Dee and Chris talk about “everything money-related” at CodePen. Dee has been managing this stuff since CodePen’s beginning. First largely pro-bono (sorry, Dee), then later as a side gig and part-time job. Dee is full-time now at CodePen, but finance stuff is only part of her role (programming being the main job). It’s a lot of work, but she likes being able to influence CodePen for the better from multiple angles.

At a big company, all this finance work would probably manifest as a COO. But CodePen is just a midling startup, too small really for a COO, but also too big for a homegrown spreadsheet. Dee gets into all the work that goes into finance, from the vital documents that are the Profit & Loss Statement, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow, to other work like cohort analysis and cap table work.

Time Jumps

  • 00:38 Working with numbers
  • 01:50 How has money been managed at CodePen?
  • 05:39 Outsourcing accounting
  • 20:40 Sponsor: Retool
  • 22:20 What is the finance job at CodePen?
  • 32:43 Tooling for accounting

Sponsor: Retool for Startups

After working with thousands of startups, we’ve noticed that technical founders spend a ton of time building internal tools—which means less time on their core product. So, we built Retool For Startups—a program that gives early-stage founders free access to a lot of the software you need for great internal tooling.

The goal is to make it 10x faster to build the admin panels, CRUD apps, and dashboards that most early stage teams need. We’ve bundled together a year of free access to Retool with over $160,000 in discounts to save you money while building with software commonly connected to internal tools like AWS, MongoDB, Brex, and Segment.

We give you a head start with pre-built UI components, integrations, and other advanced features that make building from scratch much faster. To learn more, check out our site, apply, join webinars and much more at


[Radio channel adjustment]

Announcer: Today, on CodePen Radio.

Chris Coyier: Hey, everybody. Time for another CodePen Radio. This is #332 where I get the chance to talk with my good friend and colleague Dee. How are you doing, Dee?

Dee Vazquez: Hey, Chris. Doing well. How are you?

Chris: Good. We're going to take the opportunity this week to showcase just some of the very important work that Dee does here at CodePen. Not to make this about me to start, but I guess I will.

Dee: [Laughter]

Chris: Part of this is that I'm not good at the numbers. [Laughter] It's just not a strength of mine, and I've never been forced into it because I have people around me - Dee - who I just very much trust to know about these things because of her history in finance and just being very good at this stuff.

When you have somebody like Dee around, you can leave these things to her to help us. That's just what we've been doing.

What's interesting about finance is, what even is it? You know? There are some very defined things that it means. When I think about it (high-level), I think, "We need information to help us run the business better."

Dee: Mm-hmm.

Chris: We need to be able to look at stuff and be like, "Can we do this? Should we do X or Y? What are our problem points? What are things that we're doing well that we can double down on?" That type of stuff.

But there's just a lot to it before you can answer those questions, I'd say. So, I'd like to hear, I guess, from you. What's the history, and what do we do now? There are all kinds of interesting things to do here, so let's start with, like, start at the very beginning. You've been doing this for CodePen for forever.


Dee: Mm-hmm. Right. Yeah. To get even more basic than guiding business decisions, I feel like my job is anything to do with money for CodePen. We can get into specifically what that means around the profit and loss statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statements. Then we have this sliding scale of what it means to run the finances of a startup at a different level.

A lot of our CodePen users and perhaps listeners here might work at an agency. Maybe you're a single founder like with CSS-Tricks. Chris, you have to kind of do these same things, but going from agency world to a smaller startup like at inception with CodePen and then a midsized startup like Wufoo and where CodePen is now. Chris, you and Alex worked at Wufoo. Then the biggest scale, which would be a SurveyMonkey, a Dropbox.

Chris: Where we also worked.

Dee: Oh, yes. Right. Where we also worked.

Like Chris said, I've been managing CodePen's finances from inception. [Laughter] In the beginning, I did it as a favor to y'all, and you guys gave me a very nice set of headphones to thank me. [Laughter]

Chris: [Laughter]

Dee: Then eventually, it was a side-gig. Now I'm full-time at CodePen where my main responsibilities are programming-related. I'm a programmer. But then I manage the finances on the side for CodePen.

