9 Tech Stack Must-Haves for CPG Startups

Written By:

Sean Bies & Donny Trya – Directors at Graphite
Also posted on Startup CPG

As a growing CPG (consumer packaged goods) startup, you need tools that help you maximize efficiency and set you up for success as you scale and your market share grows. 

Many early-stage CPG startups overlook their tech stack and then play catch-up later on, incurring a ton of lost revenue and cleanup expenses. If you want to get ahead of the competition and stay there, building a strong technology foundation is a must-have, not a nice-to-have.

What Does an Optimal CPG Tech Stack Look Like?

The size of the average tech stack varies widely from company to company. While some stay lean, many organizations end up with hundreds of digital tools as part of their operations. 

For CPG startups, it’s important to keep your tech tools realistically within your budget. When you sign up for software programs indiscriminately, costs will quickly balloon out of control. 

Making sure that your tech stack integrates smoothly is another crucial consideration. If your tools don’t work together properly, the technology will actually make your operations more inefficient and ineffective. 

Graphite has helped hundreds of CPG startups set up their financial and operational tech stacks, from inventory management systems, integrating Stripe with Shopify, AP tools, accounting softwares like QBO and NetSuite, etc.

Below are our recommendations for the tech stack tools CPG startups need to scale, grow, and understand their economics (if you need help with your tech stack, feel free to reach out to us here).

 

The Optimal Tech Stack for CPG Startups

Accounting Software

Your accounting software serves as the home base for your company’s finances. This software is the backbone of your entire accounting infrastructure. 

Accounting software stores, organizes, and manages all of your company’s financial operations. You’ll use this software to record transactions and produce basic financial reports like P&Ls and balance sheets (which you will eventually use to file your taxes!). 

Setting up your accounting software should be the first step when building your tech stack. If you’re not sure where to get started, consider working with a firm like Graphite to get your financial operations off the ground. 

Our Top Picks

  • Quickbooks Online – This is our #1 pick. Its accessible features work best for most early-stage and growing startups.
  • Rillet – While Rillet is designed for SaaS startups, it has some useful features and an appealing interface that works well for CPG startups.
  • NetSuite – This software is best suited for startups with more complex operations.

     

Accounts Payable (AP)

As a CPG startup, you likely work with a variety of vendors that you need to pay quickly and efficiently. 

An effective accounts payable tool helps you track and manage all of your vendor payments in one place. It also helps you stay compliant with the IRS come tax time. 

Our Top Picks

  • Bill.com – This is our #1 pick for streamlining the AP approval process.
  • Settle – This software pays your vendors upfront, allowing you to pay them back up to 120 days later.
  • Airbase – This tool is pricier than our other recommendations, but it allows for virtual credit cards. This is a better option for large companies.
  • Ramp – Ramp is an all-in-one platform that combines AP features with corporate banking and credit cards. 
  • Brex – Similarly, Brex is a comprehensive business banking platform with AP features.

     

Accounts Receivable (AR) / Invoicing

You also need a tool to manage invoices and payments from your clients. 

Today’s customers expect to be able to pay their bills online. If you don’t provide the option for online payments, it will negatively affect the overall customer experience as well as how many customers will complete a purchase with you in the first place. 

In addition to offering an online purchasing option, we highly recommend having a tool that streamlines the customer payment process and produces solid records of your collections. This efficiency will benefit both your customers and your operation.

Our Top Picks

  • Stripe – This tool makes it easy to send invoices, collect payments from around the world, and keep records of your billing.

     

Credit Card and Banking

Finding the right credit card and bank for your startup feels like a simple choice—until you realize how many mind-boggling options there are. 

A financial institution is one of the biggest choices your startup will make. You want to establish a solid partnership from the get-go. 

Luckily, many modern banks actively support startups. Here are the ones we like to work with:

Our Top Picks

Credit Cards:

  1. Ramp – This comprehensive corporate credit card offers over a thousand integrations and a wide variety of automated features. 
  2. Brex – Brex offers a variety of similar features to Ramp, but is generally better for early-stage startups with high growth potential. 
  3. Settle – Settle offers a variety of unique features to help you manage your cash flow. It allows you to defer and split payments and offers several different transfer methods. 
  4. Rho – This platform offers corporate credit card options as well as AP and expense management features. 

Banks:

  1. Mercury – Known for its security and automation features, Mercury is a bank designed specifically for startups. 
  2. Chase – If you prefer to work with one of the major U.S. banks, Chase offers reliable options for small businesses.

