A watercooler moment with… Darren Fell

A watercooler moment with Darren Fell, founder and managing director of online accountancy service, Crunch Accounting

A watercooler moment with... Darren Fell

In a nutshell, what does Crunch do?

Crunch is an online accountancy firm. We do everything. The reason people get so confused with online accountancy is that they buy it for £25 a month before realising they need a traditional accountant as well. I wanted to change everything by providing 100% of the service the client needed.

Where did the idea come from?

Steven Crouch, who’s our head of accountancy and ex-HMRC, was talking to one of his customers about a freelancer- or contractor- friendly system. They sat down with me and asked what I thought. The more I thought about it, I realised that I didn’t want it to be just the same as the other online software firms; it needed to be the accountants and the software all at one fixed price.

When did you start up?

July 2007.

How has it gone so far?

It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I know how to build a software firm but to build an accountancy practice on top was incredibly hard work; we needed to find internet-savvy accountants who didn’t want to go in the old way of doing things. But from that point on, although it was very hard work, it got easier and easier, and today we have 4,000 customers and a team of 88. 

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

The biggest challenge was to actually create a service that wasn’t just software. It was a mix of humans and software, designed so that everything ran like clockwork and delivered something as complicated as tax really efficiently.

How does Crunch differentiate itself from the competition?

Some of the bigger accountants have tried to copy us but they haven’t done it quite right. Our system can do an interim set of accounts, a full set of accounts, in two seconds. No other system in the world can do that. And it’s still the most cost-effective in the marketplace; it’s still the cheapest.

What is the best decision you have made to-date?

We could have just been another software provider and we would have been fighting with all of the other guys. But I don’t want to do anything the same; it has to be disruptive. Being properly disruptive and adding the accountants into the software was the best decision I’ve made.

Where will the business be in 12 months’ time?

In 12 months’ time, we should have around 6,500 customers. There are millions of people going for it now and setting up a small business. So it’s a fantastic time to help people with the most painful thing in their business’ lives: the accounts. We’re heading in the direction to be the number one small business accountant in the UK.

If you had one piece of advice for entrepreneurs, what would it be?

Don’t get caught up in the idea. The idea you start with is never the idea that you end up with. Go with your gut feeling, just do something and the real idea will emerge as you start doing it. It’s about momentum. Just get going. 

Josh Russell
Josh Russell

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