Archive for June 2011
While the IRS normally updates mileage rates once at the beginning of a year, rising gas prices have had enough of an impact for them to reconsider. Starting July 1st and lasting until the end of the 2011 year on December 31st, any use of a vehicle for business will allow you a deductible of $0.555 per mile driven.
All new Expensify accounts created after the mileage rate change takes effect will already be updated with the new rate. For everyone with an existing account we ask you to please update your rate by going to the Settings -> Preferences page and clicking [change] next to your miles unit.
The reason we don’t update all past accounts automatically is because we’ve found that a great many of you are using a rate set by your company or a source other than the IRS.
Read more about what prompted the mileage rate change on the IRS press release.
Name: Jason Mills
Alter Egos, if any: Sometimes I am my alter ego
Hometown: New Braunfels, TX
Expensify Job Title/Role: Everything Man #2
When did you start working for Expensify? May 2011
What is the most exciting project you’ve completed so far for Expensify? It’s a secret, at least until we finalize our plans to
take over the expense reporting world. Oops. Although I’m pretty sure that tiger’s been out of the bag for a while!
When you’re not fine-tuning expense reports that don’t suck, what projects do you work on in your off-time? Running. It’s a long-distance project. There’s also this bouldering problem I’ve got up in the Berkeley Hills. Does that count? In general, I spend a lot of time chasing adventure and pushing my body to the limit. It’s a decent-sized commitment!
(From the Proust Questionnaire)
Your most marked characteristic? Cop out alert! I’ve got two. Growing up in Texas instilled an affable side of me that’s still around today. That’s the nurture component. In terms of nature, people describe me as a easy-going but intense – some even say I have a streak of madness. Of course, that’s probably because I like doing things other people call “crazy”, like ultramarathons, downhill mountain biking, etc. Now are those REALLY crazy?! I don’t think so.
Where would you like to live? This answer is admittedly mercurial. Several years ago, my answer would have been Taiwan; everywhere you go there you encounter amazing nature. Plus, in the Chinese-speaking world Taiwan has the best combination of modern practicality and traditional sensibility. That makes it a pretty unique place.
Inevitably, a subset of people will answer this question by envisioning how a place is — or might be — without ever having been there. The dreamer in me is attracted to this approach. Lately I keep coming back to Brazil. It has several things going for it: unique flora and fauna; a language that lends itself nicely to rap; and it’s reputed to have a warm and welcoming culture. Sounds like my kind of place.
What is your motto? Live life. Intensely. With meaning.
What is your favorite flower? The yucca flower. Why you ask? Mostly because it reminds me of youthful salad days, when I spent my summers backpacking in Texas and New Mexico. At the same time, the yucca flower is such an awesome juxtaposition; how amazing is it that something so delicate and beautiful arises from such a narly and prickly base?!
What is it you most dislike? I’ve got a laid-back, roll-with-it sensibility, so it’s not easy to come up with something I strongly DISLIKE. But something that comes to mind is pretension. There’s no need for someone to treat someone – poorly or otherwise – based on their perceived importance. That’s got a Golden Rule ring to it, which might sound corny, but I’m a big believer in treating people like PEOPLE. Everyone has an interesting story to tell; we just need to listen.
Last week I gave a brief talk at the AlwaysOn OnMobile 2011 conference titled “Disrupting the Enterprise” (video). It was pretty well received, and I promised to write up more that Friday. Well… it’s two Friday’s later, so here goes.
To start, this isn’t really about Expensify. It’s about the conditions that allow Expensify to exist — conditions that simply weren’t true a few years ago, and at least one condition that will probably never be true again. It’s about conditions that I’m theorizing affect (or could affect) more industries than just expense reporting, including maybe yours? If so (or if not) I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Because ultimately, my goal is to learn if our experiences are unique, or if we’re just missing something, or if maybe we’re actually ahead of the curve and have some valuable lesson to share. Whatever it is, let me know what you think.
