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5 early-stage companies that are disrupting the accounting profession

We recently announced the 2021 cohort for the startup accelerator we run with the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA & CIMA). The accelerator will give the five early-stage companies in this year’s program access to senior CPA.com and Association executives, as well as a highly regarded advisory panel with deep roots in accounting, finance and innovation.

The accelerator is important in its own right – it gives us, for example, better insight into the path of disruptive technologies that impact accounting. But it also fits into a broader effort we’ve been at the forefront of for the past decade or more – building an innovation ecosystem, a technological rising tide that lifts all boats.

Examples of this include our work with the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance and our signature Executive Roundtable, which gathers top executives, entrepreneurs and influencers in the accounting technology space for networking, mutual problem-solving and support. All these efforts create synergy.

This year’s accelerator lineup is part of that push:

  • ByteChek – The Miami-based company’s platform and unique integrations create an automated experience for service organizations working toward a System and Organization Controls (SOC) 2 report. Organizations license the product and CPAs review the results.
  • ElectroNeek – Robotic Process Automation (RPA) removes the headache of repetitive, rule-based tasks that consume too much time for accounting firms and finance teams in companies of all sizes. ElectroNeek empowers its partners to deliver automation to accounting clients free of any software charges, making RPA more accessible.
  • Guardd, Inc. – The Denver-based company provides critical support for secondary market trading of private company securities. GUARDD is a financial disclosure tool that collects, verifies, and disseminates private company information, including financial data, facilitating transparency for investors and allowing private companies to compliantly trade on Alternative Trading Systems.
  • Saasable – Recurring revenue is a key metric for businesses but is difficult to capture and benchmark. Saasable, based in Burlington, Vt., allows clients to automate daily recurring revenue data, customize it and share it with users. Results can be measured against SaasIQ, the company’s artificial intelligence-driven benchmarking tool for small and medium-sized businesses.
  • Valid8 Financial – The company, based in Boulder, Colo., is reimagining financial audits and investigations. Valid8 extracts evidence from multiple types of systems and documents to create a fully integrated transaction database to dramatically reduce sample risk and help accounting service professionals deliver "forensic-grade" financial audits with 80 percent less time spent on data preparation.

What do these companies illustrate?

ByteChek’s co-founders are an information assurance and accounting professional who serves on AICPA technology panels and a military veteran with a background in cybersecurity who has worked with some of the biggest cloud hosting companies. Fusing complementary skills and competencies is a key for successful companies – and the profession.

Guardd incorporates RIVIO, our private company information clearinghouse, into its solution, which offers enhanced disclosure to ease the trading of private company securities. This demonstrates how innovation can be incremental and interlocking.

The other three companies on our list help solve pain points for many practitioners and their clients. By attacking a problem from a unique perspective, startups can help reset how we view a variety of approaches, sparking other innovations. This is the way we move forward.

To learn more about the accelerator program and the 2021 cohort, view this LinkedIn Live video or visit cpa.com/accelerator.

CNBC sounds the alarm for clients on Virtual Currency reporting, emphasizes CPAs’ role [VIDEO]

Wondering when or if your clients will start asking about virtual currency reporting? With this issue finally making its way to mainstream financial media, get ready to start fielding questions about this increasingly visible, important issue.

In a recent segment on CNBC’s Squawk Box, co-anchor Andrew Ross Sorkin said, “If you’ve owned or used Bitcoin, you may owe taxes no matter how you acquired or used it.” That will surely get the attention of clients with crypto assets – along with these other highlights noted in the CNBC report:

IRS on Virtual Currency

  • “You need to check ‘Yes’ if you were involved in any transaction with virtual currency.” (These types of transactions include sales, receipts or transfers, and exchanges of goods.)
  • “Like stocks, any gain or loss from the sale or exchange of a crypto asset is taxed as a capital gain or loss.”
  • “Working with a tax professional is key here [...] having a CPA or tax professional who has experience with crypto assets is very important, so ask that question as you pick a professional to work with.”

The CNBC reporters also strongly emphasized the pivotal role accounting firms should play in helping clients navigate new IRS guidance on virtual currency reporting to ensure compliance.

