Trailer Episode

Centralizing Software Solutions for CFOs with Sudozi's Rose Punkunus

Finance and accounting processes are vital elements of any business. In many cases, business leaders expect the finance and accounting department to run as smoothly as possible to ensure that payments are processed swiftly and reports are made on time to gather insights and inform decision-making.

But what if there was a way to improve the efficiency of these vital business processes? That’s exactly what Rose Punkunus set out to do with her seed stage startup, Sudozi — a software platform designed to help finance and accounting teams automate workflows, keep track of vendors and budgets, and improve financial decisions.

In this episode of The Modern CFO, Sudozi Founder, CEO, and CFO Rose Punkunus talks with host Andrew Seski about her experience starting her own firm—a software platform designed to help finance and accounting teams automate workflows, keep track of vendors and budgets, and improve financial decisions.

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Please note that the transcript is AI-generated and may contain errors. The content in the podcast is not intended as investment advice, and is meant for informational and entertainment purposes only.

[00:00:00] Andrew Seski: Hello, everyone. And welcome back to The Modern CFO podcast. I'm your host, Andrew Seski. Today, I'm joined by Rose Punkunus. Thanks so much for joining me, Rose. 

[00:00:18] Rose Punkunus: Oh, thanks for having me, Andrew. 

[00:00:20] Andrew Seski: So Rose, I'd love to kick the podcast off with telling me a little bit about your most recent venture. Just for our audience's sake, Rose has worked at firms like Uber, Apple. She studied at MIT. She's a self-described data nerd. So we're gonna be able to cover a lot of topics. But today, we're gonna start with just learning a little bit about her seed stage startup, Sudozi. 

[00:00:40] Rose Punkunus: Yeah, thanks Andrew. So to kick things off, I started Sudozi about a year and a half ago. It is the culmination of my experiences from previous firms being in that CFO role and finance leadership role. 

[00:00:52] I was actually looking to buy software like Sudozi to help with a lightweight procurement approval process and budget tracking, budget management in one place. And I kept on coming up against these large enterprise players that were gonna cost the company, you know, $100,000, $200,000 and a ton of consulting and months of implementation.

[00:01:13] I was like, there's gotta be something better in the market than this solution. Unfortunately, I didn't quite find it. And so that's what got me going. And I think if you talk to other founders, it's like, you put it away, you try to forget about it for a little bit, but it keeps coming back to you and you wake up thinking about, oh, why can't there be software to connect your vendor approval to your budgets and some of these nerdy things.

[00:01:34] So I finally sort of got it all together, got the courage to just go out and do it and, you know, raise a little bit of money and we're off to the races. 

[00:01:42] Andrew Seski: Was this idea sort of incubated during lockdowns and pandemic time? 

[00:01:47] Rose Punkunus: I think the idea for actually doing the company was. But the problem we're solving and how we're helping finance leaders, that started almost a decade ago when I had these challenges at Uber and at Fundbox and some of these other companies I worked at. 

[00:02:02] Essentially, we're trying to provide a tool for finance leaders to be able to automate more of the data, boring part of their job and spend more time on the business partnership and the growth strategy, things that machines can't do yet. So allowing them to automate the data stuff that machines can do now to have more time available to think about future strategies for the company.

[00:02:25] Andrew Seski: Right. So it's a huge efficiency tool. I know a lot of the CFOs on the podcast, they have a constant reprioritization process that goes through their head of which fire to put out or how to allocate.

[00:02:37] Rose Punkunus: Absolutely. 

[00:02:38] Andrew Seski: One of the first podcasts during the lockdown, I asked, you know, what somebody would do with a, you know, magic wand. And they asked for, basically, they regretted doing so much work with their resource planning because it had taken them so much manual time and it all went out the window during the pandemic. So all of these tools become exponentially more important during, you know, volatile times. And when you need to pivot or change strategies. 

[00:03:02] I've sort of a funny question coming right up. So you've got this team. Is it remote? I know you're based down in Austin. I know you're growing your team. And we also talk a lot about culture on the podcast. And I know this is a little odd, but I saw on LinkedIn, you posted earlier today if people knew their coworkers' pets' names. That made me chuckle a little bit.

[00:03:22] I just wanted to kinda get your thoughts on how you're thinking about growing both, you know, scaling the organization, how you're thinking about pricing since that was a big piece of your role at Uber. And more importantly, too, during this time, how you're retaining and attracting top talent, you know, and creating a culture in kind of a hybrid remote world that we're living in today. 

