Realtime Expenses Start with a Simpler, Smaller Price

David Barrett —  June 1, 2014 — 26 Comments

One year ago, Expensify raised prices — the first time, ever — in order to get profitable.  That worked (thanks everyone!), but today is very different.  Today we are changing pricing in order to lay a foundation for a simpler and better product, even though the net effect of this change on our total revenue will be neutral.  This new pricing scheme is in effect today, and will first affect the 7/1 billing cycle. 

Most customers will only be marginally affected — and many will see their price go down.  Those who do see their price go up are being given 12 months to get comfortable.  But everybody will see immediate benefits, and those benefits will compound over time as our new “realtime expense management” vision comes to fruition.

So that’s the long and short of it, and the new price is fully described here.  But if you care to know how we came up with it, read on:

Why do “realtime expense reports” necessitate this change?

Anybody who hangs out at Expensify HQ for long will tell you we’re hard at work reinventing the core experience of expense management into something we call “realtime expense reports”.  More details will be going public soon, but a key part of this experience is that the whole notion of “submitting a report” — historically the singlemost important function in the expense management process — is relegated to the dustbin of history.  Employees don’t like to do it, accountants don’t like waiting for employees to do it: nobody likes to freakin’ do it.  So coming very soon, you won’t need to.

There’s one slight catch: the main thing we charge for today is… submitting a report.  The very thing we’re about to deprecate.  So we need to change pricing somehow.  Given this unavoidable change, we’ve opted to wrap in a few other changes we’ve wanted to make for a long time in order to get it all out of the way at once to minimize disruption.  Those changes are:

1) Switch from $6/11 per “submitter” to $5/9 per “active user”

Before: From the beginning (at least, the beginning of when we charged at all) Expensify has charged “per submitter” — meaning, charging based on the number of people who submit expense reports in a given month.  But actually, that’s not even strictly true: we charged based on the number of distinct people that were approved in a given month.  It was a confusing concept to explain, and even them most people immediately forgot and just assumed we charged for every active user.

Now: So we’re going to switch and just do what people assume we do: charge for anybody who uses Expensify to process expense reports.  Personal use is just as free as before, but now anybody who creates, edits, submits, approves, reimburses, or exports a report is included in the policy’s “active seat” count — not just submitters.  Clearly, this new, expanded notion of activity means most organizations will have more active seats — and barring some other change, the cost of Expensify would go up.  To avoid that, we’re offsetting this seat increase with what we estimate to be a matching price decrease: we’re reducing price ~18% to the nice round numbers of $5 and $9 per seat for Team and Corporate policies, respectively.

Example: Your company has 100 people, 50 of who submit expense reports every month, and 10 who approve them.

Before: 50 submitters x $6/submitter = $300

Now: 50 submitters + 10 approvers = 60 active seats x $5/seat = $300

2) Include unlimited SmartScan with every policy

Before: SmartScan is an absolutely amazing convenience, and for that we’ve always charged $0.20 per SmartScan (though every account got 10 for free every month).  And in practice, most users didn’t actually need more than 10 so it worked out well.  However, over time people became more and more comfortable scanning receipts, meaning the 10 free didn’t go as far as it did — and the $0.20 cost became a distraction.

Now: By popular demand, we’re very happy to finally do what we’ve been asked countless times for years: unlimited SmartScan at a fixed price.  Everybody still gets 10 free SmartScans every month to use for their personal expenses, but now every SmartScan on a report linked to a paid policy is no extra charge.  Previously, this “hidden cost” added about 17% to a typical company’s bill, so making it unlimited is equivalent to an average 17% discount — on top of the 18% discount described above.  SmartScan it up, you deserve it!

Protip: Have no interest in expense reports but want to SmartScan a ton of receipts?  Just get yourself a Team policy for $5/mo, and SmartScan to your heart’s content.  That’s right: unlimited personal SmartScan for only $5/mo.  Finally!

Example: You SmartScan 50 receipts a month.

Before: The first 10 are free, and you pay $0.20 x 40 = $8/mo

Now: You pay $5/mo for a single active user (you) on the Team plan.

