Archives For September 2009

Another update: As of 2009/10/26, we’ve got more than enough applications to make a decision and aren’t accepting any more.  Thanks for your interest, and good luck in your search!

Update!: We’ve re-posted this with a greater focus on data-driven, performance-based marketing. If you didn’t apply before, now’s your chance!
Also: Our preference is to hire full time, but we’re open to hiring a contractor to this role: if you’re interested but would prefer a contract, let us know!

A bit about us:
———————–
We’re a 4-person startup working like mad to disrupt a multi-billion dollar financial industry from the bottom up. The company is named Expensify, and we do “expense reports that don’t suck.” We do that by importing your expenses *and your receipts* straight from your credit card, submitting PDF expense reports by email, and by reimbursing entirely online — now with QuickBooks support. Basically, we’re the expense report system you always wish existed.

That might or might not sound exciting to you, and that’s okay. Most of the *really* exciting things can’t be shared openly. But needless to say, it’s a real problem that affects millions of people — people who spend a lot of money — and there are already billion dollar companies who focus on this problem alone.

We have users, investors, partners, awards, and a crapload of good technology (not the least of which is an iPhone application, with BlackBerry, Palm, and Android on the way). We pay pretty decent salaries, are very generous with equity, and provide solid benefits.

We’re really happy where the product is at overall, but we also realize our limits: we don’t have the DNA to blow out this product in a huge way. So we need more new DNA in the team. Which is why we’re talking to you.

A bit about you:
————————-
The most important thing is that you are awesome. You work incredibly hard on a huge diversity of tasks. You can do pretty much anything you set your mind to, often better than people who have spent their whole lives doing it. You have more ideas than you’ll be able to accomplish in a lifetime. Does this sound familiar? If it doesn’t that’s fine. But it means I’m probably not talking to you.

Next, you’re cool to be with. We work really hard, sometimes from really distant locations. (Every year we go overseas to work from a remote beach: we just got back from Istanbul, but previous years — in a previous startup — we’ve gone to Thailand, Mexico, and India.) You’ve got to be extremely passionate about your work, but also respectful that sometimes things don’t go your way, and that that’s okay: everyone will return the favor, so in the long run, if you’re right more than you’re wrong, you’ll end up getting your way regardless.

(Incidentally, we work 3 days a week together — M/W/F; the rest your on your own. We don’t currently have an office, we’ve been doing the coffeeshop thing for the past year, but we’re considering getting a space downtown SF now that the team is growing)

If all those are taken care of, then ideally you would also be a whiz at performance-based internet marketing. You’ll never, ever be pigeonholed, and you’ll be involved across the board in decisions big and small. But we are specifically looking for someone to pick up and run with the following responsibilities:

- Write a bunch of SEO-optimized copy for the site
- Rebrand the entire site and product with a professional style
- Establish a multi-tier pricing plan
- Do a short, intense SEM burst to gather data
- Calculate the cost to acquire customers for each tier
- Re-optimize everything (site, pricing, keywords, etc)
- Repeat this process endlessly
- When we’re confident with SEM, add lead gen
- When we’re confident with lead gen, try affiliate
- Keep adding new channels

This is a very experienced, performance-based, number-crunching and ROI-focused role to manage a comprehensive marketing campaign for Expensify. You have a history of successfully establishing low-cost methods of acquiring customers using the full range of internet tools: SEO, SEM, lead generation, affiliate marketing, etc. All the resources of Expensify at your disposal, as well as full authority to go out and hire outside specialists as needed, but ultimately this role is about actively executing rather than delegating.

Next steps:
——
We’ve got a process worked out. It involves you answering a bunch of the standard interview questions up front, in your first email to us. This saves everyone time (if you’re willing to spend hours with us interviewing on the phone or in person, why not spend half that time in email?), lets us talk with more candidates than we could feasibly do otherwise, and we find the best candidates actually enjoy the process. If you don’t enjoy it or don’t have time for it, it’s probably a sign that this job isn’t right for you and that’s great! We’ve saved you the time applying, and us the time turning you down! For everyone else, here are the questions without further ado:

1) What’s your story, in a nutshell? What have you been up to with your life, and ultimately, what do you want to do?

2) What about the above job post most appealed to you? Why do you want to work with Expensify?

3) What about the above job post causes you concern? There’s got to be at least one thing about it that rubbed you wrong. What was is it?

