Interview: Phil Murphy, co-founder of Senta

Phil Murphy is the co-founder of Senta, a new cloud service to help accountants run their practices smoothly. We learn more about his start-up, where it’s currently at and its future.

TD: Can you tell us more about yourself and what you do, please?

PM: I’m the co-founder of Senta, a new cloud service that helps accountants run their practice. We aim to free accountants from much of the administration in their practice and let them get on with doing what they’re best at. So we look after workflow and tasks, secure document management, CRM, marketing and all the non-accounting things that take up so much time.

TD: What makes your business unique?

PM: There is a lot of well-established software that enables businesses or accountants to manage their accounts. But there’s a real lack of software to help accountants run their practice. Ours is simple to use, was built in the cloud from day one, and has an easy-to-understand licence model.

TD: How does it benefit customers?

PM: It helps our customers manage relationships with their customers, helps them keep track of all the many important deadlines they must deal with, helps them securely exchange information, and helps them gain insight into how well they’re operating their business.

TD: Why did you set it up, and how far have you come?

PM: It all started with a chance conversation – James, my co-founder, was talking with his accountant at the time, who was lamenting the lack of a decent practice management product. So, we started to ask questions and research the market and realised that there was a good opportunity for us.

James and I are both software engineers. We’ve tried to build on our experience in working with clients in diverse areas, and bring that to the accountancy market. Much of the accountancy software seems to be stuck in the old-fashioned world of servers and installations… so we’re trying to deliver an exciting, modern product.

This is a complex area, but we’re making the product simple to use… Hiding away the complexity and doing all the clever stuff behind the scenes is hard!

TD: What’s been your biggest success and your biggest obstacle?

PM: I think our biggest challenge has been in getting the product/market fit right. It’s taken longer than we anticipated, but we now have a product we’re proud of, that’s being used by early adopters, and they’re giving us great feedback.

In September 2015, we successfully closed a funding round on the crowdfunding site Seedrs – we achieved our original target in a matter of weeks, then went on to raise nearly double what we were looking for.

TD: What do you think of the Welsh tech scene?

PM: I’m very excited to be part of the local tech scene. Setting up in Cardiff makes sense: for digital products and services, physical location is less important; we have a local pool of technology-savvy people to work with and bounce ideas off; Cardiff is a great place to live and work.

That said, I find the scene in Bristol even more vibrant as a tech cluster, and it’s a shame that as a modern capital city Cardiff is still lagging behind. I’m hoping we can help with that by “cross-pollinating” some of the networks and meetups.

TD: How is your business contributing to it?

PM: We’re co-located in Bristol and Cardiff, so we are using Cardiff-based copywriters, Cardiff-based UX specialists. But we also want to give something back to the community too, so we’re active members of Cardiff Start, have spoken at some local tech meetups, and are always happy to give tech advice to people looking to create a digital product or service.

TD: Where do you see yourself in five and ten years?

PM: There are many challenges as a startup, but where we’d like to be is a growing, thriving business that’s well respected in the accounting industry, and is seen to have made great improvements in the quality of software used by accountants.

It would be also be great to be a company that Cardiff and Bristol can be proud of, for bringing wealth into the region, not just from the UK, but from around the world. We’ve delivered high-profile projects for clients in all sorts of markets, so to be in the driving seat for a change is really exciting. It’s my dream job.

TD: What advice would you give to someone looking to set up a tech start-up?

PM: Tech startups aren’t just about the tech. We talk to people all the time about tech, and it all comes back to user experience. Users aren’t interested in technology, just how that technology impacts them. Having a cunning idea is great, but can you build that into a compelling product that people want to keep using?

We’re all busy people with finite attention, so beyond the initial “ooh” factor, you’ll need to fit into users’ lives – the best tech is so smooth and seamless you don’t realise how much technology is involved…