When talking about the SaaS accounting space in the UK, three companies get all the mentions – but beyond Xero, FreeAgent and KashFlow exists another couple of players that are working away at building viable businesses. It seems like time for an update on those two companies.

First up, ClearBooks more coverage of them here)

ClearBooks stole some thunder from all the other UK based players when they announced that they were the first UK based online accounting system to deliver automatic feeds (clarification, Xero has automatic bank feeds but isn’t a UK based vendor). Autobank feeds are part of the value proposition for accounting applications, for the uninitiated, instead of having to log into online banking and download a bank statement before importing it into the application, users are now welcomed every morning by their latest transactions, directly in the application dashboard. It really is an amazing timesaver and a feature that, of itself, justifies the move to SaaS.

ClearBooks have partnered with US based online banking intermediary Yodlee to enable feeds for its customers from;

  • RBS
  • Barclays
  • Natwest
  • Santander
  • Lloyds
  • Halifax
  • Band of Scotland
  • FirstDirect
  • HSBC

Aside from the Yodlee integration, ClearBooks is now boasting 2000 customers overall. While straight out customer numbers aren’t overly meaningful (revenue per user being a much better measure), it is one way of measuring scale and presence within a market. ClearBooks 2000 number compares with around 10000 paying customers for competitor KashFlow.

Interestingly, Xero doesn’t break out numbers across regions, Xero seems to discount the use of regional customer number comparisons, although it must be noted that Xero themselves crow about overall global customer numbers – currently at around 45000

The second update is for LiquidAccounts (more on them here)

Liquid was the first company to be accredited by the new BASDA (Business Application Software Developers Association) Cloud Vendor Charter. One point of difference for Liquid is an import service foe Sage customers, as well as this, Liquid guarantees that you can export your data whenever you like as well (just hope your replacement vendor uses a similar data structure and allows for the importation of data).

Liquid is about to launch version 8 of their product which includes a number of additional modules including;

  • Contact management
  • Timesheeting
  • Stock control
  • Job costing
  • Invoice scanning and uploading to the app

Liquid have also recently entered into a partnership with UK company formation agent @UK PLC to launch www.cloud-start-up.com, a service that brings together some basic company formation activities with a SaaS accounting application. The idea being that companies have a similar set of needs upon startup and that these can be fulfilled by one provider, this package gives UK business the ability to obtain;

  • UK company formation
  • A UK domain name
  • Webmail Service
  • A basic website
  • Membership to a “business club”

It’s another take on the oft-attempted “business in a box” concept – The contention that SMBs need a packaged diverse set of services is a valid one, MYOB recently produced this video showing how New Zealand and Australian companies are using (and more importantly not using) a web presence.

It has to be said that many companies have tried these one-stop-shop solutions but they’ve tended to be two simple for businesses in the real world. That said, for companies already using the @UK PLC service, they are able to obtain LiquidAccounts at a reduced add on fee of £15 or so per month, a discount on Liquid’s usual rate. If the marketing of this alliance is anything to go by, it may well be a pretty shoddy offering – the website was full of spelling errors, there was lots of information missing, and a bunch of dead links – makes me surmise that this “partnership” was something dreamed up over a couple of pints, primarily to gain some kind of short term marketing “pop”.

In terms of market development, Liquid is saying that their;

…monthly sales have trebled since we launched v7 earlier this year.  Our client base is now in the thousands,  and we have approximately 400 accountancy partners in the UK, and over 100 resellers. Some of our resellers white-label Liquid and we have several more in the pipeline.  We have clients in approximately 10 countries including England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, USA, Switzerland, and France.  We also have a number of accredited partners and trainers (mainly accountants) around England and Scotland.

The UK SMB Accounting space is a pretty busy place – much more so than in the US despite the differences in relative market size. It’ll be interesting to see if we see any degree of consolidation or rationalization going forwards.





Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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