Are you confident that your firm will be ready to respond as this issue continues to gain visibility among your clients? The AICPA and CPA.com have assembled a wealth of educational content and resources specific to virtual currency reporting that can inform your planning for the 2020 tax season. Leverage these practical tools to ensure your staff understands crypto asset transactions and their reporting implications:

AICPA Learning Resources:

CPA.com Resources:

  • LukkaTax for Professionals – Tax preparation software designed specifically for the accounting profession
  • Lukka Library - Access year-round content on the virtual currency ecosystem written by industry experts

For other valuable resources on this issue, visit www.cpa.com/crypto. Meanwhile, the AICPA continues to advocate for additional guidance from Treasury and the IRS. We’ve also included information on crypto asset reporting solutions that can help you this upcoming tax season.

Search, SEO and the Advantages of a .CPA Domain for Firms

Moving to a new web address, an updated ‘online’ business location, is just like upgrading to the ‘exclusive’ office in your city. Depending on your current location, moving could be just like going from a small office on the outskirts of your local city to a large office in a high-rise in the central business district. It’s all about location and a change makes a statement: you’re moving up.

It’s the First Thing They See

The first time a potential client sees your web address, they’ll know exactly what your firm does, even before they click through to your website. They’ll see a URL such as www.MyFirm.cpa. There’s no question about what they’ll find – the website of a CPA firm – when it turns up in a search or link on another site.. The proper domain name, especially a domain name that includes a “keyword” that describes your business, helps with your firm’s overall image, branding, and marketing. And since an appropriate keyword is in the domain name, it can help with your search engine positioning.

How the Search Engines See .CPA Domain Names

Search engine representatives, such as John Mueller from Google, have pointed out that all top-level domains (TLDs)), such as .com, net, .org, .bank and even .cpa have the same opportunities to “rank” well in search engine results pages. Every domain name and URL is given the same chance to rank well for their intended keywords. This is good news, as they’re all created equal. But, why do some websites rank at the top of the search engine result pages, higher than other websites? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of search engine algorithm factors that go into the search engine results. But, one in particular can give you an ‘edge’ over the competition. Let me explain. One important factor is how other sites refer to your website, or how they “link” to your website. The search engines look at the context of where your link appears, the “link text” that is used as a link, and even the URL of the link, as well as the ‘keywords’ that are in the link. If you use a keyword rich domain name, such as keyword.cpa, then there is a good chance the other website linking to you will use “keyword CPA” or “keyword CPAs” to link to your website. That’s a good thing if you want to show visitors and the search engines that your website is about “keyword CPA” or “keyword “CPAs”.

You’re in Good Company

All .cpa domain names are in what is called a “restricted TLD (Top Level Domain)”. Only licensed CPA firms and (eventually) licensed individual CPA are allowed to own a .cpa domain name and put a website on it. What that also means is there will never be a .cpa domain name that contains content that’s unrelated to accounting. On an unrestricted TLD, there will inevitably be websites that don’t match the keywords in the domain name -- these could contain website spam, or even phishing and illegal activities. By using a .cpa domain name, you’re in good company since applicants for .cpa domain names are properly screened. The search engines know it’s a restricted TLD and they could take that into consideration when evaluating the website for search engine rankings. And, as more and more .cpa firms’ websites go live, the public will learn to trust a .cpa domain name, just as they trust a .gov or .edu domain name.

Concerns about Moving to a New .CPA Domain Name

Companies and individuals have been moving their websites to a different domain name for years. In fact, I did my first domain name migration back in the 1990s. I moved the site to a much better domain name. There are many reasons why websites need to move to a new URL, including companies that merge, businesses that acquire other businesses, and some that sell their domain name or even purchase a better or shorter domain name. All are valid reasons for moving and migrating to a new web address. Over the years, best practices have been developed, and search engines like Google provide a Change of Address form to assist website owners when they move. The key here, though, is to get all of the “technical issues” right so that there aren’t any issues when you do make that move to a better .cpa domain name. Adhere to the industry’s best practices for moving and migrating, and technically there won’t be any reason why the website should lose any website traffic, or even lose any search engine rankings because of the move.

Moving to Another Domain Name: Best Practices

What are these best practices?. They generally involve pre-move preparations, pre-planning the move, steps made when actually moving, and tasks that should be done after the move is complete. Pre-planning involves tasks such as making a backup of your website, using web crawling tools to help you make a list of all of the pages on your website, and getting ready to set up a “redirect” from the old web page(s) to the new web page(s) on the domain name you’re moving to. Then, I recommend pre-planning, such as working through the tasks on a moving checklist. Planning a date and time, as well as detailing who is responsible in your organization for moving the website, is recommended. There are tasks that must be performed on “moving day”, such as actually moving some files on the website’s web server. Then, after moving day, it’s smart to keep an eye on things and inform other websites you’ve moved to a new location so they will update their links.

