The Backbone: a journey inside finance at a startup

The Backbone: a journey inside finance at a startup

The Backbone explores the journey inside finance at high-growth technology startups. Our host Shubham Datta interviews finance leaders at various stages of emerging technology companies to find out their story, key financial and operating metrics they track, how they measure them and what their biggest challenges are. Hear directly from finance leaders at tech startups who are in there day in and day out, serving as the backbone of their company. For more information, check out the


August 11, 2021 25 min

Julian Rowlands, VP Finance at Spruce

I chat with Julian about:
  • His career journey from a History major before going to business school at uChicago to becoming the VP Finance at Spruce.
  • Spruce — what the company does and what it’s all about.
  • Structuring and growing the finance function for scale at growth stage company. When Julian joined Spruce, the company was 75 employees. Since then, the company has tripled, growing to 250 folks....
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    Jeff Epstein, Operating Partner at Bessemer Venture Partners & Co-CEO and CFO at Apex Technology Acquisition  Corp. (Nasdaq: APXT)

    I chat with Jeff about:
  • His career journey from investment banking to operating, including stops at various technology and media companies to now serving as an operating partner at Bessemer Venture Partners.
  • Apex Technology Acquisition Corp, a SPAC that recently announced its merger with AvePoint — t...
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    Ivan Makarov, VP Finance at Webflow

    Ivan is an experienced finance executive with over 15 years of professional experience in the internet industry building finance teams and functions inside global tech companies. He has served as a VP Finance for SmugMug and Flickr for a period of 8 years, prior to joining Webflow.

    At Webflow, Ivan leads all of the accounting, financial planning, business operations, legal, corporate and tax comp...

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    Sruthi Lanka, CFO at Public

    As CFO, Sruthi oversees finance, data, and people operations. Prior to Public, she served as VP and Head of Strategic Finance at MoneyLion, the fintech startup and challenger bank. She was MoneyLion’s first finance hire in 2017 following its Series A, and built the team that forecasts and monitors the firm’s financial performance, overseeing financial planning, capital optimization, fundraising, and Boar...

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    Joining me on this episode of the Backbone is Blaine Fitzgerald, EVP Finance & Incoming CFO at Kinaxis (TSX:KXS), a company that revolutionizes planning by delivering the agility you need to make fast, confident decisions in an unpredictable world.

    I chat with Blaine about:
  • His career journey having started his career in accounting with stints at Collins Barrow, EY and Deloitte. From there Blaine held roles at CMHC before makin...
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    Joining me on this episode of the Backbone is Naeem Ishaq, CFO at Checkr, the leading technology company in the background check industry.

    At Checkr, Naeem leads finance, facilities, and data operations teams, responsible for financial strategy and planning, corporate development, and optimizing Checkr’s financial performance for long-term growth.

    Naeem has nearly 20 years of leadership experience at companies like Circle, Salesfor...

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    Dennis Kavelman, Partner at Inovia Capital (Former CFO / COO at Blackberry)

    I chat with Dennis about:
  • His 15 year run as the CFO and COO of Blackberry after joining the company when it was virtually unknown, with just 20 employees and roughly $2-million in revenue back in 1995. During this time Blackberry grew to more than 15,000 employees and sales of $20B. Dennis had a front-row seat for the company’s explosive growth from startu...
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    Curt Sigfstead, CFO at Clearbanc

    I chat with Curt about:
  • His career journey that led him to the CFO seat at Clearbanc. Prior to joining Clearbanc, Curt was the Head of Technology Investment Banking for the West Coast at JP Morgan. Over the last 22 years while he was there, Curt led over $200B of technology M&A transactions and over 80 technology IPOs, follow-ons and private placements — a tremendous feat.
  • What Clearbanc does and...
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    Etienne St-Martin, Director of Finance at Roadmunk

    I chat with Etienne about:
  • His career journey from Deloitte to Freshbooks to becoming the Director of Finance at Roadmunk.
  • What Roadmunk does and what it’s all about.
  • Building a finance function and deciding what aspects to do in-house vs outsource.
  • How seasonality may affect pricing and packaging SaaS businesses that serve both the SMB and enterprise markets. Both Freshbooks and Road...
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    Brian Montminy, CFO at Lessonly

