10 Years of Expense Reports that Don’t Suck

David Barrett
David Barrett Expensify Team Posts: 38 Expensify Team

[Original post date: January 10, 2018]

Can you believe that Expensify turns 10 this year? I’m 42, so that’s nearly a quarter of my life devoted to the dark arts of expense management, and it has gone by so fast. It feels like just yesterday we launched our app for the iPhone (which also just turned 10), making us the first cloud-hosted, receipt-scanning expense management app, ever, for any phone. Since then, we’ve added more customers than the next four competitors *combined* — doubling our customer count this year alone. 

Needless to say, we have been sprinting to keep up with this growth. 12 months ago we announced our partnership with CPA.com, the business wing of the AICPA, and were wondering “how big a deal is this?” Well, the subsequent 12 months have been exhausting, with constant upgrades, optimizations, fixes, and refinements to keep everything running (mostly) smoothly at an ever-increasing scale. We rewrote almost all of our accounting integrations to be even more magical, and finished (insofar that anything is ever really “done”) our one-click, realtime expense report flow: just scan the receipt, put your phone away, and we do everything else — including depositing real money in your bank account the very next day. If you’re still putting receipts in your pocket, you’re just doing it wrong.

But most exciting of all is what we just released: a totally overhauled web and mobile experience that keeps the important things familiar, while making everything snappy and look oh so shiny. Fire up the app or sign in to expensify.com to check it out. It’s a new Expensify for a new year!

All that said, it’s increasingly clear that this growth spurt isn’t a quick sprint, but more like a marathon. There might only be 500 accounting firms in the top-500, but collectively they represent *millions* of clients, and it’s been an incredible journey to bring them all on board. As such we need to make some slight changes to better balance the needs of existing customers, new customers, and our valued accounting partners (many of who we’re going to see soon at ExpensiCon in Bora Bora!)

Perfecting What We Have

The first change — and this is a doozy — is that we’re not going to build any new features for a while. More companies and accounting firms manage their expenses through Expensify than any other software in the world, and while there are still a few esoteric cases we can’t handle, in practice we’re ready to roll “out of the box” for almost any company or client under 1000 employees (and can handle most companies above that with a bit of easy customization).

So if you’re holding your breath for some big change to our core product in the next 12 months — I hope you have big lungs. Rather, 2018 is 100% focused on just taking care of our existing customers, and especially our large network of accounting partners who are increasingly standardizing their clients on Expensify across the board.

Toward this end, we are upgrading all our hardware inside all datacenters to make things lightning fast and rock solid across the board. I realize everybody says that. But cliche or not, we’re doing it, because our customers have made it clear we’re not just some random product you can ignore if it breaks. This is an essential accounting (or as we like to say, “preaccounting”) service, and like power, water, and internet, it needs to work fast and reliably, every time.

Additionally, we are doubling down on our bank connectivity. And I don’t just mean commercial card feeds (as our enterprise customers expect) or personal card import (as our individual users demand). I mean the small business company cards like American Express OPEN that have “sub-accounts” — company paid cards assigned to employees. So far as I can tell, Expensify is the only company to enable central import and management of these small business cards, giving small businesses the same centralized reconciliation capabilities enjoyed by the largest enterprises. And I can see why: it’s a hard, hard feature to offer, but one we are committed to perfecting.

But more generally, we are focusing 100% of our time on just addressing the most common confusions, concerns, and pain points that we hear from our customers and accounting partners every day. This might sound obvious, but most startups are so busy “pivoting” that they are more focused on closing the next customer than satisfying the last. As we scale up and take on thousands more customers per month, we’re committed to doubling down on the user experience and eliminating any workflows, bugs, or features that cause user confusion — it’s good for you and crucial for our success.

Changing How We Charge

Finally, I need to share a significant “one more thing”: reviewing how we charge customers.

