Submit to Concur

Submit to Concur, easy as 1, 2, 3!

You might have read the news that our friends at Concur have just sold to SAP, a global enterprise powerhouse.

This is great for nearly everybody: SAP, Concur shareholders, and especially for us.  As for Concur customers… well the future just got a bit cloudier (and not in a good way).  They probably feel locked into a long-term contract with a company whose focus has suddenly shifted away from their needs, and I’m sure that doesn’t feel great.  Expensify exists to help people feel great about their expense reports, so in light of the news we’re offering a very special deal:

If you’re currently a Concur customer, switch to Expensify now and PAY NOTHING for the duration of your Concur contract.

If that’s one year, ten years, or a thousand years — no problem.  There’s no need to stick it out to the end: you can switch today without stressing over the sunk cost.  If you or anyone you know are using Concur and feeling uncertain about the future, please write to and we’ll get you set up.

Alternatively, if you’re convinced the company will never switch, we whipped up something this weekend for you too: we call it “Submit to Concur.”  To enable, just sign in to, click Settings > Connections > Concur, and enter your Concur username/password.  Create your next report using Expensify as normal— including our cutting-edge mobile app and industry-first SmartScan technology — and when you submit we’ll connect via the Concur API, upload the receipts, and create the report for you.  So whether you’re in charge or not, there’s no reason to suffer through to the bitter end: you can make the switch to Expensify by yourself, today, without waiting for the rest of your company.

Regardless, it’s a great new day for the industry.  Congratulations to Steve Singh at Concur; it was a fantastic run.  We’ll take it from here!

This post was originally sent out as a newsletter to our users. To sign up for Expensify, visit Questions, comments, concerns? Feel free to drop us a note in the comments section below!

At lunch with the Tunisian Minister of Technology, M. Tawfik Jelassi, at the International Innovation Summit of 2014, the topic of the day was: how do you bootstrap a startup ecosystem?

Don’t Reinvent What’s Already Been Done

To be clear, the question isn’t “How do you recreate Silicon Valley?” I think Alberto Sillitti (Free University of Bolzano, Italy) has answered that question best: Silicon Valley simply cannot be replicated. It is the unique product of 100 years of risk, return, and reinvestment, starting with vacuum tubes and leading to the present. Silicon Valley is a petri dish of large corporations, startups, and industry/university partnerships, concentrated into a 100 km strip of land, and fueled by a global base of private investors. The conditions that created Silicon Valley exist nowhere else in the world, and probably never will again.

But as enviable a proposition as that might be, recreating Silicon Valley is also not necessary; just as there’s no need to reinvent electricity or the internet, bootstrapping a startup ecosystem isn’t about starting from scratch. It’s about starting from today, and all that today has to offer. With that in mind, here are three ideas gleaned over multiple days of discussion with government ministers, corporate giants, university professors, and local entrepreneurs about how it might be done in Tunisia, or anywhere else in the world.

1. Evangelize The Fact That Local Success is Possible

Expensify: How to Bootstrap a Startup Ecosystem

Don’t need a map when everything you have is already here

Wherever you are, you’re there due to the generations of entrepreneurs that came before you. Many of them are probably still there, and countless more are surely in the wings, ready to take off. But it’s likely they don’t know each other, meaning few will have have personally seen someone truly succeed – a critical moment in any entrepreneur’s life to prove that success isn’t a mirage, a miracle, or a luxury enjoyed only by unknown geniuses on the other side of the world. Rather, success is the inevitable result of sustained hard work and repeated failure. Create a community that recognizes and celebrates local success, and that exists to spread knowledge about best practices for success in your local region.