Condition #1: Consumerization of I.T. == Employee Empowerment
The hip term used to describe the first of these conditions is the “consumerization of I.T.”. I think that name is supposed to convey that “information technology” departments (does anybody even use that term anymore?) are grappling with a massive influx of consumer products brought into the work environment. As best as I can tell, this really started in earnest when people started bringing Macs to PC-only shops. They didn’t ask permission, they just sorta plugged in and got to work.
(In my case, during my very brief “experimental” time after I left Windows and before I adopted Ubuntu, I had a Mac. It was during that short window that my tiny startup was acquired by a very large company, the sort that uses the term “IT” with a straight face. At the time, they didn’t officially support Mac: none of their custom tools worked on it, and it violated all sorts of internal company policy to even plug in an unauthorized device. They gave me and my team PC’s and instructed us to use them. Instead, we imaged the hard drives and installed them on Mac VMs — to use in those rare instances we needed them — and then ported the tools we needed to Mac. It took a day, and made questionable use of some SSH proxy servers placed strategically on the internal network, but on day two we were productive again.)
I’d wager that in most cases, IT didn’t even realize this was happening until they strolled by somebody’s desk and saw the wrong color laptop plugged in to the corporate LAN. If they said anything at all, the conversation probably went like:
IT: “Hi there, we don’t support Macs.”
Employee: “It’s what I need to be productive, go talk to my boss.”
(one day passes)
IT: “New policy, we support Macs!”
I think Macs led the charge, but then iPhones followed suit in BlackBerry shops, DropBox followed suit in SharePoint shops, etc. The specific pairings of corporate/consumer technology are debatable — and I don’t know that one always replaces the other versus just obviates it — but I think the results aren’t: more and more, when employees want something, they get it. Maybe not always, and maybe moreso in smaller companies over large, but it’s a growing trend that I don’t see reversing anytime soon.
Which is why, incidentally, I don’t like the ambiguous “Consumerization of IT” term. Not only is it straight up unclear, but it emphasizes the wrong thing. Whether the technology is “consumer grade” or not is far less important than who picks it. And the key point is it’s the employee who is doing the picking. In an area where employees previously followed strict IT policies, they are now empowered to make their own choices. This is why I prefer to call this trend one of “Employee Empowerment”.
Why you should care: Previously, if you wanted to sell into an enterprise, you had no choice but to go straight to the policymaker. But now there’s an opportunity to enter the enterprise through the back door: the employees themselves. If you can find a way to get employees to individually and proactively adopt your product, then they sell you to the policymaker when that time comes. Which is great as they know the local conditions and political landscape better than you. It’s like having an “inside man” championing your every sale.
Expensify example: Once upon a time there was a company that processed a lot of expense reports using paper printouts of Excel spreadsheets with physically affixed paper receipts. On a bright and sunny day with magic in the air, a department manager takes the next of an endless series of expense reports off a tall stack of envelopes, only to find that it is a printout of something called Expensify. All the same information is there, all the receipts are there… just not in the format expected. He sets it aside. Later, he finds another employee has done the same — an employee on the other side of the country, who likely has no interaction (or coordination) with the first. Eventually enough employees have done this that he reaches out to Expensify to start a trial. While the trial is ongoing, more employees — without even knowing Expensify is being trialled by the company — submit Expensify reports. Sometimes via printouts, sometimes by emailed PDFs, and sometimes submitted online using the service itself. Eventually that department adopts. Then other departments. Now everyone uses Expensify and they’ve just finished processing their 5000th Expensify report. All due to a few proactive employees just trying to be productive.
Tune in next Friday to learn how “Word of Mouth is now Winner Takes All”. (Follow us on Twitter at @expensify to be notified when it comes out.) See you then!
It’s a Small World
After working in expense reports for a while, you start to realize that the online financial world can be a little small at times. For instance, you always hear about the same apps, or the same features, or even meet the same people.