Chris: Right. Right.

Dee: For any on that scale, that spectrum that I just described, there is a certain set of tasks that everyone has to do. Right? In QuickBooks or what have you, you have to get your revenue in there, your expenses in there so that you can then output your profit and loss statement, your balance sheet, and cash flow, and then give that to your CPA, for example, because every year you've got to pay taxes to the government. Then as you get bigger and bigger, there are other processes where you have to involve lawyers.

It might start with just creating the corporation. Then as you hire employees, you have to worry about things like your equity, the cap table, and then every time you go to hire someone, you want to give out options in your company to that employee. So, that involves running processes with lawyers. Managing payroll, we use Gusto.

I would categorize it as finance, legal, and HR. Then, the bigger your company gets, someone manages all three of those as various departments. At SurveyMonkey, for example, we had a finance department, legal, and then an HR department which was all run by the COO there at the time. So, as it gets bigger and bigger, these tasks get bigger and bigger.

But at inception, you still keep the basics going, which is the bookkeeping and taxes. But as we've gotten bigger, I've been able to get help in some of that as well.


Chris: Bookkeeping is one of those, isn't it? That's one of the things that I think you can do and sometimes do, but it's one of the more easily outsourceable things, right? What you'd traditionally think of as accounting.

Dee: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly right. My background is more in financial planning and analysis, so the bookkeeping is basically the input (the revenue and expenses) so that you have those financial statements that you can look at. Then I typically am more responsible for the reporting.

From the beginning, I've met with you and Alex to look through all of those financial statements so we can talk about the health of the business. On a monthly basis, we're like, at the very top level this is what revenue is doing. This is a year-over-year growth rate of X percentage. These are expenses.

Just last year, we spent a bunch of time working on our hosting costs. We brought it down almost by 50% (I think it was), which was huge. That's a business decision as well because we use AWS, and we want to be able to scale CodePen onto more servers. We just redid the entirety of our dev ops infrastructure, which I was a part of. Then I got to see that filter through.

Chris: Oh, that's neat.

Dee: Yeah.


Chris: To see two sides of it. You're right that when you do these monthly reports, which are tremendously valuable, that's the moment in which you can highlight things in context to be like, "Look. These server costs are actually impacting us. They have this trendline," and things like that. Then we can make the decision, "Well, let's work on that then because it's obviously going to have a huge impact, so we can make that decision," and then watch it influence the health of the business from the other side. That's so different than if you go back on your sliding scale of companies to when you're just a one-person company or something like that.

Dee: Mm-hmm.

Chris: You might think of finance as basically, like, open your checking account and look at what you're spending money on. You don't have good processes for understanding your business. You might just log into the AWS dashboard and, "Oh, that looks expensive. Maybe I'll work on that." You're not really seeing it in context of the rest of your whole business.

Dee: Then as you get bigger, depending on if that's your goal. CodePen was started in 2012. Then in 2015, we raised our one and only round of seed funding. We raised a million dollars from a set of investors. They actually happen to be the co-founders of Wufoo, so it was more of a friend investor seed round than going out to VCs. But as part of that process, a lot of this finance work was really important because, for the investors to put their money into CodePen, they had to see that we had a vision and a future planned out.

Like we were talking about earlier today, there is nothing like numbers to help you make a hard decision. So, as part of that process, I took my experience (working at JP Morgan and SurveyMonkey) and built CodePen's first revenue model, which involved looking at the number of subscribers we had and charting out and doing a cohort analysis to say, this is the percentage of pro subscribers we're keeping on a monthly basis. This is what we're charging. Based on these product changes we have in the queue, we think we can grow our subscriber base by X percentage, which then leads you to a revenue amount for the full year.

Then for the next two to three years, you can forecast out revenue. That's what larger companies, public companies do as well. At our size, it can be a really important tool. In fact, we use it to this day.

Recently, we had a 401(a) valuation that we had to do some revenue forecasting for. Then just to run the business with the product changes we're working on now, it's really important to pull those numbers together so that Alex and Chris can think about, "Okay. We can now afford two more employees and these additional hosting costs. And we can do this set of raises on the expense side because our revenue growth is going to be such that it will allow it."

