It’s a question rooted in surprise headlines that has now become one of 2023’s favorite conversation starters for finance executives inside the tech realm: “Where were you when you heard the news about Silicon Valley Bank [SVB]?”
For Tipalti CFO Sarah Spoja, the query instantly summons memories of being seated between two of Tipalti’s financing partners: JP Morgan and Hercules Capital, Inc.
Or perhaps we should say two of its “future” financing partners. Spoja, along with Tipalti’s attorneys, had gathered in a conference room with its prospective partners to finalize the terms of a deal designed to secure a $150 million debt-raise for the growing business.Read More
Looking back, Spoja tells us that the date of the gathering will forever be etched in her mind: Thursday, March 9, 2023. Within the next 24 hours, Silicon Valley Bank would be closed by the California Department of Financial Protection & Innovation, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) would be named its “receiver.” The public would receive no advance notice of the bank’s closing.
Still, the escalating challenges at SBV were no secret, and as Spoja met that Thursday in March with Tipalti’s prospective investors, SVB (which had been solvent only 24 hours earlier) would be broke within hours as depositors rushed to withdraw their funds.
Thus, the terms of Tipalti’s debt-raise were not the only business that Spoja was seeking to finalize as she took a seat at the table. Besides securing the $150 million in debt, Spoja and her treasurer (also seated at the table) were simultaneously tracking the removal of Tipalti funds from SVB in real time.
“For finance people, the thought was ‘Okay, I need to protect my company, so I need to do X, Y and Z before wire transfers are cut off,'” she recalls. “But at the same time, in the backs of our heads, we were all thinking, ‘I really hope that this isn’t going where it looks like it’s going.’”
Meanwhile, the terms finalized on Thursday, March 9, ultimately sealed a $150 million debt deal that would be announced by Tipalti in early that May. Why hadn’t either of the prospective financing partners experienced cold feet in light of the escalating developments at SVB? Spoja tells us that “tougher diligence conversations” had already taken place to help to placate concerns about a changing economic climate. What’s more, she says, a “mutual trust” had been established that had allowed the deal to not to get stalled.
Still, you can’t help but hear the winds that were howling outside the doors of Tipalti’s March 9 meeting.
Says Spoja: “It was a moment that a finance professional would always remember, particularly if they were in tech—because we all generally have a story.”
There’s little doubt, though, that Spoja’s story is better than most. –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Tipalti … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Spoja: I think that’s it’s a really important thing to always be looking forward, frankly. We’re at a pivotal junction in the company’s growth. We have shown product market fit. We have a large installed base of customers that we continuously grow and grow. There is a massive TAM, a massive white space of opportunity ahead of us. Over the past six quarters, we have continuously gotten stronger from a profitability perspective, as we’ve continued to grow our top line at, frankly, faster-than-market levels.
“It is really this idea of building efficiency, of building a profitability mindset, that matters.” – Sarah Spoja, CFO, Tipalti
It is really this idea of building efficiency, of building a profitability mindset, that matters. In every quarter, we’ve made big improvements. When we look back at the metrics, they’ve been like a ladder, and an improving ladder. We have been so consistent in every quarter that we have built credibility with our outside stakeholders with regard to our ability to deliver and deliver and deliver.Read More
We have a few more quarters of needing to do this ahead of us in order to get to the place where I think that Tipalti needs to be so that we can take our next big step and reach a new milestone as a company. But we’ve shown a really good track record. It’s been consistent over time, and this helps to build credibility not only with others, but also internally in the company. Employees sort of understand what we’re building toward, and I think that this is important.
I think that the next year, in general—if we can step away from Tipalti a little—will become really interesting as we begin to see the ways in which AI comes into play in the office of the CFO. Here, we have built in a number of AI tools inside our platform. We’re using AI to make the autocoding of invoices even more efficient. We’re using it in a number of other ways to do data discovery within our platform and in other ways.
The ways in which the technology vendors like us take the best parts of AI and embed it into our already great technologies will help all of us to become faster, better, and more insightful about our jobs going forward. The investments that we have made and continue to make for our customers are extremely important. In fact, we’ve built out teams that are focused on doing only this across our platform. Going forward, we will continue to push forward on our platform the most robust capabilities that we can.
I’m really excited to see how AI continues to change, how the office of the CFO thinks about how to be effective in this newfound role—and, most important, how Tipalti gets to be a little piece of how this happens.
Tipalti | www.tipalti.com | Foster City