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Hackernoon logoEliminate Frustration from Expense Management by@siftery

Eliminate Frustration from Expense Management

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One of the most frustrating activities business professionals have to endure is to submit their claims for reimbursement. With Fyle, you can automatically capture expense information from e-receipts with a single click. Fyle links email, consumer apps and other platforms to simplify recording, sharing and processing of expenses and invoices within an organization. With Fyle, users can capture their spend data the moment they complete the transaction with a single click.

Kevin William David interviewed Yashwanth Madhusudhan, Co-Founder at Fyle to know more.

Hi Yashwanth, Can you tell us about what you are working on?

Fyle is SaaS product that that makes it extremely simple for employees to track their business expenses and for enterprises to reimburse them in a timely fashion while staying compliant — In a manner that’s never done before.

Fyle uses AI and provides a single click experience for employees to submit an expense, eliminating data entry, manual verification and frustration. We have built the world’s first and AI Powered Data extraction system that extracts expense data from receipts ( online and paper ) with a click of a button.

Fyle comes with intelligent plugins that is distributed and Integrated with G Suite and Microsoft Outlook, as an email add-on. The underlying data extraction engine also powers our mobile app on iOS and Android to extend the single click experience for paper receipts, letting users snap a picture of a bill. So with one click, Fyle extracts expense information, attaches the invoice, checks for duplicates and identifies policy violations in real time.

Tell me more about why are you building this?

It started with a very simple problem. Being a sales professional for over 14 years, I was on the road most of the time and had no clue about my personal and professional expenses. There were many times where I have chosen not to claim just because of the sheer pain involved in submitting my claims to the company. Sure, there were tons of apps on the market ( which I did try ) but there was one thing common to all. They all expected me to be disciplined. If I was disciplined enough, I felt there was no need for a tool. My expectation was to use something that took not more than a second to use, similar to liking a Facebook post of a friend or pinning an image onto my Pinterest board. My reality was, setting aside a Sunday afternoon going through a mountain of invoices to get my money back. This was frustrating and felt like I was transported back in time.

The problems exist for 2 personas -

Spenders — Mainly people is sales / business development roles. They hate data entry and as a result seldom submit bills on time.

Processors — Finance, admin and accounting roles. Expense management / processing is not their core job but end up spending a lot of time on it. In larger organisations, it is outsourced which leads to a very high cost of processing ( 2 -3% of the amount of money reimbursed.

A lot has been done to address this problem in the past, focusing on the workflow aspect of the problem, completely ignoring the needs of the business user. A lot of time is spent of activities that are not core to the company’s goals.

Fyle helps automating this process and helps companies provide an employee friendly process while retaining, compliance control and visibility.

How is Fyle different from what already exists in the market?

Thats a great question and if you look at expense management as a problem,everyone understands it and has experienced it and has an opinion on how bad it is. In mid to large companies, we compete against industry incumbents like Concur, while in SMEs — Expensify is extremely popular.

Expense management has always been looked at as a workflow problem, get the employee to enter data into a particular system and optimize for the workflow. The problem with this approach is that, people hate data entry. This is true for almost all expense management apps.

We believe that expense management is a data problem and we are trying to solve it from that perspective by using AI to automate data extraction from receipts ( physical and electronic ) while providing a single click experience for the employee.

Machine driven data extraction is accurate, captures a lot more data from the invoice than what a human would ever enter and there is a lot of interesting information in a receipt that usually gets ignored if a human is expected to enter it.

Lastly, we have built a very programmatic approach to processing the expense itself for the company.So, with One click, Fyle extracts expense information, attaches the invoice, checks for duplicates and identifies policy violations in real time and gives complete control and visibility for the company with an employee friendly, user first approach.

We score well over competition on user experience and RoI for the company and other incumbents in the SME space with our unique data extraction capabilities.

Who uses Fyle? Can you tell us a bit about the different customer segments using Fyle?

Siva and I started Fyle in Feb 2016 and our initial product ( MVP ) was out by October that year and had companies with about 50 employees, largely in our network to use and give feedback ( and also pay :-) )

Today, we have quite a few companies in excess of 3000 employees, scattered across multiple countries, with multiple legal entities, currencies and policies using Fyle. We stared selling in Jan 2017 in India and in August in the US.

Some of our customers in India include PropTiger Group, Capillarytech, HeroFincorp, Teach For India, Freshworks and the likes.

We have over 30 customers in the US, with quite a few having multi country set ups across EU, singapore ad US.

We have 3 main roles that people fall under.

Spender — You spend money while on business travel or any other business purpose and want to get it reimbursed. A lot of SaaS apps are purchased with the Founders / Marketing manager’s credit card until the spend exceeds a couple of thousand dollars.

