Less Risk, More Practice

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Mar 15, 2022

Earlier this month, Fieldguide announced their $17 million Series A, led by 8VC. Fieldguide CEO Jin Chang’s excellent blog post conveys both the tremendous functional appetite for their platform, and their larger mission to empower risk practices to increase trust in commerce and capital markets. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the market dynamics that make Fieldguide such a necessary company, some of the technical and data challenges they’re solving, and the convergence of forces making this such a compelling investment from our perspective.

Much has been written about the Smart Enterprise wave that 8VC outlined over nine years ago, but one of the underrated aspects of this explosive growth is not merely the number of B2B software companies, but also the fact that they’re in turn selling into larger enterprises earlier than ever in their lifecycle. As a result, industry standards around risk are proliferating, and certifications and attestations such as SOC 2, HIPAA and ISO 27001 are likewise coming up earlier. This has generated a lot of investment in tooling to enable startups to get ready for SOC 2 and other frameworks, mainly via more automated data collection. These are known as GRC (governance, risk management, and compliance) tools.

GRC tools have gained widespread adoption by enabling companies to prepare faster for audits, with less manual lift required. However, this only represents one side of the equation. The institutional knowledge, and the bulk of the certification process, still lie with the audit firms — specifically their dedicated risk practices. These practices are facing unprecedented demand, and before Fieldguide, their needs had not been addressed in any concerted way. This gap not only resulted in untold amounts of painful, manual data mapping, but also threatened to hamper the competitiveness of mid-size audit firms, who have the expertise to play a major role in meeting the demand for risk advisory services, but lack the budgets and internal resources of the Big 4.

Fieldguide enables risk practices to bridge this gap, and ultimately expand their service offerings, in canonical Smart Enterprise fashion. Let’s start with their core capabilities. In addition to being the first cloud-native platform serving this market — a significant milestone in its own right — Fieldguide is doing three fundamental things:

1. Auditor Workflow Defragmentation

The typical auditor’s workflow is complex and highly non-linear. Roughly speaking, they have to collect data, map it to various controls, then generate reports, but the sequence is rarely so straightforward. The legacy approach is dependent on a different tool (or more) for each component: data is spread across email and Excel; mapping is completely manual, with legacy systems from companies like Thomson Reuters; reports are painfully pieced together in Word. Fieldguide consolidates each component into streamlined workflows on a single, integrated platform.

2. Manual Work Reduction

Let’s say auditors are completing frameworks A, B, and C, which between them contain 100 different controls overall, with lots of overlap. Legacy tools lack any notion of centralized data mapping between frameworks. This translates to extensive redundant work, because even though a certain control may be applicable to multiple frameworks, it needs to be remapped for each additional framework. Fieldguide enables you to do the mapping once and automatically perform cross-framework mapping going forward. Furthermore, it can auto-generate reports, saving even more massive amounts of time for practitioners. By cracking this code, Fieldguide has introduced, and taken ownership of, the first true domain-specific data model for the risk practice.

3. Improving the End User Experience

For risk practices, Fieldguide not only improves their process, it also improves their client experience, offering a more responsive, digitally native solution. This can take the form of automated data collection, integration with cloud infrastructure, or automatically pulling required documentation instead of audit clients having to push a screenshot to prove that they satisfied a control. All of this adds up to a higher NPS for Fieldguide’s customers, the risk practitioners. It’s a win-win-win for Fieldguide, their customers, and their customers’ clients.

From a bottom-line perspective, Fieldguide offers a set of advantages in line with its superior capabilities:

  1. It drives massive ROI for risk practices on a per-engagement basis, thanks to workflow defragmentation and automation.
  2. It unlocks spare time for risk practices to expand their business and satisfy client demand, while providing a domain-specific model that can easily accommodate the new standards and frameworks that will inevitably emerge.
  3. By making the whole process so much less painful for each stakeholder, it reduces the cost of doing business, and the risk of losing business.

As investors, we were struck by Fieldguide’s uniqueness across multiple facets. Tactically, Fieldguide is the only platform that can collect data from audit customers, map it to the right framework, allow the auditor to iterate and run controls, then generate the final report. Strategically, Fieldguide is the only player that can fundamentally address the whole value chain, bettering everyone’s experience along the way.

Great platforms don’t happen without great teams, and Fieldguide’s is no exception — in fact, rarely do we see a team with this level of founder/market fit. CEO and cofounder Jin Chang was a CPA himself, living and breathing the problems he’s now solving. CTO and co-founder Chris Szymansky is an ideal technical leader, having worked extensively on two-sided, high-volume data products. Between them, they supply all the domain and technical expertise we could ask for, and a size and clarity of vision that defines only the most elite duos.

We could not be more excited to be a part of Fieldguide’s journey. Like its namesake, Fieldguide promises to be a trusted companion, preparing practitioners for all of the species they’re likely to encounter in the wild.