Archives For August 2012

I watch a lot of stuffy drama with my wife.  The Bronte sisters, Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, etc.  A classic recurring scene involves tuxedo-clad upper-class elite mingle with champagne in hand — often the whole story seems to take place in interludes between these parties.  They always look so glamorous and exciting: it’s a world in a constant state of partial inebriation.  It seems so strange and foreign.  But recently I realized: it’s not foreign at all.  Exchange the tuxedos for ironic T-shirts, replace the champagne with vodka, and that’s a classic Silicon Valley afterparty.

They’re called “after-parties” because they’re always after something — typically a conference.  There are so many of them, it’s just so hard to keep track.  A thousand conferences with a million people from all over the world, listening to people drone on about some bullshit on stage, passing out business cards like unwanted free candy.  All that is killing time for the real event: the party after the event.

The problem, however, is there are only so many venues to host a party — and only so many variations on how to give out free booze.  The result is all the parties just sorta blur together.  So when an afterparty comes along that truly stands out — it’s an achievement.  And Evernote’s party certainly stood out.

Evernote is such a great company.  They’re inspirational in many ways — a laser focus on delivering an amazing product, transparent communication around their most prized internal data, and a surprising patience to achieve their current 38M-user success.  But now I can also add: throwing a fantastic conference and an even better afterparty.

I was there primarily because we’re an Evernote partner (and Evernote is one of our favorite customers), so my job was to evangelize the Evernote Trunk (watch me in action here) and model our sexy Expensify fleece jackets.  I’ll admit, I came with low expectations — I’ve already been to that same conference center probably a dozen times before.  I launched Expensify there at TechCrunch 50 in 2008, then demoed again at TC50 in 2009, and then Finovate a couple imes, and then a bunch of other random things.  I figured I’d seen it all.

But Evernote had the place set up nice.  I think this is because Evernote isn’t trying to turn a profit on the conference — they’re just trying to excite users, and they spared no expense.  Great partners, comfy seating, and surprisingly good food.  I mean, take a look at the Evernote logo, and then take a look at the sushi in the middle of the bento box below.  Look familiar?

But the party — dude!  Free street food trucks!  A live rockabilly band!  Vintage arcade games!  (Which is funny, because when I first started playing those games, they had a different name — “new” arcade games…)  I introduced Matt to the joys of Joust, Missile Command, Pole Position 2, Tron, etc.  I mean,  he hadn’t even *heard* of Centipede.  The kids these days…  After a few hours deeper and deeper into the bottomless liquor, then food at some random place in SOMA, and then more liquor, I called it a night as they continued on.

While taxi’ing home it occurred to me that this is what those BBC dramas illustrated, just modernized. Like Bronte’s London, Silicon Valley is built on a culture of partying. Why live anywhere else?

Do you want to work more with cloud computing? Great– we don’t! When dealing with financial data, knowing where the data lives is important (and “on someone else’s service” is a poor answer), so we’re leaving the cloud. We have three datacenters in active/active/active configuration, and we’re transitioning ancillary services out of “the cloud.”

A perfectly normal monitor in peak operating condition

 

We’re a Linux shop– currently a Ubuntu/CentOS hybrid environment, transitioning to a full CentOS stack, all managed with Salt (www.saltstack.org). Our site is largely written in PHP and Javascript, but important parts are in Java, C++, plus a smattering of Python holding some rusty parts in place.
Our network stack is built on a Juniper switching fabric, and a pf-based firewalling solution.

 

We would like you to:

  • Build infrastructure! Every system is configuration managed, so ideally you build a web server once, not a hundred times.
  • Support developers! Our developers are as smart as you ideally are– they need help provisioning development environments, not printing Excel spreadsheets.
  • Participate in a one-week-in-four on-call rotation! The world is beautiful at 3AM– but for better or worse you’ll rarely get to see it, as “the environment is melting” is the exception rather than the rule.
  • Read and debug code! You need not be a developer yourself (though it wouldn’t hurt), but tracking down a bad PHP function call based on log messages shouldn’t scare you.
  • Make big trouble for moose and squirrel! Oh wait, the KGB shut down years ago…
  • Work in San Francisco! Don’t live here? No problem, we’ll fix that.

If you are interested in applying, please send your resume to jobs@expensify.com with a letter explaining why you are awesome and how you found us.

Being the expense-report-savvy individuals that we are, many of our users ask us about the best ways to use Expensify. In response, we’ve decided to post some of our best practices for certain use cases and facets of Expensify.