4) We’re currently thinking something along these lines; what are your thoughts?
a. Write a bunch of SEO-optimized copy for the site
b. Rebrand the entire site and product with a professional style
c. Establish a multi-tier pricing plan
d. Do a short, intense SEM burst to gather data
e. Calculate the cost to acquire customers for each tier
f. Re-optimize everything (site, pricing, keywords, etc)
g. Repeat d-f endlessly
h. When we’re confident with SEM, add lead gen
i. When we’re confident with lead gen, try affiliate
j. Keep adding new channels

5) Which of the tasks in (4) can you (or would you) do yourself, without any outside help whatsoever, and which would you delegate to contractors?

6) For those tasks that you’d delegate to contractors, do you have specific people or firms in mind, ideally with who you’ve worked in the past? (Don’t exaggerate here: if you come interview I’ll ask for specific names so I can follow up with them, as in effect your success depends on their success.)

7) What kind of budget would you need to succeed in your role (both for the ads themselves as well as for contractors), and how do you measure success?

8) Do you think this role is scoped correctly to make the best possible use of your skills? Which of these tasks do you think you shouldn’t do; which aren’t listed that you should?

9) If you were hiring for this role, what questions would you ask (that I’m not asking) to separate out the good from the great?

10) And most importantly: how did you file your last expense report, and did it suck?

Please send your answers to dbarrett@expensify.com whenever convenient, along with a resume (if you have it, but don’t fret if you don’t). I guarantee I’ll reply to you if you actually fill out the questions. Thanks, I look forward to hearing from you soon!

-david
Founder, CEO of Expensify
You should follow us at http://twitter.com/expensify

Update: This post has been superseded by a newer, better job post here.  Basically, we realized this post was way too general and brand oriented — we’re numbers people and we want to quantify the ROI on everything, marketing included.

A bit about us:
We’re a 4-person startup working like mad to disrupt a multi-billion dollar financial industry from the bottom up. The company is named Expensify, and we do “expense reports that don’t suck.” We do that by importing your expenses *and your receipts* straight from your credit card, submitting PDF expense reports by email, and by reimbursing entirely online — now with QuickBooks support. Basically, we’re the expense report system you always wish existed.

That might or might not sound exciting to you, and that’s okay. Most of the *really* exciting things can’t be shared openly. But needless to say, it’s a real problem that affects millions of people — people who spend a lot of money — and there are already billion dollar companies who focus on this problem alone.

We have users, investors, partners, awards, and a crapload of good technology (not the least of which is an iPhone application, with BlackBerry, Palm, and Android on the way). We pay pretty decent salaries, are very generous with equity, and provide solid benefits.

We’re really happy where the product is at overall, but we also realize our limits: we don’t have the DNA to make the product really “pop” in that super-polished way. So we need more new DNA in the team. Which is why we’re talking to you.

A bit about you:
The most important thing is that you are awesome. You work incredibly hard on a huge diversity of tasks. You can do pretty much anything you set your mind to, often better than people who have spent their whole lives doing it. You have more ideas than you’ll be able to accomplish in a lifetime. Does this sound familiar? If it doesn’t that’s fine. But it means I’m probably not talking to you.

Next, you’re cool to be with. We work really hard, sometimes from really distant locations. (Every year we go overseas to work from a remote beach: we just got back from Istanbul, but previous years — in a previous startup — we’ve gone to Thailand, Mexico, and India.) You’ve got to be extremely passionate about your work, but also respectful that sometimes things don’t go your way, and that that’s okay: everyone will return the favor, so in the long run, if you’re right more than you’re wrong, you’ll end up getting your way regardless.

(Incidentally, we work 3 days a week together — M/W/F; the rest your on your own. We don’t currently have an office, we’ve been doing the coffeeshop thing for the past year, but we’re considering getting a space downtown SF now that the team is growing)

If all those are taken care of, then ideally you would also be a whiz at product marketing. You’ll never, ever be pigeonholed, and you’ll be involved across the board in decisions big and small. But we are specifically looking for someone to pick up and run with the following responsibilities:

- Engage with a professional designer to create the “Expensify Look”
- Refine our tone and messaging to create the “Voice of Expensify”
- Rewrite every frickin’ word on the entire site to be awesome
- Gather conversion data and iterate upon the data to find what works
- Spend a bunch of money on a marketing campaign, in a cost-effective manner
- Manage blog outreach and PR
- Keep abreast of the competition’s features and messaging
- Propose and execute an unending series of ridiculously crazy promotion ideas

Basically, your job is to sign up users in every way possible, and then keep them coming back for more. Every tool will be at your disposal. Is this interesting to you?