But here’s one guy we here at Expensify have become all too familiar with – yet we’ve never met in person! He occasionally pops up to say Hi, but we have yet to have the chance to say Hi back. Let me introduce you then, to That Guy!
We met briefly while watching an introductory video to another online expense reporting solution. He didn’t strike any of us as particularly remarkable. If we could have guessed in that first sighting that this wasn’t the last we’d see of him, we’d have honestly been a little nicer.
The second time we saw each other, there was something about him that I just couldn’t ignore anymore. This feeling of having seen him before was more potent than a deja-vu. I felt not only like we had just met, but that I really knew this guy, even though I couldn’t say from where. In a moment of inspiration, I dug out some archival footage and the realization hit us! We finally re-connected with someone we had long forgotten.
By the third time we had grown as close as old buddies. A simple “hey” and a slight nod of the head was all it took for both of us to acknowledge that a deep and mysterious connection had formed.
The fourth time was a surprise encounter, seeing as he had jumped out of his natural habitat of online sites and into a new ambience of print magazines. Still, it was like reuniting with a long lost friend. His familiar face was reassuring and comforting, inspiring so much confidence! We were all ecstatic to see him once again.
Finally, we couldn’t believe our luck when we bumped into him a fifth time. I mean, though we do occasionally browse them for work, it’s not like we’re avid readers of financial sites and magazines. It seemed providential almost.
Have YOU seen That Guy?
By now, he’s family. We all shout with glee when we see him, and make sure to compliment his snazzy tie or new glasses. Yes, That Guy has been a major influence in our lives, and we hope to one day cross paths again. So if you see him around, don’t be shy and say Hi!
Name: Matt McNamara
Alter Egos, if any: Phronesis, Mahmahnamahra
Hometown: Dayton, OH
Expensify Job Title/Role: Software Engineer
When did you start working for Expensify? May 2011
What is the most exciting project you’ve completed so far for Expensify? For the Unofficial Finovate After Party, I hacked together a really quick “drinks served” app. Our bartenders used this Android app to visually track the beverages they dished out on our big screen TV. It was exciting because it was a very last-minute idea that ended up being pretty funny and highly inaccurate.
When you’re not fine-tuning expense reports that don’t suck, what projects do you work on in your off-time? I created, and still write for, a satire blog that has a very niche market, yet decent readership. Although I just moved to the Bay Area, I’m working on getting involved with a local Marianist high school to volunteer and help kids who are interested in technology and web development.
(From the Proust Questionnaire)
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? No service/No WiFi Networks in Range
Who would you have liked to be? John Dorian – I model most of my behavior after him anyway. My first drink at a bar the night I turned 21 was an Appletini in his honor.
What is your favorite color? #FF7119
What is your present state of mind? Pretty relaxed in general, but I’m excited about the all the changes that go along with moving out here.
Who are your favorite heroes of fiction? Scat from Syrup, Neo from The Matrix, and Quailman from Doug.
Invited to speak at this year’s AlwaysOn OnMobile event, David Barrett, CEO of Expensify, took a somewhat non-traditional approach to talking with the crowd. While others part of the CEO showcase stood up to show off the latest tools built by their engineers or to offer predictions for the future, David took a step back to reflect on the past and growing trend of employee empowerment.
Instead of pitching the app to a crowd of rapt listeners, because “we’ll sign up more people today through natural or viral methods than there are people in this room,” David instead presented his views on the consumerization of I.T. and how this trend has allowed Expensify to grow and prosper. In keeping with being a disruptor, the talk progressed to focus on what this means for larger, established companies and how fledgling start ups could adapt to build their own, cost free, sales force inside of the organizations they want to attract.
Name: Eric Sigler
Alter Egos, if any: I thought I got rid of that evidence.
Hometown: Los Angeles, Omaha, Palestine (Texas), Denver, St. Louis, Castle Rock, Rolla, Kansas City, San Francisco.
Expensify Job Title/Role: Geek
When did you start working for Expensify? February 2011
What is the most exciting project you’ve completed so far for Expensify? Rebuilding Expensify’s mail sending service to use Amazon SES.
