A common joke among bankers and lawyers is that their expenses systems are so labyrinthine, glitchy, time-consuming and punitive that they must have been designed to discourage staff from making any sort of claim.
Spendesk wants to change this. The Paris-based startup’s goal is to “make spending at work as easy as it is in our private lives” by combining prepaid company cards — with pre-authorised individual limits, of course — with automatic receipt capture, automated expense reports and integration into companies’ bookkeeping systems.
It has lofty ambitions to become the Revolut of expenses for small and medium-sized companies, and already claims to have 1,500 business clients including other early-stage startups such as Seedrs in the UK, Doctolib in France and Germany’s Rent24.
On Monday the company announced it had raised €35m in a series B funding round led by London-based Index Ventures, which invests in startups such as food-delivery app Deliveroo, Dropbox, payments group iZettle and Revolut.
Spendesk is not the only company targeting this market. Pleo similarly promises to “eliminate tedious paperwork” by offering digital cards, automated receipt catching and the ability to see all staff spending in real-time. Expensify is well-established in the US and more traditional incumbents such as Concur are improving their technology and user interface.
Spendesk has big plans though. Co-founder and chief executive Rodolphe Ardant, an ex-engineer, told the Financial Times that after growing from 20 staff to 120 in the three years since the company was founded, he wants to hire another 100 staff in the next 12 months and triple revenue annually (although the company won’t say what income it generates now.)
Part of the new €35m — which adds to the €10m raised initially — will be used to open offices in London and Berlin this year and fund expansions into Spain and Scandinavia.
“At the moment the processes to control spending are super tedious …Most companies still manage spending like it’s 1995, with archaic processes like shared company credit cards, petty cash or manual expense reports,” he says. He says his software can save three days each month on reconciliation tasks alone.
To use it, companies top up their accounts on the platform with cash, portions of which can then be authorised for use by staff.
To validate a payment “people just need to take a photo of the receipt and an expense report is automatically created and allocated to the right budget …We remove the need for the employee to collect receipts and do all the legwork for reimbursements.”
Spendesk takes a monthly fee based on user numbers.
But what of the inherent contradiction in the business model: what company wants to make it easier for staff to spend money?
“Just because we are going to make the process easier, that doesn’t mean people are going to spend more,” Mr Ardant says. “If you give staff for example an American Express card, things are much less transparent and companies don't have control.”
Spendesk’s software should make it easier for companies to spot fraud, he says, because traditional manual-entry, Excel-based systems are wide open for abuse.
“No one can see if you were the one who paid for this receipt”, especially if you’re using a personal card and claiming it back, he says. “I have seen a lot of fraud in companies when someone has taken out a friend for lunch, the friend then pays the bill, but you take the receipt back after and claim for it again.”
“With our digital, real-time system people can be sure their staff were actually there paying the bill,” he says.
Quick fire Q&A
Company name: Raisin
When founded: 2012
Where based: Berlin
CEO: Dr Tamaz Georgadze
What do you sell and who do you sell it to: Raisin is a pan-European marketplace with one-stop access to deposit products from banks in 24 EEA countries, as well as investment and pension products in Germany.
How did you get started: Raisin’s founders met at McKinsey, noticed the barriers to a harmonised European savings market, and set out to improve this.
Amount of money raised so far: €195m
Valuation at latest fundraising: Not disclosed
Major shareholders: Founders, employees, Index Ventures, Goldman Sachs, PayPal Ventures, Orange Digital Ventures, Thrive Capital, Ribbit Capital, btov Ventures.
There are lots of fintechs out there …what makes you so special: Raisin allows customers and banks simple, cost-effective access to one another across previously onerous barriers, enabling better saving and investing.
Further fintech fascination
Follow the money: US-based life insurer Prudential Financial has spent $2.35bn buying Assurance IQ, a start-up which uses data science and machine learning to speed up the application process for a range of insurance policies, reports Reuters. The sum could rise by another $1.15bn if Assurance IQ meets its targets.
New frontiers: The number of Irish people using fintech products and services has risen three fold since 2017, says the Irish Times. According to research from consultancy EY, 71 per cent of Irish adults are using some form of fintech service. The global average is 64 per cent. Adoption is being driven by money transfer, insurance, and peer-to-peer payments.
Trend watch: Australian fintech Stake, an equities broker, is planning to target British investors who want to diversify away from the potential chaos of Brexit, reports the Australian Financial Review. The company has won a licence from the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and plans to offer low-fee access to US shares and exchange-traded funds.
Follow the money: Goldman Sachs has lent $100m to Konfio, a Mexico-based provider of working capital to small and mid-sized companies, says Bloomberg. The money will help the company to lend about $250m over the next 12 months. Konfio, which uses its technology to analyse credit behaviour, is also hoping to make bigger loans than the current average of $20,000.
New frontiers: Curve, a UK-based banking platform, has raised a record £6m in a crowdfunding drive, with 9500 customers buying as little as £10 of equity, according to Sifted. The company does not particularly need the money though - it raised $55m in a funding round last month.
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