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Bokio brings free accounts software to UK

Founded in response to a Swedish businessman’s frustration with the tax filing system, the free Bokio (pronounced “book-io”) cloud accounting system is now taking on the UK market.

25th Sep 2019
Head of Insight AccountingWEB
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Bokio co-founder Viktor Stensson: bringing free accounting to the UK
Viktor Stensson_Bokio
Bokio co-founder Viktor Stensson: bringing free accounting to the UK

Employing machine learning for automatic categorisation, Bokio pared the bookkeeping process down with a typically minimal Scandinavian design ethic. The software includes an automated invoicing system and a smartphone app that captures transactions and automatically recognises amounts and dates. “Smart templates” handle the categorisation process.

The outputs include balance sheet and profit and loss reports along with MTD-compliant VAT returns.

What sets Bokio apart most, however, is that it is available for free. The company’s revenue comes from premium services offered alongside the accounting application. The first upgrades include premium support with faster replies and more individual attention.

For example, if Bokio spots that something important has been missed out of the business accounts, or if a client has been overcharged, it will create a prompt for attention in the user’s to-do list, said Bokio co-founder Viktor Stensson.

For the initial UK launch, the software offers a £25/month accounting partner service for sole traders (or £50/month for limited companies) that includes company formation and registration with HMRC, migrating existing accounts to Bokio, management accounts, statutory filings (including MTD for VAT) and unlimited access to a personal adviser. The service also includes an accounts review.

In Sweden, where the company boasts a 10% share of the accounting software market, the premium options extend to full outsourced bookkeeping and advice, backed with analytic benchmarks for business performance. Invoice finance and loans to help with short-term cashflow are available, along with links to pensions providers and lawyers.

“We help with audit and advisory too. Those things are live and similar things will happen in the UK,” said Stensson.

Bokio’s “freemium” pricing approach means that there are some things the software doesn’t do, such as payroll, live bank feed connections, multicurrency or issuing purchase orders and quotes.

Challenge to existing suppliers

As a management consultant running his own company, Stensson was frustrated by the experience of completing his tax return and saw the opportunity for a new approach to accounting. He started Bokio with chief technology officer Mikael Eliasson. “He’s a great engineer and I’m from business and finance,” said Stensson.

“No one in the market was solving the problems properly. Everyone was trying to charge as much from customers for something that really doesn’t bring proper value. Charging money up front wasn’t the way to go. We wanted to make something dramatically different to be truly on the entrepreneur’s side.”

The machine-learning driven smart templates were a way to “detraumatise the whole charade of accounts, which can be quite expensive if you haven’t ever done them,” said Stensson.

To avoid presenting users with a mystery set of results, the software includes a layer so they can see what’s going on, he added.

After entering the UK market in the first quarter of 2019, Bokio has gained around 1,200 customers among small business, consultancies and small businesses with 10 or so employees. “We are significantly larger in Sweden, but we’re seeing good growth figures and happy customers coming in from the UK. That’s how you win share in this market – having happy customers,” said Stensson.

Introducing a wider menu of support and outsourcing services will take a little time. “It’s not fully built out yet. We’re leading with the product and making sure it’s the best solution for UK customers. We’re here for the long run and want to get customers’ trust before we start advancing into other areas,” he said.

The UK is an attractive market for Bokio, even if the current circumstances are not ideal. Beyond the European Union, there is also the matter of off-payroll rules for private sector employers, which could restrict the freelance contractor market.

“We’re not too worried about that,” said Stensson. “We don’t only serve the one-man shows. Whatever happens with regulation, macroeconomic factors and Brexit is outside our control. We have a very adaptable system, so we are in a position to adapt very quickly to market conditions and regulations that change.”

Replies (31)

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By AnnAccountant
25th Sep 2019 21:26

Free now. It will cost you a lot later once the competition has folded. That's the modern tech business model.

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Replying to AnnAccountant:
Dan
By danstopp1
26th Sep 2019 09:46

Hi Ann,

We understand your concern as many other tech businesses are applying this model, but as stated in the article, we promise to be free forever.

We feel that business owners should only have to pay for things that provide direct value to their business. Instead, what we plan to provide, and are already providing in Sweden, tailor-made suggestions of actions you can take to improve your business performance, including financial services that we will get a revenue share from. In Sweden these include accounting services, preparation and submission of year-end accounts, help setting up employee contracts, invoice financing etc. These additional services will always be optional and the free accounting software will always be available to you free of charge.

Please let me know if you would like to know more about this.