    I chat with Brian about:
  • His career journey starting as a consultant with Accenture, followed by 5 years at JP Morgan Chase before taking the plunge into tech with Salesforce where he held various roles in the finance and strategy team.
  • What Lessonly does and what it’s all about.
  • Risk aversion and why finance leaders are less likely to take on personal risk as a finance leader.
  • How Brian has had to evol...
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    Tim Compton, SVP of Finance at ActiveCampaign

    I chat with Tim about:
  • His career journey from EY to the transition into tech including stints at Google, Groupon and Geofeedia, before taking on his current role at ActiveCampaign.
  • What ActiveCampaign does and what it’s all about.
  • Comparing ActiveCampaign’s hyper-growth to Groupon and what it means for the finance function. For context, ActiveCampaign crossed some impressive milestones. ...
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    Aly Khan Musani, CFO at Symend

    I chat with Aly about:
  • His career journey starting in the energy and natural resources sector with various progressive roles in finance including serving as the CFO of CleanTek Industries, prior to joining Symend.
  • What Symend does and what it is all about.
  • Aly’s perspective on “data is the new oil” having worked in the energy and natural resources sector, who’s now the CFO of a company driven by data. H...
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    Rob Froment, CFO at Clio

    I chat with Rob about:
  • His career journey starting in public practice at Grant Thornton before taking on various progressive finance leadership roles within tech companies and he ended up as the CFO at Clio.
  • What Clio does and what it is all about.
  • Clio’s fascinating pricing model which includes aspects of freemium, self-serve vs sales assisted, and account growth through seat expansion . The most important S...
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    Srikant Nayak, CFO at GroupBy

    I chat with Srikant about:
  • His career journey starting in India and holding progressive roles in various companies in India and Dubai, before taking on his current gig at GroupBy.
  • GroupBy —  what the company does and what is it all about?
  • Since joining GroupBy, Srikant has helped the company raise over $15M in venture capital and complete an acquisition. He shares his biggest learnings from raising ventu...
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    Darrell Cox, CFO at  Vena

    I chat with Darrell about:
  • His path to the CFO seat at Vena, with stops as the VP Finance at Freshbooks and various finance roles within telcos such as Rogers, Virgin Mobile and WIND.
  • Vena Solutions  — what the company does and what its all about.
  • As a company, Vena helps finance leaders in organizations plan for the future through its FP&A software. To that end, Darrell shares how finance leaders can be...
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    David Reid, CFO & COO of Boll & Branch

    It’s the first quarter of the new decade and as you know, we are in unprecedented times. The world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. We all have a part to play to flatten the curve and slow the spread of this virus.

    I couldn’t think of a more appropriate guest and company to feature during this time. 

    Joining me on this episode of the Backbone is David Reid, Chief Operating...

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    Karthik Srinivasan, Director of Finance at Chargebee

    I chat with Karthik about:
  • His career journey starting at Tata Consultancy Services after getting your CA in India, to becoming the Director of Finance at Chargebee.
  • Chargebee — what the company does and what its all about.
  • The benefits and challenges to offering customers various local currencies pricing options, in addition to monthly and annual plans and how do to take into acco...
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    Brice Scheschuk, Managing Partner at Globalive Capital

    I chat with Brice about:
  • His career journey from PwC to entrepreneurship to being a part of the founding team at WIND Mobile, where he served as the CFO, and now Globalive.
  • His focus area at Globalive.
  • The biggest takeaways and learnings as a finance leader and entrepreneur that he’s now leveraging as an investor, including things that he wishes he knew as a finance leader / entr...
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    Johnathan Mirian, VP Finance at Justworks

    I chat with Johnathan about:
  • His career journey from investment banking at Morgan Stanley to product management before taking on a finance operator role at Justworks when the company was just 20 people.
  • JustWorks — what the company does and what is it all about.
  • How he evolved as a finance leader from the first finance hire of a 20 person team to today where Justworks has grown to over 600 pe...
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    Khoi Le, VP Finance at Hopper

    I chat with Khoi about:
  • His journey from RSM Richter in Montreal to progressive finance and operating roles at real estate and distribution companies, before making the plunge into tech at Hopper.
  • Hopper — what company does and what its all about.
  • His transition into his first finance operating role at a tech company and how it compares to other non-tech companies, including the challenges and opportunit...
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