For small businesses and self-employed professionals, keeping an accurate financial record of day-to-day expenses can feel laborious, confusing or downright tedious. Bench wants to make the entire bookkeeping process simple with a new service that blends expert human advisors, a simple mobile experience and exclusive back-end software.
Bench has its own in-house group of bookkeepers that are paired to a user and their business from the outset. The service is only available to firms based in the United States and Canada at the moment, but ensures that user data is never shipped overseas.
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Given how tricky bookkeeping can be – everyone has their own questions, dilemmas and individual scenarios – it’s nice to see this personable approach to customer service. Bench bookkeepers, hired directly from firms and colleges in North America, are then available at anytime via phone, email or the company’s browser-based service.
Users then collate all of their financial data with Bench. Bank and credit cards, as well as users’ existing accounts, invoicing apps and point of sale (POS) terminals are all centralized in a single system, removing much of the legwork, requests and paperwork that quickly piles up from trying to handle it manually.
Just snap a receipt
The trick with expenses is digitizing receipts at the moment goods and services are purchased. Trying to hold onto them in the days or weeks following a business trip or work-related outing can be a nightmare when user’s thoughts are inevitably occupied elsewhere.
Bench takes cues from note-taking service Evernote, among others, by giving users the ability to snap and upload their receipts using the camera on their smartphone or tablet. They’re then uploaded to the Web platform automatically, allowing Bench’s crack team of bookkeepers to categorize each transaction and match them up with their relevant transactions.
For those who still like to keep a physical copy of their receipts – or just trust snail mail more than the Internet – there’s also the option for users to mail their receipts to Bench in a pre-paid envelope. The user’s designated bookkeeper will then use all of this information to create clear, professional looking reports.
The Bench app offers interactive reports which are stored securely online. They’re also updated automatically, so business leaders can review them and make decisions based on the data in real-time.
“Bench is what we are calling a ‘smartservice’,” says Bench founder, Jordan Menashy. “By taking a traditional service and layering technology on top, Bench is able to streamline this process between people and their accountants — making it easier to use, more efficient to communicate, and more affordable.”
Bench was part of startup accelerator TechStar’s Summer 2012 class and has since raised a $2 million funding round led by a number of investors including Contour, High Peaks, Lerer, and Quotidian.