SMEs face an array of challenges, from financial uncertainty to adapting to the digital age. Making informed decisions is paramount, and access to data-driven insights can be a game-changer.
In this week’s Behind the Idea, we dive into the innovative world of Pulse, a financial management platform founded with a mission to empower SMEs with the tools they need to thrive.
Tell us more about your company and its offering
At its core, Pulse is a data tool for SMEs. It was originally designed to facilitate one-click lending, by allowing SMEs to collate the data they need quickly and simply. However, we made the decision to further build out the open banking and open accounting tools to provide better ongoing support to SMEs, enabling them to use data-driven insights to expedite and simplify informed decision-making.
What problem was your company set up to solve?
Pulse is a solution that was born out of the challenges of Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis. We saw many businesses struggling to understand their data and make informed decisions about their finances. We also noticed SMEs were facing increased difficulty towards obtaining finance from traditional lenders, who became more cautious and selective. And then there’s also the general volatility in the market conditions and consumer behaviour that made it harder for growing businesses to anticipate changes in revenue and cash flow.
Open banking and open accounting have provided businesses with an amazing opportunity to share their financial information, such as their balance, transactions, invoices, and payments, with authorised third-party providers, to unlock transformational data insights. However, for the majority of SMEs, truly using these innovations comes with a hefty price tag – whether that means adopting expensive software solutions, hiring skilled data analysts – or both! Either way, it’s not a viable and affordable option available to many SMEs in the UK market.
In Pulse, we created a solution that would transform decision-making for businesses.
Since launch, how has your company evolved?
The main change we’ve implemented was launching with insights being delivered straight to email inboxes, and then building a dashboard from scratch after getting a lot of demand for it.
We spent months developing our dashboard, with pilot schemes and many phases rolled out, before the official launch at this year’s highly attended Accountex Expo. The reception was immensely positive, with accountants seeing the dashboard through live demos and signing up to use our dashboard for themselves and their clients on the spot!
To create our intelligent dashboard and help businesses improve their chances of securing funding from lenders, we hired data visualisation and AI experts who designed and developed the dashboard with us, using agile methodologies and customer feedback. We integrated our dashboard with leading accounting platforms and banks using Open Banking and Open Accounting APIs. With some of our real customers testing our dashboard, we further refined our tool to be a better fit for their needs and preferences.
What has been the biggest challenge or most ‘tricky moment’ to overcome?
Our tech is built with a clear objective to be fully functional and reliable, it is tested to provide comfort under various scenarios and it runs in parallel with existing processes for a large period before we implement it fully.
Everyone talks about tech, everyone wants tech to play an important role. But, the same people find it difficult to proceed with tech-only solutions – despite of large amounts of testing and data showing tech outperforms manual on all fronts.
So, getting this bit right has been really important. We built a dream team to make it happen, then got to work, initially surpassing huge hurdles around how to use automation to analyse data from so many different data points and how best to deliver these insights.
Once we had that part figured out, we developed the brand, launched our website and tested our insights at one of the biggest accounting expos in Europe. We learnt a lot through speaking with thousands of accountants and formed a partnerships team to ensure we were able to deliver a solution our users needed – the main result being a demand for an intuitive, AI-powered dashboard – and so we got to work!
What are your biggest achievements or ‘proudest moment’ so far?
Building our dashboard. When we launched our product a year ago, at Accountex North, there was a lot of demand for a dashboard with our insights. But as I mentioned above, building a dashboard hadn’t been part of our original plan, so we had to get to work, fast.
We built our AI-powered dashboard from scratch, hiring the right people with the right skill sets and experience to get it done. We’re constantly evolving and plan to completely overhaul the dashboard in the future, expanding it out into other exciting ventures and offering more insights than ever before.
How would you describe the culture of your company?
It may be unorthodox, but we built Pulse upon a culture of change. That is the belief that we have to keep evolving to suit the needs of our customers. Our key tenets are that:
- We can make the life of an SME owner simpler
- We can enable data-driven decision making which increases SME’s probability of success
- We can help every business in the UK
As such, we are constantly innovating. Whether that’s embedding new technology, driving improvements based on customer feedback, or building partnerships to increase our outreach.
What’s in store for the future?
We have a few exciting changes being rolled out in the coming months.
There’s cash flow analysis, which will enable our customers to get real-time alerts on any irregular transactions, as well as help them stay up to date on new borrowings and repayments. We’ll also be launching a business loan offers facility, identifying pre-approved loans for our users, and detailing all the important information – amount, term, rate etc.
With dynamic forecasting capability, we’ll be enabling users to generate forecasts instantly with a single tap. Our customer and supplier analysis tool will allow businesses and business advisors to check credit risk in a flash and keep an eye on financial movements effortlessly. After that, the focus will be on finding new ways to make SME management easier.
We’re also planning to launch our New Age Credit Report next year, which has been a huge undertaking but an addition to the Pulse dashboard that will transform how businesses operate and access lending.