Sometimes, you just have to take a leap of faith.
Every person’s path through life hinges on a series of interconnected moments, with each decision creating a ripple effect that shapes living as we know it. Some of these decisions are incredibly easy and we make them with ironclad resolve, never once looking back after the choice has been made. Others are not. These choices we make, or don’t make, with second-guesses buried deep in our hearts, always wading into the past and wondering how things could have, might have, turned out differently.
At one point or another, we’ve all abandoned a dream — it’s not a reflection on character, just an acceptance that you can’t possibly fulfill every wish and desire that drifts into your subconscious. Because every dream can’t be fulfilled, it falls to each individual to sort through which ones will be pursued and which ones abandoned into the mineshaft of shattered dreams. To truly pursue a dream takes an incredible leap of faith — staring longingly into the future and plunging directly into it are two very different things. When you’re poised on the precipice of life-changing decisions, nothing comes easy.
Getting to that precipice, taking a deep breath, and jumping headlong into the abyss is one of the hardest things you can do. It takes a willingness to abandon life as you know it and embrace change in a way many people are not comfortable doing. This experience, shirking the known and embracing the unknown, is how entrepreneurs exist — to live in a world where things are always changing requires the inhabitants to accept the fact that they don’t know what the future holds, but also realize that the possibilities are infinite.
A little over a year ago, Kurt Avarell took a leap of faith. Drawing from his past — former tax attorney, former suit on Wall Street, coder — to build the future, Avarell began spending 90 hour weeks designing a platform that was motivated by his own frustrations in the tax space. From his home basement, Avarell built and released Beanstalk and was rewarded for his efforts with a $2 million seed round in July of 2014.
“I think it’s pretty natural for any entrepreneur to have doubt and wonder, but what I’ve learned is if you can identify an opportunity and stick with it, it starts to pay dividends,” Avarell said. “I think that is one of the biggest pieces of entrepreneurship, just enduring. There are certainly times when you think, I’m crazy, I’m in my basement, I don’t have a job, I have to support a family and I’m burning through my own personal savings. At the same time, I definitely held onto the vision of what it could become and so far it has been paying off.”
After changing the company name from Beanstalk to Canopy, Avarell’s leap of faith continues to pay off, evidenced by today’s announcement of an $8 million Series A round, led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and participated in by Epic Ventures and Deep Fork Capital.
“We released our public facing solution just a few weeks ago and got a tremendous amount of initial sales traction,” Avarell said. “That led us into the Series A and now we’re hiring pretty aggressively. The funding is designed to help us accelerate two things. One is product, we got a lot of product to build and we’ve just barely cracked the surface in terms of what we’re building. The second use of funds is towards generating sales.”
A normal scenario for the tax process involves these things: paper pushing, lack of transparency, clients wondering what/when things will be done, and accountants scattering their work across multiple software solutions. In this scenario, everyone is sad, angry, frustrated, and hateful towards anything related to taxes.
The scenario Canopy helps users realize is drastically different: no paper, more transparency, and substantially less hatred/anger directed towards the tax world.
“Our target market is accountants,” Avarell said. “The idea is that we’re improving the workload between accountants and their clients. With Canopy, an accountant has a full CRM (customer relationship management) where they can manage files, notes, dates, and then they can open that stuff up to their client. They can give their client access through a client portal, the client can log in and exchange documents and get billed directly through Canopy.”
Accountants using Canopy’s platform benefit from a multitude of things, including time savings and not having to jump between different software solutions. At Canopy, everything is housed under one roof.
“We have over a thousand questions in our database that are designed to capture information from the client and then fill out tax forms,” Avarell said. “It’s not tax return prep, it’s actually the things that happen after tax return prep, a lot of administrative stuff that happens with the IRS and Canopy automates that workload.”
Sometimes, you take a leap of faith and things don’t work out. It’s sad and hurtful, but failure can also be the experience that launches you to greater, unforeseen heights. Sometimes, you take a leap of faith and are rewarded with a combined $10 million in funding, an outside verification that you aren’t the only person who believes in your vision. Kurt Avarell envisioned a world where Canopy could ease the tax process and put in the necessary time and work to make that dream a reality.
And all it took was a giant leap of faith.