Scratching an Itch Leads to Easier Expense Reports for Thousands

Read time: 4 mins

Earlier this month, we hosted a webinar on managed travel with Charles Bacharach of Orbitz for Business and our own Tony Darugar, Product Manager for Coupa Expenses. Back in April of 2013 Coupa bought a travel and expense management company called Xpenser which Tony founded. We thought we’d take the opportunity to properly introduce you to Tony, who has quite a passion for expense management.

I believe the best business are born from scratching your own itch, and in my case the itch, managing my expense reimbursements, had gotten to be very painful.

I lived in San Diego but worked primarily in Los Angeles and the Bay Area - in a typical week I had multiple flights, train rides, hotels, lunches, coffees, and plenty of other miscellaneous expenses to submit. The expense management tool we were using was painful and time consuming, and as the project I was working on got more intense I just didn't have the time or patience to deal with it. So I kept putting it off.

My wife is a financial planner. She’s very good at cash management, investment options, and keeping on top of things. She kept telling me to submit my expense reports, and as much as I wanted to, I would never quite get around to it.

It all came to a head one night when she sat me down and told me, "You're six months and $30,000 behind. You really should submit these things."

I'm very good at procrastinating, but this was extreme even for me. I started to think about the problem, and I realized that there was a fundamental mismatch between real life and the way expense reports are created. Expenses are naturally mobile - when I'm spending money I'm on the road, not sitting in front of my computer.

And so Xpenser was born, to scratch my own itch. It started as a way for me to record my expenses and receipts from my mobile phone. Friends would see me taking a picture of the receipt with my phone, ask what I was doing, and want their own accounts. Eventually I opened it for anyone to sign up. Soon word got out and we had tens of thousands of users.

I knew I’d stumbled into a business when the website went down for 17 minutes one morning and in those 17 minutes I received 6 complaints. It’s great to receive positive feedback, but when people get this upset that your service is down you know you’re onto something real.

I’d imagined that our users would be small businesses and individuals, but our first paying customer turned out to have more than 800 employees in 4 locations worldwide. The president of the company had been using our app for more than 6 months, loved it, and wanted to roll it out across the company.

Xpenser was born to be easy to use, and when we ventured into the world of enterprise software we decided to bring the same approach to bear: keep usability, efficiency, and speed as top level goals. Instead of software born in the dark recesses of the back office and foisted onto innocent users like shackles around their ankles, we wanted to be bring the usability of the top web applications to the enterprise.

The approach paid off, and we experienced 100%+ growth in customers and revenue every year. Our team, experience, and product capabilities grew.

Along the way we connected with Coupa. Immediately I was struck by how similar our philosophies were: a commitment to bringing usability to traditionally ugly tasks, and an all-out commitment to customer success. But they’d also experienced tremendous market success, serving some of the world’s largest companies. Coupa was what we wanted to be when we grew up.

In April of 2013 Xpenser joined the Coupa family, and we immediately set about bringing the best of Xpenser to the Coupa platform. A core tenet for us is to have a single, cohesive product with a single code base, as opposed to a Frankensuite of separate products stitched together. We’ve accomplished that and more, allowing you to truly manage all your spend, regardless of method, in a single platform.

2014 will be a year of innovation and even more growth - my next itch is to drive automation throughout the whole stack, removing as many manual, time consuming tasks from process as possible.