Set the wheels in motion: Create a monthly dinner series where you identify one prominent local entrepreneur to come and tell their “origin story”. Not the “exit story” about how great it is to have succeed, but rather the story of the hard times before success, and how they got through. Keep it very private and intimate — 10-20 seats, hosted at an unreasonably nice restaurant that most entrepreneurs will never go to otherwise. The limited attendance not only controls cost, but also creates an exclusivity that makes tickets extremely sought after. Accumulate a database of potential local entrepreneurs and actively curate the list to invite the best and brightest: it needs to be an extremely “talent dense” meeting for people to walk away impressed. Have an open application process so anybody can apply for a ticket, and then seed the database by canvassing all local universities to identify their top students, as well as asking business leaders for their rising star employees. Once started, focus on nominations. Make a point to have a good mix at every dinner of vocal and enthusiastic people from past dinners, as well as new people who have never come before. Aim to make the event so interesting and so exclusive that every local entrepreneur looks forward to their invitation with anticipation. Once a year, invite everybody in the database to an annual entrepreneurship conference full of the best local and a select group of global speakers.

2. Eliminate Barriers to Global Investment in Local Startups

Expensify: How to Bootstrap a Startup Ecosystem

Work on a streamlined process that works for everyone. Photo credit: Financial Times

Most discussion on global investment seems to focus on very large, abstract issues like trade agreements, import tariffs, and other issues that only really matter to enormous multinational corporations. The barriers that affect startups are quite different and generally much more mundane. Make a point to talk to the smallest of entrepreneurs — the lone individuals with an idea and enthusiasm but no idea where to start — and give them a clear roadmap from zero to success.

Pro-tip: Hire a prominent Silicon Valley law firm – with a name every investor would recognize worldwide – to come up with a legal corporate structure that addresses the common concerns of an investor while meeting the needs of local entrepreneurs. There are a huge range of small, arbitrary issues that few people seriously care about but just need to be decided: where is the company incorporated (possibly in multiple jurisdictions), which corporate entity owns which types of assets, how to employees get paid, how investors are protected, who gets what in the event of failure, and how is everything split up when there is a success.

Work with that law firm to boil this down into a streamlined, repeatable process, and then promote this legal structure to every VC you can find, everywhere in the world. Negotiate a deal with that law firm to represent your region’s startups at a highly discounted rate (because it’s been so standardized) – possibly even subsidized to help offset the enormous legal expenses that cripple a small startup. Make sure the structure has genuine teeth that are enforced aggressively against startups who attempt to commit fraud against foreign investors: even a few bad apples can ruin the entire initiative, so demonstrate up front that you are not just an advocate for the local entrepreneur, but also a local representative of the foreign investor.

3. Create incentives for people to stay

Support your local rockstars.

Support your local rock stars.

The key risk if you succeed with (1) and (2) is that Silicon Valley will instantly poach your best entrepreneurs; rather than invest in a remote entity, they’ll immediately move the team to Silicon Valley. A sustainable startup ecosystem requires entrepreneurs to succeed locally and stick around to mentor new entrepreneurs, invest in local startups, and become serial local entrepreneurs in their own right. This is likely the most difficult of the three, and failure here is likely what keeps most burgeoning startup ecosystems from taking off.

Set the wheels in motion: Make your successful entrepreneurs rock stars. If they left and succeeded elsewhere, give them a hero’s welcome and encourage them to come home. Invite them to meet government ministers and foreign dignitaries or have them on stage at key functions, including not just the annual entrepreneur conference outlined in (1) but also at local fairs and holiday festivals. Give them positions as guest lecturers at universities, put them on local TV, and give them a monthly column in a local newspaper. Very little of this actually costs money, but all of it is something nearly impossible to obtain in Silicon Valley due to the sheer scale of the ecosystem. Local entrepreneurs should be seen as a national treasure to be nurtured and celebrated.

Granted, some might question whether it makes sense to celebrate an app developer more than a fireman, but the question at hand is how to encourage more startups and not more firemen. Whether or not it’s fair is open to debate, but I wager a country that does elevate entrepreneurs to national hero status will have more entrepreneurs that a country that doesn’t.