Next steps:
We’ve got a process worked out. It involves you answering a bunch of the standard interview questions up front, in your first email to us. This saves everyone time (if you’re willing to spend hours with us interviewing on the phone or in person, why not spend half that time in email?), lets us talk with more candidates than we could feasibly do otherwise, and we find the best candidates actually enjoy the process. If you don’t enjoy it or don’t have time for it, it’s probably a sign that this job isn’t right for you and that’s great! We’ve saved you the time applying, and us the time turning you down! For everyone else, here are the questions without further ado:

1) What’s your story, in a nutshell? What have you been up to with your life, and ultimately, what do you want to do?

2) What about the above job post most appealed to you? Why do you want to work with Expensify?

3) What about the above job post causes you concern? There’s got to be at least one thing about it that rubbed you wrong. What was is it?

4) Take a look at http://expensify.com — create yourself an account (it’s free) and play around. You can import a test “citibank” card with username “expensifydemo” and password “demo”. Tell me honestly: what do you think? If you were hired with the general mandate to “make this website kick ass”, what would you do?

5) Off the top of your head, without doing a lot of research or anything, who do you feel are our competitors and how do you think we are differentiated from them? It’s cool if you don’t know them, don’t worry. They all suck anyway. (Just kidding. Sorta…)

6) We’ve heard “Expense reports that don’t suck!” is a problematic slogan because it’s somewhat negative. What would you suggest as a better slogan? Or would you suggest we keep the current one?

7) Please answer as many of these as you can, without doing any research: (Incidentally, it’s *totally ok* to not know an answer. Don’t cheat; it just wastes everyone’s time.)

7.1) Do you know SQL? If so, imagine there are two tables, defined as:

CREATE TABLE accounts ( accountID INTEGER, email TEXT );
CREATE TABLE reports ( reportID INTEGER, accountID INTEGER, amount INTEGER );

The former is a series of accounts, the latter is a series of reports — each of which is owned by a given account. Can you write a query to select a list of distinct email addresses that own reports for over $100?

7.2) Do you know PHP? If so, what’s wrong with the following code?

The square root of 2 is <? sqrt(2) >

7.3) Do you know JavaScript? If so, what’s the difference between encodeURI() and encodeURIComponent()?

7.4) Do you have a preference between lighttpd and Apache? What is it?

7.5) Do you have a preference between Ubuntu and Red Hat? What is it?

7.6) What is the difference between colocation and dedicated servers?

7.7) Do you know how to use Photoshop? If so, describe in words how you would create from scratch a transparent PNG containing an orange outline of the words “Hello world!”, in Arial font.

7.8) Are you skilled in SEO? If so, what’s the #1 recommendation you’d make for how to change our homepage to improve our Google rank for the term “expense report”?

7.9) Have you ever used Subversion?

7.10) What are the kinds of tasks that you would directly implement yourself, versus handing off to other contractors and subordinates?

8) Please illustrate an example of when you were torn between the following, which ultimately won out, and why:

8.1) Going with what felt right, versus going with what the data said?

8.2) Going with what the data said, versus going with what the user said they wanted?

8.3) Going with what the user said they wanted, versus going with what felt right?

8.4) Adding new users, versus increasing engagement with existing users?

8.5) Improving the product for customers, versus making money for the company?

9) Please give a bit more detail about your background and methodology, including:

9.1) Have you done marketing for a consumer or small-business website before? How does it differ from other types of marketing?

9.2) How have you measured the success of your marketing efforts in the past, and based on that measurement, how did you do?

9.3) What’s the difference (if any) between you and a salesperson?

9.4) What’s the difference (if any) between you and a designer?

9.5) What’s the difference (if any) between you and a community evangelist?

9.6) What’s the difference (if any) between you and “the typical marketing person”?

9.7) Do you have any experience working with affiliate and lead-generation programs?

9.8) What else should we know about you that hasn’t been covered here?

10) What do you think of these questions? How can we improve them?

11) And most importantly: how did you file your last expense report, and did it suck?

Please send your answers to dbarrett@expensify.com whenever convenient, along with a resume (if you have it, but don’t fret if you don’t). I guarantee I’ll reply to you if you actually fill out the questions. Thanks, I look forward to hearing from you soon!

-david
Founder, CEO of Expensify
You should follow us at http://twitter.com/expensify

I was talking with a user today and the subject of expense report fraud came up. Specifically, how can Expensify be used to fight it? Great question, and the short answer is: avoid cash and use Expensify Guaranteed eReceipts.

