is to sit in a meeting where somebody's already done 80% of it and you get to critique it. And so you just build a lot of empathy for every single function, the importance of it, and I think should I go back to finance, it's just going to make me a ten times better finance person.

Megan - 00:19:07: So tell us a little bit about your current role as CEO and Founder at Equals and also tell us a little bit more about Equals itself. And what the product accomplishes.

Bobby - 00:19:20: Yeah, so maybe I'll start with the product itself. So what we are is a spreadsheet. The whole founding thesis behind Equals is that the spreadsheet is actually the best way to do analyses. And that sounds silly, or it sounds really simple and obvious, but it's actually quite different from every other data tool out there that's emerged over the past decade. I've been sold all of them. I've tried all of them. I've been given BI tools. And God help us if we need yet another BI tool. Notebooks, right? And notebooks are interesting, but notebooks are where folks can write SQL and Python. And they're interesting, but they really only serve a tiny, tiny fraction of the population of people doing analyses. And then there's all these vertical FP&A tools in particular, ones that try to say, “Hey, we're going to plug into your systems and give you out-of-the-box reporting”. My experience with those is just all of our businesses are complex and different. And the detail of how you understand your business is actually in the details and in the nuance. And so the more that you try to take a kind of cookie-cutter approach to your business, the less it's going to work. And so that's why we all end up back in spreadsheets. We end up back in them because they're infinitely flexible. Most of us can model anything that we need to in Excel or Google Sheets. And so the whole idea behind Equals is let's build a spreadsheet, something that people already know how to use. All the formulas work the exact same way. All the shortcuts work the same way, pivot tables, charts, everything works the same way. But what we're going to do is connect it in two ways. We're going to connect it to the places where your data lives as a company. So we make it really easy for you to not just pull in data, but automate analysis. But then also you've got every analysis that you've built is foolproof. That's the way we say it. It's connected. You know exactly where the data came from, you know how it was pulled, you know who pulled it, when it was pulled. And so if somebody leaves a company, how do they pull that Stripe report, or how do they pull that SQL query? So it's connected to your data and then it's connected to where your teams work in the organization. So Equals is connected to Slack, email, Notion, and Google Slides. The whole idea there is the way that we collaborate as teams has fundamentally changed over the past decade as well. We all work in some way, shape, or form. We're all struggling to collaborate in all these different tools and Excel and Google Sheets are not connected to these places. So the idea is to make it much easier for us to share and distribute our analyses and collaborate on them together. Yeah, my role as CEO is, it's changed a lot over the past two and a half years. We're just over 20 folks now as a team. So in the early days, it was, everything was just building and getting things off the ground. And to a certain extent, we're still there. But a lot of the way I think about my role is just, that I spend a lot of time now on marketing, on sales, on getting the word out about Equals. But I also spend a lot of time just team building and thinking about who is it that we need across the company. What skills are we missing? What skills do we have? How do I get the most out of every individual? How do I put them into positions where they can shine and do their absolute best work? So I spend a lot of time on, those are really the two main things that I work on now.

Megan - 00:22:44: And I'm just curious, is this something you can, like I could just buy and take out of the, say box and start using, or is there like an implementation process that comes along with it? And if so, how intense is the implementation of this product?

Bobby - 00:23:02: We do both. So you can go to and you can sign up and start a trial and you can connect your own data sources and you can start pulling down whether it's SQL queries or you can pull down a QuickBooks report, a Stripe report. We've got templates as well, so you can self-serve. And we have lots of folks that just do that. And so it's all browser-based. So you use Equals, just like you would Google Sheets in your browser. And then we also, for either larger customers or folks that have more sophisticated needs, we do offer implementation. We help folks. We do two forms of implementation. One is if you have models that you want to transfer over from Excel, Google Sheets, any BI tool, or anything like that, we'll help you build those out and get them stood up for you Equals. And then if you're a startup and you don't know exactly what it is that you want to measure, we'll also kind of partner with you and spend a few months and kind of help you get a few key reports stood up in Equals. So any of those are options and the price varies based on the intensity of the engagement.

Megan - 00:24:08: And you mentioned spending a lot of time on finding the right talent. But are there qualities in your candidates or hires that you're looking for that kind of suggest that someone might be more successful in a startup environment than something maybe a little more established?