Many thanks,
Dan at Bokio

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Replying to AnnAccountant:
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By Vallery Lee
28th Sep 2019 10:56

Cynical?

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By indomitable
26th Sep 2019 12:27

Have to say I was intrigued and so created a free account and had a look around. All I can say is no wonder it's free. It is very basic and not easy to navigate and I would say not very intuitive.

From my cursory look and I have to say this a cursory look:

I couldn't even manage to send out an invoice as it kept saying 'domestic payment method not set' and I couldn't see how to rectify this quickly - why would you even need to set this up?

The chart of accounts appears to be fixed cannot add new accounts but you can import one.

Cannot connect bank feeds

receiptbank and auto-entry do NOT connect to this.

Seems VERY basic

As I have said I have not tested it out this is my brief look but I have many years experience in assessing software

This is not a piece of software for a small business. It may be attractive to very small freelancers and as with everything they are trying to make money by selling clients bookkeeping, accounting and tax compliance.

So my second question about this would be what experience have they got in accounting and tax compliance in the UK? They do not appear to be regulated by any governing body.

I may be wrong but good luck to any clients that sign up

I would also add that Freeagent is also FREE if you set up an account with Nat West or RBS and it is very good software

Most well established small business software is also cheap around £10 per month for small businesses and they have a long pedigree

So I can't see any value here.

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By indomitable
26th Sep 2019 12:37

was intrigued so I set up a free account and had a brief look. From what I have seen this is a very basic piece of software

Not easy to navigate
Cannot connect bank feeds
Fixed chart of accounts
cannot connect receiptbank/ Auto entry

Freeagentt is also FREE if you set up an account with RBS Nat West and it is really good software

Also what experience does Bokio have in uk accounting and tax compliance, are they regulated?

Good luck to anyone who signs up

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Replying to indomitable:
Dan
By danstopp1
26th Sep 2019 13:42

Thanks for your comment.

We are constantly working on improving our software and are we are grateful for all the feedback we can get so that we can further improve according to our customers' needs.

Regarding Bank Feeds, this is our number 1 priority and we will have it live in the coming months. In the mean time, you have the ability to import transactions from your bank manually by simply copying and pasting.

Regarding your feedback on chart of accounts, we feel that it makes it simpler for small businesses with limited accounting experience to have a standardised set of accounts, however this is something we will continue to review.

We don't feel the need to integrate with Receipt Bank/ Auto Entry since we already have our own receipt uploading tool where our AI automatically reads the amount and payment date.

Regarding our UK accounting experience, this is something that we think is important. I am a qualified accountant and have worked in Accounting practices in the UK for 5 years, so I am aware of the importance to have an accounting software that is designed for the UK market.

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Replying to danstopp1:
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By indomitable
26th Sep 2019 14:33

Dan sorry to be sceptical, but you work for Bokio your opinions are hardly objective.

Myself, I have been Qualified Chartered Accountant for nearly 30 years, I own & run a practice, my firm is regulated by the ICAEW, we provide independent advice

We constantly review different bookkeeping software, especially when they appear to indicate that they are in some way better than the other current suppliers or offering something to the market that other are not.

This is invariably not the case. when I read

"What sets Bokio apart most, however, is that it is available for free. The company’s revenue comes from premium services offered alongside the accounting application. The first upgrades include premium support with faster replies and more individual attention"

Well so is FREEAGENT a far better piece of software
VT transaction plus is free if you pay for the statutory accounts production software

To name two, so this is not true

“We help with audit and advisory too. Those things are live and similar things will happen in the UK,”

Really? Are you authorised to perform audits in the UK? I cannot see your logo saying you are regulated to carry out audit business by the ICAEW or ACCA or any of the bodies that are allowed to do this. Or are you just going to refer them to an audit firm in which case you are nothing but a middle man.

"As a management consultant running his own company, Stensson was frustrated by the experience of completing his tax return and saw the opportunity for a new approach to accounting."

This is WHAT you pay an accountant and tax advisor to do, WHAT are you offering that is anything NEW apart from saying you will do this as opposed to any other accountants.

And exactly what qualification do you hold, do you hold a practising certificate and is Bokio regulated by an accounting body?

This makes me laugh!

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Replying to indomitable:
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By Vallery Lee
28th Sep 2019 11:04

I would just like to add that Pandle also offers a free account which is very useable. The paid account is better at £5 + VAT per monh. I have partnered with them and my only criticism is that it is cloud based and does not offer a backup option - just in case - the internet does go down where I live.