For business travelers, the general gist is simple: use our mobile apps to complete the vast majority of your expense report while you travel and, if need be, tie up the loose ends at http://www.expensify.com when you get access to a full browser. To illustrate further, here is a walk through of a basic business trip from an expense report viewpoint:

1. Once you receive your flight confirmation email, forward it to receipts@expensify.com.

  • Our Trips feature will automatically recognize your itinerary and load it to your mobile app, reminding you of your flight and also reminding you to begin tracking your expenses.

2. Create a report to organize your expenses:

  • Create your report on the fly once you add an expense by choosing ‘create a new report’ in the expense details screen.
  • Go to the reports page in the app and tap the ‘new’ button to create a new report.

3. For all the expenses you incur along the way:

  • Snap a photo of the receipt with your mobile app and SmartScan it to have Expensify automatically attach the receipt to an expense imported from your connected credit card or bank account.
  • For any driving you do, use the mileage function. Keep track by manually entering mileage or use GPS tracking to make it even simpler.
  • If your company requires it, track time using the ‘time’ button in the app.

(Optional) If your approver is a stickler for perfection, login to www.expensify.com to resolve any outstanding report violations and ensure your report is up to snuff.

3. Finish up your report and submit it on the go:

  • Once all the expenses have been added and you’re satisfied with your report, tap the submit button in the mobile app and you’ve done your part.

Of course, these are just suggestions from the pros; everyone has their own best practices to fit their own process. Email us at help@expensify.com and we’ll be happy to advise you on best practices that fit your particular travel type, reporting rules, or expensing style.

Now go take care of (expense reporting) business like the best of em!

When I took my shoes off and walked around the office in my lovely yellow argyle socks, no one batted an eye lash. I knew this was a good place to be.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, a rapidly moving start up where intern folk like myself get to deploy live code, free lunches in a city where you can try a new place everyday, and working with talented, genuine, and all-around cool people were wonderful parts of the job. But boy did I cherish my barefoot walks around the office!

I think the bigger point, though, is that Expensify is an awesome company with awesome people, and I couldn’t have asked for a better internship experience. For starters, I worked on a product loved by millions. All my CS buddies were testing software at their internships; I was extremely fortunate in getting the chance to write it. In a measly 6 months, I went from barely programming to totally programming, and Expensify gave me the room and environment to build that critical programming foundation that I think school just can’t provide.

But — to my benefit — it gets better. The people I worked with pushed me in the right way, challenged my ideas, and always helped when I needed it. It didn’t matter if it was 10 AM or 10 PM, I knew I could always ask Matt why I was getting a 500 error when it turned out to be a missing bracket. I was given real ownership of the projects I worked on. I was ultimately responsible for the projects I’ve started, and it’s been so surreal that Expensify gave me the chance and opportunity to succeed.

I only hope that wherever I go next is as cool a place like Expensify. I’ve not only learned valuable knowledge, I’ve made some really cool friends along the way and I can’t wait to see how our paths cross in the future.

One of Expensify’s most popular features is its direct integration with QuickBooks. Expensify is able to integrate with both QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online. Here are some things to make sure to be aware of when setting up your connection:

  • Information is not automatically exported from Expensify to QuickBooks; the export must be triggered by the user. Visit our QuickBooks export page to learn about exporting expense reports to QuickBooks.
  • Expensify does not edit your QuickBooks company file. Expense accounts can be imported into Expensify to use as categories, but categories and tags created in Expensify will not be added to your QuickBooks company file. New expense accounts will need to be created in QuickBooks.
  • When new accounts are added to your QuickBooks company file, you will need to update the connection in Expensify. You can do this by going to Settings > Connections and clicking “update now”.
  • Typically, the best way to manage multiple QuickBooks companies within one Expensify account is to create a separate expense policy for each company.
  • It is important to always be logged into QuickBooks as the master admin (single user mode) when connecting with Expensify.
  • Intuit currently does not support the ability to connect with the Mac copy of QuickBooks Desktop. Specifically, the QuickBooks Web Connector is not supported on the Mac. You can, however, connect to QuickBooks Online using any operating system.

As always, please feel free to email us at help@expensify.com if you have any questions about setting up your Expensify-QuickBooks connection!

Expensify user Camp Kesem is a college student run summer camp for kids with a parent who has (or has had) cancer. Their one-week sleep away camps are a chance for kids to have a fun-filled week and just be kids.  The student volunteers at their 37 chapters work year-round to plan and implement every aspect of camp – in addition to raising thousands of dollars and developing leadership skills.

