Strength from numbers: Our founder story

We love sharing founder stories. They’re usually about our clients but this one is even closer to home.

 

When Remco Marcelis moved from Adelaide to Melbourne, he didn’t bring much – not that you could see. On the inside, it was a different story. There burned a desire to build a business that would help other businesses, especially startups, avoid the failures he’d previously lived. Like every good startup idea: His was born from personal experience. 

Five years on, that passion is shared by our growing team. No one more so than Remco’s business partner, Mike Budnow. Together, they’ve grown Standard Ledger into the number one accounting service for startups, and proven it can be done differently if you have the heart of a tech company and the mind of an operator.

Remco Marcelis sitting down

Building strength

Startups are not easy. But some people just have the entrepreneurial bug and if they go into the corporate world, they’ll always find ways to innovate, create and… leave.

Like Remco, who started out as a software developer then IT consultant until realising he was more interested in helping businesses financially. He pivoted, working on business systems and pricing before MBA studies gave his startup spirit wings. That journey involved four years as a venture capital fund investment manager, CFO roles in startups like Rising Sun Pictures and Carbon Planet, and finally the failed startup that saw him lose his house. 

It was a hard lesson. But from adversity comes strength and when he pulled through, it was with the vision of building a business based on the strength that comes from numbers.

In his words: “I didn’t want to have a single point of failure again, and I wanted to help other startups have fewer failures by better understanding their finances. A failed business is about people’s lives; their families. And that matters to me.”

Just coffee, no BS

Helping startups survive and build transformational businesses also mattered to Mike, who Remco found through his brother when looking for a partner to provide commercial tax expertise.

“We met at a cafe and there was no BS about it,” Mike says. “We spoke about what each of us could do and said: ‘We’ll give it a go’.”

It was just the opportunity Mike needed. He was keen to get out from under the corporate world’s glass ceiling after 15 years at top tier firms, such as Goldman Sachs and Moore Stephens. It was time to reconnect with the kid who’d sold cookies on the playground, and build something of his own.

“I wanted to create something of value. It’s a meaningful thing and you grow as you do it – as a business and also as a person.”

Mike Budnow at a startup funding event

A startup, for startups

And so, Standard Ledger was born. Knowing that startups always need more hands on deck for things like bookkeeping and payroll, while also needing financial expertise and help getting funding, Remco saw an opportunity to reinvent accounting for startups. With his tech background, he set out to run it as a packaged, scalable service with fixed monthly pricing.

He and Mike soon realised it wasn’t strictly startups who needed this. It was also growing SMEs, like Public Sector Network, which leaned on our part time CFO support to understand their financials and expand overseas. And family owned businesses such as Moorabbin Bin Hire, which needed to professionalise their operations so they could sell for a price that would make all the hard work worth it. 

Five years grown

The first five years have flown for Remco, Mike and our team, in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Manila. Long before COVID-19, we were proof that remote teams work if you have the right systems and processes, and care about your people. That’s part of our secret sauce, developed from having our support team in Manila – yes, they’re offshore, but we’ve made sure they don’t feel it. 

We’ve kept our tech ethos of listening and evolving. And even though some say not to put your prices online, we always will. We still work from co-working spaces and we still wear t-shirts most of the time. 

The difference from five years ago is: We’ve built a business that just quietly, we’re proud of. 

We’ve helped founders make amazing products – like the world’s first self-sterilising baby bottle – by freeing them up to focus on their business, not their bookkeeping. 

We’ve helped startups like Choovie and Pronto Bottle with equity crowdfunding; secured millions of dollars in R&D funding for tech startups; and helped others like Piiq Digital and Waterwerx raise investor capital. 

Above all, we’ve been there at every stage of our clients’ growth, helping them build businesses with the potential to transform their lives. That’s what running your own business is all about. We get it because we’re doing it, too. 

Now, our focus is on building strength from our growing client base to scale our proven model in Australia, and looking at how it can work overseas. Because like most founders, we’re always up for an adventure. 

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Remco at a startup maths workshop

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