Starting a company

Mini Guide: Accounting For Startups

Key Takeaways

  • Learn about the different types of accounting for startups.
  • Understand the importance of accounting for startups.
  • Get to know about the various kinds of accounting for startups
  • Gain information about accounting for startups.
  • Learn about the importance of accounting for startups.

Successful startups are built on solid accounting procedures. They offer precision and clarity in financial management, facilitating well-informed choices, effective resource allocation, and strategic planning. Accurate accounting fosters trust among stakeholders, investors, and lenders, in addition to ensuring regulatory compliance and transparency. Strong accounting foundations give startups a better chance of navigating scaling challenges, obtaining investment, and achieving a sustainable future. 

Accounting provides a clear and organized image of the organization's financial health, which acts as a starting point for startup decision-making. It includes information on sales, costs, profitability, and cash flow, empowering entrepreneurs to choose wisely regarding resource allocation, investment methods, and strategies for expansion. Accounting data serves as the foundation for sound decision-making, assisting startups to navigate obstacles, seize opportunities, and steer their course toward success in a dynamic and competitive business environment. 

Why Proper Accounting is Vital for Startups

Accurate accounting is the foundation of any successful organization, which acts as a compass to direct decisions and maintain financial stability. It gives entrepreneurs a clear lens to assess their financial health, distribute resources effectively, and identify potential for expansion. It equips business owners with the knowledge necessary to make wise decisions, draw in investors, etc.

Startup founders often juggle multiple tasks and step into any role that is called upon. In the midst of this chaos, accounting might be neglected. However, the consequences are detrimental. 

Accurate accounting fosters informed decision-making since precise financial data is essential for planning and changing market dynamics. Additionally, neglecting accounting might result in regulatory non-compliance, which can cost money in fines, penalties, and legal troubles. Potential investors who depend on transparent financial records to judge a startup's viability may reconsider their offer if they notice poor accounting methods. Most importantly, the cumulative impact of accounting neglect can risk a startup's financial health, impede development potential, and even threaten its existence in the cutthroat business environment.

Setting the Financial Foundation: Budgeting

For entrepreneurs, budgeting is the foundation of their financial security. Budgeting is about creating a plan for financial success, not just about managing spending. Startups may allocate resources effectively and create a solid financial foundation with the correct budgeting techniques.

Startups that budget effectively gain several advantages, such as allocating limited resources to the critical areas where they will have the most impact, planning for contingencies, ensuring that unexpected expenses won't derail operations, identifying areas where adjustments are needed, attracting new investors, etc. 

Step-by-step guide to effective budget creation and management

  1. Understand Your Aspirations and Goals: Start by setting some goals for your business- do you want to expand rapidly, break even, or achieve profitability within a specific timeframe? Defining your goals clearly will help in determining your budget.
  2. Estimate Revenue: Based on market analysis and sales projections, calculate your revenue. Be sensible and take into account several possibilities that may hinder your revenue. 
  3. Identify potential expenses: Include fixed (such as rent and salaries) and variable (such as marketing and materials) costs in your list of possible expenses. Ensure to factor in one-time charges like setup fees.
  4. Set priorities: Invest resources in areas that directly impact your business. For example- if rapid expansion is your goal, you may consider allocating a large amount of the funds to marketing and product development. 
  5. Analyze and Adjust: A budget is not always a fixed amount. Review your budget frequently, and if necessary, make changes based on actual performance and ever-changing market conditions.

Deep Dive: Cash vs. Accrual Accounting

Free Person using Black Calculator  Stock Photo

It's crucial to fully understand the difference between accrual and cash accounting to decide which one best fits your unique situation to assist you in making decisions that meet the demands of your business for financial reporting.

Cash accounting is straightforward and suitable for many small startups. In cash accounting, revenue is recognized when received regardless of when the sale was made, and any expenses are recorded as and when they're paid. Cash accounting provides clarity and simplicity because it is a reflection of your bank account. Cash accounting may give startups with simple revenue and expense streams a real-time picture of their cash flow.

On the other hand, accrual accounting is more complex but offers a more accurate picture of a startup's financial health. In accrual accounting, revenue is recognized when earned, and expenses are recognized whenever they incur. By matching income and costs to the period in which they occur, accrual accounting gives a more realistic picture of a startup's financial performance.

