At a glance
- Jason Shum CPA is the founder of EasyTrack.ai, which he set up in 2019 to help accounting firms streamline project management, knowledge management and business analytics.
- The platform uses AI to automate routine work, and one of its key advantages is that it removes the need to juggle multiple pieces of expensive software.
- Shum believes the new work-from-home culture will fast-track firms embracing virtual solutions that free up accountants’ time for higher-value work.
As software engineer Jason Shum CPA works in lockdown in Hong Kong, he can see a silver lining to the current pandemic.
Shum, the founder of EasyTrack.ai, an automation platform that acts as a virtual COO for professional services firms, is confident that a new work-from-home culture stemming from the pandemic will fast-track firms embracing virtual solutions that complement the traditional role of accountants.
“COVID-19 is quickening the pace of all this digital transformation,” he says, “but a CPA is still valuable for a lot of reasons, including the judgement they have; we have to build tools to enable them rather than replace them.”
Shum launched EasyTrack last year, to help accounting firms streamline project management, knowledge management and business analytics. Its key functions cover revenue and finances (creating, editing and approving all timesheets, expenses and invoices in a single cloud-based application), document management (virtually filing documents, emails and chat messages), and job and resource management (planning, assigning and monitoring team tasks through an interactive digital board).
The greatest advantage, according to Shum, is that EasyTrack removes the need to juggle multiple pieces of expensive software and train staff in how to use them all. “Firms don’t want to use four or five different pieces of software.”
Start me up
Within its first year, EasyTrack signed up a number of accounting firms as clients. For Shum, the business is the culmination of a dream to be a computer scientist, “make cool stuff” and provide industry solutions that no one else is addressing.
A love of software and start-ups led him to move to the US to study software engineering at Brown University, an Ivy League school in Rhode Island, despite calls from his parents to pursue a more “stable” job.
“Computer science wasn’t so hot back then, and both my parents are professionals,” Shum explains.
After graduating, he worked in technical and product management roles in the Silicon Valley for the advertising, solar and healthcare industries.
Then, about three years ago, he moved back home to Hong Kong and joined strategy consultancy EY-Parthenon, where he focused on due diligence and intellectual property licensing projects for high-tech start-ups. An internal project using software to reduce operational inefficiencies convinced him that the industry, more broadly, needed his software solutions.
Setting up EasyTrack also fulfilled a yearning to have a direct impact on the business world through his own start-up.
“That’s why I kept coming back to it – the feeling you have after a product is launched and looking back at what you’ve been able to achieve from nothing. That amount of satisfaction is hard to find elsewhere.”
EasyTrack uses artificial intelligence (AI) to automate more routine work, especially for small and medium-sized practices.
After raising money from seed investors, Shum focused on recruiting a standout team of technology experts and business people. To date, the platform has helped clients manage thousands of jobs and store tens of thousands of documents, emails and chat messages. For users, subscription plans are billed monthly, with costs varying depending on the services and customisation required.
The early stage of the business presented challenges, including getting clients to take a leap of faith to test out a new service. To ensure relevancy, Shum and his team conduct exhaustive research into the problems potential clients are facing, and engage in-depth with firms to develop solutions.
“It’s an iterative process,” Shum says. “There’s no final version of the product. We keep improving it constantly, so it’s a process that takes time… If you’re not doing the right thing for your clients, it doesn’t matter how pretty or fancy it looks.”
With all his expertise with algorithms and AI, Shum sees himself as a problem-solver. He wants to help more businesses.
With EasyTrack gaining traction in the accounting space, Shum and his team of seven staff are now targeting legal and architecture firms, among others. The growth of the business allows Shum to reflect that he made the right decision to pursue computer science and, later, leave the security of a job with EY-Parthenon for the uncertainty of a start-up.
“My view is that you’re actually increasing your chance of failure if you play it safe,” he says.
“You have to stick your neck out to be ahead of the game.