Following a year of nearly $250 million in fundraising and a $2 billion valuation, search and AI-driven analytics startup ThoughtSpot announced Tuesday a round of executive appointments, including the company’s first CFO, Mohit Daswani.
But Daswani does not consider himself a traditional CFO. "I didn’t grow up within corporate finance or FP&A," he said. "I was in private equity pre-tech, so I definitely have a bias, but I’ve seen many people in prominent CFO roles, such as Lyft, come from banking or corporate development and strategy."
Daswani arrived at ThoughtSpot from his post as head of finance and strategy at mobile payments company Square. Before that, he was CFO of the payments, risk and technology businesses at PayPal. The common thread among the jobs, he told CFO Dive, is managing growth at scale. He joined Square 18 months after its IPO, and in the less than three years he was there, it tripled in size.
"With that, from the finance perspective, comes [managing] that growth, funding the right things, and keeping an eye on the short-term, and what this means for our business a few years down the road," he said.
The CFO pyramid of duties
Daswani sees the modern CFO duties as a kind of pyramid. At the bottom is blocking and tackling. "Be the objective source of truth for a company," Daswani said. "Deliver the numbers, close on time, and provide transparency and visibility."
The second tier is being a business partner to the larger business. "[Don’t just say] here are the numbers, but inform people of what’s going on," he said. "Understand the business well, so you can inform decision making as you’re thinking of a new market launch. Say, ‘here’s what the numbers say; here’s an ROI, here are the risks.'"
The tip of the pyramid is having one’s finger on the pulse of the business and always thinking of what’s coming next. "For me, that’s where it becomes really fun," Daswani said. "You know the business really well as CFO. You start to see trends, and what’s showing up in the numbers, and what the threats are. You have a strategic view. Staying ahead of the curve is part of an evolving skill set."
In his new role and with his new team, Daswani prioritizes two traits to drive growth: curiosity and investment in relationships.
"The [CFO] position provides so much information. You can be a source of insight. I sometimes see finance, because we’re so busy, spending less time with business partners. That’s very important too."
Daswani said people sometimes think of finance as a roadblock, but he disagrees. "Finance is there to enable. It should say, look, here are the constraints we have; let me help you work within them." His key areas of focus include: investing capital wisely, helping take a broad range of things we can be doing and prioritizing them, and narrowing in on the right things at this stage, and putting the capital and resources behind them.
"At a stage of very high growth, it's important [the CFO] be able to tell a clear story of the company’s own trajectory, visions and goals," he said. "Those will definitely pertain to ThoughtSpot, which is in an earlier but very significant stage of growth."
"The analytics industry is craving a fundamentally new arc of innovation, one that takes them beyond static dashboards and visualizations and delivers the right insight to the right people at the right time," Ajeet Singh, co-founder and executive chairman, said in a statement.
"Capitalizing on this opportunity will require exceptional talent from across the technology landscape, which is why I’m so excited to bring on our new leaders," Singh said. "With Mohit as our CFO ... ThoughtSpot is in a strong position to scale to the next level.”