A YOUGOV study showed spreadsheet-based calculations represented up to £38 billion of British private sector investment decisions per year. However, there are severe limitations to this approach – namely inaccurate corrupt data, as spreadsheets were never intended to be a multi-user system.

With spreadsheets proving to be ever popular, a solution needed to be found. Synapse chief executive Brian Donnelly, a Brit who spent eight years in Silicon Valley, has now returned to Birmingham. He said: “We have got to £2 million in revenues, a great team of 30+ and a proven value proposition – the business world is drowning in spreadsheets, and we have a lifeline.” But it is not enough, as Brian explained: “Synapse wants a highly scalable vertical market proposition with a global reach that can be leveraged by partners worldwide.” By pure chance, the opportunity for this dropped into Synapse’s lap recently when the group financial director of a local company read an article about Synapse having the cure for companies drowning in spreadsheets.

Brian said: “The group financial director rang me up and explained the problems that group companies – those with multiple subsidiaries – have to consolidate all of the numbers together, under pressure, to produce the monthly management accounts.” The Synapse team realised that the problem depicted was huge– i.e. Gartner describes the problem as having a market size of three billion US dollars, prevalent throughout every group company in the world and in need of a Synapse solution. The group financial director explained that his own group financial consolidation problem consumed many days per month for his team of busy accountants. Synapse stepped in, worked with him and solved the problem, building a product – Cloud CFO – along the way.

“In essence, we saw extreme symptoms of ‘spreadsheetitis’ that looked like the before diagram,” said Brian. Working with the Synapse team, the financial director was able to give each of the financial controllers in his 20+ worldwide subsidiaries a special Synapse spreadsheet that connected to the cloud, where all the magic was done to create fully integrated group accounts. “After treatment, the ‘spreadsheetitis’ subsided and the patient looked like the diagram [pictured above],” explained Brian. Synapse realised that to turn Cloud CFO into a full international product it needed to bring on board expert help.

Brian added: “We were very pleased to be able to hire Tineke Booth from KPMG to run finance and operations. “Having a hugely experienced chartered accountant as our domain expert, to help define and launch our new Cloud CFO product, has been invaluable. “Tineke’s nine years of audit experience with group companies who carry out the sophisticated financial consolidations that Cloud CFO automates has been critical.” One of Tineke’s first jobs was to work with the Synapse technical team to successfully win a second UK Government SMART R&D £250,000 grant to build the advanced, semantic version of Cloud CFO. “Accounting is changing far more radically than people realise,” says Tineke. “Worldwide, financial authorities are mandating the use of XBRL and other complex languages to make the accounts filed by companies intelligible by machines for forensic, M&A and other purposes.

“Cloud CFO will use advanced semantics to let a financial director here in Birmingham reach out and compare, for example,the filed SEC accounts of dozens of companies of interest. “We believe Synapse will lead the world in this area.”