One advantage of being outside of the venture capital-rich coasts is the ability for a company to operate lean, find product-market fit immediately, and occasionally, see soaring success without ever having to give anything away to outside investors.
In Atlanta, MailChimp has become the paradigm of this model. But one of the city’s fastest-growing, newer technology companies is profitable, bootstrapped, and largely staffed — now at 120 employees strong — with former accountants.
LeaseQuery is a software-as-a-service provider tackling the complexities of lease accounting. Its cloud-based platform lets accountants stay compliant with lease accounting guidelines, prepares reports and disclosures for a company’s many leases (for real estate, equipment assets, and vehicles), manages documents, and alerts the accounting team of critical filing dates.
More than 500 clients now rely on LeaseQuery’s software, which has “no real competitors” in the lease accounting realm, according to founder and CEO George Azih. The platform is so comprehensive, says Azih, because of those he hires to build and sell it.
“One of the big differentiators in the marketplace about us is that we are founded by accountants and we help accountants, and in order to do that we need to hire accountants,” Azih says. “Customer success, sales, those are all accountants.”
That means that, during demos, the sales team often finds themselves teaching potential clients about the intricacies of lease accounting itself. Azih says that they see exceptionally high close rates of about 50 percent.
“They are speaking the same language,” he says. Azih himself left a technical accounting and research role with a Fortune 1000 to found LeaseQuery.
“They come out of the demo learning something, and that credibility is essential to our growth.”
That growth has been rapid, with 2018 bringing an over 700 percent revenue increase. The company was accepted into Endeavor Atlanta, the local outpost of a global support network for scaling companies.
To support growth, LeaseQuery grew from 20 to over 100 employees in one year, a rate which Azih anticipates continuing. Already in January 2019, they’ve brought on 20 new employees, and Azih projects they’ll hit 200 in 2019.
Though he attributes his unique workforce to that success, they’ve also had to devise a unique culture that builds on the strengths — and contends with the weaknesses — of a technology company built by non-techies.
“I’m sure it’s pretty jarring for some of them,” Azih, who describes himself as “allergic to technology”, says about bringing accountants from small and
large firms into a tech startup environment. They just brought on a VP of Accounting straight from “Big 4” accounting firm Ernst & Young, for example.
Though the transition may be jarring, it is also invigorating, says Azih. He pays close attention to culture, something he “refuses to outsource.” It shows on employer review site Glassdoor, where LeaseQuery has achieved the rare five our of five stars and 100 percent CEO approval. They were voted as one of Atlanta’s best medium-sized employers in 2018.
To celebrate success, the leadership team even invited the entire company on a trip to Las Vegas at the beginning of this year. It was part of Azih’s rebellion against the exclusive reward structure of traditional firms.
“I firmly believe that everyone at the company rows the boat,” he says. “So if you’re going to take someone on a trip, you take the entire company, because the entire company contributed to the company’s success.”
Managers also hold weekly one-on-ones with each member of their team to solicit feedback and improve. Azih is conscious that this entrepreneurial thing is still fairly new to him and much of his team.
“We’re all learning, and part of that humility is understanding that we don’t know everything and we can always do better.”
The ability to shape the company’s culture the way he wants is partially thanks to the fact that Azih and his team still own the entire company. They have bootstrapped since their beginning in 2011, a decision that was at first forced, due to the complex nature of the product and uncertainly about the new accounting regulations LeaseQuery handles.
Now that they’re highly-profitable, remaining self-funded is a preference, says Azih.
“I believe firmly that you should not raise capital until a lack of capital impedes your growth. There’s no need to just raise money when you don’t need it,” he tells Hypepotamus.
“The moment I realized that our growth is being impeded because we do not have outside funding, I will go get it. But for now, customer-funded growth is essentially the best kind of capital you can get.”
This article has been updated to reflect that LeaseQuery was founded in 2011, not 2015 as previously stated.