I recently had a chance to talk to Rachel Firestone, Camp Kesem’s National Program Director, about how they use Expensify and the benefits it provides for them.

Expensify allows us highly organized oversight of expenses and streamlines our reimbursement process.  Before Expensify, volunteers at our 37 chapters would send us countless emails with receipts and reimbursement information – often with mathematical errors or missing information.  Now it is easy for them to “fill in the blanks” so to speak, to make sure we get all the info we need, plus the totals are summed automatically.  They can even snap a photo of their receipt with the Expensify smartphone app!  Additionally, when we do spot an error, it is easy to reject the report, include our feedback, and have the volunteers resubmit after making any necessary changes.  On top of all of that, our accountant loves the way it interfaces with QuickBooks, making reconciliation a much less daunting task. ~ Rachel Firestone – Camp Kesem National Program Director

Bringing joy into these kid’s lives! Who could have a problem with that?

With so many locations spread out across the country, and a regularly rotating staff, the intuitive systems Expensify can provide offer a large benefit to an organization such as Camp Kesem.

Camp Kesem Kids. Happy to just be kids!

Training is minimal and people are able to get quickly up to speed and spend their time helping kids rather than scratching their heads looking at a computer. We couldn’t be happier to play whatever small part we can in furthering Camp Kesem’s important mission!

I want to thank Rachel and Camp Kesem for agreeing to be featured here in How Do You Expensify.  If you would like to be featured here, or if you have any questions about how Expensify can help to bring this kind of ease in expense reporting to your organization, please feel free to contact us at help@expensify.com at any time. We are always happy to help. And if you have a free moment please take look at Camp Kesem and the great work they are doing across the country!  I think you will be impressed!

Pro-Tips Monday: SmartScan

wkbarrett —  August 13, 2012 — 2 Comments

Hello Expensifiers!  I wanted to take this opportunity to touch on one of Expensify’s most powerful and handy features:  SmartScan.

Getting ready to SmartScan a receipt on the iPhone app.

What is it?

If you haven’t used it before, SmartScan is a feature that you can use to capture the merchant, amount, and date off of an uploaded receipt and automatically create an expense for it, or match it to an expense imported from a credit card.  SmartScan is one of the biggest time savers on Expensify so we want to make sure everyone knows what they need to to get the most out of it.

Recommended Usage

There are a number of ways to use the SmartScan feature, but probably the best workflow is to start with one of our mobile apps.  When you get a new receipt just take a picture of it using the app, and make sure that SmartScan is checked.  You can even add the SmartScanned receipt to a report at this stage so you won’t need to worry about this later on.  The SmartScan process will take about 10 minutes to complete, and once it does you will have an automatically created expense attached to your receipts.

SmartScan with Credit Card/Bank Import

You may ask, “But wait!  That expense came from a credit card that I have automatically importing.  Isn’t this going to create a duplicate expenses when that comes in!?”  Rest assured, a SmartScanned receipt will be waiting and ready for that imported expense to come in.  As soon as it does the SmartScanned receipt will grab that imported expenses and attach itself to it.  This helps to make sure that your expenses are always in order and not duplicated.  Now, by just taking one simple action on the mobile app, you have a completed expense with the receipt attached on your report waiting to be reimbursed.  Compare that to typing it up yourself and hunting for the receipt image, or even to the prehistoric act of taping your receipt on paper after editing and printing an Excel spreadsheet, and I think you will agree it will save you a great deal of time!

A receipt undergoing SmartScan on the website.

Something To Look Out For

One thing to look out for here is to make sure you are not manually creating an expense for the receipt that you are SmartScanning.  The whole point of using SmartScan is that it will automatically create the expense for you, so you don’t want to unnecessarily duplicate this work and end up with a duplicate receipt.  Just sit back and let SmartScan do it’s magic.

Free Refills!

Each Expensify account gets 10 free SmartScans, and we even top off that pool each month, so you will always have a healthy amount ready to go.  If you need to use more than this you can purchase additional SmartScans for 20¢ each.

As always, if you have any questions, or if there is anything in particular that you would like us to touch on in a future Pro-Tip, please let us know at help@expensify.com.  Now go have fun SmartScanning!

