Sunday, January 24, 2010

Expenses: No Longer A Nightmare

I harbor a particular love of web services that make my life easier. TripIt makes organizing my travel plans a joy. Mozy makes backing up my computer automatic and worry free. And Trillian takes care of my IM and social network monitoring on any platform. Each of these take a need that was handled through a combination of multiple tools and manual toil and elegantly makes them seamless and smooth. So, on my recent marathon business trip that had me traveling for:
  • 7 days
  • 6 cities
  • 5 hotels
  • 4 flights
  • 2 rental cars
I truly dreaded the expense report work. Hours of filling out a spreadsheet, stapling receipts to pieces of paper, printing out online receipts...the whole process would numb my brain. On the first day of my trip, I looked at this looming problem and fired up the App Store, in search of a better way. And, good readers, I am delighted to tell you I found one.

Expensify is just what the doctor ordered. It works simply and elegantly: you just take a photo of the receipt with your smartphone, add a couple of quick details, and it's uploaded to Expensify. Once there, you can quickly just add a category, and your expense report is built, complete with summarized amounts, and each receipt included. Oh, those online receipts? E-mail them to and add them right in. Once you have your expense report the way you like it, you can e-mail a link from the web to whomever has to review it; they can import it into QuickBooks, print it, PDF it...whatever! It's perfect.

First, it has the delicious appeal of being free; that's perfect to try it out, but I want to make it clear: this is a service I will gladly pay for. Second, it integrates with your phone: iPhone, Blackberry, Android...if you have a smartphone, you have Expensify. Last, it removes all of the toil: my expense report was ready the minute I touched down back in SF, as opposed to the dread and hours it normally takes. One nice touch: the CEO emails you as soon as you establish an account. Respond, and he responds. Very smart.

Now, it's clear I am in love with Expensify, and, in the spirit of that love, I have some recommendations for upcoming changes:
  1. Find a premium option that charges money. My suggestion? OCR of receipts into the expense report; remove that "last mile" of toil. I want you around for many years; I want you to make money.
  2. Allow categorization of the transaction on the mobile. If it's a Meal, let me indicate that when I file the receipt, not have to wait to go on the web.
  3. Don't create a new expense report automatically when I log in on the web. Let me have to explicitly say so. I know, you are trying to save me time, but that time gets wasted later when I have to delete all of the reports I didn't mean to create.
  4. Allow a section of the site for in progress reports. Yes, I know my report remains in progress, but it's grouped in the same section as new reports. Let me have the assurance that you have saved my current report with a simple visual cue.
  5. Allow me to see my current expense reports in the smartphone app. Heck, I'm ok if this is part of your premium offering, but let me have the option.
The possibilities are endless: integration with TripIt to have much of my expense report prebuilt before I even leave; integration with Mint for personal money goes on and on. My hat is off to you, Expensify: you have built an amazing, seamless, powerful app that has revolutionized my life. Thank you.

1 comment:

dbarrett said...

Thanks so much for the kind words! A couple quick comments:

1. Expensify is only free for up to two active users/company/mo. The third and above is $5/mo. So if you receive reports from three people per month, it costs $5/mo. Does this make sense? We realize it's a confusing arrangement and are trying to figure out a better way to explain it -- any suggestions you have would be appreciated. More information on Expensify pricing is here.

2. I totally hear you on the value of fully categorizing expenses and creating reports on the phone. One challenge is each requires "reading" your account before submitting (eg, to read the category list), so it's a nontrivial change. But it's one we can and should do.

3. Actually, we just made a change to not create the report from scratch. There's now a "Start" page that shows a bunch of options, rather than presuming you want to make a new report. We're still uncertain as to whether it's a good change; what do you think?

4. I'm not sure I understand the last request: we currently show "in progress" reports (eg, reports that have been submitted and not yet approved, or for which reimbursement hasn't yet completed) in their own section. Is this not what you want?

Regardless, thanks for the great feedback -- please post any more you have here, or email me direct at Thanks!

Founder and CEO of Expensify