When you’re not fine-tuning expense reports that don’t suck, what projects do you work on in your off-time? Laser etching or welding anything that I can get my hands on, wandering around San Francisco.
From the Proust Questionnaire:
What is your greatest fear? Killer robots.
What is your favorite occupation? Avoiding killer robots.
On what occasion do you lie? When confronted with killer robots, I usually say things like “This sentence is false.”
Which words or phrases do you over use? I tend to use “This sentence is false” a lot.
How would you like to die? Peacefully, and not at the hands of a killer robot.
Alter-Egos, if any:
Hometown: Chisinau, Moldova
Expensify Job Title/Role: Everything Man – I pick up slack across the board.
When did you start working for Expensify? When you still had to walk uphill, both ways!
What is the most exciting project you’ve completed so far for Expensify? It feels like Expensify itself is an on-going, ever evolving project. I’m excited of how far it has grown from the day I joined – and that the ride is only going to get more exciting from here!
When you’re not fine-tuning expense reports that don’t suck, what projects do you work on in your off-time? Taking pictures, pedaling up hills and other general mischief.
From the Proust Questionnaire:
What is your greatest fear? Paper cuts in the eye. Dying and missing out on something really cool happening afterwards.
How would you like to die? Happy and fulfilled. See fear above.
Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?I would have teeth that always stayed clean so they never needed to be brushed.
Where would you like to live? Switzerland – in a wood house right by the alps.
At Expensify we make “expense reports that don’t suck.” Our users are not shy about letting us know how Expensify has completely changed the way companies do (and feel about) expense reports.
Tell me about your company.
Groundspeak was founded in October 2000 by three guys who were working at a dot.com about to dot.bomb. We’re located in Seattle, WA, and are 56 going on 60 (employees). We’re very excited to have been chosen as one of the best companies to work for in Seattle by SeattleMet magazine. Although they don’t list Expensify as one of our key employee benefits, they should!
Tell me about yourself.
I joined Groundspeak in 2007, leaving behind the crazy world of publicly traded companies to be the 19th employee and VP of Finance (and the only member of the Finance/Accounting/HR team). Today I’m the CFO (same job, different title) and we still keep our Finance team pretty small and we have a Director of HR, so things are looking up.
My free time is a little thin right now with all the exciting things happening at the office, but when I have it I dream of surfing in Hawaii and watch HGTV designer shows. (I mentioned I live in Seattle, where it’s cold and grey 10 months of the year?)
What were you using before Expensify?
OMG, where do I start?! Our biggest expense is payroll and we have few regular bills, so we pay most of our ad-hoc expenses with company credit cards. Wrangling receipts from 3 founders, marketing folks and anyone who travels can be exhausting not to mention time consuming. Worse, “discussions” over whether they were never turned in or got “lost” in the accounting in-box (ahem, please don’t put that piece of paper on my desk if you want to see it again) became a dreaded part of month-end close. In addition to the “just put it in the accounting in-box” method of recording and reconciling 12 credit cards each month, we have excel sheets for employee out-of-pocket expenses. When I finally hired an accountant to help, she dreaded that part of month-end close, too.
When did you start using Expensify?
December 2010, when my accountant was about to head out on maternity leave. (She’s finally back on Monday, by the way. Adorable baby girl named Emma)
Tell me about your relationship with Expensify.
Top 10 reasons to love Expensify:
- It’s easy! (100% of folks with accounts are using it successfully with no or minimal training)
- It’s fun! (yes, I’m a finance geek)
- Mobile apps!
- Best receipt management ever!
- My CEO loves it!
- My VPs use it!
- Print to pdf includes ALL receipts, a complete, portable package (Complete package of audit support can be saved to our internal finance drive).
- Import directly from the bank!
- Export to csv (entire month, all employees, in one fell swoop)!
(Too many exclamation marks? I couldn’t help myself.)
What do your co-workers say about it?
