Toptal Finance Blog

The Toptal Finance Blog is a hub for in-depth studies and analysis on all facets of finance, ranging from innovative strategies on raising capital to detailed coverage of new finance trends and technologies.
Sean Heberling, CFA
The Undeniable Importance of a Business Plan

We often hear about business plans in the context of early-stage companies; however, constructing excellent business plans is difficult and time-consuming, so many entrepreneurs avoid them. But, is this a mistake?

While most people may be aware of the “soft” arguments for and against writing a business plan, in this article, a Toptal Finance Expert takes a data-driven approach to addressing the debate. In it, he finds strong evidence to support the notion that writing an excellent business plan is time well spent.

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Carolyn Deng, CFA
AI Investment Primer: Laying the Groundwork (Part I)

Over the last few years, the world has witnessed an explosion of interest surrounding Artificial Intelligence. A concept once confined primarily to the Sci-Fi genre, AI has become part of our everyday lives. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into AI companies, and investors all around the world are keen to put money to work in this space.

Nevertheless, there still exists a significant gap in understanding and knowledge about AI applications, particularly amongst the investor community. This article, the first of a two-part series on the topic, is a collection of thoughts and advice by Toptal Finance Expert Carolyn Deng, based on her experience having founded an AI startup as well as having worked as VC Investor.

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Ellen Su
Exploring Excel's Get & Transform Functionality

Hidden in Excel and Power BI is a powerful data analysis pack named Get and Transform. It is an ETL pack for cleaning and sorting raw data from a range of input sources, such as CSV and text files. This tutorial demonstrates how Get & Transform can help the data analyst both save time and uncover more insight.

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Javier Enrile
Representations and Warranty Insurance: An M&A Tool Every Seller Should Know About

Relatively unknown until recently, representation and warranty insurance is an interesting—and often extremely effective—tool for helping M&A deals cross the finishing line. By shifting the financial risk for breaches of representation and warranties to an insurance firm, these arrangements can enable sellers to receive all the purchase price proceeds at closing as opposed to being exposed to liquidity risk post deal close.

The first of a two-part series, this primer on reps and warranty insurance by M&A expert Javier Enrile is aimed at educating readers on what representation and warranty insurance is and how it works, followed by an overview of the drafting process.

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Erik Warren
How to Build a Budget that Lasts the Full Year

Budgeting can be a drawn-out process, yet oftentimes once the year starts and results diverge, they become forgotten. Instead of budgeting just with qualitative methods, managers should combine them with quantitative tools. Comparing regressed historic trends with future expectations can be more accurate and ultimately ensure the budget survives the year.

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Josh Chapman
Business Plan Consultants: Who They Are And How they Create Value

Due in part to the unceremonial nature of its title, the value-creation potential of business plan consultants is often misunderstood and underappreciated. Questions such as, “What do they do that I can’t?”, “Why do they cost so much?” and, “Don’t you think we can handle this ourselves?”, all too often haunt their practice.

Having prolifically added value to 25+ clients across a range of industries, sizes, and mandates, Toptal Finance Expert, Josh Chapman, sheds light on the full scope of business plan consulting. What it is to be a great business plan consultant, how they create value, and what skills, attributes and experiences constitute the greats vs. the pretenders.

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Emilio Labrador
Working Capital Optimization: Practical Tips from a Pro

A decidedly less sexy, albeit critical, part of a CFO’s job description is working capital management and optimization. There are countless examples of companies that are forced to incur unnecessary debt and other financial obligations to meet their short-term financing needs, when in fact ample cash is sitting idly stuck in working capital.

But working capital optimization is hard to get right and often requires significant cross-functional efforts to execute effectively. In this article, Toptal Finance Expert Emilio Labrador draws on 25 years of professional experience across multiple industries to outline some of his main suggestions and approaches on how to tackle working capital management projects.

