A Vaccine Developer Finds a Partner in Growth

with Neha Shah, Finance at Alvea

Alvea is tackling big and timely problems. The company launched in January 2022 and is building a vaccine platform for pandemic preparedness.

Its first vaccine candidate is a shelf-stable, scalable, and affordable SARS-CoV-2 vaccine that’s tailored to the BA.2 (i.e., omicron) COVID-19 subvariant. Alvea's vaccines are easier to store and transport than existing mRNA vaccines, and Alvea’s approach allows the company to quickly create and distribute new vaccines as COVID-19 variants emerge.

Neha Shah runs finance at Alvea, but her role touches on a bit of everything—forecasting, managing cash flow, fundraising, bookkeeping, accounting, tax, and accounts payable. 

New to the position and with a fast-growing startup to help build, she leaned on Pilot’s expertise from the start. Alvea’s expenses increased four to fivefold within the first couple of months alone, and Neha found she had a supportive partner in Pilot to help her get through the growing pains. 

Setting a solid foundation with a customized chart of accounts

One of the first major projects Neha took on was creating a customized chart of accounts for Alvea. She knew that having everything personalized early on could help set them up for success.

“We are a research and development (R&D) organization in the biotechnology space, focused on pandemics, so we're trying to move quickly. It's been really helpful to break out our R&D costs, which is a large amount of our total spend, into more specific buckets. We now have insight into how much we’re spending on preclinical lab work, clinical work, and manufacturing.”

Neha and Pilot worked together to tackle this project as partners, and Neha shared how she was repeatedly impressed by Pilot going above and beyond her expectations. The result will help guide the company’s decisions and success for years to come. 

“Now that we have clean data, I was able to show our CEO some visuals and analyses. We’re able to make sense of our finances,” says Neha. “Customizing our chart of accounts and organizing our transactions allowed us to pull reports that directly help us make business and product decisions. It lets us better predict the financial future of our business, and it’s been exactly what we hoped for.”

Why Alvea values working with Pilot 

Though Neha inherited the Pilot relationship, she says she hasn’t thought about changing providers, in part, because of how Pilot works as a partner to her and the business. 

“I'm realizing that I can ask Pilot any level of question, detailed or broad,” she says. “And I have. I’ve asked very specific transaction-level questions and bigger strategic questions, and both are completely within the scope of the service.”

Pilot’s ongoing approach to working with clients reinforces our commitment to building partnerships. Some competitors might simply send a client a list of questions and copies of statements once a month, which would feel very transactional. That isn’t what Neha is looking for.

“Pilot feels like an extension of our team. We're talking all the time, and it feels like we're working towards the same goal together.”

Neha also shared what she liked about working with Pilot during Alvea’s first year: 

  • The services scale with clients’ needs: Alvea uses Pilot’s bookkeeping, tax, and R&D tax credit services, but it’s important to prepare for the future. Neha handles the company’s accounts payable right now, another service Pilot offers, and says, “it's comforting to know that as our business needs grow and mature, we can also grow with Pilot.”
  • A proactive and holistic approach: Pilot employs professionals with years of experience in different areas of finance and tax. Neha was impressed that when her account manager didn’t have an answer right away, they’d reach out to colleagues and follow up with an in-depth explanation. She says the best part is she gets holistic answers to questions. “Every piece of advice and every question, no matter how detailed, is well thought through across every angle—even if it is just what category your transaction should fit in.”
  • Clear communication and attention to detail: Part of building a trust-filled partnership is being open and clear about what’s happening. “Pilot has been very organized in communication,” says Neha. “Even when we were deep in the weeds of organizing our chart of accounts and transactions, I genuinely felt like no ball would get dropped. It gives me comfort and trust that someone is looking after everything that we're doing and that nothing will be missed or misplaced.”

Pilot focuses on helping startups and rapidly growing businesses with their finance and tax needs, so it makes sense that a brand-new company like Alvea felt supported and seen. Additionally, the subscription model and fixed-rate plans allow clients to ask as many detailed questions as they’d like without having to worry about extra hourly charges. 

Pilot is part of the team and a trusted advisor

Alvea needed a partner to help manage its books and set up systems that offer strategic insight rather than simply ensuring all the numbers add up and regulatory rules are followed. Customizing the chart of accounts was a one-time project toward this goal, but the ongoing support and multidimensional advice are what’s helping the partnership flourish. 

“I was so surprised at the depth of detail and the depth of partnership,'' adds Neha. “I know our Pilot team well, and they know our books and our business. I wouldn't want to ask anyone else for advice.”

Alvea is a team of physicians, scientists, and logistics experts, collaborating to develop scalable, affordable, shelf-stable SARS-CoV-2 vaccines; reduce vaccine inequity; and mitigate the risk of future global health threats.

Life before pilot
  • Lack of strategic insights from books and systems
  • Lack of personalization didn't set the team up for success
  • Lack of clean data
Life with pilot
  • The services scale with clients’ needs
  • A proactive and holistic approach
  • Customized chart of accounts
  • Clear communication and attention to detail

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