These are just three of what I’m sure are countless possible ways to bootstrap a startup ecosystem. Some of the ideas are crazy. But part of being a startup is being a little crazy — if it were safe and obvious, someone would have done it already. Really, every city and country in the world is its own startup. If you want your city-startup to attract more entrepreneurs, it needs to act like an entrepreneur itself.

A mobile app is a necessity for any company trying to make it in the big league. At Expensify, we’ve built apps for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone – and even had a Palm Pre app too, when it mattered.

Compared to mobile web usage, mobile app browsing time has increased by 6% from 2013 to 2014. It’s no wonder that companies are vying for a mobile user’s attention by building a native app. Developing a mobile app isn’t easy, but avoiding these three common misconceptions can drastically increase your reach and adaptability.

Expensify mobile app development on Android and iOS

We know iOS is shiny and beautiful, but don’t forget about Android!

1) iOS is Enough

If you’re making a consumer product for individuals, then you might be right: iOS users install more apps, and use them more reliably. If you’re selling a business app – especially one used in groups – then you absolutely need *at least* an Android app, and you might consider BlackBerry and Windows Phone as well.  Because even if most of your target audience is on iOS, there is the idea of the “tyranny of the straggler”; if one key person in the group needs something other than iOS, that person will push the whole group over to an app that supports everyone.

2) Cross Platform Layers Make Shitty Apps

It’s true that for the best user experience, native controls are critical; an HTML5 solution as almost never adequate. Most modern cross-platform layers wrap portable “business logic” with native controls, giving you the best of both worlds. In practice, as much as you’d love to spend all your time tweaking out the UI to make it smooth and glitzy, most of the complex logic that eats up all your development time actually has nothing to do with the UI. Writing your business logic in a way that can be shared across platforms prevents you from needing to re-write (and repeatedly debug) your most complex logic once for every platform.

3) You Don’t Need a Website

Mobile + Web = Love

False: Mobile + Web = Expansion

It’s called “mobile first” not because there is only a mobile app, because it’s just *first* – you still need “web second” for growth. This is because you depend on knowing your users’ email addresses, sending them messages, and giving them something to click through to. You need your users to invite friends and colleagues, and they need someplace to send them that is more powerful and engaging than a link to an app store. The most important feature you will ever build is the one that helps you sign up the next user: that’s the feature that ensures every new user is slightly easier than the one before; otherwise you’re facing a long hard slog for every single download.

What are some other common myths or misconceptions you’ve experienced regarding mobile app development? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Olá from Portugal!

We’re halfway through our first week in Lisbon, and oh, what a beautiful city it is!

Traveling abroad with an entire team is exciting, but it also requires a higher level of patience to work together as we’re all in a state of ebb and flow. To stay as productive and on task on the offshore as we are in the office, we follow these few simple guidelines.

Avoid Complex Solutions to Simple Problems

Expensify Morning Standup in Lisbon

Morning 10AM Standup in Lisbon

Aim for the simplest possible solution to the problem at hand. Think paper to-do lists, daily standup meetings, writing a priorities from scratch on a blank whiteboard and emailing out a photo, etc. Most productivity issues result not from inadequate tools, but from a lack of discipline.

In Portugal: We meet every morning at 10 AM in a central location near Baixa to go over larger-picture projects, questions, and other details that help us get the day started. Each person also sends a daily 10 AM email that lists our tasks for the day. Both practices improve accountability and focus within the team throughout the entire trip.

Tip: Start the day off with a team meeting to get everyone on the same page. Review goals and projects for the day, figure out a lunch location or other logistics, and identify then nip problems at the bud to prevent them from snowballing into something bigger later on.

Emphasize Project-Based Work

Portugal Working Team

Lots of cross-team collaboration going on here.

Nothing is more stressful than looking at a list of a thousand “must do” things that you’ll probably never get to. Not only that, but to-do lists only capture checklist tasks, not overarching, bigger vision goals. On the offshore, we focus our work around projects so that we have deliverables that can drastically improve our product by the end of the trip. Think fWOW projects, but on a larger, more ground-shaking (in the product sense) scale.

