The story of how OnPlan was founded, our CEO playing basketball with P Diddy, and much more.
David Greenbaum is a self-proclaimed “20-year Excel nerd”. He has held various roles in finance departments and within an FP&A role. Before launching OnPlan in 2016, David served as the CEO of Boost Media and Director of Strategy at Interval International. David chats to us about OnPlan, his journey up the “FP&A food chain,” and playing ball with P Diddy.
Q: You’ve had some exciting basketball partners. Can you tell us more?
Yes, P Diddy and I used to play basketball every day after work. I had the distinct pleasure of swatting one of his shots backward over his head and got a nice elbow! I’ve also played with Chris Cuomo and Raja Bell…
Q: What was your most interesting food experience?
I’ve eaten snake in China – that was probably my most adventurous food experience.
Q: You’ve worked in Finance and FP&A departments for many years. What are some of the biggest challenges you would like to solve for finance and sales teams?
It’s challenging to spot trends and anomalies when you spend so much time looking at spreadsheets with tabular data. Financial and operational metrics are very under-visualized, and spreadsheets make visualization needlessly cumbersome. It’s hard to build compelling charts or charts for specific data types. We need to equip finance people to build models quickly and visually effectively.
Q: Why did you start OnPlan?
I wanted to build a tool that was intuitive for people to use. Most companies have to get to around $20 million in revenue before they can access a tool other than Excel for their forecasting and projections, but there’s a lot of pain that people experience between $0 – $20 million. I wanted to build a tool that could fill that gap. It had to be lightweight and intuitive enough to be used at an earlier stage of a company’s development but also powerful and scalable enough so that when your business grew, the tool could grow with you; you never have to switch to another product.
Q: What previous job best helped you to prepare for your current role?
If I had to pick one job that prepared me for OnPlan was being a door-to-door canvasser for the Sierra Club. I would get a map of homes that I needed to talk to every night, maybe 50-70 homes, and I would go up to them with a clipboard in hand and give them a quick pitch on why they needed to become a Sierra Club member that evening. It’s great training for fundraising. It taught me perseverance and how to get someone excited about something they weren’t even thinking about before in a really short amount of time.
Q: What do you love most about working at OnPlan?
Working with other people from many different backgrounds is so invigorating. We have an incredibly global and diverse team based everywhere from Canada to California, Italy to India, and the Philippines to South Africa. About a third of the company is based in Ukraine, and we’re rightly very focused on their well-being at the moment.
Q: What excites you about OnPlan in its current phase, compared to prior phases?
The speed of innovation is extremely exciting. As we continue to build our team, the product evolves right alongside it. Every quarter, it’s a totally different product, and it keeps on getting better and better.
Q: If you had to do an elevator pitch for OnPlan, how would you phrase it?
OnPlan is an incredibly innovative company and software, especially in terms of the front-end user experience. It’s a perfect ambidextrous experience between operating natively in a spreadsheet and the OnPlan interface so you can draw value from it from day one. We’ve built a next-generation database that is ten times faster than the incumbent companies. Whereas a traditional spreadsheet has a two-dimensional constraint, the dimensional database that we’ve built allows the user to build a model in three dimensions. It’s incredibly helpful for master data management as you can add new products, new geographies, and new regions throughout your model.
Q: Why use spreadsheets and not a different tool or interface?
Spreadsheets are the native language of financial modelers. It’s the first thing you learn as an FP&A professional. You spend decades learning the syntax of the formulas and how to structure models in spreadsheets. OnPlan lets you extend and leverage your knowledge of spreadsheets into a powerful FP&A platform. You don’t need to learn anything new.
Q: Is there a specific feature of OnPlan that you love to geek out about?
I love that you can open up Google sheets and do modeling in your native environment before syncing it back to OnPlan. You can leverage the spreadsheet experience with which you are familiar and get value over time.
Q: How can OnPlan help you conduct a BVA analysis faster?
With the click of a button, you can take the dataset from your income statement and change views to see the budget or actual view side-by-side. This can take hours of work in a traditional spreadsheet; with OnPlan, it takes fifteen seconds.
Q: Can OnPlan help you forecast better?
OnPlan acts as a natural extension of the traditional FP&A processes you are already familiar with. You can immediately bring in your native data sources and assign roles and permissions to make it more collaborative. You can visualize your forecast and your models instantly and spot trends quickly. Many of these visualizations are templatized, so you don’t have to build them from scratch. In short, it’s about removing the friction between planning and executing.
Q: What are some of the biggest myths in FP&A that you’d like to eliminate?
People think they need to recreate a model from scratch to understand it. They are constantly reinventing the wheel instead of adopting best-practice templates, which is inefficient.
Q: You’ve gone from selling to marketers to selling to finance people. What do you like about selling to finance people?
I love their desire to get in and use the product. They are hands-on and want to see how the tool works. You can have an interactive sales process with them.
Q: What excites you about the future?
I’m incredibly excited about our new product features rolling out in 2022 and the new capabilities they will unlock. I’m also really proud of the way we’ve consumerized FP&A. The space we’ve occupied has previously belonged exclusively to heavy enterprise-level software. We’ve created a product that is intuitive and easy to get into. You don’t need to read a massive manual or go through an intense implementation period; you can learn on the fly and use your knowledge of native spreadsheet formulas and syntax. It’s a game-changer.
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