They don’t – and that’s the best part about it. We went from a system where all they had to do was drop a receipt in the box, and they were complaining. Now, no complaints, and no comments. Just completed expense reports with no hassle. Awesome. (When people do comment, it’s generally to say they “love it!”.)
Has Expensify made their life easier? Harder? In what ways?
Easier. Everyone loves taking a picture of the receipt at a restaurant, uploading it through the app or forwarding via email, and being able to forget about it.
Thanks again for the opportunity to contribute. Keep up the good work.
Thank you Heidi! It’s always refreshing to listen to peek out of our computer screens and read about real live user adventures.
Want to be featured?
If you’re a satisfied Expensify customer and would like to be featured on our blog, drop us a line and let us know.
“Go West, young man!” Those words have rung true for many a generation, and will likely ring for many more. Sure, the meaning of “west” has gradually become more precise, and the tools have definitely changed. But the spirit remains the same: leave the comfort of where you are for the danger, excitement, and opportunity of the unknown.
Granted, our generation has it considerably easier. I haven’t heard of a single startup fail due to dysentery, bear attack, or by falling prey to any of the unimaginable physical hardships our ancestors endured. But I do think those same ancestors would recognize some of the emotional hardships we face on a daily basis. The tremendous personal investment with an entirely uncertain return. The constant skepticism by your peers. The lonely nights working in the dark while other, more sensible folk are comfortably tucked away or out with friends. The trail isn’t as hard as it was. But it’s still pretty hard.
And one of the most difficult times, oddly, is when you stumble out of the swampy woods and into the soft expanse of a fertile valley. Because then you need to decide: do you stop here, or keep going?
Expensify’s path hasn’t been a straight one. We spent forever carefully plotting a course in one direction, only to hit an unfordable river right as we found a tempting tail into the woods. That took us to a steep wall, which we climbed merely because we had no other option. Which took us to another, and then another. There was more than a little hardship along the way.
But it’s taken us to a wide, verdant, entirely unexplored landscape known generally as “expense reports that don’t suck”.
I could rave for ages about how fantastic it is here. Viral dynamics have combined with mobile marketplaces — all enabled by the consumerization of IT — to create a once-only customer acquisition opportunity that looks like it’ll keep accelerating steadily at essentially no cost, forever. We’ve got an unbeatable customer set of business travelers — high spend individuals who spend other peoples’ money. We’ve got a surprisingly small and tight product that addresses the needs of a surprisingly wide set of users. The view from our high mountain pass is fantastic, with easy inroads to many other valleys.
Things are really, really good in the Expensify Valley, and they’re only going to get better.
But do we stop here? That’s the core question. After all, there’s more than enough opportunity to keep us busy for years. Why bother trying to find more? The answer is: because not all opportunity is created equal.
Yes, things are great, and we’re absolutely going to take care of the many, many users who depend upon us. But we’re not quite ready to settle. Our valley is surrounded by even more interesting opportunitites, extending as far as the eye can see. There’s gold in them thar hills, and we’re determined to find it.
Basically, I’d say we have the basics down cold. We’re the clear leader in small business expense reporting, we have a quickly growing userbase, everything is looking up. But we’ve only got the basics down cold. It’s time to go beyond the basics and start raising the bar — redefining the state of the art.
Our first move along these lines was our receipt scanning service. If you haven’t already checked it out, give it a shot — every account starts with ten free scans. (Invite a friend and you’ll both get five more, or buy them for $0.20 each.) We’re not even a month into it and it’s already proven to be incredibly popular. But we’ve got a few others planned, and they just keep getting better.
So things might be quiet for a bit while we settle in to our idyllic valley and set up a permanent camp. We’ve got a large stack of work in front of us, including massive performance improvements, improved mobile apps, streamlined accounting flows, an so on. They’ll be trickling out here and there, sticking with our goal of just getting a little better every day.
But one day soon, when you least expect it, something big is going to happen. And man, I just can’t wait to show you what it is.