3) Include Invoicing and Bill Processing with every policy

Before: A year ago we launched our Invoicing and Bill Processing feature, which allows you to send invoices (and collect online payment) or receive bills (to a yourname@bills.expensify.com address), with a $15/mo “all you can eat” plan.  This quickly became our fastest growing feature.  However, it was always a pain to charge in a special way — we always wanted to somehow just bundle it with our main feature.

Now: So we did.  Now you can send invoices or claim your @bills.expensify.com address using any Team/Corporate policy, and you’re billed for it just like for a report.

Example: You invoice 1-2 clients a month (the common case), and they approve and pay online via credit card.

Before: You paid a flat $15/mo.

Now: On the Team plan you pay $5 for yourself, and $5 for each recipient, for a total of $10-15/mo.

4) Switch from “account” plans to “policy” plans

Before: This is a subtle change, but previously you upgraded your own account — and every policy you owned gained the benefit of your upgraded account status.  This worked well for a while, but had confusing edge cases: for example, previously it was impossible to own both a Team and Corporate policy in the same account.  Granted, not many individual companies are configured this way, but as an increasing number of accounting firms signed up with a variety of customers (some on Team, some on Corporate), it’s become a real problem.

Now: Accordingly, now you don’t upgrade your individual account — you just create (or upgrade) a Team or Corporate policy.  Incidentally, this also means there’s no such thing as a “Pro” plan anymore: all accounts are the same, and any functionality differences are based on whether the functionality is attached to the Team or Corporate policy.  Then at the end of the month we’ll figure out all the active users across all the policies you own, and bill you accordingly.  (Incidentally, we don’t “double dip” — a single user active on two policies is only paid for once, so feel free to create as many policies as you need to match your organization.)

Example: You own two policies, a Team and a Corporate.  Alice submits to you on a Team policy, and Bob submits to you on a Corporate policy.  Cathy submits two reports, one on Team, and one on Corporate.  You approve all four reports.  The active seats you are billed for are:

Alice: $5 (Team)

Bob: $9 (Corporate)

Cathy: $9 (Team and Corporate, but Corporate pricing wins)

You: $9 (same as Cathy, because you’re active on both)

Total: $32

5) Super streamline the Team plan

Before: Our Team plan was always intended to be the simplest thing we could imagine, for the smallest of companies.  However, over time we just kept adding features — which sounds great in theory, but had the effect of just over-complicating the product.  The result was people who didn’t really need certain features would enable them unnecessarily, creating a poor experience for all involved.

Now: Accordingly, we’ve removed a lot of functionality from the Team plan to keep it simple.  Anybody using QuickBooks Online or Xero — Team is for you, and it’s more streamlined and less expensive than ever.  Everyone else, please take a look at our Corporate policy, which has everything under the sun for only $9/user/mo.  (And if you have over 1000 employees, write sales@expensify.com so we can discuss our Enterprise options.)

6) Team customers have been auto-upgraded to Corporate

Simplifying the Team policy sounds all well and good by itself, but I need to be very upfront about a major consequence: everyone currently on Team has been automatically upgraded to Corporate.  This was a weighty decision that I’m sure is going to be very controversial.  But in the end, we determined it was impossible for us to know which customers were truly using functionality that is now only available on the Corporate policy, or who only needs the functionality now in Team.  So to avoid any chance of breaking customers’ well-oiled workflows without warning, we’ve opted to upgrade all Team customers to Corporate (and encourage everybody to downgrade back to Team if they’re able) — thereby ensuring nobody will see functionality they depend on suddenly disappearing.  But wait!  Before writing in to complain about a bait-and-switch, please read the next bullet…

7) Discounts are immediate, but increases will be phased in over 12 months

Between the 18% reduction in the cost per seat, and the 17% discount by making SmartScan free, as best we can tell this should more than offset any increase in the number of seats caused by the new activity definition — so most customers should be unaffected by this change (or even see a price decrease).  And those who are entitled to a discount will see it immediately, starting on the 7/1 bill.

