Association, launch ‘Shark Tank’ for startups

By Jeff Drew

The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants and, the American Institute of CPAs’ technology subsidiary, announced Tuesday that they are launching an initiative to provide funding and support to early-stage companies developing innovative technologies for the accounting profession.

The Association and Startup Accelerator will seek to support as many as five early-stage companies during the next year. The focus will be on startups in two key areas:

  • Technology and financial information, which could include advances in artificial intelligence, automation of routine tasks, and the application of blockchain/digital ledgers; and
  • Professional competency innovation, which could encompass machine learning to personalize professional education, collaboration tools for mentors and experts, and improvements in measuring professional competency, among other categories.

“The Association and have a deep base of knowledge and resources to offer entrepreneurs looking to find a foothold in the accounting ecosystem,” Lawson Carmichael, the Association’s executive vice president for strategy, people, and innovation, said in a news release. “And for us, the startup accelerator offers a chance to ‘see around corners’ and take a more long-range view of opportunities in business transformation and innovation. There’s a compelling business case for collaboration.”

The startup accelerator will provide as many as five companies with up to $20,000 in funding and access to subject-matter experts, including an advisory panel of thought leaders in the accounting technology field available to provide coaching and mentoring on issues and opportunities unique to the profession. The funding will be subject to a commercial agreement that could take any number of forms, including using the funding to purchase equity in the startup or to assist with development of a product in which and/or the Association would own part of the product’s intellectual property. Another possibility would be a channel agreement to provide access to the market.

Firms chosen for the accelerator initiative also would have the opportunity to showcase their product or service next June at AICPA ENGAGE 2018, one of the largest accounting-related events in the United States, and—with continued, successful development—the potential for longer-term, strategic relationships within the profession.

The main goals for the Association and in launching the accelerator are to promote innovation and to give the accounting profession early insight into disruptive technologies and services in finance and business.

Applicants from all global markets are eligible to apply for one of the five accelerator spots. To qualify:

  • Startups should be at a pre-Series A stage of financing, with some exceptions.
  • The company must have a functioning product or service.
  • Pre-revenue companies will be considered based on their development progress and business plan.
  • Candidate companies must agree to pitch their product or service to Association and executives this fall, after which up to five finalists will be selected.

“At, we have been driving innovation for the past decade through our technology services, strategic partnerships, and training and education programs,” said Erik Asgeirsson,’s president and CEO. “We’ve also been convening leading technology companies at our executive roundtables and other collaborative events, so the next logical step for us is to support earlier-stage activity with this Startup Accelerator. It’s like ‘Shark Tank’ for companies serving the accounting profession.”

Submissions by startups are due by Oct. 5. Interested companies that want more information can contact Greg LaFollette, a strategic adviser with, at, or Mark Brooks, senior manager of innovation at the Association, at To apply for consideration or learn more details about the Startup Accelerator, visit

Jeff Drew ( is a JofA senior editor.

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