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Abacus (YC W14) Wants to Make Expense Reports Obsolete (techcrunch.com)
71 points by tgoldberg 1393 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 28 comments

I agree with the other commenter that real-time daily approval doesn't seem to be a big selling point (I'm not sure it's even worth mentioning in marketing, because it might actually elicit negative reactions).

But the idea that the employee gets the money immediately/overnight upon approval at the end of the trip, or maybe weekly (for long trips), instead of waiting weeks for a paper check, is huge. As is offloading a lot of the accounting 'grunt work' of it to another company. And snapping photos of receipts with location and time data and categories directly attached, and not having to worry about where they're stored (it's all in the app and on servers) is a huge convenience too.

Sounds like an exciting idea.

We use Concur at work and it's pretty painless. I scan most of my receipts with the app, usually in one big batch at the airport while I'm waiting around, do cleanup the next day (taxi/uber fare or parking receipts from the airport or whatever), and the reimbursement is included on my 2nd next paycheck at latest, which is direct-deposited anyway.

Maybe the incumbents are good for the enterprise and Abacus is for small/medium business?

With Abacus, you'd never have to worry about scanning receipts at the airport and "cleaning up" the next day to fit all your expenses into an arbitrary report because it was so quick and easy to do in real time, that not only did you submit it when it happened and throw away the receipt, but the money was in your bank account before you even got home from your business trip.

Thanks! Yea we don't think that employees should be used as a 'line of credit' for their employers. If you purchase something on your company's behalf, you should be reimbursed for that expense as quickly as possible.

What takes more time though? Quickly reviewing a listing of 20 expenses that an employee made on a trip and signing off, or getting an alert 5 times a day for 4 days for an expense that needs to be approved.

I think you guys under estimate how valuable a managers time is and that this doesn't actually save them time but puts the hassle of expenses from the employee to the manager.

It really depends on the expense volume, which is why we let managers set the frequency of notifications - for heavy volume sales organizations, they may prefer to review it as a daily digest, whereas for low volume founders, they expect to see everything real time. Abacus is as real time as you want it to be. We make it faster for employees to submit and managers to review.

So, I'm a manager, and the last thing I want is to have fifteen different notifications coming to me in real-time asking me to approve one of my team member's gas receipt. I'd much rather get the batch after the trip. Not sure how this would be an improvement on the manager end.

Hey I'm one of the Abacus co-founders — we hear you on not wanting to get blasted with a bunch of notifications. As a manger, it's up to you to decide how you want to review expenses. You can review them as they come in, but you can also flip off those notifications and review them daily or weekly. We also provide lots of context so you can group by user, category, trip, etc. At Abacus we like to do stuff real-time, but our goal isn't to prescribe one way of doing things — we want to give you the flexibility to do things in whatever way works best for you.

Plus if you're really keen to approve expense receipts in real time then the Oracle/Blackberry combo works fine.

Funnily enough the least painful expense report I've ever had to send simply involved filling in a spreadsheet, which lacked the abundance of compulsory fields that software designed for proper expense auditing seems to have.

The automated bank account monitoring sounds like the biggest potential timesaver, but it also sounds like something I really don't want to grant to my employer.

Yea — we're trying to avoid the bajillion separate fields you have to enter, typical of Oracle or Concur. We try to do some smart things — for example if you're at a place (gas station, restaurant, etc.) you can select the place from our 'nearby' list with one tap, and then we're working on using that location data to automatically categorize the transaction, put it on a map, etc.

I hear you on not wanting to grant your employer access to all your card data. Your employer will only be able to see the transactions that you pass through to them as business expenses.

I've lost days of my life to the Oracle expense processing "solution". This is no exaggeration either, and I would guess that most companies using it are losing a surprising amount of their employee's time and energy fighting it.

It's particularly inept at dealing with international situations like different currencies or compliance requirements, but the interface as a whole is an archaic mess.

The news that someone, anyone, wants to walk in and disrupt this nonsense is music to my ears.

I agree, I can't see the approver's perspective on this one. I sent you a gas receipt today, and I send you a bunch more receipts tomorrow, and some more the following day. How do you know which transactions are legitimate if you're getting them piecewise and not for the whole trip (i.e. bombard the approver with requests so they can't tell falsified charges)?

Just because expenses aren't submitted in batch, doesn't mean you can't approve them in batch.