But to soften the “sticker shock” to those Team customers who choose to stay on Corporate (or any customer who sees a price increase for any reason), we’re going to do something I don’t think I’ve ever seen done before, and that is: calculate a unique discount per customer that completely offsets any price increase, and then phase that discount out over the course of 12 months.

In essence, we’re going to calculate all 7/1 bills with two pricing plans: the old and the new.  And for each customer, we’re calculating a unique discount that will completely offset the new price to match the old price, ensuring everybody will be billed on 7/1 for the exact same price as they would have been had we made no pricing changes at all.  Then, over the next 12 months, we will gradually reduce that discount such that in a year, everybody will be on the new, standard price.

The goal is to ensure everyone will have had plenty of time to downgrade back to Team (if they’re able), get comfortable with the new price (which is still an incredible deal), or — if necessary — migrate to an alternative solution (though I hope this won’t be the case).

Example: You are a company with 50 submitters and 10 approvers.  You were previously on Team, but have been auto-upgraded to Corporate — and you choose not to downgrade back to Team.  The cost of Expensify with the old and new pricing plan would be:

Old: 50 submitters x $6 / Team submitter + 17% for SmartScan + $15 for invoicing = $366

New: (50 submitters + 10 approvers) x $9 / Corporate submitter = $540

To avoid any pricing disruption, this example company would be given a 32% discount, which will be gradually reduced over 12 months.  This means that were every month to have exactly the same number of active users, you would pay:

2014/6/1 – $366 (old price)

2014/7/1 – $540 – 32% = $366 (discounted to be same as old price)

2014/8/1 – $540 – 30% = $380 (discount is gradually reduced every month)

2014/9/1 – $540 – 27% = $395

2015/6/1 – $540 – 3% = $525

2015/7/1 – $540 – 0% = $540 (standard price in 12 months)

Conclusion

And of course there are a ton of small details that I’m leaving out, but these are the big pieces.  It’s a big change with a million moving pieces, and it’s all just a precursor to some even bigger changes on the way.  Thanks for your patience and please excuse the dust.  As always, we’re lucky to have the most awesome userbase a startup could ever hope for, and once again I appreciate you taking this change in stride.  However, if you do have concerns, please write us at help@expensify.com and we’ll get them taken care of.

Thanks for everything, and I hope you’re as excited about the future of expense reports as we are.  If not yet, you will be!

-david, Founder and CEO of Expensify

David Barrett

Posts

Founder of Expensify, destroyer of expense reports, and savior to frustrated employees worldwide.

26 responses to Realtime Expenses Start with a Simpler, Smaller Price

  1. 

    Will the first 2 active users still be free?

  2. 

    Great question — unfortunately the answer is no. The “2 submitters free” design has been replaced with a more standard 30 day trial. There are a bunch of reasons for that:

    – It made pricing very complicated to explain
    – Once you explained it nobody really cared
    – Everybody forgot the next day anyway
    – It made it impossible to monetize very small companies directly (hence the SmartScan credits and separate invoicing fee)
    – It makes a very hard business model even harder to analyze

    In the spirit of simplicity, we’ve taken away the fine print and extra fees, and just gone to a flat per-active-seat feet. Thanks for asking, and sorry for this oversight in my explanation!

  3. 

    What determines an active user on the submitter side? In your example you said “if you have 100 employees and 50 who submit reports”, so if the other 50 have accounts but do not submit a report, they are free? What if 25 of the 50 non submitters were on a trip actively adding receipts, but did not submit a report until the next billing cycle, are they an active (read billable) user during the previous cycle where they entered receipts but did not submit a report?

  4. 

    Great question. Given that the importance of “submitting a report” is going away, ADDING an expense to a report makes you active (even if the report is never submitted) — so long as that report is on a policy. (Adding to a report that is not on a policy is still free.) Thanks for asking!

  5. 

    Ok! I think I’ve got it, so me as a self-employed person can scan 10 receipts a month and I get the report free; is that correct?

  6. 

    is there a succinct list somewhereof the features that are now included only in corporate that used to be included in team?

  7. 

    If we are submitting reports via the bill.com integration, do this count as a ‘seat’?

  8. 
    Inderjeet Singh June 3, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Don’t like this new model, wish you had kept the 2 submitter free policy.