Intern Pro Tips

andhess —  August 10, 2012 — 2 Comments

Tomorrow is my last day of work here at Expensify, thus ending what has been an incredible adventure.  I joined Expensify in late May as an intern, and now my time has come to return to school.  As I write this, I’m watching the sun set over San Francisco and it’s finally sinking in that I won’t be seeing another California sunset for a while.  I joined Expensify in late May with nothing but a laptop and high hopes, tomorrow I’ll walk out the door (of the new and better office) with the hope that our paths will cross again.  Why?  Because it turned out to be so awesome!  This city is incredible, the work is fun, and it’s always a good time hanging out with the team.  I’m excited to get back to school, but it’s bittersweet to be leaving such an awesome company at the same time.  So now as an experienced Expensify intern, here are my pro tips on how to handle working for an awesome and fast paced startup.

Do:

Enjoy yourself.  The office is filled with awesome people, you’re in a great city, and you’re working on a product that a million people love!

Listen!  Everyone here would love to teach you something, just make sure you’re listening and able take advantage of that.

Be open minded.  Your mockup or design document will not always be the best. Be able to take tough feedback because in the end it makes for a better product.

Take ownership of your projects.  Plan, implement, and test. Then show it off to everyone and you’ll feel like a rockstar.

Wear sunscreen.

Don’t:

Expect someone to hold your hand.  Be able to work independently and help will be there when you’re actually stuck.

Miss your last ride home.  If you’re staying late it’s a good idea to know when the last BART train leaves (1:04 AM if you’re headed south).

Sit on the couch all weekend. After all, this is San Francisco.

Adjust Witold’s chair.  Leave it alone and nobody gets hurt.

Bonus: Pictures!

Expensify went wine tasting after hitting the 1 Million user mark in June.

San Francisco from the top of Twin Peaks

A night out with Thomas and the other interns

Took a trip down to Big Sur

Sunset on the Golden Gate

This summer was great, guess I’ll just have to come back.

-Andrew

Hi there, just a quick update on the mobile apps. As you know, we make constant small changes and release them quickly — the latest version is on Android now, with iPhone awaiting approval. (BlackBerry and Windows Phone are on the way.) But there are a couple items I’d like to highlight so you aren’t surprised:

  • A new “More…” button, behind which are hidden a bunch of less frequently used features. Tap the button to show the extra options if you’re curious, and those options will automatically show if it seems you’ve historically used them.
  • New “billable” and “reimbursable” checkboxes (hidden behind the “More..” button). If you want these, you know who you are. Otherwise, feel free to ignore.
  • The “top 5″ most frequently used currencies, categories, and tags are now shown at the top of the list.
  • The Receipt and Expense buttons have been streamlined in a few subtle but powerful ways that we hope just feel “right”.

And a ton of other items, each targeted to some specific group who really really wanted it, even though nobody else will notice.

Indeed, it’s been a fantastic challenge to create a single app that feels intuitive for such an amazing diversity of users. Obviously, the classic road-warrior has been our main focus. But we also have countless users doing everything from tracking receipts for their health savings accounts, supporting far-flung missionaries abroad, sticking to a budget while paying their way through school, or even leading flashmobs to save lives in disaster-stricken regions (http://wp.me/pBzL2-NQ). Expensify has proven to be a far more flexible and universal tool than we ever imagined.

But when you have a million users, every change — no matter how slight — affects someone. And even if 99% love the change, that means *thousands* of people who don’t. So if you find yourself temporarily in the unhappy 1% (as opposed to the *other* 1%, which we’d all love to be in…), just drop me a line and we’ll take care of it. Thanks for using Expensify, and please let me know if I can help in any way!

-david
Founder and CEO of Expensify
Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/expensify

PS: The first of three major new datacenters went live today. I hope you like the speed (and reliability) boost; there’s a lot more of that on the way!

1. Instagram the picture of the new keys. Make it artsy so your friends will think you are creative. 

Reality: taken in the elevator on top of an envelope and made to look edgy.

2. Cram into the elevator and make sure you bring some booze.

Riding the old elevator for the final time as a group was bitter sweet (really it was just sweet…those elevators are the slowest I have ever experienced)

3. Capture the moment of opening the door for the first time.

And make sure you look adorably excited as you do it.

4. Christen the new office.

How else do we christen a new office? Whiskey shots was the perfect way to make ourselves feel at home in our snazzy new (read: larger) office.

5. Appreciate the view from the new digs.

Yes this photo is also instagrammed. You know you like it. But seriously, how majestic is the fog rolling in??