[00:03:41] Rose Punkunus: Absolutely. And so the pet post is funny. I actually don't have pets. I have two kids, but we're thinking about pets. But anyway, so we have a hybrid, well, we have a remote team. We do have a WeWork in one of our locations, but we are in Boulder, Austin, LA, and San Francisco.

[00:03:57] And I'd say the culture for the company is a representation of how I lead and it started even before the company, right? So in just prior roles, you know, it doesn't matter if someone's a direct report of yours or a peer of yours, get to know them as a human, treat them with respect, communicate, you know, be transparent.

[00:04:15] I think the type of interaction that I'd like to have with coworkers has helped me build the company with the people we have here as well as the culture that we have at Sudozi. 

[00:04:26] And so one quick anecdote is one of my, our first engineer was actually someone I used to work with at Uber. And he sent me a LinkedIn message, right? So I think for most people, it's not common an engineer's reaching out to you. 

[00:04:39] And I feel really privileged and really grateful for that experience. But I think respecting people and trusting them and treating them as mature adults on the team will sort of build that better relationship and facilitate a better working environment overall.

[00:04:53] And that helps with future recruits as well, right? As people are interviewing, they see the culture, they see what's going on at the company, even in interviews and things like that. 

[00:05:01] Andrew Seski: I'm sure that also really translates well to your investors to be able to showcase the quality of the team and the retention of these really amazing candidates that come through I'm sure all the time. 

[00:05:11] So, I wanna walk all the way back to post MIT dates. So, you interned at Goldman, the FX desk, you're a software engineer, and then end up at Charles River. I know that a lot of the CFOs that I talk to kind of follow more traditional career pathways and the risk tolerances or adversities, they ebb and flow.

[00:05:36] I mean, we've had CFOs that have come from, you know, naval or army backgrounds through to very traditional big four accounting backgrounds through to CFO position. Was that what you were thinking about at that time? I mean, it's just interesting to see you go work at some of these very large companies and then be able to go tackle on, you know, head first, launching your own firm.

[00:05:56] So just kind of curious as to how you're thinking about risk and your career kind of as you were getting started. 

[00:06:01] Rose Punkunus: Yeah. So, I've listened to your podcast. You have some fantastic CFOs on here. And I think everyone has a really interesting background and you're right. Some folks come from really different places.

[00:06:10] So, for me, I never set out to have a specific career. But I knew what I wanted in my career path was to be analytical and to be able to solve hard problems. And so with that sort of approach, I had an opportunity after sophomore year to do some software development at Goldman, as you mentioned, on the FX floor.

[00:06:29] So, I thought this was super fascinating. I've never thought about currencies and how you need to settle currencies and why people even need different types of currencies. And so, fantastic learning experience. I also coded in Slang at Goldman. So that was maybe a little bit useless in my current role but the great problem solving experiences there.

[00:06:47] Ultimately I did major in economics. And so having that experience at Charles River really helped me think through, you know, antitrust and get deeper into specific cases of antitrust and free markets. And seeing how this is not an academic setting, right, in reality, how do these things operate? 

[00:07:04] You know, ultimately, after those two experiences, I felt there was something going on in tech and in Silicon Valley. So I had the opportunity to go out to Palo Alto. I actually was a research fellow for a professor at Stanford for a little bit, and then just dabbled in the community and got a, you know, network. Had some nonprofit experience as well. 

[00:07:22] So I felt like there was a bunch going on in tech and wanted to stay on the West Coast. Wound up doing my MBA at UCLA, just in that ecosystem there. And during my MBA, I had an opportunity to intern at Apple. Basically, the iTunes team was just spinning out of music. And so getting into TV, movies, books, apps, all the things that are on your iPad today in terms of the entertainment that's available. 

[00:07:48] And so they were looking for an intern analytics lead to help with strategizing and looking at the data of what's in the app. So, really fantastic access to data. It was actually more of a data science role. I wrote my own queries. It was both technical and, you know, business-oriented. I had some queries that I wrote and slides that I produced that were modified a bit, but then showed up in Eddy Cue's keynotes, so that was pretty exciting. 

[00:08:14] So, in that experience there, had a ton of opportunities to work with pricing. So, how do you price movies that have already been produced, right? Basically, zero marginal cost to put on the iTunes platform but you still wanna monetize. Is it a rental? Is it, you know, purchasing? So, had some global pricing experience.