Determining which is suitable for your startup depends on several factors:

  1. Operations complexity: Cash accounting works well for simple businesses, but accrual accounting is preferable for new companies with more intricate revenue and expense structures.
  2. Investor Expectations: Accrual accounting is frequently preferred by investors since it gives a more accurate picture of a startup's financial situation. 
  3. Cash Flow Management: For businesses with limited resources, cash accounting can give a clearer picture of cash flow.

It's vital to remember that startups can switch their accounting systems, but the process can be complex and may call for expert assistance. To make the optimal decision, carefully analyze your startup's requirements and get advice from a financial or accounting professional.

Role of Technology in Startup Accounting

Technology plays a vital role in modernizing accounting practices in the digital world.

Nearly every facet of business has been changed by automation. Automated accounting solutions use technology to simplify financial procedures, minimize errors, and offer current information about a startup's financial situation.

Pros of Automated Accounting:

  1. Efficiency: With automated accounting, regular operations like data entry and reconciliation take negligible time and effort.
  2. Accuracy: Automation reduces the possibility of human error, producing more accurate financial records.
  3. Real-time Insights: Startups may make decisions more quickly and with more excellent knowledge due to access to the most recent financial data.
  4. Cost Savings: While there may be upfront costs for implementing automated systems, the long-term savings in time and resources can be substantial.

Cons of Automated Accounting:

  1. Initial Setup: Setting up automated accounting systems can be time-consuming and necessitate expert help.
  2. Expensive Software: High-quality accounting software and services can be costly for startups with limited resources.
  3. Complexity: Getting the hang of accounting software can be difficult, especially for individuals without a background in finance.
  4. Security Concerns: Storage of financial information in digital formats can create safety concerns. Startups must give cybersecurity and data protection top priority.

Selecting the Right Accounting Software and Tools

Free Photo of a Accountant Table with a Calculator Stock Photo

Choosing the right accounting software and tools is a crucial decision for startups. There are numerous options, ranging from basic accounting software for small businesses to comprehensive enterprise-level solutions. To make an informed choice:

  1. Analyze Your Needs: Begin by assessing the unique accounting needs of your startup. Consider factors like transaction volume, the complexity of income streams, and the requirement for scalability.
  2. Budgetary Factors: Set a spending limit for accounting services and software. Some software alternatives are affordable for small businesses, while others are more expensive and designed for larger enterprises.
  3. Scalability: Pick accounting software that will expand along with your business. Scalability is essential to prevent the headache of switching to a different system as your business grows.
  4. Integration: If your business uses other tools and systems, like customer relationship management (CRM) software or e-commerce platforms, ensure the accounting software can work with them.
  5. User-Friendliness: Take into account the software's steep learning curve. Interfaces that are simple to use can speed up team adaptation.
  6. Support and Training: Analyze the resources for training and support for customers that are offered. Particularly for startups with little accounting experience, adequate support can be highly beneficial.

For startups, popular solutions for accounting software include QuickBooks, Xero, FreshBooks, and Wave. It's critical to evaluate which one best fits the needs and resources of your startup because each has unique strengths and features.

Record Keeping Essentials

For startups, accurate record-keeping is essential. Keeping accurate financial records is important for more than simply compliance; it also allows for decision-making, audits, and financial analysis.

Accurate records are essential for tax compliance and regulatory requirements. Stakeholders, lenders, and investors frequently need IA startup's financial records to evaluate its stability and development potential. Well-kept records can speed up and increase confidence during an audit or investor due diligence process. These records include the information required to produce projections, financial strategies, and budgets.

Best Practices for Record Keeping

To establish a robust record-keeping system:

  1. Digitize Documents: To avoid physical clutter and ensure easy access, scan and electronically store paper documents. 
  2. Use Accounting Software: Accounting software automatically organizes and records financial transactions.
  3. Organize by Category: To categorize documents and make it simpler to find particular data, create an organized folder or file structure.
  4. Update Regularly: Update your records frequently whenever any new transactions take place. Don't procrastinate any data entry.
  5. Data backup: Regularly backup digital documents to avoid data loss due to hardware failure or unforeseen circumstances.
  6. Secure Access: Implement stringent cybersecurity measures and restrict access to authorized individuals' financial records.

Tools for Efficient Record Management

Records keeping for startups can be made simpler by several tools and technologies:

  1. Document Management Systems (DMS): DMS software aids in the company's management and security of digital documents, facilitating the retrieval and location of data.
  2. Cloud Storage: Services like Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox offer safe and convenient storage for digital documents.
  3. Accounting Software: Businesses can attach documents to particular transactions using the record management features that are included in many accounting software programs.
  4. Apps for scanning receipts: Businesses can digitally organize and scan receipts using apps like Expensify or Receipts by Wave.

