Apron lands £12m funding and launches client hubby
Payments specialist Apron has raised £12m in new investment and announced the launch of its new hub, where accounting firms can manage tasks from a single location. The developer also hinted that it will be releasing a receipt capture and categorisation tool in 2024.
In a statement accompanying the news, the fintech firm stated that it plans to use the funding to develop new products to support its accountant and bookkeeper partners and streamline and manage payments for their small business clients.
New client payments hub
Apron also announced the launch of its first major new product, Apron Hub. The hub is designed to support accounting practices with multiple team members who serve hundreds of clients who require assistance handling their transactions.
It centralises clients and tasks in a single location and allows accountants and bookkeepers to:
- see all pending payment tasks on one page
- add team members and assign them clients and roles – these roles include the ability to pay, approve and change bank details, and can be customised by users in an administrator role
- set up workflows, for example, a customised chain of approvals that has to happen every time a client bill is paid. Once set up in Apron Hub this can be applied to all bill payments across any number of clients.
“The hub was built out of necessity,” Apron’s founder and CEO Bogdan Uzbekov told AccountingWEB. “Our accountants and bookkeepers needed better visibility, to see all pending payments on one page across clients, better workflows and the ability to set up their practice team with customised roles.
“It’s essentially a collection of shortcuts,” continued Uzbekov. “Before it, if you made payments on behalf of hundreds of clients you needed to go inside every client in the app and check each client. In simple terms, the hub saves you clicks.”
Apron Hub is live today, and all Apron accounting and bookkeeping partners have instant access.
A snappy innovation planned
Next on the product slate for the payments provider will be Apron Snap – a tool that captures invoices instantly and automatically.
Currently in development, the developer claims Apron Snap will:
- fetch invoices from across the system
- capture the invoice information
- automatically categorise the invoice
- feed the data into bookkeeping software like Xero or QuickBooks.
Users will be able to pair the tool with the rest of Apron or use it on its own. At this stage no pricing details have been released, although the vendor told AccountingWEB it will be priced “reasonably and transparently, at the same rate to all partners”.
“Because we already have OCR [optical character recognition] capabilities, and because our partners are asking for it, this makes sense for our product,” said Uzbekov. “We’re currently not capturing the invoices themselves – we’re often getting them from the ledger.
“The current dynamics of the market are pushing us to do it and it’s a great opportunity for us,” he continued. “We want to build an end-to-end workflow, from capture and categorisation to approvals and payments. The accounting tech industry has stopped innovating and we want to raise the bar.”
Proprietary payment rails
Following its launch earlier this year, Apron has attempted to differentiate itself from other payment tools in the accounting tech ecosystem through its proprietary payments platform and end-to-end payments workflow.
Unlike other providers, Apron doesn’t use a wallet or Open Banking solution and instead relies on its own bespoke banking rails to make payments, regardless of which bank the customer uses.
In a similar way to the GoCardless system (but in reverse), when a customer wants to pay multiple suppliers at one time in Apron, the tool takes the total amount from the customer’s bank and instantly disperses it.
Open Banking is available for supported accounts or, if unavailable, via instant bank transfer. Apron can also make payments globally, with access to more than 150 countries and more than 30 currencies.
This solution allows Apron customers to avoid the batch payment issues some Open Banking users run into, and swerve the added complexities of wallet solutions, which require additional know-your-customer (KYC) checks, regular topping up and configuration of bank feeds.
Good companies still get investor attention
The £12m Series A investment comes from VC fund Index Ventures, whose previous fintech investments include listed foreign exchanged fintech Wise, point-of-sale giant Zettle and global neobank Revolut.
With global VC funding levels falling for six consecutive quarters, the investment marks out business-to-business (B2B) payments as a particular area of interest for investors.
“We were expecting a long, drawn-out process and had been planning for months but in the end, we closed the round relatively quickly,” said Uzbekov. “Investors are still in the market, they’re just a bit more discerning. The good companies still get the attention, the trick is to be that good company.”