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By MailPilot
26th Sep 2019 12:55

Not taking the negative approach, I'm impressed with the business ethic/model and, beyond entry level bookkeeping services, I have no problem being asked to pay for what might add extra value to the business process. I intend to try it and then get round the table with my bookkeeping and accounting chums and see how (and who) it might suit best.

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By godwinsj.hotmail.com
26th Sep 2019 14:30

Hi

I may be missing something but there whole business model is based on selling there add-ons which are currently accountancy services at set fees , why would any accountant recommend this software?

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Replying to godwinsj.hotmail.com:
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By Fredrik Edén
26th Sep 2019 21:49

Hi,

Bokio does not have any intention to compete against accountants in the UK, but rather to cooperate. We see many values that accountants can bring that a software cannot, such as advisory services and a personal connection with business owners. It is the reason why we successfully cooperate with accountants in Sweden. This has resulted in increased profit margins, higher efficiency and happier customers both for the accounting firm and for Bokio. Our intention is to seek similar cooperations in the UK.

If you have further questions about Bokio, including business model, I am more than happy to assist.

Sincerely,
Fredrik at Bokio

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Replying to Fredrik Edén:
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By godwinsj.hotmail.com
27th Sep 2019 08:23

Hi

So why on your add-ons page are you offering to do accounts, quoting starting prices if you are not looking to compete. You are clearly offering accountancy services.

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Replying to Fredrik Edén:
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By indomitable
27th Sep 2019 12:33

"For the initial UK launch, the software offers a £25/month accounting partner service for sole traders (or £50/month for limited companies) that includes company formation and registration with HMRC, migrating existing accounts to Bokio, management accounts, statutory filings (including MTD for VAT) and unlimited access to a personal adviser. The service also includes an accounts review."

And you just said you are NOT COMPETING. In polite terms this is MISLEADING. One is the truth and the other isn't.

The fact is you are competing so why say you are not above? This does not instil trust in your brand

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Replying to indomitable:
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By Fredrik Edén
30th Sep 2019 08:19

What I mean by not competing is that our intention is to cooperate with accountants and create an appealing offer not only for small businesses but also for accountancy firms. It is why we have developed a back-office system designed for accountants. As stated in the comment above, this has resulted in increased productivity, higher profit margins, and happier customers for the accountants that we are collaborating with in Sweden.

So, If you have any feedback about what needs you have from an accounting back-office solution, or what would make up an appealing offer to accountancy firms, you are welcome to reach out to me at [email protected].

Sincerely,
Fredrik

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
26th Sep 2019 15:48

There is certainly a bit area underneath the crazy pricing levels of Xero for a decent functionality software for small business cloud software.

Id would would have over 100 clients ready to move from spreadsheets to the cloud if it was (say) £5 a month, but at nearly £30/month for Xero there is no business case for a couple of hours of time saved a year. You need something fairly simple to use for this market, quite possibly laid out like an old school extended TB teed off the bank account.

Not sure however if i want to be constantly flogged 'add ons' such as factoring debt and the like. I wouldn't go to a restaurant that did free food, but charged £50 for a wee, id rather just pay for the food.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By indomitable
26th Sep 2019 16:14

Again Freeagent is FREE if you have a bank account with Nat West RBS, Pandle is free and the pro version £5 per month, Zoho books starts at £6 per month, rekon software starts at £3 and the essentials version £8.

I have looked at them all. So what are Bokio claiming?

Personally if clients are worrying about £20 per month and they are in business they shouldn't be in business and are just the type that just pick things on price. Far better to pay a little more for better software, it's also tax deductible so only really costs 81%

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
By Glenn Martin
26th Sep 2019 16:17

Nearly £30??

Xero standard is £24 before your discounts

If you have small clients who don't need sales and purchase ledgers there is cashbook xero for £5 which works with a bank feed.

As for time savings its a lot more than a few hours per year they save.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By Fredrik Edén
26th Sep 2019 21:48

Hi,

I am pleased to see that you are interested in finding a priceworthy accounting software to manage your clients. Bokio sees many values that accountants can bring to a business that a software cannot, such as advisory services and a personal connection with business owners. This is why Bokio is currently cooperating with accountants in Sweden. This has resulted in increased profit margins, higher efficiency and happier customers both for the accounting firm and for Bokio.

Our intention is to never push add-ons if we do not think that a business could save costs our improve its performance by choosing to sign the add-on.

If you are interested in what cooperation with Bokio could involve, you are welcome to contact me at [email protected].

Sincerely,
Fredrik at Bokio

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By Glenn Martin
26th Sep 2019 16:28

Its like a Turkey voting for Christmas.