Now I realize that our rapid influx of new customers shouldn’t seem like your problem — what’s the harm with other companies following your lead? Unfortunately, our previous pricing plan had the downside of enormous “churn”: we made it so easy to buy that we went through the effort to set up literally thousands of companies that never got around to paying. And while this shouldn’t affect you, in practice it sapped resources from supporting our paying customers. This doesn’t help anyone, so we’re making a change to help us avoid spending a ton of time setting up a window shopper that is just going to disappear the next day.

To set your mind at ease: we aren’t changing how *much* we charge — our price is staying at $9** per active user per month, the same price it’s been since 2014. Rather, we are changing *how* we charge, to help us identify and prioritize the customers who are planning to stick with us for the long term, versus those who are still on the fence.

(** As an aside, to support the needs of our growing base of UK and Australian customers we’ve also added billing options in GBP and AUD; check our pricing page for more details!)

We now offer two options:

  • The first option, and the default for all new customers, is an annual subscription for at least one active user per month. This is priced exactly as Expensify has been since 2014: $9 per active user per month. From the perspective of an existing customer who chooses this option, there is basically no change: if you have 5 active users every month, an annual subscription for 5 active users will still cost $45/mo. Even if you have a different set of 5 active users every month, the cost is still only $45.
  • The second option is “Flex” billing for $18 per active user per month, without any annual commitment. Though $18 is obviously higher than $9, the lack of annual commitment makes this a more cost effective option for occasional users to get the full power of Expensify without needing to make an unnecessarily long commitment.

Both options still include up to a 6-week, no-strings-attached free trial — no credit card needed. But if for some reason your setup drags on past 6 weeks, we’re asking for some token sign of commitment to keep the conversation prioritized on our side.

This new subscription billing model has already gone into effect for new customers joining us in 2018, and is the default model for all future billing. Please read our help documentation to learn more — or just start a free trial and then ask Concierge for details. It’s fast, easy, requires no credit card, and costs nothing to start.

Special Note for Existing Customers

As for current customers, your Inbox will ask you which of these billing options you want to use going forward: just sign in to learn more. But in the meantime, since we don’t know which of the options you want, we’re going to make it easy: you have been put on the “Flex” billing option, except “grandfathered in” with the highly discounted annual subscription price — the same exact price we currently charge, and have charged for the past 4 years.

This means that if you do nothing, absolutely nothing changes for you right now. Indeed, you needn’t make any decisions until March 1st, 2018, because your February 1st bill will still be at the same $9/active user price you know and… well if not love, at least know. And then for those who decline the annual subscription option, starting March 1st and for the 11 months following, the “grandfather discount” will be adjusted each month by $0.75/mo, until March 2019 when it will be at the same $18/active user/mo rate seen by new customers. But before that happens, you have a whole year to evaluate whether the new annual subscription option or old “Flex” billing option is right for your organization.

Thank you for your patience as we absorb this massive influx of new customers, especially the wave coming from our accounting partners standardizing their client lists on Expensify en masse. I realize change is never easy, especially when money is on the line. But for what it’s worth, it’s helpful to put that money into context:

Expensify costs $9 per active user per month (compared to Salesforce — which we are frequently compared to, but which typically costs *$150 per user per month*). On average only a third of a typical company is active on Expensify in a given month, which means Expensify generally costs about $3 per employee per month. That’s less than a Big Mac, for cutting edge enterprise software delivered straight from the cloud to your pocket, at 2% of the cost of Salesforce.

We are working incredibly hard to deliver a mission critical service with bank-grade security, enterprise-grade functionality, and consumer-grade usability — all on Big Mac margins. As an existing customer I recognize that you’ve been somewhat caught in the crossfire as we deal with this huge surge of new customers, and I apologize for any negative impact this has had on you and your team. But I appreciate your patience as we iron out the kinks in our business model to ensure that we can deliver and improve upon the Expense Reports that Don’t Suck vision for the next decade.

Thank you for 10 absolutely incredible years, and I’m excited to share this journey with you for 10 more!


PS: Like solving hard scaling problems? Want to work with a solid, seasoned engineering team in Portland, San Francisco, Melbourne, Michigan, London — or really, anywhere the internet goes? Let’s talk or just email jobs@expensify.com to learn more!