[00:08:33] And fortunately, you know, someone in my network was at Uber at the time in 2013 and they were like, hey, we're looking for a pricing manager cause we're launching, we're just starting with this new UberX product. It's gonna be different from Black Car and we need someone to help, you know, manage the pricing for this. 

[00:08:49] Like, okay, that's cool. Checked it out. I actually worked at Uber because I lived in San Francisco and didn't wanna continue commuting to Cupertino. I was not, you know, so strategic and I wanna work in this like rideshare economy, blah, blah, blah. I actually had no idea going into Uber. 

[00:09:04] So, I landed this really amazing role, basically second strategic finance hire at Uber running pricing. And essentially, pricing at Uber because of the marketplace, it touches incentives for both the riders and drivers. So you can set a super high price, but then give the rider a promotion. Or you could set a super low price and then give the driver a driver incentive for doing that trip.

[00:09:27] So, my team wound up managing these millions of dollars of incentive budgets every week as we set pricing. And, you know, we always wanted to make sure that the pricing aligned with the goals of that market. 

[00:09:40] So, whether it was in New York City or Paris or Philly, or, you know, here in Austin, there are different objectives for the markets, right? Sometimes it's growth, but sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's like better driver relationships. Sometimes it's building the rider community and thinking through how does pricing align with the larger strategy. 

[00:09:58] And so did pricing for a little bit, you know, fast forward at Uber, company grew, and I had the opportunity to essentially be the CFO for the US and Canada business and also helped out with other global businesses at the time.

[00:10:10] I would say that now I'm merging with maybe your other guests, where I now have your more traditional CFO role. I'm overseeing OpEx. I'm learning what month-end close processes are like. I'm helping to close the books and report to, you know, private investors at the time, putting that package together.

[00:10:29] And I really found it fascinating how, when I was in the data science and analytics world, there were all of these technology and tools built to help with collaboration, help make sure that data was streamlined, you know, people weren't spending their time copying and pasting data between different Excel sheets. And in finance and accounting, that hadn't happened yet.

[00:10:49] So we were able to build some tools internally at Uber that are still being used. Then fast forward in my career, I went to be VP of Finance at Fundbox. Had similar challenges in terms of trying to automate more of the mundane data tasks for myself and for my team. Then move forward to ScaleFactor, being CFO here in Austin.

[00:11:09] And those last two roles have been really fascinating, really unique companies. But at the same time, I, you know, have met a great network of CFOs and finance leads and we all shared some similar challenges, like, hey, I'm trying to do this strategic thing for the board and then I got a Slack message asking if you could buy this vendor, right? 

[00:11:26] Why isn't there a tool to kind of manage that, automate that whole process, connect that with the budget, you know. What am I gonna do when I see this request, I'm just gonna go into my budget spreadsheet and see if it's within the budget, right? Can't that part be automated? 

[00:11:39] So, yeah, that's kind of what led me to my starting the company and starting Sudozi where I'm definitely still very analytical in this role and solving problems. Just wearing a slightly different hat but still wearing the finance hat since we haven't hired anyone for finance yet.

[00:11:54] Andrew Seski: Well, thanks for sharing all of that. I mean, I think, something that dawned on me about something that's consistent throughout your career, it seems as if you've been really gifted at, like you mentioned, tackling hard problems. 

[00:12:06] But I feel like a big piece of that is probably separating signals from noise when you're thinking about strategic finance and how you can actually analyze some of the data, how you can make sure there aren't biases at the creation of, you know, what you're looking at and the queries you're building.

[00:12:20] So, I was curious if there have been maybe times, I don't know if you mastered this at Stanford or maybe while doing your MBA, but if there have been times where you've either looked at a signal and thought it was, something was a signal and it went, you know, really well, or you misinterpreted a signal for, you know, in reality, it was just noise around a lot of the data.

[00:12:41] And maybe if you could guide us through sort of maybe just a couple of best practices when you've just got such a wide breadth of experience in solving these really challenging problems. I think our listeners probably enjoy just hearing you kind of talk about how you think about separating the two.

[00:12:57] Rose Punkunus: Yeah, yeah. So, let me give you a quick business anecdote and then I can do a personal one. 

[00:13:02] So on the business side at Uber, I was running pricing and as part of our interview process, we always gave a real practical exercise. So we actually would anonymize the data, give the data to the candidates and have them do the exercise.