For you guys, I imagine it's very helpful as a guiding kind of North Star metrics.


Chris: Well, helpful isn't even the word for it because it's like, "What if you did this without doing that?" You'd just be like, "I think everybody gets this raise." "Oh, that's nice. You're so generous."

Dee: [Laughter]

Chris: But, oops, you accidentally made the company not profitable anymore. That's not acceptable. You know?

Dee: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Chris: You literally can't make some of these decisions without this information. Yeah, helpful is the smallest word you could use for it, I'd say. It's like required - required stuff here. Amazing.

Dee: [Laughter] Yeah.

Chris: You'd be like a COO if you wanted that job, right? If we scaled that big, you could maybe -- I mean guaranteed you could do it, but you're also a programmer, so I guess you get to pick your own future a little bit. But that's basically what you are. That's what this job would scale into, yeah?

Dee: I think so. It is interesting because our size, one of the reasons I actually love working at a size of a CodePen is because I get to wear so many hats. Working at a larger company, you're siloed into just reporting on how the business is doing because you're in the FP&A team or what have you. You don't get to impact those numbers the way that I get to impact those numbers here at CodePen because I'm also working on the dev-ops side.

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Dee: [Laughter] And making changes to our servers so that we can reduce our hosting costs. Or when we go to talk about what feature set we're going to implement in this new version of the product that we're working on, a lot of time, when I speak up, it is based on, "Oh, we need to focus on teams," or "We need to focus on churn," based on the forecasting that I do as kind of on the side. So, I also view my job as being able to bring those numbers to the entire team and have that be an easier way for us to make business decisions. Because we're a company of soon-to-be nine people, we get to be part of the business in a way that you don't get to be part of at a larger company. You have such a large impact, and I view part of my--

Chris: Yeah, and you like it. You love it.


Dee: Yeah! I do. There's not that level of transparency at a bigger company. Just in the way that I program, I like to learn about the entire system. I like to do front-end work, back-end work, and ops work because that's the entirety of your product. [Laughter] That might not scale to a bigger company where you're siloed. But for me, I've always loved to learn the entire system, and then the finance part is part of the system of running a small business really, really well.

Chris: Yeah. I wonder how far? It certainly stays, I would guess, a little bit further, at least, than where we are now. I think I would be bothered by that, too, if I got to this point where my job was so specific that I felt like I had lost sight of the whole - or something.

Dee: Mm-hmm.

Chris: That my impact wasn't really steering the ship.

Dee: Mm-hmm.

Chris: Yeah, that would be a bummer. [Laughter] But it can be nerve-wracking. If you have too much control, it's kind of like, "Yeah, but then I can steer it into an iceberg," and I don't like that either. You know? [Laughter]

Dee: [Laughter] Or you have too much on your plate. Then you're like, "Oh, I should be doing a bunch of programming-related tasks or a bunch of finance-related tasks," and so managing your time and thinking about what's your highest level of contribution. Even at such a small scale when there are so few people, it ends up being a daily struggle because I could easily spend so much more time doing a cohort analysis for CodePen right now, but is that where I'm going to make the biggest impact these days? Probably not because we need more of the programming help at this point than the finance help. You know?

Chris: Yeah. Yeah. There are a couple of aspects there, like trying to decide for yourself what has the most impact. Sometimes, that's a little bit of a group decision - whatever the decision is.

Sometimes, the decision gets deferred. It comes with this weird level of guilt, like, "Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing enough? Should I have been doing this other thing?" Meh.


Dee: Mm-hmm. Exactly. Exactly. But then there are moments where I know I've been able to influence the entire team's thinking. For example, last year we had this presentation that Marie and I made about the analytics strategy at CodePen. There were three or four sets of key performance indicators (KPIs) that we could have looked at, like looking at our conversion funnel.

CodePen has a lot of traffic, and we see a lot of users coming to CodePen to look at other people's work, to look at Pens. But then as they move through our conversion funnel, what percentage of those users are paying for CodePen? What percentage are pro users?

