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Managing your books - Darren Fell, MD of Crunch Accounting speaks to Startacus

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by Startacus Admin

Crunch, formed in the Summer of 2007, provides online accounting services and software to freelancers, contractors and small businesses and has quickly established itself as a leading player in the online Accountancy market in the UK.

We chatted to Darren Fell, Founder and Managing Director of Crunch on the business itself, the problems it aims to solve and the typical issues that freelancers face when counting the cost of Darren Fell Crunchmanaging their own books.

Startacus is all about doing that thing with that 'big idea' that you have always had. How was the idea for Crunch first conceived and what problem were you looking to fix?

Steve Crouch, owner of a successful accountancy practice and ex-HMRC approached me with an idea for a software-only solution for freelancers and contractors.

I was keen as I'd had some awful experiences with accountants, not coming back to me and allowing me to get penalties from HMRC. I thought I could challenge the old world of accountants.

After 3 months of the project I realised that accountancy and tax was so complicated and since customers would often need hand-holding, that we'd need to provide the accountants as well, one single service, available online AND on the end of the phone - all for one fixed price. I also wanted that price to be fair.

At £714 per annum, with Crunch's own solution this is often a 1/3 of the price compared to traditional accountant.

Explain a little about your background before Crunch - you didn't come from an accountancy background?

Nope, my graduate training and 5 initial years was in the Corporate Telecoms area, working for Mercury Communications, part of Cable and Wireless.

I was keen to get into the emerging world of the internet so joined the 3rd Internet Provider in the UK as the Sales Manager.

My first startup role was in 2002 when, disillusioned with the corporates, I set up my first startup to provide a cost effective, anti-spam email and mobile marketing system. Starting at £45 a month this disrupted other players, who were offering services from £2,500 a month.

What are some of the typical problems that freelancers and the first time self-employed find in managing their accounts?

The main issue is just leaving it and not keeping up to date with their bookkeeping. If you leave it 7 months+ some customers can get into a right tizz!

Crunch allows professional bookkeepers to enter invoices and expenses for customers however it's so easy to do on Crunch, it's all about creating the habit from the beginning.

Right from the get go, we offer webinar training and can set reminders to get the perfect habit going.

Being half software house, with our partner Receipt Bank we built our Snap app which lets customers take a picture of each receipt and it automatically gets entered! Simple!

In your experience, do you have any inside tips (apart from signing up to Crunch!) that would help someone starting a business for the first time?

Don't try and do the accounting yourself! Don't listen to the mate down the pub. Use calulators like those on's homepage; to see the saving compared from Sole Trader to Limited company to traditional accountant.

Many listen to the wrong advice or get unfair quotes to go Limited and end up wasting so much tax (up to £4k a year) by staying as a Sole Trader.

How much of an impact do you think that the changes to PAYE processes and RTI will have on the accountancy industry?

It's meant every accountant has had to upgrade their accountancy software to be RTI compliant and they have passed this additional cost onto their customers. Some customers have been hit hard, paying an extra £700-£1,000.

As we have our own development team, with our own accountancy app, we decided to add our own RTI solution to Crunch. This has meant customers didn't have to think about a thing and we haven't charged any extra - it just works for them.

What’s next for Crunch - any exciting plans you can share with Startacus?

We're a team of 80 already with over 3,500 customers. We're taking on over 200 customers per month and we're planning our next exciting expansion, widening our product set.

Cheers Darren for talking to Startacus and we wish you all well with your plans. 

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Published on: 5th May 2013

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