Welcome to Chasing Paper :)

I’m Younes, 27 y.o recently put in charge of running finances at the investment firm The Family.

The purpose of this newsletter is to document the process of taking hold of a companies finance with an entrepreneurial perspective. My own process, of course, but also that of the dozens of entrepreneurs I get to interact with on a weekly basis.

The entrepreneurial perspective is important here. CFOs are nowhere near as vocal as lot of their CxO counterparts. I’m convinced there’s a lot of virtue in best practice and thoughts sharing, and so I’d like to contribute my share.

And before diving into what you can expect from this newsletter, I would like to make a confession: I am new to this, and very likely clueless about a ton of things that will have you raise your eyebrows if you’ve been handling finances at your company for a while. It’s been 3 months for me as a sparring CFO to my colleague Nicolas and I have to say it’s been a rocky start if there ever was one. 

  • I am a business graduate with past experience in finance, but obviously running the show is very different than observing it from the sidelines as a junior. The learning curve is steep.

  • I started in late February 2020, in the wake of the most important economic crisis since at least 2008. The COVID-19 crisis brought about uncertainty & liquidity constraints to pretty much every business on the face of the earth, and with them challenges to CFOs or wannabe-CFOs like me: resource allocation, cash flow planning, headcount management and other high-stakes calls. 

  • As a product enthusiast, I was appalled at the rudimentary tooling there was in order to rein in the data and utilise it to make informed, strategic decisions. A lot of the job consists of menial tasks - not uninteresting per se, especially in times of crisis, but tedious.

So what’s in it for you ?

What you can expect from this newsletter is simple:

  • Perspectives & thoughts : being surrounded by entrepreneurs & having no particular preconceived biases as to how to approach financial topics, I’ll share ideas influenced by things I read, conversations I have or patterns I see.

  • Tips, tools & techniques : it’s high time we had finance hacking. Entrepreneurs are building amazing products to help with core sub-topics for CFOs, but there’s still a long way to go before they can solely focus on high value add tasks in their growing companies. So I’ll share recipes that work for me and that you can adapt to your work setting.

I hope we can build a community of people interested in finance, strategy, entrepreneurship and their intersection and that we can share thoughts & best practices along the way. Are you in? 👇

Oh, and about the name?

There’s a nasty connotation to the expression “chasing paper”. It usually refers to a person who only goes after the money. 

Obviously, entrepreneurs shouldn’t launch businesses only for the cash prospects. The most important thing is to make their vision come to life. However, I think it’s a good incentive alignment if they also want to get rich while doing it.

And, most importantly, the business itself can only grow if it makes sense from a financial standpoint. I still remember my very first finance lesson at HEC Paris. Prof. Stefano Lovo wrote “Cash is king” on the whiteboard and told us if we only had to remember one thing, that was it.

The 2010’s showed us startups growing fast (blitzscaling), burning VC money along the way, with a clear expectation of deferring revenue for the sake of growth. I think the 2020’s will breed a new type of startups, still looking for growth but equally interested in revenue, cash and overall financial discipline. 

That new model will be a case in point of paper chasing.

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Findings & tips of a CFO in the 2020's