In Portugal: Because we’re Expensifying 24/7 on big trips like the Offshore, it’s the perfect time to get big things done, and especially in teams. Everyone in the company has a project to work on that can be ‘delivered’ at the end of the trip; in the past, projects have included a website and mobile redesign, SmartScan, and Expensify Trips, among others. This year, we’re focusing on real-time expense reports and travel.

Tip: Before the trip, create a list of the projects everyone is involved in and have periodic updates throughout the trip so that everyone will be on the same page. The check-ins lead to greater transparency in each project, so that the entire team can watch the project progress.

Stay Calm and Carry On

A major drain on productivity is needless drama in the workplace. Odds are, everybody around you is at least as busy as you (even if you don’t understand why), so resist the temptation to aggravate things further. You are not an island; just like others affect your productivity, you affect theirs. Take that responsibility seriously.

In Portugal: Being transparent about projects makes it easier to understand what other people are working on. As a result, we tend to be more mindful and considerate of each other’s time.

Tip: Schedule meetings in advance and set a clear agenda – this helps maximize efficiency in the meeting. Alternatively, travel from cafe to cafe and work with a group of people who would most likely be doing similar tasks or projects; that way, you’ll all be on the same page and won’t need to shift from one project mindset to another.

Have you ever worked remotely with an entire team, or participated in something similar to the offshore? Want to work with us? We’d love to hear your experiences! 

Think back to all the jobs you’ve ever had in your life. In those roles, when did you finally get handed some real, capital-R Responsibility on the job?

Individuals are generally hired at a company based on what they’ve done in the past and how that translates to potential at the new position. Even after a rigorous interview process that should have proven the candidate to be a very capable person, a new hire still has to prove themselves before getting some real responsibility. Why is that?

Trust Begets Trust

Riding a bike

Learn the ropes and before long, you’ll be able to do it on your own.

As a new hire, onboarding feels a bit like learning how to ride a bike. Before you’re allowed on the bike, you have to learn from various sources the best practices of how to ride a bike. After this storm of information passes, you finally hop on the bike…only to realize there are training wheels attached.

Don’t get frustrated; training wheels are important in learning the ropes. The better you understand the basics, the easier it’ll be to find ways to insert creativity into the process.

When the training wheels come off, it’s time to ride like a big kid. Unfortunately, this is where processes start to get murky. Managers might still feel a bit nervous about you even after weeks of training, so they keep a hand on the bike handles to help steady the transition. The problem is that when a hand goes on, it’s hard to let go. Managers are afraid that if they let you go off on your own, you might crash and hurt the company, yourself, or both in the process.

It’s a very cautious position to take, but it’s not always unwarranted; take a look at a number of social media blunders that have happened due to poor judgement or lack of knowledge. On the other hand, micromanagement and overprotection might prevent the new employee from ever learning how to ride the bike properly on his or her own.

How to Give (Well-Earned) Responsibility to Your Team

Cultivating trust between you and your supervisor takes time, but being active early on can expedite that process. Don’t just go through the motions; ask questions and show that you’re thinking about and seeing the larger picture. Trust also leads to more responsibility, which helps cultivate the feeling of value, and culture helps with feeling a sense of belonging. But what does this look like in practice?

During my interview, I had discussed the potential of inbound marketing and restructuring the blog as something I’d like to focus on if I were hired into the team. After getting an offer and signing the t’s before dotting the i’s, the blog was handed to me to carry out my vision. Shortly after, the first thing I did was systemize the writing and publishing process by creating an editorial calendar. My previous work and the work I did during the interview process was enough for the team to say, okay, we trust you with your ideas on how to improve the blog.