     

Inventory Management

Inventory management is one of the biggest challenges for early-stage CPG startups. We highly recommend using software to handle this process, especially if you’re an eCommerce company.

This kind of tool keeps you organized, minimizes the risk of error, streamlines costs, and establishes a process that can last even as your company scales. All of this ultimately means a healthier bottom line for your business. 

Inventory software also helps you identify the most cost-efficient methods for ordering new products. It can even help you forecast inventory to minimize risk. 

Our Top Picks

  • Dear – This tool offers straightforward and accessible inventory management that works well for startups. 
  • Katana – This cloud-based platform offers live inventory management and planning services. It also conveniently integrates with other accounting platforms.

     

Payroll

There are many nuances and compliance regulations to keep in mind when it comes to payroll and benefits. You never want to get into a situation where the Department of Labor is knocking at your door. 

We highly recommend working with a PEO (Professional Employer Organization) who handles the nitty gritty compliance details for you. 

Our Top Picks

  1. Gusto – This platform is a great option for early-stage startups who need payroll and HR support. 
  2. JustWorks – This is a reliable PEO with solid customer support options. 
  3. TriNet – This is a great solution if your startup is looking for a full-service option.
  4. Rippling – The platform’s onboarding is easy & enjoyable, and they also handle IT integrations.

     

Sales Tax

In the U.S., merchants are only required to collect sales tax in states where they have a “sales tax nexus.” This is regardless of whether they have brick-and-mortar locations or are an online seller. 

Sales tax nexus is just a fancy legalese way of saying “a significant connection” to a state. If you have nexus in a state, then that state considers you on the hook for charging sales tax to buyers in the state. You’ll always have sales tax nexus in your home state, but you may find that certain business activities create nexus in other states too.

It is extremely important to stay on top of your sales taxes. If you don’t, you may receive hefty fines from multiple states down the road. This is another area where we provide a lot of support for our startup clients at Graphite

Our Top Picks

  1. TaxJar – This a very intuitive and accessible platform for sales tax compliance, and they offer reliable customer support options. 
  2. Avalara – If you need more robust tax compliance options, this is a great option.

     

Cap Table Management

Startups need to keep track of ownership from the beginning. If you don’t have ownership documented, you’re going to have a difficult time raising capital in the future. 

You also need to understand your options when it comes to adding and retaining top talent. Cap table management helps you stay on top of your ownership options, ensuring that ownership is clear to all parties involved. 

Our Top Picks

  1. Carta – This platform offers real-time cap tables that you can use in the fundraising process. 
  2. TWO12 – TWO12 has a range of cap table management features and even helps you simulate and prepare for potential future ownership changes.

     

     

Revenue Recognition

Deferred revenue is money received in advance for products or services that will be delivered in the future. If you don’t track your deferred revenue, you could end up overstating your revenue, which affects your KPIs. 

Tracking deferred revenue can be a tricky process for beginners, but it’s best to start establishing this process early. In addition to using a revenue recognition tool, don’t be afraid to bring in financial experts to help you get your footing. 

For a founder-friendly breakdown of revenue recognition and the difference between accrual and cash accounting, check out our tutorial.

Our Top Picks

  • Blue Onion – This program integrates with your bank to help you reconcile your finances automatically.

     

     

Build the Right Tech Stack With Graphite

CPG companies always exist in highly competitive markets. You need the right operational and financial tech stack to mitigate against hiccups and lost opportunity. Building a reliable tech stack should be a priority for any growing CPG startup. 

If you’re not sure where to start with your tech stack or need help with bookkeeping or accounting, Graphite is here to help. 

We offer fractional accounting and finance services for startups. Learn more about our tailored services for eCommerce and consumer brands. However, compared to SAFEs or convertible notes, these rounds take longer to complete because they involve agreeing on a valuation and undergoing extensive due diligence.

Need CFO or Accounting Help?

Born out of a VC fund, Graphite fully understands the strategic and financial needs of high growth companies. If you need accounting support or simply have a question about accounting at your company, feel free to connect with us!

What services are you interested in?

2 + 9 =

GRAPHITE FINANCIAL | 228 PARK AVE S #85447 NEW YORK, NY 10003, UNITED STATES | HELLO@GRAPHITEFINANCIAL.COM
© Copyright 2016 - 2024