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Colourful knitting and a knitting needle
iStock_Marie Wurm_AW_knitting

What knitting can teach accounting software vendors


AccountingWEB technology editor Tom Herbert unravels the parable of the tech bros and the knitting website, and examines what it can teach developers looking to enter the world of accounting software.

12th Oct 2023
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Meet Dave Bryant and Mike Jackness, two plucky tech bros just looking to make a buck in this topsy-turvy world. Our e-commerce entrepreneurs hit upon a wheeze to buy the dormant website for $80,000 and flip it into a global behemoth. 

The plan was to leverage the strong domain name to attract knitting enthusiasts with articles, patterns and videos, using it as an SEO-friendly funnel into their actual business – selling cheap imported knitting products on Amazon. They’d done something similar with adult colouring books, so surely it would work with wool?

Unfortunately, they didn’t reckon on the knitting community. If the duo had done their homework, they would have found that knitting has one of the largest, most connected and most vocal online networks of any leisure activity.

After a series of ill-chosen comments on a podcast, where the pair stated it would be easy to disrupt a market full of hobbyists and grandmas, fibre-arts fanatics around the world turned nasty, filling forums and social media with excoriating comments about Bryant and Jackness, and their transparent effort to profit from a pastime they didn’t understand.

For the record, the duo claim they were misrepresented and are only in it for the knitting, and are now quietly getting on with running the site – arguably something they should have done the first time around.

Strong currents in the accountancy ocean

So what does this yarn (sorry) have to do with the accountancy community?

Well, with its steady customer base and reliable income streams, accountancy might look like a similarly decent bet for developers and investors. Phrases like “codified set of rules” and “easily automated” float past my inbox in press releases almost every day, and from the outside, it must look tempting for a tech firm looking for a project. It’s just numbers, right?

But as you probably know, dear reader, under the seemingly calm waters of the accountancy ocean lurk strong currents – and the odd betentacled monster.

Trust is perhaps the biggest issue when it comes to newcomers in the market. Trust that a piece of software will do what it says on the tin and trust that the vendor will be around for the long term. 

Gaining (and keeping) the trust of accountants is perhaps the vendors’ toughest battle. Start off on the wrong foot, as per our knitting speculators above, and it’s a long way back. As one recently told me at a conference, “the four-year sales cycle is real”.

And then there are the regulatory red herrings that crop up with increasing regularity. One example from a recent podcast we recorded concerned an accountant who had spent months migrating to a new anti-money laundering (AML) system. Now confident her firm was on a sure AML footing, she went about her day-to-day work. However, within weeks her supervisory body turned around and insisted she use their AML system instead – something that completely blindsided both her and her software firm. 

Purls of wisdom

The message here isn’t that developers should avoid the accountancy (or knitting) sector — far from it. But as per the parable of the tech bros and the knitting site, it’s important that newcomers do their market research properly, acknowledge the complexities and connections, and are prepared to dig in for the long term. Maybe with a blanket to keep out the cold? Does anyone know a good website for knitting patterns?

Replies (1)

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By WhiteRose
13th Oct 2023 12:48

Yes they caused quite a stir - maybe one of the main lessons to be learned here is not to be rude about your customers!
Ravelry is the main place to go if you are interested...

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