Cash is king. For small businesses, this cliché can be the difference between success and failure as 82% of small businesses fail because of cash flow mismanagement, according to a study by U.S. Bank. Led by UC Berkeley Alumni Robbie Bhathal, Brightflow takes the mystery out of finance and empowers small businesses to succeed.
Meet the Founder
After completing his undergraduate at UCLA, Robbie Bhathal began a career in finance working for various venture capital and hedge funds. During this period, he realized that, while he excelled in the business of financial analytics, his extroverted nature allowed him to truly thrive in collaborative environments. This realization, combined with the economic crash of 2008, forced Robbie to reevaluate. He decided to travel and taught accounting and economics to students at Shanti Bhavan school in India. After realigning his goals to pursue business in an operational role, Robbie enrolled in the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley to get his MBA.
After completing his MBA, Robbie spent a few years working in business development and operations before embarking on his first major journey in entrepreneurship. A close friend approached Robbie asking him to be the CEO and Co-Founder of his travel booking company Suiteness (later selected for the Spring ‘16 cohort at Y Combinator). With admittedly little knowledge about the travel industry, Robbie quickly recognized the industry's opportunity for data aggregation and booking arbitrage which sparked his interest enough to accept the offer. While building the financial pipeline for Suiteness, Robbie realized that the tools and methods currently used to manage a business's financials were often insufficient and far too complex for someone without a financial background. With the only available options being to hire an expert to manage finances in-house or outsource to an expensive accounting firm—Robbie recognized the need for a better solution.
The Beginning of Brightflow
As Robbie continued his work with Suiteness, the idea of an easy-to-use financial management tool for businesses brewed. Robbie contends, however, that there were a few other "nodes of aggregation" which allowed the idea to become a reality. First, the accessibility of data in all fields has increased exponentially over the past decade. The ability for a financial application to have constant access to the company's financial data meant it could provide the real-time analysis Robbie found so valuable. Second, the increase in volume of small-businesses as a result of companies like Shopify and Amazon provided assurance that the market was there. Boosted by the pandemic and widespread shift to e-commerce, in the six weeks between the start of lockdowns and April 24, 2020, the number of new stores using Shopify’s e-commerce platform rose 62% compared with the six prior weeks.
To Robbie, more small businesses means more competition and, thus, higher cost per acquisition meaning "understanding and managing your [business's] finances is more important than ever before." Finally, Robbie recognized a gap that needed to be filled. While numerous companies like Mint and Credit Karma are providing financial tools for individuals, few to none are doing the same for small businesses. Inspired by Robbie's passion for democratizing finance and empowering small businesses, Brightflow AI was born.
"The ability for people to create their own business has never been easier"
Brightflow is a cash flow management software designed to empower small business owners to succeed even without a business degree. The software handles the complex financial calculations providing only the most important insights for the business. Brightflow answers high-impact questions like "What can I do to improve cash flow?", "How much inventory should I buy?" and "Do I have enough cash to hire people or sign a contract?". With Brightflow, businesses can access important financial data in real-time. E-commerce businesses gain additional value through Brightflow's direct integrations with Shopify and Amazon. Brightflow also leverages machine learning algorithms to generate forecasts of sales, expenses and cash flow allowing business owners to monitor cash risks and plan intelligently for the future. On top of everything, Brightflow provides key insights to extend working capital and keep cash in the business.
"We are at the very beginning of an industry change and the very beginning of our company"
Having recently graduated from Berkeley’s startup accelerator, SkyDeck, Brightflow is currently working with a handful of beachhead customers and some seed funding to build and expand their product to meet the changing needs of this growing industry. Robbie explains that the biggest challenge is adapting to the countless variables that impact a business's financials. Ultimately, Robbie Bhathal and Brightflow AI intend to provide automated financial intelligence to business owners around the world, demystifying and democratizing finance.