We don't have any issues with the top of the funnel, but we do have a harder time getting them to be pro users because there's a lot of work in that. We have to make sure they're getting value. There are a lot of learners who come to CodePen, and a lot of times it's like, "Oh, I want to learn to code from CodePen," but that takes a lot of time and work. And so, are we providing them the right tools?

We could have looked at conversion funnel. Then there was also churn. How many of our users who buy a pro subscription are then staying with us month after month or year after year? There's a percentage that we can apply to that.

The industry standard is 2% to 3%. CodePen is a bit higher. And so, there are all these ways that we could have used these metrics to help improve. But during the presentation, the team mentioned that if you don't pick a single North Star metric, then you're trying to work on multiple at a time, and you're diverting your time and resources. You don't actually end up making progress in a single one.

We picked churn, and now, on a monthly basis, Marie digs into churn and looks at how many users did we lose? Why? How many people came into support to talk to us about it? What else can we do?

Then I try to add trends like churn trends. How many pro users are we getting? How many are we losing? At the end of the day, what is the net add or the gain that we have on a monthly basis?

Because we've tried to make that a part of our DNA, we're trying to make more data-driven decisions constantly. We're always talking about that, and we have this monthly process where Marie presents her report and such. The entire team is educated, and it's at the top of mind for everyone.

I think that battle between how much code should I be writing versus how much should I be focusing on finances, when you can do something like that, you realize that the finance side can have a huge impact on the business and on CodePen as well.

Chris: Right. That's interesting to think about that it doesn't have to be -- you're not just moving the needle. It's not like all you do is measure. You also make choices that end up influencing direction, which is just as needle moving as anything else you can do.

Dee: Yeah. Yeah, hopefully.

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, hopefully. Yeah, I agree with that. It feels like a long time since we've picked our North Star, and there's no doubt that that's the right star to focus on, even if we haven't perhaps influenced it as much as we'd like to. We're still absolutely looking at that as the kind of savior metric. You know? [Laughter]


Dee: Yeah, we're looking at it as we need to make sure we provide value to the people using CodePen, and every product decision we make, we think about that way. We're trying to bring in more professional developers to CodePen, and so if we want to keep them using CodePen and paying for CodePen, we have to make sure that the feature set we pick solves their problems and then is sticky enough where they get so much value from using CodePen that it's a no-brainer to be like, "Of course, I want to pay CodePen for this service because it makes my life (every day as a developer) so much better."

This new feature set we're working on, that's the entire goal. We talk about that constantly.

Chris: Right. It wasn't just picked out of thin air. It was picked for those. Yeah. Yeah, exactly like you said. I don't need to expound on it anymore. It's a perfect answer.


[Guitar music starts]

Chris: This episode is brought to you in part by Retool for Startups, so Retool., remarkably good tooling for building admin tools, internal tools, and stuff.

Retool for Startups is a special program that they're offering. This is what they say. After working with thousands of startups, they've noticed that technical founders spend a ton of time building internal tools -- been there -- which means less time on the core products.

"We built Retool for Startups, a program that gives early-stage founders free access to a lot of the software they need for building great internal tooling. The goal is to make it ten times faster to build admin panels, CRUD apps, and dashboards that most early-stage teams need."

They bundled together. It's a free year of access to Retool and then $160,000 of discounts for tools like AWS, MongoDB, Brex, and Segment (really popular tooling for building any kind of Web software - really). Use your Retool credits to build tools that join product and billing data together into a single customer view, tools that convert manual workflows into fully-featured apps for your team, tools that help non-technical teammates read and write to the database, and so much more.

It's That'll get you to the form to apply for this. There's some criteria for it, like you're less than five years old and things like that. Not you as a person - the company. You have to be over five years old as a person, I'm pretty sure. Check out the site, apply, join webinars, all that stuff.

[Guitar music ends]


Chris: If we do a little bit of nitty-gritty on the finance stuff a little bit, what is that job?

Dee: Mm-hmm.

Chris: What's the basic building blocks of what it was? You said that there are three kind of outputs that matter, which is P&L (profit and loss), balance sheet, and cash flow. Those don't just make themselves, I take it.