    In any case, for the team mode, are we still allowed to export to QuickBooks (desktop)? Or do we need a corporate policy for that?

  9. 

    David, I appreciate your honesty and the way you keep simplicity at the core as you change, adapt your business, and learn along the way. Good job Expensify team, and thank you for making expense reports suck less.

  10. 

    So, what is the arrangement for someone who is a sole proprietor, I need to record expenses and then print out reports – it’s all done just by me personally. Is that still doable within the personal arrangement, even though I am both a submitter and the receiver of the compiled report?

  11. 

    Hm, I don’t think so, but it’s basically any advanced feature that isn’t strictly required. We’ve tried to boil Team down to the minimum, which means removing some less used features:
    – Policy violations
    – Custom CSV exports
    – Multi-level approval workflow
    – Digital signatures
    – Overriding the default billable/reimbursable behavior

    However, we also expanded Team with some more common features:
    – Unlimited SmartScan
    – Invoicing
    – Bill processing

    I believe those are the major changes. I’ll try to update this list if I come across more.

  12. 

    In this case the person submitting the report is one active seat, yes.

  13. 

    Yes, QB desktop is in Team — sorry for that confusion.

  14. 

    If you’re not creating a policy, then there is no fee. Some sole proprietors will want to create a policy to get its benefits, and that will produce one seat — at $5/mo. However, if you’re happy with the functionality available outside of a policy (which is still quite a bit), then that’s completely free.

  15. 

    So…if I have a “user” that does NOT add an expense during a month, I am not charged then? Only if they enter expenses, correct?

  16. 

    Correct. Only if they add an expense to a report using a policy that you own will they be considered active. This means even if they sign in and scan a personal receipt, you will not be charged.

  17. 

    HI David

    Sounds great. We have been using only the most basic features till now. Now we’ll be paying for only what we use. Out of curiosity, can you share what are the most popular features used by everyone around ?

  18. 

    How does this impact the prepay option?

  19. 

    Can you please explain what it means that if we remain on the Team level, we will not have:

    – Policy violations
    I just don’t understand what this will look like? Is it that users won’t be aware if they are violating policy? approver won’t be aware? or there won’t be anywhere to set up things in the policy that can cause violations? (e.g., receipt needed for expense over $30, category out of policy, etc.)

    – Multi-level approval workflow
    What will this look like? Does it mean every submitter can only have one approver? (as opposed to: employee submits to manager who submits to VP who then submits to CFO for final approval and payment)

    – Digital Signatures
    Is this different from digital approval? i.e., we consider a report “signed” when it has been approved on the expensify system. Are digital signatures different from that?

    Thank you.

  20. 

    That’s correct: the Team plan is designed for smaller teams with a very high level of trust and not a tremendous amount of interest in locking things down. We’ve found these teams (which are extremely common) just want the absolute minimum amount of functionality to capture expenses, without sophisticated controls. Accordingly, the Team plan doesn’t require setting receipt requirement thresholds, specifying different approvers for different people, specifying their actual name and snapshotting a copy of the report (eg, our digital signature feature), etc. Thanks for asking!

  21. 

    This doesn’t change prepay at all, though I should warn you that we’re considering removing this in the future so I’d recommend getting it while you can!

  22. 

    I’d say the most popular features are exactly what is included in the Team policy. We’ve tried to move all of the optional complexity to the Corporate plan.

  23. 

    I have a personal account in which I created a company policy. If I want only want to scan in receipts, create a report and print it out every month, will I be “an active seat” and pay $5.00 per month?

  24. 

    Hi Pam!

    Yes, you would be considered an active user because you are doing this with a policy. Report actions on policies are now a paid feature.

    Note, you could do all this without a paid policy. You should be able to scan receipts, create reports, and print the to PDF with the free product.

    Hope that clears it up, let us know if you have any further questions!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Expensify Streamlining Continues: Submitting Reports on the Free Plan « Expensify Blog - July 25, 2014

    […] expense reporting push, we are continuing to streamline the Expensify product. This started with simplifying our pricing structure and now involves changing the way report submission and approval works for those people using […]

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