[00:13:14] And one of the exercises I like to give was, this Boston, when we launched UberX in Boston, essentially when we launch UberX anywhere, we would do these like promotional free weeks, right? And so riders would literally be able to ride UberX for free, and then Uber would subsidize the driver and pay the driver for that week.

[00:13:33] But we didn't tell the candidates it was a free week. We just gave them data on number of rides the week before the free week, the week during the free week and the week after the free week. And we asked them, what price discount did we give during this week? And almost, there's no candidate that got the right answer. Almost all candidates came back with like, oh, it was like a 20% or 30% discount during this week. 

[00:13:56] Really the missing piece there is because the market didn't have enough drivers, you were capped on the total number of trips because of the driver supply in the network. So even if you went to free, you could only do so many trips. It's not like it was totally elastic and you like skyrocketed in four exit or five exit trips, right? 

[00:14:14] And so I share that example to say big data can certainly help you with what you're getting at. And it can certainly supplement some of the answers that you're looking to find. But it can really only get you so far if you don't have some of the business context and the marketing information, the partnership information, the legal information around the business, right? 

[00:14:36] So data's only one piece of the equation and it's really important to understand what these other departments and what these other market factors are doing to impact the results that you're seeing and kind of be careful when you're extrapolating data into future situations to make sure that situation is similar enough to where you got your data from. 

[00:14:58] On the personal front, I think, you know, one thing, you know, I've actually told many people this story, like I applied to, just because I was in business school, I was like, well, let's see what career options are available to me. I applied to your typical consulting firms and things for strategy consulting after business school. And I actually didn't get those roles, I think. 

[00:15:17] And as we reflect back, I think I'm just better hands-on inside an organization and optimizing really like those operational things. And that was a good signal for me to kind of nudge me in a more analytical direction than a pure strategy direction. And so, yeah, I guess like a piece of data in my personal life that have, you know, geared me towards where I am now. 

[00:15:42] Andrew Seski: Yeah. Well, while we're talking about things on a little bit more of a personal level, do you have an idea of what you would consider a modern CFO today and what those characteristics look like for, you know, anybody who's in that position today or maybe even aspiring to it? 

[00:15:58] Rose Punkunus: Yeah. I mean, I think there's no one answer, right? It's not like, oh, this, you know, check these three things and you're a modern CFO. I think, by the nature of how business has evolved and how companies have evolved, how the remote situation has evolved. 

[00:16:13] The people who are successful CFOs today, first and foremost, have just great relationship skills with their CEO, with their peers, with the board, and are able to really empathize with different people, different career paths and communicate in a successful way with those individuals. So, I think that relationship skill is actually probably one of the most important. 

[00:16:38] Then the second order, you just have a lot of data, right? We just talked about how much data you're getting from the business especially if you're running any sort of consumer-type business. There's just so many data points and things you can track digitally in your supply chain these days. And so there's a lot of data being able to understand or even just maybe technically like being familiar with Excel or any SQL tools out there. So having that data, liking to manage data. 

[00:17:09] And then the third thing is really, I think, being able to understand the trends in the market. This is potentially data as well but not your internal data, more external data, you know, macro environments, how inflation can impact, think through like second-, third-order impacts of inflation on your supply chain, on your customers, thinking about how unemployment, you know, they're all correlated that this unemployment, how government decisions, how lawmakers can impact your business. 

[00:17:39] And so sort of like understanding having the data analysis on the external environment, but then also having that thesis and having that strategy around how external factors are gonna impact your business.

[00:17:51] Andrew Seski: Do you think varsity volleyball would be, you know, helpful? Just thinking about how another really consistent theme on the show is athletes are really prominent in the CFO position or the founder role. And it's always fun to hear the connection between, you know, the personal lessons of, you know, varsity athletics. And you were on the varsity team at MIT, right? 

[00:18:18] Rose Punkunus: Yeah. Yeah, that's right. 

[00:18:19] Andrew Seski: That's awesome. So did you play all four years? 

[00:18:22] Rose Punkunus: Yeah. And we made the NCAA tournament three years of the four. Made it pretty far . But yeah, I think volleyball specifically, you know, I've lived this life so I can make these connections fairly easily, but I think any sort of athletics or team sports or, you know, like, even if you're on the math team, right? Any sort of team experience can really help in this, in any sort of finance leadership role. 