Startups may keep perfect records that serve as a strong financial management and decision-making foundation by putting these best practices into practice and utilizing technology.

Preparing for External Scrutiny: Due Diligence and Audits

During investor reviews and audits, accurate accounting is crucial. The most important step in the investment process is due diligence. Investors carry out due diligence to carefully evaluate a business's operations, risks, and financial stability. 

For several reasons, accurate accounting is a crucial component of due diligence. Investors assess the risk of a potential investment by analyzing the business's financial records. Any financial data that is inaccurate or lacking can create concerns. Furthermore, a startup's valuation must be determined using reliable financial information. A corporation's assets, liabilities, and revenue must be readily apparent to investors. Accurate financial reporting is necessary to assure investors that a company complies with all legal and regulatory standards. Additionally, investors also look for transparency in financial reporting to judge the honesty and openness of a startup.

Whether a startup is looking for investment or not, audit preparation is essential. It exhibits good financial management and prepares the business for expansion and outside inspection. Startups may easily handle due diligence and audits by keeping precise records and abiding by best practices in financial management, preparing themselves for success in both investment and operational growth.

Taxes: More Than Just Filing

Being prepared during tax season is often underestimated. Effective tax planning can have a significant impact on a startup. By minimizing tax liabilities and optimizing tax credits and deductions, startups can allocate more resources to growth and innovation. Organizing your financial records involves more than just crunching numbers. It also includes maintaining compliance, improving financial performance, and positioning your firm for the upcoming year. This is why getting ready for tax season is essential:

  1. Compliance and Avoiding Penalties: Tax compliance is a legal and not discretionary duty. Tax filing errors and late filing can result in significant fines and even legal repercussions. Being prepared for tax season helps you meet deadlines and prevent costly errors.
  2. Making the Most of Deductions: Tax laws are intricate and provide a variety of deductions and credits that can dramatically lower your taxable income. Being organized and knowledgeable will enable you to recognize and take advantage of all allowable tax deductions, allowing your startup to keep more of its hard-earned money.
  3. Effective Tax Planning: The tax season is the best time to start thinking strategically about taxes. By analyzing your finances, you may structure your startup, manage resources, and take advantage of tax-saving opportunities.

Unpacking Tax Credits: Maximizing Benefits for Startups

For entrepreneurs looking to improve their financial health, unpacking tax credits is essential. These credits are crucial resources for startups since they can result in considerable cost reductions and improved cash flow. Startups can maximize benefits, lower tax obligations, and more effectively use resources by thoroughly understanding and strategically utilizing tax credits relevant to their business and industry. Startups can ultimately be empowered to reinvest in growth, innovation, and long-term success by successfully negotiating the complex landscape of tax advantages.

The following are some significant tax credits for businesses to be aware of:

  1. Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit: The R&D tax credit aims to encourage innovation. Startups can use this credit to cover a percentage of their research costs if they are involved in eligible research activities. It's a vital credit that can free up additional study and development funds.

  2. Small Business Health Care Tax Credit: Companies that offer their staff health insurance may be eligible for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. This credit is intended to make healthcare coverage for small businesses more affordable.

  3. Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC): WOTC incentivizes companies to recruit people from specific target demographics, such as veterans and people with disabilities. Startups can use this tax break when hiring qualified workers, offering financial incentives and opportunities to diversify the workforce.

  4. Employee Retention Credit (ERC): This credit is intended to motivate companies, notably startups, to keep workers on board during financial adversities like the global pandemic. It can offer qualified startups significant financial relief. Startups can claim the ERC, a refundable tax credit of up to $7,000 per employee every quarter. Businesses that saw a large drop in gross receipts or were forced to shut down by the government due to the epidemic are eligible for it. The ERC has been extended through 2021 and 2022 and was made retroactively available for 2020, allowing startups to apply for the credit for earlier years. 

Remote Work and Accounting Challenges

Remote work brings new accounting challenges, especially for startups. The COVID-19 pandemic expedited the trend to remote work, and many startups now favor this adaptable employment arrangement. Although working remotely has many benefits, it also presents accounting difficulties. These challenges include managing remote expense reporting and complying with tax laws in several jurisdictions. Startups must adopt reliable accounting software and create precise accounting processes considering remote work conditions to handle these complexities efficiently. By working with cloud-based accounting tools, startups can also streamline their financial operations, assure compliance, and maintain financial transparency among their remote staff.