Bobby - 00:24:27: Definitely. I think that the things that I look for the most are just tenacity and hunger scrappiness and the ability to move quickly. For me, it's less about experience. It's less about, in fact, I think experience in a lot of ways can kind of be very, very specific and sometimes can work against somebody, right? Like if you come into a role and you've got very set ways of doing things, I think in a lot of startups that doesn't work because a lot of what you need in a startup is to kind of figure it out. And so what I really look for is somebody who's curious, excited, and willing to work hard. The phase that we're in as the company right now is still very, very, very much the building phase. Are you ready to commit to that? And do you have just an urgency in what you do? I always say to the team, you're looking at your calendar, I'm looking at my watch. And so it's how do we get things done as fast as we possibly can? Because the whole name of the game with startups is, you have a very limited time window to figure it all out. And so the more that you can do, the faster you can do it, the more shots you're going to get at figuring it out. So you just have to move really, really quickly. And there's just folks that have that quality and are in the place in their life. Are excited to work in that way.

Megan - 00:25:50: And as a Startup, like I know, you know, founders like to do things themselves, but how do you know when it's time for, first of all, an accounting department, but secondly, a CFO? Cause that's not a cheap role.

Bobby - 00:26:05: The topic I love, yeah, I actually believe in hiring a CFO way earlier than most folks do. I mean, I talked to a lot of other CEOs and..Oh my gosh, I come across CEOs that don't hire a CFO or a finance person until they're like a hundred people and they're like, “Oh, we're about to raise a Series B”. And I'm like, “Oh my gosh, what, like, how are you, how, how is this possible?” My general framework here is, so I obviously joined Intercom when I was 20 people, we hired a CFO or kind of head of finance at Equals when we were, I want to say we were like 15 people or so. My, and look, it varies obviously by the type of business as well. Like if you're a startup and you're selling a hundred thousand dollar deals and you've got four customers, maybe you don't need a CFO as early as you would if you're something like Equals where you've got hundreds of customers and a lot more kind of data. But the question I like to ask myself is just, and you wrap your head around the business, around your business without data, do you all of a sudden need to start having frameworks and measurements in place to understand what's actually happening in your business? Like, do you have a view of what your funnel looks like? Do you have a view of, how many customers are converting? Do you know what your ARR number is? Do you know what expands every month, and what churns every month? And as soon as you need to start answering those questions, I think it's time for a finance person. Now my bias towards the first finance hire is somebody who's on the FP&A type skill set. I think that you can get it by outsourcing your controller stack or your accounting stack for a bit longer. We did so at Intercom. We outsourced accounting probably until we were about 80, or 100 people, and that worked pretty well. And so my bias for that first finance person is somebody who kind of, like I said before, who can come in and just be another, like a mini CEO, a business owner, or somebody who wants to understand the business, how it works, and who approaches all their work from a place of how do we figure this business out? How do we continue to grow it? How do we, what are ideas we have about how to make our business even better or make it work? So that's kind of how I think about that first finance hire. And I think about hiring them a lot earlier than most folks do.

Megan - 00:28:22: And from your experience, what challenges do CFOs face that are unique to early-stage companies and startups?

Bobby - 00:28:30: I guess I'd kind of go back to one of the things I said earlier is just you're the finance person who has to span so many different functions, so many different roles. And so again, as a finance person, if you're coming in and you're just thinking I'm going to build a plan and I'm going to build a forecast, you really, you need to be thinking about how do we like, what are the most effective marketing channels? What's our best sales motion? How are we going to get ACVs up? What's our pricing strategy? Like you want to be plugged into and thinking about as much of the business as you possibly can because it's interconnected and the ways in which you can have the most impact might not just be in the kind of forecasting or in the planning or in the budgeting or in the accounting side of things. And so in that early stage, you actually have a really cool opportunity as a finance person to make finance a really strategic function across the company. But you have to do so from a place of really taking ownership of as much as you possibly can and coming forward in the business as somebody who has ideas proposals and opinions about what you should be doing and ways to grow the business.

Megan - 00:29:43: And let's draw on your knowledge of working in analytics. So in your view, how important is it that businesses build a high-level, one-page financial model?