Having more transparency into incoming expenses is proving to be helpful for managers. What frequently happens in companies today is that people sit on receipts for months on end. As a manager, when you get receipts from two months ago, how do you know if that is a valid expense? And how do you budget for expenses when there is so much delay? Many managers have to hunt down their teammates and remind them to get expenses in before they close the books, because all this delay makes bookkeeping harder.

As an employee, when you're entering expenses from a trip 2 months ago, how do you remember what the expense was for? What if you lose the receipts?

Oh okay, so you can approve in batch (I also read your other reply about roll up notifications). That makes more sense now, and I can see why this system makes sense.

My previous companies were super rigid about expense reports to avoid any of these problems so I never knew they were problems for some people. You only had so long after your trip was complete, so there would be no "expense report from 2 months ago", and only a minimal delay before getting the quarter's numbers for travel and training. If you had a corporate card, it had to be reconciled each statement for accounting to directly pay the card, otherwise you were on the hook for the balance and responsible for getting it reimbursed to you.

> The New York-based startup is competing in the same space as expense report software such as Concur and Expensify. Abacus founders Omar Qari, Ted Power, and Joshua Halickman say their service differentiates by making it easy for managers approve expenses in real-time through its app, instead of in batches at their desks.

This just isn't true. You can approve expenses through Concur's app: https://www.concur.com/en-us/mobile

You can approve expense 'Reports' through Concur's app, which you likely won't see a manager do more than once a month because your company has the pleasure of paying $11 per report.

Abacus is built to submit and approve expenses in real time, and we'd never charge you for that speed and convenience.

FUD marketing ,i guess

I hope they're right. I hate expense reports. It would be even better to autosort the credit card data. "You use the card, and just tell us what's not a business expense. We'll figure out where it goes."

Check out https://expensebot.com :D

I have half paid attention to this space but can never quite figure out what everything does.

Xero has an app which scans receipts but as far as I can tell doesn't do expenses.

Shoeboxed does tonnes of stuff with receipts (including parsing them and integrating with Xero) but doesn't seem to do expenses (is that right?)

All I want is one app that integrates with Xero, scans a receipt, parses it and lets me classify it as a business receipt or a personal one (to go on an expense form). I know that's not what this app does (it's expenses only) but it feels like it should already be out there - am I missing something?

I have known the Abacus guys for awhile. Their product is cool, solves a real problem, and has seen some great traction. It's a classic innovators solution type product: limit the feature set, have a wonderful product, and sell slightly down market. I can't wait to see the progress they've made by alumni demo day -- I think it's going to be amazing.

I don't see much of a value add over Concur (https://www.concur.com/).

Using it on my iPhone combined with a corporate Amex account I can import my credit card transactions and tie them to expenses, snap photos of receipts, etc. I can easily add receipts as non-Amex expenses and it tracks it in the report.

At the end of my trip my manager approves the report and I get two disbursements - one a direct deposit to me for personal expenses and one an automatic corporate payment to Amex to balance the corporate card.

Last time the roundtrip from trip end to payment was 48 hours.

Our company has been using Nexonia for a few years. Not to say there isn't room for competition, but I don't see any differentiator.

One feature I would like to see is better integration with my calendar. Nexonia will figure out my mileage based on the addresses I enter, but it would be nice if would simply pull this information in from my calendar, and perhaps take a guess at what meeting I just attended based on my current location.

I work in an industry in which it's extremely important to justify business expenses to regulators months or years after the transaction takes place. The ability to build a complete, real-time narrative around expenses, instead of jotting a few notes about a receipt two weeks later would be so helpful.

It seems that your focus is exclusively on small businesses. Is that the case?

That sounds like a great use case for Abacus. We do target small businesses for the most part, but the only thing holding back a company from signing up with Abacus is if they want a whole bunch of custom accounting work done, which we won't do.

So if I read that right, if the company I'm working for wants to use this system then I have to give Abacus direct access to my bank account. Why wouldn't it integrate with the company's existing system? I hope that's just a bad writeup on techcrunch's part. Or I hope nobody I work for ever requires me to use this.

Your bank account information never touches Abacus's servers. http://support.abacus.com/hc/en-us/articles/200792470-Is-Aba...

Are you worried that they might know your account number? Lots of people know that, including anyone to whom you've written a check.

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