Strategies for Streamlining Remote Accounting

To get through these challenges, startups can utilize a range of strategies:

  1. Accounting Software with Remote Access: Invest in accounting software that enables remote access and cooperation between team members and accountants to guarantee real-time visibility into financial data.
  2. Expense Policies: Establish explicit expense criteria for remote workers that spell out acceptable spending and reimbursement procedures.
  3. Data Encryption: Use effective data encryption and cybersecurity procedures to protect sensitive financial information.
  4. Keep Communicating: To address accounting concerns quickly, keep lines of communication open with remote team members and accountants.
  5. Training and Education: To reduce errors and compliance risks, teach remote workers on financial policies and processes.

Understanding Key Financial Metrics: EBITDA and Beyond

Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization, or EBITDA, is a financial indicator that significantly impacts how well a business is doing financially and operationally. EBITDA provides a better picture of a company's fundamental profitability and cash flow from operations by removing non-operating costs like interest and taxes, depreciation, and amortization. It offers a standardized measurement of a company's operating efficiency, making it easier to compare the financial performance of numerous organizations across different industries. This makes it a useful indicator for investors, analysts, and business leaders. EBITDA benefits mergers and acquisitions by estimating a company's value and potential for producing cash flows to pay off debt. Although EBITDA offers excellent operational performance, it shouldn't be the only indicator used to assess a company's overall financial health because it might not consider all expenses and obligations.

Other Vital Financial Metrics

Startups should also keep an eye on the following critical financial metrics:

  1. Gross Profit Margin: The percentage of income left over after cutting the cost of goods sold (COGS). A higher gross profit margin indicates better profitability.
  2. Net Profit Margin: The portion of income left over as profit after all costs, including interest, taxes, and operational fees, is the net profit margin. It indicates overall profitability.
  3. Burn Rate: A measure of how quickly a startup spends its money. Monitoring the burn rate is crucial for sustainability and cash flow management.
  4. Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): the price of gaining a new client. To ensure profitability, CAC should be less than a customer's lifetime value (LTV).
  5. Runway: How long a business can survive on its financial reserves before needing fresh capital. Runway assists in determining financial viability.

Outsourcing: When and Why?

Outsourcing accounting relies on the growth stage the business is in, the complexity of financial transactions, and the resources that are accessible. When your business sees rapid growth or your accounts team becomes overburdened with everyday tasks, outsourcing can be cost-effective and reduce the stress on the internal personnel. As your business develops, outsourcing can also be a wise strategic move to access specialist financial expertise and guarantee compliance.

Pros of Outsourcing:

  1. Savings: Outsourcing might be less expensive for small businesses than hiring and keeping an internal accounting team.
  2. Expertise: Outsourcing providers frequently have specific accounting knowledge and can offer suggestions and recommendations to enhance financial management.
  3. Focus on Core Operations: By contracting out accounting work, entrepreneurs can free up significant time and resources to concentrate on their main operations and business expansion.
  4. Scalability: Outsourcing allows startups to scale their accounting services up or down as necessary.

Cons of Outsourcing:

  1. Loss of Control: Outsourcing could reduce your ability to control accounting procedures and data directly.
  2. Confidentiality: Data security and confidentiality concerns arise when sharing private financial information with an outside company.
  3. Communication difficulties: Accurate financial reporting and decision-making depend on effective communication with an outsourced team.
  4. Cost Variability: Although outsourcing might be cost-effective, knowing the pricing structure and any potential variances is essential.

Tackling Accounting and Technical Debt Head-On

There are striking similarities between technical debt and accounting debt in the corporate sector. Similar to how technical debt indicates the results of poor software development processes, such as shortcuts or patchwork solutions, accounting debt refers to unfulfilled financial obligations or improper administration of financial records. Delaying action might result in rising expenses and operational inefficiencies in both situations. Technical debt management requires rigorous software maintenance and restructuring, much as tackling accounting debt necessitates thorough financial management and transparency. In the end, having a strong economic and technological foundation for a business is essential for ensuring long-term sustainability and growth. Recognizing and taking proactive measures to rectify these debts.