Approver — Spender and /or Manager who has to approve reports for the team.

Finance Controller / Admin — Company finance, admin, accounting team — Responsible for processing the payments, keeping them within the budgets, ensuring compliance and overall responsible for the operational cost of the company.

Additional roles that we address are

Auditor / Verifiers — They may be part of the company or work as shared service professionals who work with multiple companies.

Travel admins, desk agents — This is usually for a larger company having a travel desk and a team that makes travel arrangements for the employees.

We help automate and organize the Pre Travel workflows that include authorization, facilitating booking and assigning the expense to the right cost center / employee.

Fyle is a self service SaaS product that have a self service product where users discover us online — through the app stores, review sites, online search. Initially it’s the sales/business professional who discovers Fyle and that becomes lead get for us as they can create and submit a report to their company within the app and usually they are very helpful in connecting us to the finance team themselves.

How are your customers using Fyle? Could you share a few different use cases?

Our customers are able to automate the entire process of reimbursement with Fyle. Most companies have a problem where employees don’t submit the bills on time. This affects the company’s ability to close books on time, be compliant and show accurate P&L.

With Fyle, we have demonstrated that an employee friendly system can drastically bring the time and cost of reimbursement down, while improving compliance. Now, more than 90% of the transactions are digitized, thanks to Uber, AirBnb, Makemytrip, and has almost consumerised business travel.

Employees get receipts and invoices in the email. They use Fyle’s Gmail or Outlook integrated plugin to Fyle an expense with a click. For paper receipts, they use Fyle Mobile app to snap a picture and have all the relevant data extracted.

The company configures their expense policies in the app and the employee gets to know if an expense is out of policy in real time, even before they submit the expense. This in turns helps keep a check.

Have there been unique use cases for Fyle that you hadn’t thought of or expected?

We built this product keeping in mind 2 things,

  1. There should not be any data entry for employees
  2. The company should get complete visibility of expense information in realtime

While we are focused on solving the employee expense use case, we have a few customers who have hacked their way around managing vendor invoices through Fyle.

We always had plans of addressing the overall accounts payable automation use in due time, but our customers hacked their way around it and beat us to it.

Were there any early ‘growth hacks’ or tactics that have contributed to your current success?

We are still learning and discovering things that help us grow and scale.

I guess the biggest factor that has helped us so far is the fact that our customers and users love us and talk about us whenever people around them complain about how painful expense management is.

Integrating with Google mail and Outlook, and building the first and still the only such plugin that really works has obviously helped us differentiate ourselves with other attempts at addressing expense management.

What were some of the biggest challenges while building the product early on and how did you solve them?

One of the best aspects of this problem is that almost everyone understands it or has first hand experience of it.The flip side to this is that people have a perception about how this problem can never be solved or has been solved in an identical manner all these years.

The biggest challenge is in beating that perception and that usually happens in under 5 seconds of seeing our product demo.

We have tried solving this by actually showing the 4 second GIF in all our communication. Website, email. Most of us have the Gif or the video stored in our phones.

Another challenge that most companies in the early stages face is prioritizing what to build and identifying that persona.

In our case, we had to strike a right balance between the spender — in providing a significantly better experience to submit expenses and to the finance and admin and bring in all the features and that would make their life as easy as well.

What have been some of the most interesting integrations you’ve added? Are there any that have been particularly impactful for you?

Our Email integrations or email plugins for sure. It is unique, has high discoverability and a big differentiator as as you can see with the number of reviews and ratings, people absolutely love it.

We will soon launch our mobile add on for Outlook and we are very excited about that.

We also integrate with Accounting systems like Quickbooks online, Tally (in India) and are rolling out integrations with Netsuite, Microsoft Dynamics.

Before we finish, What are the top 5–10 products that you depend on to run the company & how do you use them?

  • Intercom — We run on intercom and capture event and usage data to do trigger based user onboarding. Our knowledge base is on intercom as well, love the new operator feature that can suggest articles based on the questions asked.
  • FullStory — Lets us know where are screwing up as far as user experience is concerned. It’s the next best thing to sitting next to our user and observing how they use the product.
  • Mixpanel — Marketing Dashboard and also helps us get an overview of usage funnel and where people are dropping off, helps us plug that.
  • HubSpot — Pre Sign up funnels, where are people coming from, what brings them to our site, what makes them stay and sign up. Its early days for us on Hubspot.
  • SEMRush — for all things SEM.
  • Linkedin Sales Navigator — For lead generation and building a target list.
  • Freshsales — Sales CRM — Our CRM and repository of our contacts, leads, deals, funnel and pipeline.
  • Stripe— Collecting Payments.
  • Zendesk — Support and ticket management.
  • Slack — Eyes and ears connecting all our apps.

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