Save time with the 8 best accounting software options for startups
Whether you’re one month into business or gearing up for your Series C funding round, accounting software is a must-have tool for your startup.
Accounting software lets you (or your accountant) track your income and expenses, get up-to-the-minute business insights, automate tedious tasks, and simplify tax filing year round from one central location.
As the saying goes, time is money. Use our list of the best accounting software for startups to quickly discover top-rated solutions, compare features and pricing, and speed up your search.
The 8 best accounting software options for startups
The roundup below caters to startups in every growth stage. We’ve included everything from free, entry-level accounting software to enterprise-ready accounting systems with advanced features. Any of the following options can help you get your finances in order as you begin to grow your business:
FreshBooks lets entrepreneurs put their business finances on autopilot — or at least get close to it. This cloud-based accounting solution consistently receives high ratings for its intuitive user interface, robust features, and easy navigation.
FreshBooks covers the basics with double-entry accounting, invoicing and estimates, expense tracking, time tracking, project management, and online payment processing (credit card or ACH bank transfer). Unlike some accounting software, it offers both an Android mobile app and iOS mobile app, so you can work anytime, anywhere.
FreshBooks is aimed at freelancers, small business owners, and other self-employed individuals, and it’s apparent when you compare the four pricing tiers. As you upgrade plans, you get access to more billable clients (i.e. customers) and features like unlimited proposals, automated payment reminders, and client retainers.
Pricing: The Lite plan starts at $15 per month for five billable clients.
2. Intuit QuickBooks Online
QuickBooks Online is a small business accounting mainstay. It’s feature-rich and user-friendly for professionals of any kind — new business owners, bookkeepers, certified public accountants (CPAs), or chief financial officers (CFOs).
One of the most valuable aspects of QuickBooks Online is its scalability. Every plan includes photo receipt capture, customer support, and hundreds of handy integrations with third-party software.
The Simple Start plan, the lowest tier, builds on accounting fundamentals with features like cash flow monitoring, 1099 contractor payments, sales tax support, mileage tracking, and more. Upper-tier plans let you track inventory, customize user access, and tap into powerful financial reports. Another bonus to using QuickBooks for accounting is the direct integration with QuickBooks Payroll, one of the best payroll software options.
Pricing: The Simple Start starts at $12.50 per month for one user and access for two accounting firms.
If your business needs a pared-down bookkeeping and accounting tool that’s easy to set up, Kashoo is a great option. Kashoo’s motto says it all: “Designed for business owners. Not accountants.” While it isn’t as robust as the other software options on this list, it shines when it comes to ease of use, income and expense management, and day-to-day bank reconciliation.
Kashoo uses machine learning to automatically categorize bank transactions and match paper and digital receipts. Users can save time with one-click financial reports, and rely on free email, phone, and chat support.
Simplifying things even further, Kashoo offers only one plan and price. Each subscription includes unlimited users, multicurrency capabilities, and project cost tracking. There’s an iOS mobile app, but no Android mobile app at the time of writing. Altogether, Kashoo is one of the best accounting software choices for startups that don’t need advanced features like inventory tracking, custom invoicing, or cash-basis accounting.
Pricing: Kashoo is $19.95 per month for unlimited users.
Netsuite is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system designed to help businesses unify and streamline their overall operations. Its platform goes far beyond accounting, giving startups a true one-stop shop to manage their finances and reach their growth goals.
At its core, Netsuite offers a powerful cloud accounting tool. It combines the accounting features that startups expect with advanced functions like in-depth compliance management. Tap into real-time financial data insights informed by every step of your operations, from purchase order to shipment. Netsuite also makes it easy to generate financial reports, like profit and loss statements and balance sheets.
As your business expands and evolves, you can add on modules for supply chain, project, revenue, billing, and inventory management.
Pricing: Netsuite’s pricing is available upon request.
Sage50cloud is a startup and small business accounting software from Sage. While most options on this list are exclusively cloud-based, Sage50cloud is a desktop-hosted accounting tool that’s connected to the cloud. It’s attractive for users who need or prefer desktop software, but still want the peace of mind from data backups to the cloud.
Sage50cloud makes it easy to take care of bills, invoices, purchases orders, job costs, and payroll services. Forecast your cash flow, and manage your accounts receivable and accounts payable. It also integrates with Microsoft 365 and offers it as an add-on for an extra fee.
All three Sage50cloud plans require an annual agreement to lease a software license. In other words, you’ll agree to a one-year commitment, but you can terminate your account with 30-days’ notice. Payments can be broken up into monthly fees, or you can pay a one-time fee for the entire year.
Pricing: Pricing starts at $567 per year or $56.08 per month for one license.
Wave offers a price tag that’s hard to beat for cash-conscious startups: free. And between the no-hassle bookkeeping tools, double-entry accounting, and journal entries, it stands out as one of the best accounting software options.
Simply sign up, connect your business bank accounts, and watch transaction data flow in real time. Wave’s feature set is suitable for most entry-level accounting needs, with invoicing and reminders, foreign currency payments, custom sales tax, financial reports, and more. Unlike many of its paid counterparts, Wave is also available as both an Android app and iOS app, for an on-the-go view of your finances.
Startups looking for all-in-one financial management on a tight budget can add Wave’s other invoicing, payments, and payroll apps, as well. If you need free accounting software with basic functionality, it’s hard to go wrong with Wave.
Pricing: Wave is free and includes unlimited users.
Xero helps early- and late-stage startups say goodbye to risky manual data entry and time-consuming administrative work. It’s one of the less expensive cloud software options, but it doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of features.
You can reconcile transactions, send online invoices, and record bills and receipts from your computer or mobile device, including iOS, Android, Mac, and PC devices. There are three subscription plans, including the lowest tier that limits the number of invoices, quotes, and bills you can process.
Upper-tier plans remove these restrictions and add on features like expenses and projects. You also get multiple currency access, making the most expensive plan a worthwhile option for ecommerce and global businesses.
No matter which plan you choose, Xero offers integrations with over 600 applications, including online marketplaces, human resources software, project management software, and bookkeeping software. Sync your finances with tools like Gusto, PayPal, Amazon, Asana, Etsy, and Shopify.
Pricing: Xero starts at $9 per month.
ZipBooks is the final entry on this list of the best accounting software options. With an attractive interface, automated bank account reconciliation, and a library of helpful financial statements and templates, it’s simple to set up and get going. You don’t need to be an accounting professional to get the most out of ZipBooks. However, it has the scalability for growing businesses that will eventually need a full-time accountant.
Take care of your day-to-day accounting, billing, and expense management needs, and go further with ZipBook’s Intelligence features. You’re provided with data-driven financial health scores and recommendations to guide you toward optimal performance. We should note that ZipBooks only supports an iOS mobile app at the time of writing.
If your startup needs to make the most of every penny, ZipBooks offers a free version with recurring invoices, payment reminders, time tracking, and more.
Pricing: ZipBooks’ paid plans begin at $15 per month for five users.
The bottom line
Many startup founders wonder how to handle their finances while staying on top of their daily operations, investor expectations, and long-term goals. This is especially true if they've never been responsible for company financial information before, and aren't yet able to hire an accountant. Accounting software is the answer, but finding the right one among hundreds of software options isn’t so simple.
That said, this list should remove a lot of the guesswork. We recommend options like Wave, ZipBooks, and Xero for no- and low-cost accounting, while NetSuite and Sage50cloud are more expensive but excellent for established businesses. QuickBooks and FreshBooks are highly scalable, user-friendly, and come in at mid-level price points, while Kashoo works well for basic financial needs. At the end of the day, choose which system works best for your company, and grow from there.