But stepping back a bit, let’s review the problem. As incredible as it sounds, the ACFE estimates that over $100B is lost annually to expense reimbursement fraud. Yes, Billion. T&E Magazine also report 20% of companies say outright false expenses are commonplace. So fraud is an enormous problem, and if you don’t think it’s affecting you right now, there’s a good chance you’re wrong. Indeed, it’s quite possible you have no way of ever knowing.

What Can Be Done About It?

There are as many schemes as there are expense reports, and there is no silver bullet to stop it all in its tracks. But the most common schemes can be prevented by mandating common-sense expense policy in a way that is respectful of the employee’s privacy and not a waste of their time. Namely:

  1. Import expenses straight from employee’s credit cards.
  2. One-purchase one-expense.
  3. Discourage cash and capture receipts.

Taking each of these in turn.

1) Import expenses straight from employee’s credit cards.
The key to fighting fraud is tamperproof documentation: if the employee is ever in a position to manually enter expense amounts, the risk of mistake or “mistake” is just too high. Accordingly, mandate purchases be done electronically, and then import those electronic purchases directly from the bank into your expense report system.  Expensify can import 94% of US credit cards, and offers IRS-ready, Expensify Guaranteed eReceipts in purely electronic form — without the hassle of easily-forged paper receipts. Not only is it faster and more convenient for your employees to make purchases with a credit card, you get tamperproof documentation straight from the source.

2) One-purchase/one-expense.
Mandate that employees make a separate purchase for each item they intend to expense.  Combined with (1), it ensures each purchase has a separate, tamperproof eReceipt.  In particular: don’t bill meals to hotel rooms, don’t combine personal and business expenses into a single purchase, and basically don’t do anything that will need to be undone later.

(Though it seems convenient at the time to do this, it just passes the buck off until later: when filing the expense, they’ll need to manually separate them back out anyway, so that “convenience” actually just creates more work for everyone in the end.)

A one-purchase/one-expense policy saves the employee from needing to manually split expenses at the end of the trip, and helps ensure each purchase is separately documented in a tamperproof way.

3) Discourage cash and capture receipts.
Virtually everyone takes credit cards anymore, especially in the US.  Even taxis in most major cities take credit cards.  There’s almost no need to pay for anything on a typical business trip with cash, so cash purchases should be strongly discouraged and flagged for special attention in the approval process.

That said, in some rare occasions, cash can’t be avoided.  In these cases, require the employee to capture an image of the paper receipt at the time of purchase, so there is no opportunity for a key receipt to be “lost” prior to reimbursement.  It’s almost impossible to get a phone without a camera anymore; just have them take a picture of the receipt before putting it in their pocket.  The iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre have excellent cameras with auto-focus, and other phones often have “macro lens” attachments that enable good closeups (eg, the “Griffin Clarifi” case for the iPhone 3G).  Expensify also has an iPhone application (BlackBerry on the way!) to simplify this further.

These three rules are handy because they not only reduce opportunity for fraud, they’re actually the most convenient way for an employee to create expense reports.  It’s a true win/win situation: employers get better records, and employees create those records faster than they could have by hand.

To drive some of this home, let’s take a look at some of the most common forms of expense report fraud and show how these rules implicitly prevent it, without any extra work (and indeed less work) to any party:

  • Tip inflation. Write a small tip into the merchant copy of the receipt, and a large tip into the customer copy turned in for reimbursement.  Expensify Guaranteed eReceipts prevent this because they show the actual amount paid by the employee, not just what’s written on the receipt.
  • Taxis. Most taxis just give you a blank receipt at the end of the trip and it’s up to the employee to write in however much they spent. Paying by credit card produces a verified eReceipt.
  • Collusion. Where multiple employees share an expense (taxi, hotel room, internet, etc) but report it separately.  Again, paying by credit card and producing an eReceipt prevents this.
  • Duplication. It’s easy to copy a paper receipt and submit it in two separate expense reports.  Expensify only allows each expense (and corresponding eReceipt) to be added to a single report, implicitly preventing accidental or intention expense duplication.
  • Forgery. I won’t go so far as to link to any, but a quick search turn up countless services for creating authentic looking receipts for just about anything.  And what the services can’t do, Photoshop can.  Expensify Guaranteed eReceipts are verifiable — if there’s ever any doubt that the purchase is for real, we can trace it on command all the way back to the original electronic purchase recorded by the bank.

And so on.  Expensify helps you keep expenses in electronic form all the way from purchase to reimbursement.  Not only does this deter fraud and reduce error (which is equally important), it simplifies the lives of everyone involved.

Does this make sense, and do you agree?

- David Barrett (dbarrett@expensify.com)

You should follow us on Twitter at @expensify