Shagun Malhotra is an experienced auditor and process consultant who designed ART, a month-end close automation tool, for accountants. She started her career in public accounting and has worked in Fortune 100 companies such as Marriott and Freddie Mac. Her work focused primarily on internal controls and risk mitigation in both international and domestic arenas. Her entry into entrepreneurship was purely accidental.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I was lucky to have a very unusual childhood. I was born in India but shortly after I left to join my father along with my mother on a ship. My father was a captain in the Merchant Navy. I sailed with my family for nearly 7 years and was home-schooled until we decided to base in Egypt. During those years I saw the world and had some wonderful experiences. After Egypt, we moved to Nigeria and I then went to boarding school in South India, college in Switzerland, London, and then finally in Texas. I graduated with two degrees, in Economics and Accounting. I started my career in public accounting as an external auditor and then moved to Marriott as an internal auditor followed by an internal control specialist at Freddie Mac. I moved to New York and mostly did consulting work. During my career, there was a focus on audits, fraud, investigations, and forensics. This was going to be the basis of my future business.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
Everyone in my family has been or is an entrepreneur and although I am proud of what they have all individually accomplished, I saw firsthand what it takes to run a business. There was no time off, so much responsibility for the business, employees, and customers. It all felt too overwhelming for me. Having amazing jobs and having carved out a good career path, I enjoyed the idea of leaving work at work and having time for myself and not having to worry 24/7. However, I guess entrepreneurship runs in the blood. My father had been on my case to start a business for a few years and believed that I had what it took to start and sustain a business. And then, the crash of the markets in 2008 coupled with the project I was working on at that time turned me into an entrepreneur. I had been hired by a large international bank to help them pass a regulatory audit, where they had received a failing audit. While preparing the bank to pass the audit the next time around, we had to specifically focus on the balance sheet reconciliation process because the balance sheet was off balance by nearly $4 billion. As part of the process, I had to devise a plan and process to ensure that every account was reconciled with adequate tracking and assigned accountability. The bank did eventually pass its audit. Then the crash happened and as part of cost-cutting measures, all consultants were laid off. While watching financial collapses all over the place, it didn’t seem that it was the right time to be looking for the next project. I used that time, to process all the accolades I received while devising the process for the success of the month-end close and reconciliation process and decided to take on the challenge of creating an automated way to do so as had been suggested by my peers at the bank. And thus ART, our month-end close and reconciliation solution, was born. It was an accidental opportunity that just fell in my lap which I chose to pursue. I feel so grateful that timing and opportunity collided to enable me to realize it.
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
Find people who believe in what you are doing, understand the need and know what value the product will be providing its customers. With a strong conviction in what the solution is offering really supercharges the efforts of the entire company to deliver a solution that provides value. This also catapults the idea that the customer is the biggest asset where service to them is paramount because they are ultimately the reason we exist and are the ones who are critical to elevating the product to the next level.