Funny how the most obvious things slip by.  You might recall that we just released a new “Mileage (and other unit) support” feature.  It just occurred to me that a perfect use of this “other unit” functionality is foreign currencies, duh!  It’s so incredibly obvious, naturally I’d only realize it once I had the need to log a cash expense in Turkish Lira.  So to do that I simply:

  1. Went to my settings page
  2. Created a new unit named “lira”
  3. Set it to the current exchange rate ($0.65/lira)

Now I can log Turkish expenses by just creating expenses like “160 lira – Korean hostel 2 nights 4 people”, and it automatically converts it to the relevant USD amount.  Brilliant!  I mean, I knew we were pretty cool, but even *I* sometimes underestimate ourselves.

-david

Our iPhone app is here!

June 27, 2009

From the mailing list:

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Expensify: Our iPhone app is finally here!

It’s been a couple months since our last update, but I’m very proud to announce something we’ve all been waiting for: the Expensify iPhone Application is finally here! I know you thought we were making it up all along (and at times it felt like a dream), but the vapor has finally taken shape and you can download it today!

Install the Expensify iPhone Application

As you might know, you’ve always been able to take pictures of receipts and email them to receipts@expensify.com for inclusion with expense reports. This application streamlines it even further for iPhone users such that you can take pictures and upload straight to your account, over wifi or 3G, skipping email entirely. So download it today and give it a shot!

What’s new?

We’ve been so busy we haven’t spent a lot of time communicating with you (sorry about that!) but here’s a quick update:

  • Lots of talking: One reason we’ve been quiet in email is we’ve been loud in person — watch us demo at Finovate Startup 2009, watch Witold demo solo (part one, 1:23:50 in) at Business Insider Startup 2009, or keep an eye out for the results of even more demos given in private!
  • Lots of learning: The general consensus seems to be that Expensify “just works”. Not perfect, but pretty darn well. So rather than just building loads of random features, we’ve talked in detail with hundreds of users to learn exactly which new features will make our already good product great.
  • Lots of tweaks: Some of those user-requested features are already underway (thanks a million, keep clicking that red link!), including:
    • Mileage (and other unit) support: Log a cash transaction for “500 miles” (via web, email, or SMS) and we’ll auto-calculate the reimbursable amount based on the federal mileage rate, or customize the rate and add other units (hours, widgets, etc.) in your settings page. (Read more)
    • Multi-level approval: Do you approve reports but not reimburse them? Now click “Approve and forward” to send it up the food chain — we’ll even keep track of the approval (and rejection) history for all to see.
    • Report CCs: A little thing but one that got countless requests: now you can “carbon copy” another email address when submitting reports!

And of course we’ve released a ton of minor fixes under the hood, and are laying the foundation for some even more significant changes down the road. So we might have been quiet, but we sure have been busy!

Expensify is growing!

That’s right, we just doubled the company! Granted, that’s not terribly hard when you only have two people to start, but think of it this way: if we can do all this with just two guys, just think what we’ll be able to do with two more!

So there’s a lot going on over here at Expensify world headquarters, and I’ll try to do a better job in the future of keeping you informed. In the meantime, just keep filing expense reports and we’ll keep getting you reimbursed, faster and easier every day!

David Barrett (dbarrett@expensify.com, Twitter: @expensify)

As I wrote about previously, Expensify is doing (what I believe to be) some pretty innovative Twitter marketing.  However, from the very start we realized there’s a delicate line between marketing and spam, so we set out some early rules to ensure we’re on the right side of the line:

1) Keep it personal.  Only send messages from real people, to real people.  Leave the faceless boxes on Google and maintain the social foundation of Twitter.

2) Keep it timely.  A huge benefit of Twitter is you can go straight the people who are experiencing the problem at that exact moment.  Leave the huge backlog of past posters alone and stay focused on the present.

3) Keep it relevant.  The temptation is overwhelming to just blast this out to everybody.  But resist that temptation and focus on the people who are actually calling out for your thing.