[00:18:48] And particularly for volleyball, it's interesting because in volleyball, it's not like basketball. You can just dribble down and score yourself. You literally have to work with other people on the team to score. So it's very hard to score yourself, but with, you know, with the exception of some plays.

[00:19:03] But I think that's true for CFOs as well, right? CFOs are not the sales leader. You're not typically going out to close the deal and generate the revenue directly. But you have so many ways to actually influence the company and drive growth and reallocate resources and share information between teams that they naturally wouldn't have known. There's so many parallels in being like the accelerator in the company between playing a team sport and being in the CFO role. 

[00:19:31] Andrew Seski: Yeah, I think, well, I was a rower back in my day, so I understand the necessity of getting your team in. I think it's a really good point that you make. I think that, especially in early days of startup life, having that kind of shared solidarity and vision and overcommunicating it is just crucial to getting the team to buy in, probably just like you would need to convince, you know, your varsity team to stay in and, you know, exercise well and sleep well and eat well. So, I feel like there's just a ton of overlaps. 

[00:20:03] And I would imagine that the complexity of the startup finance is a little bit easier to manage at this stage at the company, maybe not as much strategic finance. 

[00:20:14] But when you're thinking about, and I won't ask any comments on future fundraising plans or anything like that today, but as you envision the company growing and expanding, how do you think do CFOs at earlier stage companies can leverage the skill sets that you're saying on teambuilding and maybe leaning back on some of the lessons they learned in athletics, but also still being, you know, playing to their strengths of strategic finance in earlier days of a company?

[00:20:41] Rose Punkunus: Yeah. And I think the earliest I typically see, you know, the Head of Finance or the VP of Finance role is like post-Series A. It's also an opportunistic hire, right? So these people are, you know, myself included, have potentially come in late Series A. Series B typically you see that hire being made. 

[00:20:59] And these times are very tricky, right? So open communication. You know, one thing I'll mention in those smaller teams is actually like probably over-indexing on communicating with your team, like the entire employee base. 

[00:21:14] If you don't say anything, people are gonna have assumptions anyway. And so if you don't guide those assumptions in a way that makes sense for the company and reassure them. And sometimes it's not always the prettiest news, but you wanna be the one communicating that news and framing it rather than having some employee, you know, sit by themselves and have the worst-case scenario in their mind, right? 

[00:21:37] So getting out there, whether it's weekly all hands or whatever the format is, being proactive about communicating on topics, including hard topics is very important.

[00:21:48] Then the other part is I think maybe CFOs underestimate their ability to actually shift strategy and impact revenue for the companies, right? Typically, you see, you know, obviously marketing and sales and marketing, any sort of these go-to-market teams really being the revenue drivers. 

[00:22:04] But I think that finance leaders have a unique opportunity to think about what they're spending on, how they can impact customer growth, when is the time to make a slightly riskier bet, maybe it's not right now, how do we pull back and still grow? And so there's a huge role that finance leaders can play in the growth of a company. 

[00:22:23] Andrew Seski: I feel like the relationship between CFOs, CEOs, and the board can get somewhat complex where often there's a vision coming from a founder or co-founders, and there's the, you know, harsh reality of, you know, resource planning and in runway.

[00:22:41] Have you seen any successful or maybe less successful characteristics of managing those types of relationships? I understand that everyone has probably a different risk tolerance, maybe even, you know, financial situation, timelines, every stakeholder has slightly different incentives especially going from, you know, the board and investor communications.

[00:23:02] Is there anything that you kind of hang your hat on as good practice at Sudozi or have you seen things go really awry at some of the bigger companies? 

[00:23:11] Rose Punkunus: Oh, yeah. I mean, without naming specifics, I think we all have seen the Uber news, you know, from five or six years ago, and then other startups in the news cycle in the last few years. 

[00:23:22] I think for me, I've only had my personal experience. And for me, what's worked well, has been summarizing the key information in a quantitative way. And so like, hey, we can't do this project because this other goal that we agreed on needs the resources, right? And so being able to put all the relevant information in one place.

[00:23:45] I think most of the leaders I've worked with have been pretty rational, whether it's the CEO or the boards, the other executives, and they understand that there are limited resources to run a company.

[00:23:56] There are tricky times where the CEO will potentially, you know, not even intentionally, but there's just so much going on that they'll go to one team and say one thing, or they'll go to another team and say another thing. I think one of the more common situations is like, if your CTO wants to hire a, you know, a new team and the finance team says no, they just go to the CEO, right? 