From Varun Varada, one of our newest Software Engineers:

Varun, Software Engineer

Varun Varada, Software Engineer

“The best way I can describe it is that there is a seed of responsibility that’s planted into Expensify’s culture. The freedom that has been given to me allows that seed to grow organically so that I end up having more responsibility the longer I’m here. Going with this metaphor, the freedom is the soil that’s helping me grow. For example, I’m currently working on a fWOW project that came out of necessity, but I’m passionate enough to fix it that I’ve taken it upon myself to do so. Once that project is done, I’m going to start on another one that I designed myself.”

The lack of trust in new employees is not unwarranted, but if you hired someone based on the responsibilities they were given at their last job, chances are, they’re probably not an idiot. Spend the time onboarding and training them, but don’t deny new employees the chance to take on bigger projects either.

How do and when do you dole out responsibility to new employees? As an employee, what do you think? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

Raising money or starting your own business? Then you might want to continue reading!

David recently spoke at the Silicon Valley Innovation Summit (SVIS) about the cultish view of customer acquisition amongst startups and the myths of performance acquisition. Check out the video for tips and tricks on how to avoid the CaC trap:

The keynote touches upon a few key points:

  • Customer acquisition is almost synonymous with raising money, why?
  • Theory (V = R * $ *LTV/CAC) vs. Practice (V = R * $ * hope)
    • Curious? The video explains in detail where hope “fits in”
  • Making money should be a requisite for making money
  • The nouveau enterprise: introducing disrupter (we know, very overused word) economics

While the keynote itself is about 11 minutes long, stick around for the Q&A session afterwards, where David explains exactly how his view on CaC has fueled our strategy against our biggest competitor.

Got something to say? We’d love to hear your reaction and thoughts on the subject in the comments section below!

At the intersection of yes and no

At the crossroads of yes and no

As a small business owner that caters to small business owners, I can say with extreme confidence: Yes!  Yes, absolutely turn down any investment unless the following three things are true:

1) Do you have a clear plan for how to spend the money?  

Investors aren’t banks: they’re not in it to get a few percent back.  They’re investing in you to get a massive return, and they expect you to generate that return by spending the money they just gave you.  This means from the moment you get the cash, it’s burning a hole in your pocket – so if you don’t spend it fast on *something*, your investors will get angry.  To avoid that, makes sure you know as clearly as possible how you’re going to spend that money, and make sure your investors understand that up front.

That said, in practice you probably won’t be in a strong enough position to really make use of that advice.  Rather, it’s likely you’ll likely be so desperate that you’ll say anything to get it, and investors are surprisingly happy to turn a blind eye.  So as fallback advice, just be sure to write down your spending intentions even in the most general terms, and email them to your investors in a way that is non-confrontational.  This gives you *something* to work with in the event there’s disagreement down the road, which will almost certainly be the case.

2) Is it enough investment, without being too much?

There’s a Goldilocks zone to how much you raise.

  • Don’t raise exactly 1x what you need, as everything takes longer and is more expensive than you expect.
  • Don’t raise less than 1x with the intention of going back for more, because raising is extremely distracting and it gets harder to raise the next round if you don’t perform.
  • Resist the temptation to raise more than 2.5x what you think you need, as investors will press you to spend it — and once gone, it’s gone.

Rather, raise enough to get the job done with a reasonable cushion against the unknown, but not so much that you get too comfortable and start making stupid decisions.

3) Do you fully appreciate and accept the strings attached?

Let’s be honest, investors are more savvy than you when it comes to this sort of thing.  You sell coffee: they sell money.  You know more about coffee than them, but they know way, way more about money than you.  Just as you could pass off day old coffee on most customers without them realizing, investors have a thousand tricks for how to tie all sorts of clever strings to the money they offer you.  Accordingly, make sure you understand every little term in the contract, and have it reviewed by a competent attorney.  They’ll say “oh, don’t worry about that; that’s just boilerplate and we’d never actually do that.”  Assume every single term will in fact come to be, and get comfortable with that possibility.  If you can’t, walk away and find someone else.

Taking on an investor is like hiring a boss; make sure hire well because it’s a decision you can’t undo.