Dee: [Laughter] Nah. It requires some work. Yeah, I'll start with the cash flow because that's kind of like an everyday piece. Right?

We have multiple revenue streams. We have our pro subscriptions. We also do advertising. The pro subscriptions are pretty easy because it's subscription-based billing. We use Stripe and PayPal.

But then there's moving the cash that comes in around from different accounts. The same for our advertising. It all has to end up in the main checking account, so I do that on a monthly basis.

Then on kind of a daily basis, we have bills that come in. We use enterprise software like Cloudflare and Elastic Search. They have a more manual invoicing process where I'll have to confirm the expenditure and be like, "Yes, you can charge us."

Then we have some contractors as well. It's really important that we pay our people, all of our people, in a timely manner. Some of that will be more manual wire transfers. But then most of the time, we use Gusto to manage payroll.

Gusto is great because they handle employer taxes for us. We are based in many different states. We're based in Washington. We have employees in Washington, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and also Idaho now, so that means we need to have employer tax accounts with each of those states.

We just hired a Golanger, and he works out of Idaho, so I had to go in and set up tax accounts for CodePen with various departments in Idaho. [Laughter]

Chris: That was just so fun, wasn't it?

Dee: Oh, my god.

Chris: That's really super fun work.


Dee: Joy of my life. [Laughter] Joy of my life. That's the cash flow statement. At the end of the day, those invoices and moving revenue tells us how much cash do we have on hand. That gives us our run rate. How long could we run CodePen with this amount of cash with this many employees? We're always keeping an eye on that.

Outside of our monthly reporting, that's really important because, for us at CodePen, we care a lot about being profitable because there is immense responsibility for the people who work here and who rely on CodePen for their livelihood. So, cash flow is very important.

Then on the balance sheet, that's assets and liabilities. But then, more importantly, equity. I mentioned we had a round of funding in 2015, which means that those investors got a percentage ownership of CodePen for investing that one million in CodePen.

We use software called Carta to track our shareholders and our percentage ownership. We also have this equity incentive plan, which are grants that we give out to employees. We're onboarding a new employee now, and that means amending the EIP and working with our lawyers to do that.

We have done share buybacks in the past and investor repurchases or 401(a) valuation. That's just keeping our cap table up to date.

Chris: Does that express itself? Is there a monthly balance sheet?

Dee: Yes. Mm-hmm. There is a monthly.

Chris: Usually, the cap table just sits there month-to-month. But sometimes it doesn't.


Dee: Right. Right, sometimes it doesn't. Yeah, exactly.

Then the final financial statement is the profit and loss (P&L), which is literally revenue minus expenses equals profit. That tells us, based on how much revenue we're making every month and then how much we're spending, do we have any cash left over.

That process, we have a set of expenses that are pretty common and recurring on a monthly basis. But then there might be offhand expenses. Usually, I try to budget for that. Then when we budget for employee expenses like raises and things like that. That's the expense side.

Chris: Right.

Dee: Then revenue is--

Chris: It's not as clean as you'd think it is, right? You'd think, "Oh, there better be some money every month."

Dee: Mm-hmm.

Chris: But it's like sometimes there just isn't because you've got to buy a bunch of computers, or you've got to buy a bunch of reserved instances or something.

Dee: Mm-hmm.

Chris: I'm sure there are ways to model that out so that you smash it out over multiple months. But a lot of times it just looks like you had the worst month ever. But you didn't really.

Dee: Right. Exactly. Reserved instances are pretty costly, but you pay for those every three years or so (to AWS) because they're cheaper in the long run if you do reserved instances.

With any of this reporting, you have to look at the time period, the trend. Right? You can look at it on a monthly basis, a quarterly basis, and then an annual basis. You might have one month where you're paying for reserved instances, but then if you look at it in the full year, you are profitable.

The key is just having a handle on when those big expenses come up and knowing you have enough reserves to be able to deal with it. Then as a whole, on an annualized basis, how healthy is your business?