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Orinola Gbadebo-Smith
Effective Startup Boards: What They Are and How to Build Them

Depending on your perspective, type, and motivation, the idea of building a board of directors either excites or intimidates you, complete with all associated imagery of aged oak rooms, brief-case wielding titans, and expensive cigars.

This article, by Toptal Finance Expert Orinola Gbadebo-Smith, sets out to debunk a few myths. It sheds light on boards as a construct, their workings, dealings, and nuances, and explores some battle-tested strategies for recruiting, building, and managing effective boards.

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Aleksey N. Krylov, CFA
Fundraising Consultants vs. Broker-Dealers

Fundraising is hard to get right, which is why companies of all sorts often turn to fundraising experts for help and advice regarding the fundraising process. There is a multitude of different professional figures that help companies raise capital, but for startups and growth companies, the two figures most often encountered are fundraising consultants and broker-dealers.

Despite many similarities between the two, there are some important differences that startup founders and company managers must understand if they are thinking of turning to one of these for help. In this article, Toptal Finance Expert Aleksey N. Krylov explores various features of both service providers and discusses the pros and cons of working with either one.

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Jacob Wright
Corporate Tax Reform and the Future of Valuation - Part II

In his first article on the effects of the new US corporate tax reform bill, Toptal Finance Expert Jacob Wright assessed one of the most important impacts of the reform: the changes to interest deductibility. In this follow-up article, he runs through some further thoughts related to the effects on capital expenditures, in addition to a more high-level assessment of what the optimal capital structure of the future will look like given these changes.

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Melissa Lin
Online Dating Industry: The Business of Love

It might be hard to imagine or remember, but there was once a time when going on a date with a stranger you met online was a strange concept—frowned upon, even. Today, however, millennials have led the charge on transforming the dating industry and making online dating universally accepted. In fact, a 2018 Statista survey revealed that 12% of 18-29-year-olds admit to being in a relationship with a partner they met online. And, consider that there are now over 1,500 dating apps or websites in existence.

Though matchmaking is one of the oldest industries in existence, online matchmaking is now having a moment of its own. This article explores the business of dating: the market size of dating apps in the U.S., the industry’s biggest players, and how these products actually make money (if they even do!).

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Francesco Castellano
The Impending Commercial Robot Revolution

The field of robotics has seen incredible strides forward in recent years. As a result of improvements in computer vision, dexterity and also overall economics, use of robots has increased in a variety of different fields. However, most of the growth in robotics so far has happened in industrial applications, and thus hidden from the view of the general public. But is this about to change?

In this article, Toptal Finance Expert Francesco Castellano focuses on the commercial robotics market. Thanks to recent breakthroughs in the fields of AI, mechatronics, sensors, and batteries, service and commercial robots are likely to see tremendous growth and adoption, likely heralding a new robotics revolution that could transform our daily lives in countless ways.

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Ted Bartlett
Making Your Software Work For You: an ERP Implementation Tutorial

In the life of almost any growing enterprise, there comes a point in time when the existing systems and processes become insufficient. Early-stage businesses tend to grow up with basic and low-cost software systems as well as a heavy reliance upon a few key administrative employees. Eventually, however, the software can’t keep up with the business, and the trusted employees become overtaxed.

For most enterprises at this key inflection point, implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, which integrates all areas of the business, can help to overcome this issue. It’s a hugely consequential decision for the business and must be approached with an uninterrupted focus on risk management. While ERP may not be sexy, it is of utmost importance for growing businesses and should not be ignored. This article provides enterprise leaders with the benefits and risks of ERP, as well as a detailed step-by-step implementation guide.

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Ryan Downie
LTV and CAC: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

LTV:CAC analysis is one of the most important exercises startup founders must go through to evaluate their business’ prospects and raise external funding. It is, however, frequently misunderstood and misinterpreted.

In this article, Toptal Finance Expert Ryan Downie runs through a practical tutorial of how to perform LTV:CAC analysis correctly, and how it should be adapted and interpreted depending on the business model or sector in question.

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