Strategies to Mitigate Accounting and Technical Debt

  1. Regular Audits: To ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of financial processes, conduct routine financial audits to spot and correct accounting debt.
  2. Update Accounting Software: Upgrade your accounting software by making an investment to improve financial management and lower accounting debt.
  3. Cybersecurity Enhancements: Implement strong cybersecurity measures to reduce technical debt associated with data security and privacy.
  4. Technology Modernization: To reduce technological debt and guarantee scalability, evaluate and replace old technology systems.
  5. Professional Advice: To properly detect and handle debt, seek the advice of seasoned accountants and technology specialists.

Startups can put themselves in a position for long-term growth and success by taking proactive measures to reduce accounting and technical debt.

Decision Matrix: Hiring an Accountant vs. DIY Approach

Entrepreneurs frequently serve in multiple capacities during the early phases of a business, including that of the company's accountant. But when a business expands, so do its financial responsibilities and legal requirements. At this point, choosing to work with a qualified accountant is essential. Professional accountants contribute experience in tax planning, compliance, and financial management, ensuring that a startup's financial records are correct and compliant with the law. Additionally, they offer helpful information that can influence strategic choices, assisting businesses in overcoming financial obstacles and making decisions that will promote long-term success. While the DIY method may appear more affordable initially, the long-term advantages of working with a qualified accountant can significantly outweigh the costs, making it a wise investment for businesses.

Cost-benefit analysis for startups on a budget

Startups must consider the cost-benefit of employing a professional accountant because they frequently have limited resources. Despite the DIY method's apparent cost-effectiveness, it can also result in inefficiencies, mistakes, and missed growth possibilities. Professional accountants can find tax discounts and financial optimizations that may be worth more than their fees while saving time. Their knowledge protects you from costly errors resulting in legal trouble or financial difficulties. In the end, entrepreneurs should see hiring a qualified accountant as an investment in their long-term success and financial stability, understanding that the advantages of skilled financial management can vastly outweigh the costs, especially for those on a tight budget.

Embracing Finance as a Service (FaaS)

A contemporary method of financial management known as finance as a service (FaaS) uses specialist knowledge and cloud-based technologies to provide financial assistance via subscriptions. FaaS companies offer various services, including financial analysis, strategic planning, accounting, and bookkeeping.

Advantages of FaaS for Startups

  1. Scalability: FaaS services are scalable to meet changing finance needs as a business expands.
  2. Cost-Efficiency: By doing away with internal financial teams, FaaS lowers overhead expenses.
  3. Expertise: Financial specialized knowledge is provided by FaaS providers to guarantee correct reporting and compliance.
  4. Flexibility: To meet their financial needs, startups can select certain FaaS services.
  5. Data accessibility: Cloud-based FaaS services give users immediate access to financial data, facilitating the development of well-informed decisions.

Integrating FaaS with Startup Operations

FaaS seamlessly integrates with other startup operations, fostering collaboration and efficiency. Here's how FaaS can integrate with various aspects of your business:

  1. Financial Data Analysis: FaaS providers offer data analysis and insights that guide the creation of products, the formulation of marketing plans, and the selection of investments.
  2. Fundraising and Investor Relations: FaaS services can help with financial reporting for investors, increasing transparency and building trust.
  3. Planning and Budgeting: FaaS facilitates planning, forecasting, and strategic financial budgeting.
  4. Tax Compliance: Tax compliance is ensured by FaaS providers, assisting startups to optimize deductions and credits.
  5. Financial Management: Profitability and cost control are improved by effective FaaS financial management.
  6. Dashboards and Reporting: FaaS solutions offer specialized financial dashboards and reports, encouraging data-driven decision-making.


The road to startup success is paved with innovation, ambition, and agility. However, to navigate this obstacle effectively, startups must recognize the paramount significance of accounting practices. As startups set on their journeys to make a lasting impact, they must remember that sound accounting is a strategic imperative. Startups can survive and thrive in the dynamic world of innovation and entrepreneurship by embracing accounting proficiency. Building a solid foundation that drives businesses toward sustainable development and long-term success requires constant learning and modification in accounting processes.

We can help!

At Levy, we help early-stage founders streamline and automate regulatory and legal ops, HR, and finance so you can focus on what matters most — your business.

Note: Our content is for general information purposes only. Levy does not provide legal, accounting, or certified expert advice. Consult a lawyer, CPA, or other professional for such services.

Get content like this, and more, sent directly to your inbox once a month.

Thank you for subscribing us!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.


Stressing the details?

Let levy handle this for you.
Learn more
No items found.