Why would accountants put their clients onto this system for free, so this guy can pitch them to do your accounts for £50 pm, which is way below market rates, and without a proven record or regulation in the UK.

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Replying to Glennzy:
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By indomitable
26th Sep 2019 16:49

Trouble with the UK market is it's not regulated! Any chancer can set themselves up.

Invent a problem then convince people you are solving it!

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Replying to indomitable:
By Glenn Martin
26th Sep 2019 16:56

For me you need to be a software vendor or an accountant.

If you are running a loss leader like this to try and pick up accountancy its a very expensive way of doing it I suspect.

Just charge for the software and get UK partners to use it, but don't bite the hand that feeds you.

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Replying to Glennzy:
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By indomitable
26th Sep 2019 17:23

Totally agree with that. For me I always laugh at the marketing claims that many new entrants make as if they are revolutionising the industry. It's invariably the same product solving the same old problems and usually not better but worse.

There are many good small business software providers in the market so I agree with you I can't see how their business model can work.

If they are trying to be accountants they will need to have the qualifications and experience if they want to break into that market. Alot of competition.

If they want to be software vendors I don't think they will ever be as good as the main players in the SME market.

I can't see the problem they are claiming to solve

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Replying to Glennzy:
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By Fredrik Edén
27th Sep 2019 08:04

Hi Glenn,

Bokio does not have any intention to compete against accountants in the UK, but rather to cooperate. We see many values that accountants can bring that a software cannot, such as advisory services and a personal connection with business owners. It is the reason why we successfully cooperate with accountants in Sweden. The outcome has been increased profit margins, higher efficiency and happier customers both for the accounting firm and for Bokio. We intend to seek similar cooperations in the UK.

If you have further questions about Bokio, including business model, I am more than happy to assist.

Sincerely,
Fredrik at Bokio

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Replying to Fredrik Edén:
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By indomitable
27th Sep 2019 13:36

Are you selling compliance services?

If you don't know what this means, this means statutory accounts production and filing, corporation & VAT tax return filing, self-assessment filing to name a few.

Are you offering these? If so you are competing. Do you understand this Fredrik?

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Replying to indomitable:
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By johnhemming
27th Sep 2019 14:15

I would think they fall into behind required to satisfy AML procedures.

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By AndrewV12
27th Sep 2019 11:19

Extract above
'For the initial UK launch, the software offers a £25/month accounting partner service for sole traders (or £50/month for limited companies'

Just 6 paragraphs into the article the name of the article 'Bokio brings free accounts software to UK' is already looking daft.

I am glad of new lower cost Accountancy software providers, hopefully it will start the process of killing off Iris, don't get me wrong Iris is very good, but its even more expensive.

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Replying to AndrewV12:
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By Fredrik Edén
30th Sep 2019 13:03

Hi Andrew,

I just wanted to provide a clarification of our pricing model.

The full functionality of the software will always be free if you want to manage your accounting by yourself, which is not the case when looking at most other software providers.

If you don't already have an accountant and want to hire one to do the job for you, the price starts at £25/month for sole traders and £50/month for limited companies.

Sincerely,
Fredrik

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Replying to Fredrik Edén:
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By godwinsj.hotmail.com
30th Sep 2019 12:51

Hi Fredrik

I think you are missing the point here!

For example you want accountants to sign up there clients with you, say they are charging clients £75 per month, clients see your offer £50 per month , client puts pressure on accountant to lower price or perhaps goes to you anyway.

Why on earth would any Accountant support your software, there is absolutely no advantage for the accountant.

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Replying to Fredrik Edén:
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By godwinsj.hotmail.com
30th Sep 2019 12:51

Hi Fredrik

I think you are missing the point here!

For example you want accountants to sign up there clients with you, say they are charging clients £75 per month, clients see your offer £50 per month , client puts pressure on accountant to lower price or perhaps goes to you anyway.

Why on earth would any Accountant support your software, there is absolutely no advantage for the accountant.

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By indomitable
30th Sep 2019 15:33

I don't think Bokio have grasped any of the issues here at all judging by their responses to comments or maybe they are just ignoring them.

I must say I don't understand why they are on this forum. What did they expect!

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Replying to indomitable:
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By pedre
30th Sep 2019 16:47

Many prospects think the industry is completely even - that there is no difference in good and bad service. If someone says they're an accountant, that makes them the same as the other accountants right?

I really loathe to see this race to the bottom mentality and I will not be recommending anyone use this.

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