Today’s Architects/Justin Farr-Jones

Justin Farr-Jones

CEO/Founder at Cyber Invoice

Building credibility in the fintech world

Justin Farr-Jones - Cyber Invoice CEO & Founder - IBM Z enthusiast

IBM took our company from one that was aware of and compliant with financial regulations to the next level where we could interface with any bank, safe and secure in the knowledge that we were encrypted at banking-level grade.”

About Justin

Justin Farr-Jones is the innovative and resilient founder and CEO of Cyber Invoice, a London-based startup that seeks to put small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on the fast track to profitability by integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) with payment rails and accounting systems. It’s an ambitious goal to create a single AI-powered cashflow view over the entire sales and finance function, to eradicate costly manual reconciliation and automate invoice and tax workflows with AI—an emblem of the fintech revolution, which attracted a new generation of innovators and digital disruptors like Justin to the traditionally conservative world of banking.

Justin’s motivation emanates from his own personal experience of trying to keep companies afloat for over 15 years. “I’ve worked with all types of financially distressed companies during my career, including full blown insolvency proceedings,” Justin says. “As an entrepreneur, I’ve seen firsthand how an SME’s cashflow crisis develops, how it resolves itself or unfortunately leads into bankruptcy. Having validated cashflow data at the right time and in real time is mission critical to running a growth company.”

His direct experience includes starting his

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His direct experience includes starting his own company and facing an early financial crisis, sharing, “I was determined to do it the right way. I had this extensive experience in the field, and I decided to call in a Top 4 accounting firm for bookkeeping and to use the latest budgeting software to predict cashflow. But it still didn’t work out as I expected. Our first cashflow crisis came when $0.4 million in receivables took a year longer than expected to collect.”

Justin echoes what many startup founders have experienced at one time or another, stating, “It was a lonely and terrifying experience as a founder, but it was also my eureka moment. That’s when I realised SMEs have a potentially fatal ‘data’ problem. Each software vendor focuses exclusively on their own data domain, forgetting about how they integrate into the bigger data story and the overall financial health of the SMEs.”

Helping businesses cash in on automation with AI

For SMEs, cashflow is the lifeblood of their business. Knowing where you are at any given point in time between an invoice being submitted and collected can mean the difference between life and death for a small business. When Cyber Invoice realized that many SMEs lacked this basic knowledge due to poor visibility and manual processes, they set to work creating a solution that would provide a single view of payments while at the same time automating those processes to optimize cashflow.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expected to play an important role in Cyber Invoice’s emerging solution. Justin is already working on a solution in which accounts payable activities that have historically been handled manually can now be semi-automated or fully automated. “We are exploring IBM watsonx.ai machine learning capabilities for managing various business process automation tasks. We are looking at both common repetitive tasks but also more complex workflows to create a zero-touch AI powered invoice and payment flow.”

Everything starts with security

While a growing data-driven automation and AI solution is attractive to customers, Cyber Invoice knew that security would be their first concern.

“All of our customer data needs to be held in a very secure cloud environment,” Justin says. “We interface with payments processors and submit e-invoices to government tax offices for VAT reporting, and those interactions must be safe and secure.”

The need for banking-grade security led Cyber Invoice directly to IBM. With IBM Z®, Cyber Invoice was able to create hardware-secured enclaves known as HSMs (Hardware Security Modules) to store their data, providing the speed and flexibility of cloud-based solutions with the industry-leading security of IBM hardware. The critical product in ensuring their customers’ safety is IBM Hyper Protect, with its Hardware Security Module (HSM) and Keep Your Own Key (KYOK) services. Normally, Key Managers are purely cloud-based, which creates back doors for cloud administrators to access supposedly completely secure cryptographic keys. However, running IBM Hyper Protect and KYOK on the IBM Z platform allowed Cyber Invoice to store its encryption keys in a secure place where only Cyber Invoice employees could access them (not even any IBM tech support employee). Irrespective of whether data is at rest, in transit, or in use, Cyber Invoice can ensure that their data is always secure.

Giving startups a leg up

Through the IBM Hyper Protect Accelerator program, Cyber Invoice was able to find both a secure cloud provider and an experienced partner. “We were well aware of IBM’s cloud capabilities before we joined the program,” Justin recalls. “What we didn’t know was how advanced IBM was with their physical HSM encryption. IBM took our company from one that was aware of and compliant with financial regulations to the next level where we could interface with any bank, safe and secure in the knowledge that we were encrypted at banking-level grade.”

For Cyber Invoice, IBM isn’t simply a technology partner but an active supporter and mentor. “We were looking for a partner that understood startups, was excited to work with startups, and was prepared to offer assistance in proof of concept and design,” Justin shares. “You get a combination of technological curiosity and capability with IBM, so that you’re able to really build some fantastic things.”

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