Automating actuals and creating models with Basis
Dispersa is a cleantech company located in Montreal, Canada. Dispersa’s goal is to produce biosurfactants from food waste to make them more sustainable and affordable.
FP&A for small finance teams
Canadian cleantech startup Dispersa has developed a process that can convert food waste into biosurfactants which are the active ingredients in soap and detergent products.
The company was founded in 2018 and they brought on their first internal accounting and finance leader, Shay Prajapat, in 2020.
Shay had a financial model that he created in spreadsheets for investors but it was tedious to maintain: “I had to copy and paste in data from QuickBooks every month. I'd always need to update formulas or there would be a change in the chart of accounts that would require a fix. It was time-consuming to build all of these models from scratch and keep updated.”
Shay was the only person on the finance team and he started “looking for something that could simplify the FP&A process.”
He needed an all-in-one solution: “I do the FP&A, manage cash flow, do the budgeting, and manage our runway. I needed something that could save time and consolidate information all in one place.”
Getting started with Basis
Shay looked at a few tools but quickly decided on Basis: “It had the data integrations, a straightforward modeling system, premade templates, and dashboards for reporting. They also had a startup pricing package that was very reasonable.”
New Basis customers either import their existing models into Basis or leverage the opportunity to build new models from scratch to take full advantage of the data integrations. Shay chose the latter: “I wanted to start from scratch working from our chart of accounts rather than importing models from a template. I used our historicals and also incorporated some assumptions that stood out from reviewing our financials every month.”
“Building the models from our existing spreadsheets would have taken the same amount of time, so it just made sense to take the opportunity to improve the model and really use the Basis system.”
The Basis platform made it simple for Shay to connect his GL software and get started right away. “You get your two financial statement forecasts right out of the box and you can start building up from there,” according to Shay. “I had a live, rolling budget with automated [budget vs actual variance] analysis within minutes.”
The learning curve on the tool isn’t bad at all. It's pretty intuitive if you’re already familiar with Excel. It took a little while to get used to how formulas work, but I played around with the formulas in the premade templates and got up to speed quickly.
The platform was easy to learn and “our customer success manager has been great. She’s very responsive to any questions that I have and was helpful in walking me through solutions.”
P&L by segment
One reporting goal Shay wanted to achieve was to start breaking out P&L by class: “I have a lot of dimensions and Basis made it easy to bring in all of my classes and construct the exact groups that I needed to see.”
“We have two headcount locations, Quebec and Nova Scotia. I can segment out Nova Scotia by headcount, salary, and expenses all in one report without having to pick out each line item one by one. It saves a tremendous amount of time.”
The company also has a special grant program that reimburses a percentage of subcontractor and salary expenses in Nova Scotia as a 10-year loan. Shay has to submit a claim for these expenses every month.
He built a formula in Basis that calculates the reimbursement each month, puts it on the balance sheet as debt, and then adds it back as cash.
Shay concedes, “I could have done it in a spreadsheet but it would have taken longer to figure out and the whole point of using a system like Basis is so that I don’t have to copy and paste everything each month.”
Dashboards and reporting
Shay has also transformed his reporting process with Basis. He has an executive summary dashboard that has runway, revenue, burn, and then a P&L, a balance sheet, and a debt summary.
Basis updates all of the data for me and it’s much easier to share a dashboard with my CEO instead of pulling reports and sending them by email.
Shay prefers dashboards because “you can show all of your key data in one place and presenting a visual representation of our runway, for example, is easier to read than a table of numbers.”
“My end goal was to have a process for internal reporting for two levels. My CEO and my CTO would be the first level. That would be a more holistic view into the business.”
He has a second level dashboard for project accounting where the team “tracks budgeted expenses versus actuals and to see what they've spent on lab supplies, lab expenses and contractors.”
Would Shay recommend Basis to other finance leaders that want to save time and expand reporting capabilities? “Definitely. Using Basis will give you a better version of any model that you can build yourself.”
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- Replaced manual copy and pasting with direct data integrations.
- Used classes to segment P&L views.
- Created executive and project-level dashboards to report on performance and track budget vs actuals.