The Bottom Line: Should You Move to a .CPA Domain?

Should you move to your existing website CPA website to a .cpa domain name? I highly recommend it. I consider it an upgrade, an opportunity to further enhance your firm’s branding and a chance to secure, in most cases, a shorter domain name. Are you using something like “yourfirmnamecpa.com”? A shorter version would be yourfirmname.cpa or even ‘yourcity.cpa’. The main keyword is in the domain name and it describes exactly what your firm does --even before visitors click to your website, they’ll know you’re a CPA.

The .cpa Registry, the folks behind .cpa, are doing everything right to ensure your success with a new .cpa domain. Look for additional resources, such as guides to moving and checklists to ensure your future success online.

Reserve your existing brand on .cpa before the Oct. 31 deadline

The American Institute of CPAs secured .cpa to be the exclusive Internet domain for the accounting profession. As part of the new service’s rollout, the AICPA and its business and technology arm, CPA.com, wanted to make sure that all licensed CPA firms are on the same footing when it comes to reserving their existing brand on .cpa.

That 60-day protected window for early applications is rapidly closing, however. Applications must be made by Oct. 31, after which domain requests will be fulfilled on a first-come, first served basis.

The response from CPA firms so far has been strong. AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, and CPA.com President and CEO Erik Asgeirsson explain in this video why firms do not want to miss this opportunity to strengthen their online presence.

“The future is not .com – the future is going to be these top-level domains,” Melancon says. “Put it on your radar screen and make a conscious, long-term decision.”

To learn more about .cpa or to apply for your preferred domain, visit domains.cpa. The site has FAQs, a position paper on the rise of restricted domains and other resources. Please note individually licensed CPAs will be able to apply for .cpa domains beginning in Jan. 2021.

The .CPA Domain: A Bright Line for Security and Trust in the Digital World

It’s easy to grasp the branding advantages the new Internet domain for the CPA profession, .cpa, can offer. Less obvious but just as important is the enhanced security it delivers.

.CPA is a high-value restricted internet domain with verifications and controls. A restricted domain means not everyone can apply for it: in this case, you must be a licensed CPA firm (starting in January 2021, licensed individual CPAs can also apply). Why is this important? Unrestricted domains are unmanaged and uncontrolled. Users are not verified and there is no implementation of security best practices. Essentially, any fraudster can sign up for an unrestricted domain such as .com and closely mimic a legitimate business site. Not so with .cpa.

It’s no surprise Internet crime is rising, even more so as people increasingly work from home. A recent Ponemon Institute survey found that 57 percent of small businesses reported instances of phishing or social engineering attacks in the past 12 months, many tied to fraudulent look-alike or spoofed domain addresses (also known as imitator domains). More than 114,000 individuals reported being a victim of a phishing scam in 2019, incurring collective losses of almost $60 million, the latest FBI statistics show.

Security - .CPA vs .COM

 

Phishing involves bogus emails that appear to come from reputable companies, trusted co-workers or bosses, with the goal of gleaning usernames, passwords or credit card details. A common strategy is to use combinations of numbers (a zero where an “O” should be, for example), letters and foreign characters to mimic existing domains to deceive end users. The good news is most phishing attempts fail – but for CPA firms that deal with sensitive client data, a data breach or other information security lapse can be devastating.

Here’s how .cpa can help strengthen your firm’s defenses:

  • Unlike open domain extensions, only licensed firms and individual accountants can register and use a .cpa domain. License verification will take place at the time of purchase through CPA.com, and at other random periodic times. This will reduce a scammers ability to purchase lookalike domains on a large enough scale to make it worth their while.
  • The verification process should also effectively limit the proliferation of spam in the .cpa space. Spam is a preferred delivery tool for ransomware, malware, and phishing. CPA.com’s policy is to not post domain owners’ names and registration information on publicly listed registry records, so spammers will be unable to collect long lists of .cpa domain holder addresses to send out email blasts.

Of course, CPA firms will still responsible for the everyday, routine blocking and tackling of data security. The AICPA’s firm management section has excellent advice on how to improve vigilance and follow best practices in this area, including this checklist and recent explainer article. But the move to restricted domains is a step many progressive businesses and professions are taking to improve trust and curb fraud in their online operations.

To learn more about the .cpa domain, read our position paper or visit domains.cpa to view FAQs or apply for your preferred domain.