We have been doing a great job at that, I will say. [Laughter]

Chris: [Laughter] Yeah. Yeah, it's good to have an absolutely accurate look at what the heck is going on at any level of your business. It's just pretty cool. Even when it sucks.

Dee: Yeah.

Chris: Even when you're like, "Well, that's a bummer. But at least we know." You know?

Dee: Yeah.

Chris: [Laughter]


Dee: It's better to face those issues head-on, just like anything else.

I remember listening to you and Alex's conflict conversation (podcast episode). It's important to face the hard stuff, even though it's hard. Nothing is going to improve if you put your head in the sand and are like, "I'm just not going to look at my expenses because maybe it'll just be okay." [Laughter]

I'm a firm believer of knowing the numbers and just dealing with what comes. Then, ideally, managing it so that you are going in a positive direction because if you don't know the bad or the good, you can't really do anything about it. But when you do, you can make sure you're on the right track.

Even then it's still hard to make sure you're focusing on the right numbers and making the decisions that will impact those metrics. That's still really hard, even if you do all the accounting and reporting correctly. It's still really hard to make the right decision to move the needle on the right metric, which I think speaks to more of the decisions you and Alex have to make and the tradeoffs you guys have.

Chris: Yeah because it doesn't tell you how easy or hard a thing is. If you say, "Oh, we spend a lot of money here," that doesn't tell the story of how easy it is to change that number. You then have to look at it and be like, "Oh, there's actually a lot of opportunity here," or "I didn't realize this was such a big problem or benefit. We should hit that harder."

You just don't know. The numbers don't tell you that. That's mixed with your intuition and knowledge of how the business is going. You know?

The easier numbers to turn are, like, "Yeah, then let's turn those." But some of them are really hard. No business in the world just gets to turn the churn knob.

Dee: Right. Even the hosting knob, right? That took six months of development work and new software like Pulumi and redoing every single server that CodePen had. At the end of the day, reporting on the hosting number is a lot easier than changing the hosting number, right?

Chris: Yeah. Yeah.

Dee: It's just more of the North Star and kind of like a guiding system so that you can make the right decisions and put work into the right areas.

Chris: Well, that's great. Thanks for talking with me. We'll have to do -- maybe we can do it sometime that gets into the tooling and the tricks of all this. If somebody is like, "Oh, I know I need to have a cash flow statement but, ew, how do I even get started?" it might be interesting to see what all the tooling is that we use to kind of make this manageable at all.

Like you said, this isn't even your full-time job. Far from it, right? You've got to have some tricks up your sleeve to getting it all done.


Dee: [Laughter] Totally. I feel like our listeners would be so bored that episode, though. [Laughter]

Chris: [Laughter]

Dee: I don't know if anyone is going to tune into that. But if you think it's helpful for people, I'd be happy to do it. But I doubt it. [Laughter]

Chris: Well, I don't know. Yeah, I won't force it on you unless you have an epiphany of what it is. But I think of, like, we use QuickBooks online, probably, right? I don't even know if we do anymore.

Dee: Yep. That's right.

Chris: That outputs some of these statements. It's just that you've got to make sure they're all right. You know?

Dee: That's right.

Chris: That tool alone, and I don't think that's an epiphany for people, like, "Yeah, you should probably use QuickBooks. It's an industry standard."

Dee: Mm-hmm.

Chris: Your CPA will definitely be able to digest it. But that's kind of good information to know when you're really early on.

Dee: Yes.

Chris: Don't do it in your own little Excel file. That's not going to end well for you.

Dee: Yeah. Yeah. Use software, my friends.

Chris: Use that. Software.

Dee: Software is always your friend.

Chris: Gusto has been good to us, too. That's the payroll thing. But it's so weirdly affordable. [Laughter]

Dee: Mm-hmm. [Laughter]

Chris: It's probably a little more expensive than CodePen, but not too far off. It's like, "Why is that so cheap?" But anyway, it does a great job.

Dee: Because they probably have great churn. It's super sticky, I'm sure. We used to use ADP in the very beginning, and a lot of the startups that come into the finance world, there is just so much room for improvement. Gusto was 100% one of those companies where they just brought modern software techniques to the world of payroll.

