Ekos, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based business management software startup focused on independent craft food and beverage companies, has hired Chris Rosbrook as CFO, the company announced Thursday.
Rosbrook comes to Ekos from his CFO role at startup MapAnything, and brings more than 20 years of experience in technology, software, finance and investment banking. Rosbrook's hiring announcement came a month after Ekos completed an $8 million funding round.
The company said Rosbrook will help use Ekos's new funding strategically as it releases new products, expands into new verticals and "continues its steady march toward market leadership in end-to-end craft food/beverage software."
Rosbrook spoke with CFO Dive about his hopes for the startup, and how he will try to leverage his experience to help the company grow.
"Ekos today is a market-leading provider of software for production in craft breweries," Rosbrook said. "It is a system that will allow our customers to manage inventory, raw materials and cost accounting."
Ekos bills itself as primarily "brewery management software," which Rosbrook describes as a mini-enterprise resource planning system for the craft brewer market. "It's grown up in that segment, and is already at something like a 20% penetration of that market," he said. "Where we go from here is to drive further into that market. We're in a really good position there, with a lot to do."
The software is also adaptable enough to be used by other craft manufacturers. "We just haven't focused there yet," he said.
Making the software available to other segments will be a big future focus. "We want to take what we've built and bring it into other segments, [like] craft food and beverage," he said. "Think of the packaged foods aisle at Whole Foods. It's not dominated in the same way by Kraft and Procter & Gamble that it used to be. There are lots of smaller, fragmented brands on that shelf, and we intend to go into those markets and help those manufacturers the same way we've helped craft brewers."
Rosbrook said manufacturers a fraction of Kraft's size will eventually grow to a point where the manual spreadsheets they use become too cumbersome. They'll require a system "more dialed into what they're really trying to do," and Ekos, he said, has software to meet that need.
At the same time, he said, the company "doesn't consider itself as competing with Kraft and Procter & Gamble. Those aren't our competitors; they're the bigger [consumer packaged goods] companies on the shelf next to our clients."
More growth projected
Ekos has every reason to expect exceptional growth, but it will require intelligent and future-focused leadership, Rosbrook said.
"We've raised the A Round capital," he said. "Now it's incumbent upon us to use that capital to grow the company, and use that capital efficiency. [Our investors] want to see growth. Venture-backed businesses tend to grow, but it's not growth at all costs. We must have a certain efficiency with our capital, spending it wisely as we go. That's the magic for accessing capital in the future."
If Ekos can demonstrate its efficient use of capital right away, Rosbrook said, that will pave the way to additional capital down the road, with investors assured by their progress.
Rosbrook sees his role as more than tracking performance.
“With companies at our stage, and it's probably true across the board, the CFO is increasingly strategic within the business," he said. "It's not just the numbers. If you're a CFO or VP of finance, somebody who's made it to a more senior level of the finance function, you're going to play a much broader role.
"I started my career in software, then did 15 years as an investment banker, advising companies on strategic and capital decisions," Rosbrook said. "The [CFO role] is really starting to look more and more like my background, as opposed to [companies] only being interested in a CPA who has come up every rung of the financial ladder."
Rosbrook said an adaptive and wide-ranging CFO role will serve companies well. "I think CFOs are being asked to do mainly operational, strategic and financial things, and that's inviting people with broader skill sets and backgrounds into companies’ finance function. And I think, overall, that’s healthy.
"We certainly need CPAs, and people who've followed a more traditional accounting path and know the technical details, but it does speak to this broader shift toward a more strategic role, not just straight finance anymore," he said.