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.
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.”
You might also be interested in
AccountingWEB’s interim Editor in Chief has been with the site since 1999 and returned to the editorial hot seat in March 2020 to lead the hunt for a long-term successor... Send a DM if you're interested! When not tending to the needs of AccountingWEB members and geeking out on their technology habits, he devotes much of his time to his oddball...