Expense reports are not the most exciting thing in the universe. But when you reach the scale of Say, Amazon, and you have tens of thousands of employees, make sure everything is fine and that the right things are billed to the company, that could make the difference between millions of dollars. ]
And when Anant Kale enters the office of a big company and asks a lot of expense reports to do it, it's when he tries to show this company that it's some something that can be done with technology. Kale runs a start-up called AppZen, which sells in large companies and seeks to automatically audit expense reports to encourage employees to make sure they're just spending the good things for the company and do not go out of bounds – a little or a lot.
"If you look at the back office, automation has been around for decades," said AppZen's CEO, Mr. Kale. "SAP and everyone are making billions selling their software, this software has solved major problems and it has digitized things – it has moved people from the client-server to the cloud, where we focus on the workflows that are of human nature.A transaction comes to you, you must look at it, use the expertise …
To do this, AppZen announced it raised $ 13 million as part of a Series A round of financing led by Redpoint Ventures with the participation of the seed investor Resolute Ventures. Alex Bard of Redpoint Ventures – it's actually his first investment in the company – will join the board of directors of the company. To date, AppZen has raised more than $ 17.5 million in funding.
Every expense goes through AppZen through the variety of platforms it works with – and in fact, you will probably never see it in action, or even see if it really works in your system. AppZen examines the historical behavior to see if someone improves, for example, a place on a flight when it is not fully justified (say it's one of a kind). short flight instead of intercontinental), then report this expense. AppZen then determines whether it's worth a boost (like an email), a slap on the wrist (like telling the employee to pay), or increasing the value higher if it's a persistent problem.
"My biggest question was how Appzen (a seed company) was able to gain the trust of some of the world's largest companies that are notoriously difficult to conquer and that we could we continue to develop this magic? "said Bard. "What I found out later is that these victories were due to the combination of Anant's agitation and, very importantly, the fact that they were able to do it." to show real value by making pilots – the product is so convincing that it has been able to show customers significant savings that they could achieve and an improvement in the employee experience. "
The idea here is to create this continuous reporting environment, where every expense gets a decent eye check before being permanently saved. And, often, it 's not the end of the world if something falls out of the bounds of a completely rigid pattern – catching an extra pack of chewing gum at the airport when you' re out. a work trip is probably something that falls on the harmless side of the spectrum, for example.
Each employee has a histogram that helps determine if he spends things properly. The goal, says Kale, is to try to make employees more compliant with the time they're not entirely already. And, often, it may not even be intentional on the employee side. In the end, the goal of AppZen is to try to proactively educate and encourage employees to use spending appropriately rather than judge directly – although, well sure, it does not go that far.
"What we follow is that your behavior changes," said Kale. "[score] drop from month to month, so we know you will not do it again and again.The employee knows what I'm going to be caught, and then the expenses do not occur. So we save money – not by being the police [in the system]. "
AppZen is not the only one attempting to initiate machine learning in this space – although the company is able to collect a large amount of data from all of these pilot reports and reports. ; companies. There are many small startups like Pleo looking to find a smarter way to make expense reports that can keep an eye on employee behavior and make sure everything is going well. And the larger organizations that have cast human glances over this problem may finally realize that they have a wealth of data on which they can begin to pitch resources to build something similar.
The next step, says Kale, is probably towards billing using similar principles. A tool like AppZen could potentially help spot duplicates, fake suppliers, or even agreements between employees and suppliers. Of course, you start where you can and build from there, but building a set of analytic tools that can integrate into a range of new products is what helps many startups to become successful. multi-billion dollar companies.
"When we hear about a problem, it pushes us to everything," says Kale. "That's the right way, how can we solve that." Based on what we understand, hey, that requires some form of training, in many cases we have to look at hundreds of documents. 39 is always based on what we are trying to do in terms of specific compliance arguments that we can solve for the customer.We believe that if you can solve it for this customer, you can solve it for d & # 39; other societies. "