Bobby - 00:29:52: I think it's the simpler the model, the better I've found. And so at Intercom, for the longest time, we had a forecast review. We'd run it every Friday. And our forecast model was one tab in Excel. And there was a lot of stuff that went into that tab. But it was a one-page model. And I could wrap my head around it so could the entire executive team. And I think that getting to something really simple, there's a lot of work to get to something simple. In fact, getting to something simple is actually harder than it is to get to something more complex. And you just, that act of distilling things down not only helps you understand the business better but also helps you communicate the things that are most important to stakeholders. And so, yeah, like we use that model probably until we were, I don't know, I joined less than a million in ARR. We probably used that model until we were like 20, 30 million in ARR. And then we built something a little bit more complicated.

Megan - 00:30:50: And you mentioned earlier in our conversation, SQL. You advocate that finance professionals should ideally learn SQL to be data self-sufficient. So talk to us about that.

Bobby - 00:31:03: A topic I love, SQL changed my career fundamentally. And I think that it's really the language of most technology companies now, right? Like you go into a technology company and almost every single one of them has some sort of database data warehouse and it's almost always a SQL-based database. So what I advocate for is finance folks should learn how to query a SQL database. So, you can obviously learn how to write into a SQL database. You can learn how to build them. You can learn how to transform them. I don't think finance needs to learn any of that. I think the thing being able to access information is beneficial, right? You can actually go in and pull things down and you can move quickly as an analyst. You can answer your own questions. But the real benefit I think of learning SQL is you actually just learn how, when you understand your company's database, you actually understand how the company itself works, you understand how the product works, you understand how the business works because all of that is encoded in the database. There are rules around when a customer gets charged, how they get charged, and what they get charged for. There are columns in your database about what app is associated with which customer and then what emails are associated with that and how people get invited to it. It's all like the guts of every single interaction that happened in your business are all encoded in that database. And so as you start to just understand how it's all encoded, you actually just make sense of the business itself. You understand how it works. You understand how a lead becomes a trial, how a trial becomes a paid customer, how a paid customer then expands, and how that expansion becomes either a long-term paying customer or a turned customer. And you can start to link it all together. And so you get a much deeper, richer understanding of how the actual business works. And then you build better relationships with them. You can actually, when let's say you launch a new product or you change something in the funnel, you actually have an understanding of how that change might impact your reporting. You can preempt conversations with your engineering team. You can actually have conversations with them to say, “Hey, this is how I need the reporting to be set up at a granular level so that you can actually get the thing that you want”. How many times have you seen a finance person? How many times have you seen a launch of a product a launch of something new or an experiment go live? And then two weeks later, you go to pull the data and you realize actually we don't have it set up in the way that we need it to be set up to answer the question that we need to because there was some miscommunication about what we needed and how we needed it. And so you just prevent things like that and you just, yeah, you just have a much richer, deeper connection to how the company works. So I've found that it just, for me, it made me way more self-sufficient, but also gave me a much deeper understanding and deeper connection to how the company itself works.

Megan - 00:34:07: So learning SQL, is it something I could just pick up a book and learn on my own, or is it something that requires maybe a course or two?

Bobby - 00:34:17: Neither, I would say. So I required it of every finance person who joined Intercom, and every single person on the finance team learned it, and they learned it in under two weeks. And it's just get in and do it. You just get access to a database, and you sit down with a peer who has written a few queries, and can show you how to select a star from this. You can, there are some great courses online. You can go and read how a join works, and then you just go and practice, and you practice on a real database. And that's what I've found to be the kind of most effective way, and again, every single person on the team, some folks were more scared of it than others, but I don't think anybody took longer than two weeks to get up and running and pulling their first queries. And then, it takes maybe six months to a year where you're like really deep, deep, deep into it, but you can learn the basics very, very quickly.

Megan - 00:35:10: And for finance professionals who are interested in looking at high-level data modeling and better understanding their own business through financial analysis, can you recommend any resources that you feel are essential?

