Case study:
Canopy

Turn your app idea into a successful reality.

With Pluralsight, online learning doesn’t have to be taxing.

Kurt Avarell had an idea. After several years working as a lawyer specializing in tax law, he began thinking about how he could improve his work with an app.

“The tax system is broken,” Kurt says. “It’s confusing and complex and sometimes depressing for consumers and for accountants. It’s just a maze of rules. And that complexity has created an opportunity for software to come in and streamline a lot of the workflow, especially for accountants.”

And that’s exactly what Kurt did. He came up with a way to eliminate much of the paperwork associated with signing a new client. His app would use web-based client surveys, auto-populated IRS forms, tax analytics and a portal that allows accountants to manage their clients more e.ciently. The only problem was, Kurt didn’t know how to build it. 

“I realized pretty quickly that it’s hard to do tech without knowing software,” he says. So he went looking for a solution. 

An intuitive training resource with quality instruction. 

“I spent some time searching for a training resource that was the most intuitive to use and had the highest quality, resources. That’s where Pluralsight shined,” says Kurt. 

What was it about Pluralsight that made it stand above other training companies? 

“I felt like the quality of the instruction was high,” he says. “And obviously the better quality of the instruction, the better the engineer will be.” 

“Once I got past the hurdle of learning how to code and really started to build the things that I wanted to build, I felt like the world just opened up. It was really a key decision in my professional career.” 

Kurt signed up for a Pluralsight account and got to work.

“Once I got past that hurdle of learning how to code and really started to build the things that I wanted to build, I felt like the world just opened up,” he says. “It was really a key decision in my professional career.” 

That’s not an exaggeration. Within a couple of months, he knew enough to start building his application. 

“I was working on an app and when I would run into problems, I would go to Pluralsight’s tutorials to learn how to solve that problem,” he says. For example, when he wanted to connect into Mandrill or SendGrid to set up email notifications, he used Pluralsight to learn how to make third-party integrations. 

A simple investment with a big payoff. 

Despite his investment in learning how to code with Pluralsight, Kurt doesn’t do much programing any more. He’s too busy leading change in the tax preparation world. Today he’s the CEO of his fast-growing company called Canopy, which recently raised $8 million in venture funding to help speed product development and attract more customers. 

“We’ve barely cracked the surface in terms of what we’re building,” he says. “But this technology is helping accountants be more productive. The ROI on our software is a 30% productivity gain. It’s a huge time savings and just a much better experience.” 

Looking back at the hours spent going through Pluralsight’s courses, learning to code, would he do it again? Kurt tells us, absolutely. 

“This has been fun for me,” he says. “Because it started out as this vision in the basement, and seeing the vision come to fruition is, I mean, just the product and the traction that we’re getting is a huge milestone. It’s really fun to watch.”

Canopy Tax at a glance:
  • Canopy launched a limited beta in March 2014. Just over a year later, it has raised more than $10 million in venture funding.
  • With its database of more than 1,000 questions that capture information from the client to fill out tax forms accurately, Canopy automates the administrative workflow between an accountant and the IRS.
  • According to the CCH Standard Federal Tax Reporter, the current US Federal Tax Code is 73,954 pages long. So it s no wonder tax preparation is a $100 billion industry and growing.

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