Founded in 2014, Privitar specialises in helping businesses realise the value of customer data – without infringing on the individual’s right to privacy. The company has raised more than $150 million in funding, acquiring big-name clients such as the NHS, HSBC and AstraZeneca along the way. To learn how Capdesk helped Privitar ditch inaccurate spreadsheets and adopt a reliable, centralised system, we spoke to its CFO, Nick Pointon.
Initially drawn to Capdesk because of previous experience of Excel-based equity management, Nick is more than aware of spreadsheets’ fatal flaw. “The first assumption you have to make when looking at a spreadsheet is that it always contains errors,” Nick argues.
“Every line of code in a spreadsheet relates to an individual, likely an employee, and that employee thinks they're getting a certain amount of equity. There are times when your system says something different, and at some point, you’ve got to square the circle. Those cases are embarrassing, expensive and they always come at the worst possible time.”
For Nick, knowing Capdesk keeps Privitar's data totally accurate is one of the platform's biggest selling points.
“Having a formal system that makes you go through various checks as you enter the data, which cannot then get altered accidentally, is where the real benefit is.”
The accuracy of equity data also translates into real financial gains.
“The cost of fixing flawed spreadsheets is just huge. Our annual Capdesk subscription fee equates to roughly four hours of a lawyer’s time. So if there was one error in a spreadsheet and it took your lawyer four hours to fix it, Capdesk pays for itself straight away. If it's eliminating all errors, the legal fees that you save in the long run are huge.”
Working in small teams and with smaller budgets than larger businesses, startup employees are regularly tasked with finding creative, resourceful workarounds.
The real problems come when teams are stretched to the limit and time pressures put the startup in a make-or-break situation. By adopting Capdesk, Privitar hoped to ease the strain on the business at key moments in its development.
“Often, the issue is not so much the financial costs as the additional aggravation and time it takes to fix the data. You're going through a transaction, someone's doing due diligence all over the company's history, and you're busy enough anyway. If you can enter those kinds of periods knowing that at least one thing is right, then you're going to be in a much better place and much more comfortable.”
However, the benefits of Capdesk aren’t restricted to big moments in the startup journey, such as transactions or IPOs. For Privitar, they’ve also simplified the day-to-day management of equity.
“Capdesk has reduced the time I spend answering share option queries to about an hour a month,” explains Nick.
“I get two or three questions a week from investors that require me to look at Capdesk. I can log in or, even better, give them their login to answer their questions quickly, accurately, and get it right the first time.”
At Privitar, Capdesk has empowered employees and investors, providing them with easy and intuitive access to equity information. It’s also shown investors that the business is planning and preparing for the future in practical and carefully considered ways.
“Capdesk has helped our perception amongst investors a great deal. The fact that we chose to move onto Capdesk at an early stage, way before we desperately needed to, demonstrated to our investors that we knew where we were heading. It showed ambition.”
Privitar’s decision to use Capdesk was made considerably easier by Nick’s previous experience working in fast-growth startups. Knowing how influential those early decisions are, and the cost that mistakes incur further down the line, Nick sought to ensure the appropriate technology was in place sooner rather than later.
“The real benefit of moving onto Capdesk from such an early stage in our development was that we could go in, get everything right from the start, and now you know that no matter what you're looking at, the data is right.”
“I’ve seen a company track share options on spreadsheets from incorporation up to IPO. It was messy and a lot of time and money was spent correcting the data.”
For this reason, Nick would recommend Capdesk to any fast-growing startup that wants to get ahead of the game.
“If, in the future, I find myself sitting on the board of another company, I’ll certainly be advising the person in my current position to get off Excel and onto Capdesk as quickly as they can.”