[00:24:18] So, I think in those situations, communicating what your expectations are as the finance leader to both your peers as well as the CEO and setting those processes and guidelines, they can be lightweight, they don't have to be like super heavy-duty processes, but just having something out there that is what you expect the process to be will help avoid some of these like backchannel leakages of money at the company, right? 

[00:24:45] Andrew Seski: So, I've been thinking about this the whole podcast, and I've gotta ask how you came up with the name Sudozi. 

[00:24:50] Rose Punkunus: Well, first of all, the URL was available. So I was like, okay. So, I was born in Shanghai. I speak, you know, Mandarin Chinese. And as I was, you know, in parallel with deciding to do the company, the name is part of the exciting experience in those first few months, right? 

[00:25:07] And so, Sudozi means, it's not the full pinyin translation, but Sudozi is counting beans in Chinese. We've all heard the beancounter situation here for accountants or anyone in finance. And what we're really trying to do is advance the thinking of how finance and accounting can actually be playful and fun and help the company, not just sitting there counting beans. And so it's a modern take on finance and accounting. 

[00:25:39] Andrew Seski: That's awesome. I love that. I'm glad you shared that. I wanna open things up a little bit to talk about one of my favorite questions on the podcast and ask if you feel like there's anything currently being underestimated in the world today and maybe, if so, is there anybody addressing those issues?

[00:25:55] Rose Punkunus: Yeah. You know, I can give you a different answer, but my answer is actually in finance and accounting. So I think the chart of accounts and how your accounting structure is set up is totally underestimated. I think people think accounting can't be strategic. Accounting is just like reporting data.

[00:26:12] No, that's absolutely wrong. Accounting is actually super strategic. How you report your data is how you tell the story about what happened, right? 

[00:26:20] So really thinking through how your chart of accounts are set up and how you are managing your budget, maybe aligned with your chart of accounts or slightly differently, but having that core infrastructure and involving your accounting leaders in thinking about the future of the business is actually like, I think, a tool and a weapon that most companies don't take full advantage of.

[00:26:44] Andrew Seski: Interesting. So, most people by default think that there is one way to set up their accounts and basically leave everything on, you know, autopilot. And you're saying you could absolutely start in a more interesting strategic way and you can also, you know, shake things up and really, really aggressively change structures as a part of strategic finance. That's really interesting. 

[00:27:04] Rose Punkunus: Or maybe you don't have to change all your accounting structures but at least have the accountants involved in that process to understand what the pivots and the data are. And I think that's something I think there's more opportunity to do.

[00:27:18] Andrew Seski: Do you think that's gonna be a more aggressive trend as data is being unearthed so much more aggressively? I mean, even in the last five years, I feel like there's been a huge mobilization of data that's just been really difficult to mine and unearth. I don't think this trend is going away. 

[00:27:34] I do wonder, you know, if there are gonna be more tools out there like yours to be able to actually garner genuine insights from that data. 

[00:27:43] Rose Punkunus: Yeah, absolutely. I think, hopefully it's our company, but I'm sure there's gonna be room for multiple players in this space where, I just can't imagine, you know, 10 years from now, the finance FP&A team manually typing in data into an Excel sheet, downloading it, sending it over to accounting, accounting entering it into their system. 

[00:28:03] And so you're gonna see these systems be more connected between procurement, headcount management and budget planning, right? Like why isn't the tool that you're doing budget planning the same one where you're approving vendors?

[00:28:13] And so I do think there is going to be more digitization in the finance and accounting world. You can see like, parallel to, you know, market sales and marketing, like MarTech, if you go to any sales to a marketing team, they have like at least five or six tools they're using simultaneously, right? And that's typically not true of finance and accounting yet. So yeah, so you'd definitely see that trend coming. 

[00:28:35] Andrew Seski: Yeah. One of the jokes I hear all the time is that Excel is kind of like Atlas holding up the world still to finance teams and hear all the time, get, you know, get your data just out of the spreadsheets into more modern applications to gather insights. 

[00:28:50] It's difficult still to find the ones that really move from the needle. It feels like this is a good trend. But I think we're still in an early stage of, you know, mobilizing the data in a meaningful way where I feel like there's still some hesitation to get out of spreadsheets for some reason that people like their single source of truth, especially finance teams.