With ADP, you'd get a PDF of everything. With Gusto, they've got interactive UI, tables where you can filter your reports by a certain date, and things like that. There are a lot of modern software improvements to be had.

Chris: Yeah. The people should know that. Pick that.

Dee: [Laughter] Yeah.

Chris: Pick something that fits, especially because that's our heritage is good software.

Dee: Yeah. Exactly.

Chris: So, we try to use good software, too.

Dee: Always. Yeah.


Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Then Pilot, we use for the accounting aspect of it, which has a little bit of tech that they use.

Dee: Mm-hmm.

Chris: At least when I deal with it, they'll be like, "Oh, go to this URL. Look at these transactions that we don't know what they are. Could you help categorize them?"

Dee: Right. Mm-hmm.

Chris: That's certainly a lot easier than, like, an email that you just have to describe what the transactions are. That sucks.

Dee: Yes. And then they're built on top of Stripe as well. Any time you talk to me about fintech, Stripe will be at the top of my list, and I'll talk about the whole time.

Pilot is able to categorize our revenue in an automated fashion because we use Stripe. Bookkeeping is arduous because it takes a human being to look at every expense and every amount of revenue you get and categorize it, like, "Oh, that's a cogs item. That's hosting. That's software. That's professional development." You have to have the human being make that decision, and so to the extent that you can automate it and have a computer do it, then you are bringing modern software and speed into finance.

There are a ton of startups out there who do that. But what's interesting is there always still tends to be a manual element. With Pilot, we have a team of professional accountants working on our books. But then Pilot is trying to bring in more software by doing things like recognizing revenue through Stripe. They've probably built software for that.

Then they're trying to scale up their business by working with a hundred CodePens. You use it for CSS-Tricks as well. Giving us a portal, a UI to be like, "Oh, no. That categorization is wrong. It shouldn't be software services. It's actually professional development."

Chris: Mm-hmm.

Dee: They're taking more of the manual, human element out of it, which is kind of what we do with software. There is a ton of room to disrupt finance in that way.


Chris: Yeah. I have mostly positive things to say about that experience. I use them for more than just CodePen. I use them on the CSS-Tricks side as well. I think this is relevant because we've been talking about churn and how Gusto probably has super low churn because of how they lock-in.

Pilot probably does too because they get into your workflow like this and they provide pretty clear value that it's like, "Ugh. Why switch? That'd suck."

Dee: Yeah.

Chris: But one year, they had us locked into a price. The next year comes and they said, "Your cost is 4X what it was last year."

Dee: Yeah. Yeah.

Chris: I was like, "You're flipping kidding me. Get out of here."

Dee: Right. Yeah.

Chris: Guess what I said. "Okay." I couldn't even fight. I tried to baby hand-slap fight, and it obviously went nowhere.

Dee: [Laughter] Yeah.

Chris: I couldn't because I don't want to switch. You know?

Dee: Yeah.

Chris: But 4X, so be aware of that.

Dee: Yeah, and that makes complete sense for you with CSS-Tricks. You want to be focusing on writing articles and being on top of tech so that you can bring that to readers, right? You don't want to be focusing on doing bookkeeping all the time. That's kind of that conversation we had of, like, what size are you on the scale of companies.

In the beginning, if you're a single founder or an agency, you might be doing some of that on your own. But then as you get bigger and bigger, you want to outsource that to a company like Pilot. It does make an impact if you have fewer transactions. Setting up your checking accounts in a way where categorization is easy for them does help.

For CodePen, for example, I have separate checking accounts for our advertising revenue versus our subscription revenue. It's isolated to that revenue category so that it's really easy for their accountants to be able to categorize that properly. There are some tricks that you can do to make their job a little bit easier, but that's definitely something you want to outsource as your business gets bigger.

Chris: Heck yeah. All right. Well, thanks, Dee.

Dee: Yeah. No problem.

Chris: That was enlightening.

Dee: Thanks for chatting with me.

Chris: Sure. All right, everybody. See you next time.

Dee: Bye.

[Radio channel adjustment]