Bobby - 00:35:24: I've built my career in SaaS, and so the one blog post that I always go back to is, I think it's the Mecca of SaaS blog posts. It's the holy grail of how to understand a SaaS business. It's a David Scott article. I think it's called SaaS Metrics 2.0, and it's just this, it's perfect. It's this deep, deep, deep dive into SaaS metrics, how they work, why they're important, and what it means to calculate LTV, CAC, and payback periods, but at a level of fidelity that it was just excellent. And so whenever anybody's starting off in SaaS or trying to understand how a SaaS business works, that's the article that I always send them.

Megan - 00:36:05: And last question, but what is next for Equals and where can our listeners learn more?

Bobby - 00:36:12: We have our biggest launch ever coming up at the end of this year and a while, a few weeks from this recording the spreadsheet meets the BI tool. And so it'll be really interesting to see all of the struggles that we have with BI tools. If you want to say, for example, set up a table of conversion rates in Tableau or a table of conversion rates in Looker, good luck, good luck. I just, it was always such a nightmare to have to do that. And so what if you could build a dashboard that gets auto-sent out to all the places where you need it, that auto updates in your Google Slides, that auto updates in your Slack channels? That's like a very, very quick teaser for what's coming out in Equals in the next couple of months. And then if you want to learn more, is the best place to get started. You can obviously also follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter. That's just @BobbyPinero on both. And I obviously publish a lot of content like everything we've talked about here but also updates about Equals.

Megan - 00:37:16: Bobby, thank you so much for being my guest today.

Bobby - 00:37:18: Thanks, Megan. This was really fun. Thanks for having me on.

Megan - 00:37:21: Yeah, I really enjoyed speaking with you, and thanks for finding the time to be here with us today. I wish you and Equals all the best. Sounds like you're both doing very exciting things.

Bobby - 00:37:31: Thank you. Thank you. Yes, likewise, this was a really fun conversation.

Megan - 00:37:35: And to all of our listeners, please tune in next week, and until then, take care.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How Equals reinvents spreadsheets

  • The importance of high-level financial modeling

  • Entrepreneurship and finance

  • The power of learning SQL for finance

Key Takeaways:

How the Role of Professionals in Charge of Financial Analysis Has Expanded into the Future of Data

Quote how financial analysis has expanded in the future era

Over the past decade, the key challenges for finance professionals are the volume and variety of data available. Once, it was limited to financial statements; today, every customer interaction, pricing change, feature usage, and many others have to be measured. As a result, finance professionals must also understand and analyze data across various business domains. You must communicate effectively with product, marketing, and engineering teams to measure and interpret the available data they gather.

“One of the biggest challenges for finance folks is that your role isn't just finance anymore. It's not about planning. It's not about creating a financial statement or a forecast. You need to be able to cut outside of just those areas of domain expertise.” Pinero said. - 04:47 - 07:14

An Entrepreneurial Journey

Quote Equals CEO and Co Founder, Bobby Pinero

When Bobby transitioned from an analyst employee to a business founder, he maintained an overhead list, capturing insights from casual work conversations and a list of potential business ideas. This helped him quickly identify business issues within his company and develop his entrepreneurial skills. The transition was not easy. However, solving a personal problem and partnering with an experienced co-founder eased the path and offered him priceless experiences.

“Some days, I wake up, and I'm like, what am I doing? This could all fall flat. And you're going to be afraid, and that's part of it.” Pinero said. - 08:28 - 14:51

Reinventing Spreadsheets by Enhancing Collaboration

Quote reinventing collaboration in the future of financial analysis

While many data tools have appeared on the market, none of them could really match the flexibility of Excel or Google Sheets. Recognizing this, Equals developed a familiar spreadsheet that links directly to your company data, automates finance analysis, and integrates modern collaboration tools like Google Slides and Slack.

“It sounds really simple and obvious, but it's actually quite different from every other data tool out there that's emerged over the past decade.” Pinero said. - 19:06 - 24:09

The Power of SQL for Financial Analysis Professionals in the Future

Quote sql in financial analysis

Finance professionals should learn SQL to gain a deep understanding of how a business operates. This will help you interpret all the complexities of how a product works, the nuances of customer relationships, and all the business rules. Contrary to some opinions, Bobby states that you can learn SQL quite efficiently, mastering the basics in under two weeks.

“When you understand your company's database, you understand how the company itself works, how the product works, and how the business works because all of that is encoded in the database.” Pinero said. - 30:50 - 35:10

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