[00:29:09] I know it's a hard problem to try to modernize something when they think it works. And for the most part, that's probably true. But I think what we're discussing now is that it's gonna become a competitive advantage if you can get into these applications early on, figure out how to use the best technology so that you're freed up to do basically the more strategic side of the role, which is, you know, working hand in hand with leadership to grow the firm. So, I think that's an overall positive trend. 

[00:29:38] Rose Punkunus: Yeah. One thing I'll say there, Andrew, is like, it's not binary, right? We actually don't ask our team to get rid of Excel. So you probably still wanna use Excel to forecast an ever-changing business and look up, you know, have new drivers of growth and have your index matches or your VLOOKUP up still, you know, making the forecast. 

[00:29:57] But really, do you need a CFO to be like cleaning up the data, taking out the commas and the export you just did, like all of those data cleanup things, we could help with so that you're spending more of your time in the forecasting portion in Excel rather than just like matching the data up later on. 

[00:30:14] Andrew Seski: Yeah, that's awesome. I really love that. Well it's still relatively early days. What are you most excited about in the next, maybe we'll start short term and then go long term, maybe next, you know, world's changing so quickly these days, but maybe next year, and then maybe next three to five? What are some of the things that are really exciting to you, maybe your team? Your family more recently moved to Austin, right? 

[00:30:36] Rose Punkunus: Yeah, we've been here for a little over two years at this point.

[00:30:38] Andrew Seski: Okay. Got it. 

[00:30:40] Rose Punkunus: Yeah. Well, I think we could just do a podcast on that, Andrew, so I'll try to trim it down in terms of what, I'll do like one in each category. 

[00:30:48] So, first Sudozi. I'm most excited about this trend that our customers are able to take advantage of which is digitizing some of these more boring, if you will, parts of the job and automating, you know, that budget tracking so that they can focus more on the strategic components of their job. 

[00:31:10] You know, one anecdote is, you know, we have a vendor tracking feature, vendor BBA. And so most companies actually budget from vendors up, right? But there are very few tools out there that actually let you know, hey, like, did you go over or under on your vendor spend for this particular vendor? 

[00:31:25] So there are these kind of nerdy features in our app that we see our customers engaging with that we're really excited to continue launching and integrating with Slack and see some of these more modern workflow tools. 

[00:31:36] I think broader in the industry for finance and accounting, you know, we touched on it a little bit. I think that there are gonna be a lot of efficiencies and more tooling and more technology coming to forecasting and just managing company finances.

[00:31:53] I was having this conversation the other day with another finance leader, like in their model, the sales capacity drives revenue, which just then drives the marketing budget, right? And the model is built that way because really, like you're not gonna maintain five different models for one series B company, right? You're gonna maintain one model. 

[00:32:14] But what if the truth is marketing actually drives pipeline, which then should limit how many sales people you have, right? So thinking about how to actually do multiple models and manage that, like you need technology to do that with the same number of people. 

[00:32:30] You know, personally, I'm in Austin. I think the companies here are really growing. There are more and more technology companies coming into this space in Austin. And we'll see where this hybrid remote work situation ebbs and flows in the next few years. But I think that the direction is correct and I'm excited for more balance within the US and globally for talent and for companies to rise up. 

[00:32:56] Andrew Seski: Yeah. It's gonna be a really interesting few years, I think as well. Do you have any sort of thoughts on the macro environment? Anything that you're doing strategically now in sort of what looks like potential recession indicators? 

[00:33:10] I know that it's still early and maybe it's a great opportunity to be building what you're building as people reevaluate, you know, financials and are starting to look for efficiencies. 

[00:33:19] A lot of the venture-backed community is starting to slow deploying capital or maybe the real estate deals are getting back to what used to be more normal term sheets. And maybe the crossover funds are slowing down a little bit more as well. 

[00:33:32] But is there anything that you're doing strategically now, or do you think that this actually might be a good tailwind for Sudozi as people are looking at the runway and burn rates and what they can do to be more efficient?

[00:33:44] Rose Punkunus: Yeah, absolutely. I think the last few months have really been great for us. We've actually grown significantly the last few months because, you know, in 2021, when I started talking to people like the finance leaders totally got it, but it was hard to get the CEO who was focused almost solely on growth to really get it right.

[00:34:02] And now the focus has shifted where efficiency, burn rate, like these metrics and what you're spending on really matters. And what we provide in our tool is an ability for team members to actually come in and see their relevant data, rather than finance teams that have to go and manage five different Excel sheets for five different departments,right? 