That said, we were afraid then that others would cross the line, and it appears that’s happening with increasing frequency.  Alas.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure what Twitter could do to thwart it.  Perhaps the easiest way would be to just add a “Spam” button to the Twitter interface and then kick off users who get too many relative to their post volume.  In Expensify’s case, we get 4x more compliments than complaints (the above rules appear to work!), so I think we’d do just fine under such a scheme.

But it’s still too early to predict how the Twittersphere will react.  What do you think?

David Barrett
Follow me at http://twitter.com/quinthar

Today I did my first real expense report with Expensify.  I know, I know, I’ve been doing them all along, here and there.  But there’s a huge difference between “testing” and “using”.  And having really “used” it for the first time, I have to say, I’m really quite proud of what we’ve built.  This thing really works, really well.

Basically, I’m as lazy as anybody else.  I put things off.  I buy things with a few different cards, am undisciplined with email and paper receipts, pay cash unnecessarily.  I’m as bad as anybody else.  But having just processed about six months of backlogged expenses, I’ve learned a few lessons:

Get a dedicated purchase card.  I know I’ve been preaching it from the start, but seriously.  Do it.  I mean, I have one (two, actually: Work and Play, both backed by my regular credit card), and I’ve been using it only for business purchase.  But I’ve mistakenly been making both reimbursable and non-reimbursable expenses with the same card.  Bad call.  Here on out, my Work card is exclusively for reimbursable work expenses.  I’m a reformed man.

Expensify Guaranteed eReceipts are frickin’ amazing.  I mean, I never, ever keep paper receipts anymore.  I don’t even think of them.  It’s like that entire pain point has just gone away.  It’s one thing to tell people about it.  But it’s another thing entirely to actually feel it.

Email receipts work amazingly well.  Just forward them to receipts@expensify.com and they’re stored serverside as PDF images, and then drag them onto the corresponding expense to associate.

Use the SMS text interface for taxis.  Being a proud car-less San Franciscan, I take a lot of taxis.  I usually pay cash.  So I always send Expensify a text message when I get out, something like “$5 – taxi to meeting with blah”.  Man, this is a lifesaver.  I’d have never remembered all of those, and despite a big stack of blank taxi receipts in my pocket, I’d never know how much I should get reimbursed.

Online reimbursement is soooo handy.  I love having a permanent record of exactly who was paid what, with the ability to dig in and see exactly what was paid for.

Basically, all that stuff I’m out promising people — I always knew it was true, but now I *feel* it.  I know it’s true, and it really is quite amazing.

That said, there’s a long way to go.  I’m incredibly happy with where Expensify is now.  But it’s clear there are a lot of ways we can do even better:

Better sorting and filtering.  When I sat down to get started, I have over a thousand individual purchases to sift through, combining work expenses imported off my Work card (both reimbursable and non-reimbursable, arrg!), personal and work expenses on my personal credit card, and a bunch of other random purchases pulled in from my fiancée due to our joint account.  Thats a whole lot of needles in a pretty huge haystack.  Overall, even with today’s functionality, it was pretty easy.  But I can see a lot of ways to make it easier still.

Better archiving of non-reimbursable expenses.  An oft-requested feature is the ability to just save a report for future reference.  You can sorta do that today by submitting it to yourself, but it’s really a bit of a pain.  Some “Save report” function would be handy.

Better report management.  I’ve got a ton of reports to myself, to others, and a bunch in there just for testing — and it can get confusing fast.  Some kind of multi-report analytics would be super helpful.

Better note taking.  I’ve been renting a lot of Zipcars recently, and they all just show up with an anonymous “Zipcar” merchant name — without any hint of where I went or why.  But in there was one time I rented it for personal reasons.  Trying to sort out which was the personal one was a huge pain.  We should have some way to add comments to expenses using SMS — even non-cash expenses — so  you can make these notes as you go.

And of course a million more small things.  I have countless ideas how to improve it further, to get ever closer to the holy grail of “one click expense report” for all users in all scenarios.

But even right now, in its current state, it’s pretty amazing.  Give it a shot and I think you’ll agree.  (And if you don’t, please, please write dbarrett@expensify.com and tell me why.)

Expensify truly does expense reports that don’t suck.  Whew.

