How airCFO Played a Role in TruSTAR’s Journey from Startup to Successful Exit via a Fortune 100 Company
We interviewed Patrick Coughlin, CEO and Co-Founder of TruSTAR, a cyber intelligence management platform that helps security teams defend better together by gaining control of their data. They were recently acquired by Fortune 100 company Splunk (2021).
Prior to founding TruSTAR, Patrick led cyber security initiatives in the Middle East as a Director at Good Harbor International. Patrick also led several teams of counterterrorism analysts for Booz Allen Hamilton clients.
Below is Patrick's conversation with Alex Wittenberg, COO of airCFO.
Patrick Coughlin, CEO and Co-Founder of TruSTAR, Interviewed by Alex Wittenberg, COO of airCFO
Q: Tell me a little bit about what your accounting and finance processes looked like before airCFO.
My accounting process before airCFO was a mess. I have tried all accounting solutions under the sun, including doing it myself, buying SaaS solutions, and working with other consultancy contractors, but nothing worked for us. At the same time, we were trying to scale our startup, and that meant I was wearing many different hats. I was finding that I was spending way too much time trying to manage the accounting and the finance instead of getting out and spending time with customers.
Q: How did engaging with airCFO help to solve some of these challenges that you're facing?
I've been working with airCFO for almost seven years and was introduced to airCFO by a friend and a founder who was a customer. When I met the folks of airCFO, I learned that I was able to get the perfect blend of a SaaS Solution and a real partner and advisor for building out the accounting and finance of TruSTAR. The best part of it is you really have this perfect blend of a technology solution that helps you close your books to do forecasting and projections. Then, you also get an advisor and a partner who does really act as your CFO and can really help you guide the business around the financial goals that you're setting.
Q: Could you speak a little bit more about some of the key results that came about and some of the things that airCFO helped with around?
Over the last seven years, my relationship with airCFO evolved. In the early days, it was just about putting in place some processes for paying vendors or sending invoices. But then, as TruSTAR grew and continued to get more traction in the market, our accounting and finance needs also grew. We went from just needing to process invoices and cut invoices to needing to build a complex financial model for fundraising. After raising money and bringing in investors on multiple rounds, we built our own board. That required quarterly meetings in preparing for those and Alex and the rest of the team at airCFO was a partner in that. It's pretty interesting to look at how we engaged 6-7 years ago and how we were just a slide deck and a good idea, and then how we engage now seven years later. And airCFO was a partner through all of that!
Q: What was your team able to accomplish with the time and also the budget that you saved from not having to hire a full-time finance and accounting team?
Cash is king in the early days of the company and arguably, always. Not having to spend a bunch of money on bringing in our in-house accounting and finance folks as we were scaling allowed us to spend money on product development and accelerating our products into the market. We were able to build out a sales and marketing team. For me, it made finance and accounting easier. I got back hours and saved a lot of time because instead of spending time on excel, I was talking to customers. I was able to be traveling, to go and see our team, and to see our product at work.
Q: Could you speak for a minute about some of the value that airCFO provided on that revenue operations front?
As we grew, our need for more rigor around our pipeline, our accounts receivables, and our collections also became incredibly more important. My team grew, and it wasn't just me talking to somebody at airCFO every month or quarter right before the board meeting. We need to do this on a weekly and sometimes, daily basis. And so this means bringing in some more people from my team to work with airCFO. My Chief Revenue Officer and my Head of Business Operations worked very closely with airCFO to put rigor into the revenue operations of TruSTAR. We did that in many different ways, but really the goal was to make sure that we have fidelity in our forecasts, that we are not kidding about our projections, and we could really pass the sniff test when in front of the board and savvy investors and open up the books and say "This is what we're seeing."
Q: Would you recommend airCFO to an early-stage founder looking for finance and accounting help that will scale along with the business? If so, why?
I do recommend airCFO and it's often one of the first steps that I share with early-stage founders. Like stop doing this yourself; there's a better and easier way. When I tell people about airCFO, I say the price is right. You are going to get a good deal, and the value is so clear because what you get is not only a tech solution, but you get a real advisor that can scale with your needs as you go. My needs during day 1 were different from that of Day 100 or 1000, and it still amazes me that we have one partner that whole time; it was airCFO. We changed in a lot of ways, but airCFO was the constant.
Q: What is one thing you want someone who's considering using airCFO to know about the experience of working with them.
I want them to know that they're not gonna find this hybrid solution that everybody needs anywhere else. You need not just a product and tech solution, but you need an advisor and partner that can scale with you. You can be confident that you have a partner who will help you through no matter what the challenge is.
Q: Do you have anything else that you want to add before we ramp today?
You know we have a lot of ups and downs with TruSTAR for sure. We are moving to this next chapter and I can't imagine having gone through that with anybody else. I just appreciate what you did. I've also enjoyed watching airCFO grow. I'm super excited for you to keep growing and keep doing what you do best and keep me posted along the way coz' I'm a fan.
TruSTAR is an example of airCFO's ability to take a company from a couple of co-founders and a slide deck all the way through to an extremely successful exit via a Fortune 100 company.
It was truly an amazing journey and needless to say, airCFO was really excited to be a part of that journey.
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