[00:34:22] And so having that finance collaboration with the relevant insights has become much more important. And doing that with the same headcount in finance, right? So not having to hire three more FP&A analysts to do everything that you can do in an automated way. That's been good for us in terms of the space that we're building in and focusing on growth efficiency.

[00:34:43] I think macro, you know, as you mentioned, the rounds are coming down in price. So I'm a little bit of a spectator in these later rounds, right? We're so early. I'm just kind of, I'm as much of a spectator as someone who isn't a founder. 

[00:34:57] I do think there are gonna be companies that maybe wind down and probably just aren't gonna be in business in another year or so as they're not able to fundraise at the valuations. 

[00:35:08] And so I think for us, not to say I'm not worried, I'm always like thinking about our runway and thinking about, you know, what's gonna happen in the next three to six months, but I think we're a little bit far from those later round situations, but still obviously thinking about cash and how we operate efficiently ourself.

[00:35:29] Andrew Seski: It turns out growth at all costs does actually cost something, which I think a lot of teams are finding out in a really, really hard way, which may actually be a result of some maybe misalignment of incentives from venture dollars in general. But that's a whole other conversation.

[00:35:44] You mentioned that you're always thinking about, I mean, as every founder is, a burn rate and runway and all of that fun stuff. But what are you doing maybe for other CFOs as well? Is there anything that you're reading right now or any way that you're finding time to balance everything? I know startup life can basically consume 24/7, so just kinda curious. 

[00:36:04] I mean, I feel like everyone had to reorient themselves post-lockdown into getting back into the swing of things and putting back all of those pillars of mental health and trying to make sure that there's some separation between, you know, the office, your bed.

[00:36:19] Rose Punkunus: Yeah. Well, a couple things on my, I have some built-in disruptors. So I have two young boys. So, you know, it's kind of like, you know, playing sports and going, like when you're in practice and you're so intensely in something you kind of forget about some of the other stuff. 

[00:36:34] Although, you know, the company's always in the back of my head, but it does help to have sort of like those forced disruptors within your day where you like, literally have to make dinner and you have to feed these things or these kids that are running around. So that's helpful. 

[00:36:46] I think for me, otherwise, I do have some in-person meetings now. So I'm always trying to put on a relevant podcast like this one or, I'm currently also listening to Michael Dell's book. So just getting something audio, I love audio. So that's, you know, convenient to be able to do that, but having something sort of as I'm driving, that's kind of where I get some free time as well.

[00:37:10] Andrew Seski: That's great. We're actually just launching now something really fun, probably. We'll see if I get in trouble for plugging one of our own things but Nth Round is launching a new newsfeed. We are just probably like your team. We're just obsessed and consumed so much kind of very curated content.

[00:37:28] Just like this podcast, right, where it's just, it's pretty niche, but it's so relevant to us. So we launched our own nthround.com/newsfeed just to post all of the stuff that we're consuming on a daily basis, whether it's FinTech or podcasts, and it's been so cool. 

[00:37:44] It's kind of like what you mentioned about building your culture, like do you know your coworkers' pets' names and all of that really fun stuff. It's really interesting to see the breadth and diversity of how people consume, you know, relevant industry kind of information because it's really spread out how our team does it because we got diversity on our team, especially across age groups.

[00:38:04] So just even, you know, I consume podcasts and news all the time, but I also have a physical Wall Street Journal come to me every day, so we're all over the place. It's nice to be able to share cool thoughts because it spurs so much really lively conversation, which ends up being, you know, both team building and sometimes it ends up into product conversations. 

[00:38:31] Well, I do want to give everyone the opportunity to get in contact with you if they're interested in learning more. So what's the best way for somebody to reach out to you? Is it via LinkedIn or email or through the website?

[00:38:42] Rose Punkunus: Yeah. Our website is totally great, you know, there's a chatbot on there happy to chat with you. It's Sudozi, S-U-D-O-Z-I dot com. You can reach out to me on LinkedIn. I actually use my name name. It's R-O-S-E Z-H-O-N-G. So I'm on LinkedIn there and yeah, excited to chat, happy to share more about anything we discussed here.

[00:39:03] Andrew Seski: Awesome. Well, I'll make sure that the links are in the show notes for everyone to go check out the company. And I wanted to say, thank you so much, Rose, for joining me. I really enjoyed the conversation. I hope we can stay in touch. 

[00:39:14] Rose Punkunus: Yeah, likewise. Thanks, Andrew.

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