David Barrett
Follow me at http://twitter.com/expensify

Also, I should note that when you upload receipts as HTML or text emails (or even upload them as original PDFs), we store them securely on our server as both a high-resolution PDF and a low-resolution JPG thumbnail.  We typically only show the JPG, but your always welcome to go back and download the full PDF in all it’s glory.  Just click on the receipt on the home or receipt page, then click “Download as PDF” in the upper-right corner:

Download as PDF

Naturally, this option is only available for HTML, text, and PDF receipts — receipts uploaded as a photograph are kept in their original format.

David Barrett
Twitter: @expensify

So we’ve been absolutely flooded with users and that’s a great problem to have!  One of the (surprisingly few) areas of problem was with receipts: you’d be amazed how many formats email receipts can come in.  But we’re steadily learning how to handle them all, and we’ve a major new trick up our sleeve: embedded images!

That’s right, now if you forward us an HTML receipt that has images in it, we’ll render the images in full glorious color.  For example, here’s what it looks like when I upload an Orbitz reminder that Athens was in the midst of riots when we recently visited:

Beautiful Orbitz receipt

Pretty slick, eh?  So send your receipts to receipts@expensify.com and your expense reports can look this good too!

David Barrett
Twitter: @expensify

After months of hundreds of beta testers pouring over every nook and cranny, it’s time: as of Wednesday, March 11th at 8am PST, Expensify has opened its doors to all comers!  That’s right, as of now, we are in “open beta”, so sign up now and encourage everyone you know to follow!

If you already know what Expensify is, then don’t bother reading this blog: just go to http://expensify.com and get started.  Or, if you’re looking for a three-minute refresher, watch this video.  Otherwise if you’re looking for a bit more detail on what we’re all about, here goes:

Expensify does expense reports that don’t suck. 

Backing up a bit, let me say this: I hate expense reports, as does nearly everyone I know.  They take forever to prepare, there are always missing receipts, my boss is always slow to reimburse.  In short, they suck.

That’s why what we do is so amazing: Expensify does expense reports that don’t suck.  Such a simple goal.  Can it really be possible?  Ultimately you can judge for yourself, but here’s how we try to make this bold vision a reality.  We call it the “Expensify Way”.

1) Import your credit card; no more data entry

If you already have a credit card, great!  Expensify imports expenses from 94% of US credit cards.  That means no typing into Excel or ancient web forms: just enter your credit card details and we’ll import straight from your banking website into our PCI-compliant datacenter.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a credit card, or have one but don’t like mixing business and personal expenses on the same card, we can help you get a corporate card that imports its expenses straight into Expensify.

2) Import your receipts; no more paper receipts

Not only does Expensify import your expenses, we also create Guaranteed eReceipts for purchases under $75.  Guaranteed eReceipts comply with all IRS regulations for documenting purchases (we guarantee it), so you can literally throw away 80% of your paper receipts.

Of the remaining 20%, most are online purchases such as plane tickets or hotel reservations — just forward the email receipt to receipts@expensify.com and we’ll take care of it.

For those few paper receipts that remain, just use your cameraphone and send a picture of your receipt to receipts@expensify.com.  (Or use our iPhone App, once Apple gets around to approving it…)

The upshot is we can literally do away with paper receipts.

3) Submit in one click; no more printing and stapling

In just one click we’ll take all your expenses, subtotal them by expense category, attach your uploaded and eReceipts, and construct a full, ready-to-send expense report.  Enter any email address and we’ll send a PDF containing the completed expense report, receipts and all, along with a form to reimburse it.

4) Reimburse online; no more trips to the bank

Pay or get paid from or your checking account or credit card, online.  Or mark it approved and get paid through regular channels (payroll, wire transfer, etc), or even reject it and send it back with comments.

The Expensify Way is the fast and easy way.  Import your expenses and receipts, submit in one click, reimburse online.  Before today, it was the way expense reports should work.  But now, it’s the way they do work.  If you’re still stuck in expense report hell, why not find salvation today?

Sign up today.  It only takes seconds, and it’s completely free.

Expensify.  Expense reports that don’t suck. 

– David Barrett, Founder
Twitter: @expensify