Scott Nelson, Founder of BIGcontrols: Bringing ‘Moneyball’ to Government Incentives

The client on the phone had a desperate tone in his voice as he said he needed help. He said the CEO was breathing down his neck. His company had not seen a dime on two of their government incentives for the last few years. On the other end of the phone, Scott Nelson, a Big 6 government incentives consultant, had an “aha moment”.

He realized that there was a way better way to manage government incentives than by trying to use already thin tax compliance teams and consultants to keep track of them—staff and consultants who misfiled things, missed filings altogether, relied on paper or spreadsheets, had a limited perspective on a birds eye view of the all the moving parts, and left the company to take other jobs. He thought of a way that would save clients huge amounts of money, create business continuity, and put the power of advanced analytics into their hands. Instead of throwing services at the problem again and again, clients could use robust software as a more scalable way to meet their needs. Scott envisioned a software product that would bring cutting edge analytics to the finance and tax departments, and a product that could scale up to meet the needs of the increasingly complex and lucrative incentives industry.

Scott founded BIGcontrols, and got the ‘moneyball’ rolling for corporate government incentives programs.

Government incentives are all over the news these days. They are used by Federal, state and local governments as an economic development tool in the effort to create jobs and investment [to encourage behavior and steer public policy]. President Trump has made it clear that he will be using them to foster his political agenda. A front and center example is his plan to keep jobs in the United States through financial carrots to companies, such as the Carrier decision in Indiana.

In the early days before government incentives were a big part of government policy, and even before the Internet was widely used, Scott Nelson was living and breathing government incentives on the front lines. As the field emerged in California, Scott was working on the government side in creating incentives. At the California Trade and Commerce Agency, the lead economic development agency for the state, Scott leveraged incentives to attract companies to California in order to create new jobs, and to stimulate investment. He spent five years at the California Trade and Commerce Agency as the government incentives programs snowballed forward in terms of size and complexity. With this experience under his belt, he then moved to provide consulting on the corporate side. He was KPMG’s first hire on the West Coast for what they called “the Business Incentives Group”, or BIG. This big name for a bigger challenge made a lot of sense to Scott. He was soon leading the Pacific Northwest practice for KPMG, and he later joined Ernst & Young to build out and lead their West Coast team.

As government incentives became more complicated, businesses, with their small tax compliance teams who relied on Excel to store the data, faced a herculean task in responding to and executing on all the compliance requirements – not to mention the fact that spreadsheets are riddled with errors. They had to hire teams of consultants who poured in a massive amount of hours to shoulder the burden of researching, executing, reporting, and analyzing government incentives. As one of these consultants, Scott saw how both businesses and consultants struggled to keep up with the changing rules and regulations and the requirements that companies had to fulfill. He realized that trying to solve these problem with services over and over again was just not good enough. A scalable solution was required. Driven by entrepreneurship and his experience on both the government and business side, Scott started BIGcontrols. Those repetitive 12 hour days as a consultant really paid off as he helped design a user friendly product that does days of work he used to do with a single click.