Counto Accounting Interview

Counto Accounting was founded by a couple of engineers with a big goal which is to minimize accounting costs for small businesses and startups through the use of artificial intelligence. They have been helping small businesses and startups by automating their accounting procedures.

Today, we spoke to Ishi Singh, the founder of Counto Accounting about being one of the top bookkeeping provider in Singapore.

What are Counto’s company goals for 2021?

We pride ourselves on providing high level accounting, tax and Virtual CFO services at very affordable price points. Ultimately, we want to be more than an accountant for small businesses; our goal is to be the number one finance partner for this segment by equipping them with knowledge, insights, and support to grow their businesses and guide their spending decisions. For a small business, truly knowing the answers to everyday questions like—how much can I spend on renovation or how can I optimise taxes—can sometimes mean the difference between success and failure.

Counto customers get an ecosystem of support on a platform that provides instant financial overviews, fast access to professional help, automated payments to suppliers, and more. Our accountants are supported by an in-house engineering team, and our goal is to keep adding new tools and approaches to boost our customers’ business and better serve their needs.

In the wider accounting and business community, we have built several tools, some for free. For example, we are working closely with IRAS to build a GST filing system that will soon be made available for free. Similarly, our AI.TaxAssist system automates business tax filing and can churn out a full tax form in under 60 seconds. It is IRAS approved, and free to use for tax professionals and tax students in Singapore.

How has bookkeeping / accounting in Singapore changed over the past decade?

The evolution of accounting in Singapore is pretty similar to other industries—the shift towards digitalisation is clearly accelerating. The government has been spurring this push with various policy changes (e.g. businesses no longer need to keep paper receipts etc) and grants (our GST system was under a co-creation grant with IRAS). With the advent of RPA (robotic process automation) and deep learning/AI, the stage is set for rapid re-design of what it will mean to be an accountant in the future. For example, we look to hire accountants who can also code a bit.

How did you venture to bookkeeping and accounting after working in Google?

Life :-). We actually started by building and selling advanced document extraction software to banks, until we realised that the accounting industry is a large data problem waiting to be solved. Thus, Counto was conceptualised to deliver affordable and effective accounting service to startups and small businesses by eliminating manual processes and hefty fees.

What did you learn at Google that helped you to start the first AI powered accounting service in Singapore?
Know your limits, build a team of a diverse set of people that complement each other, set a bold agenda… and then let the team make mistakes. Our journey has been full of mistakes, as is the case with most startups. But giving space to the team where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities, and designing our internal systems to allow the team to recover from those mistakes are critical. Our team members are some of the most driven people you will ever meet and I am truly grateful for their belief in the company.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to incorporate AI / machine learning into their businesses?

We are at the very beginning of a long journey with AI powered automation systems—be it simple invoice readers or self driving cars. The advice with any such transformative technologies is: don’t try to fit AI into your existing process. You will not see the benefits. Rather rethink what a new process will look like as these systems become more capable. And be ready for a bumpy but exciting road ahead 🙂