Exclusive Q&A with Dev Anand, Head of Business Operations at Abacus
Abacus aims to kill the expense report by marrying slick mobile usability and quick payments directed right to your bank account. We speak with Dev Anand, Head of Business Operations, about building a very real solution to a very old problem.
Kevin Xu: What’s the story behind Abacus? What was that moment of genius/clarity that made this happen?
Dev Anand: Abacus exists as a response to the antiquated way we currently track expenses and reimburse employees. The old ways are riddled with inefficiencies. Whether its around submitting and organizing the actual expense, tracking the accounting, or even paying the employee. Our founders all suffered with really bad software and decided they could make a better and friendlier alternative.
Our big differentiator is that we don’t make users create bulky and complex expense reports. They are encouraged to file individual expenses in real-time. This allows for them to get things out of the way quickly and it gives their organization real-time visibility into the employee spend. Because we did this, the whole process moves a lot quicker. Employees get from submission to reimbursement really quickly.
Thanks to all the modern advancements in the payments industry, we were able to leverage a lot of new technology to allow for mind blowing features like next-day reimbursements. Its been a big hit with our customers.
What kind of companies are you targeting?
Companies that want real-time visibility into their expense workflow should be looking at Abacus. We are a great solution for companies with up to 500 employees – we’re not a good solution for companies that want a lot of custom work done. A lot of these companies are using poor software or tracking the process with spreadsheets. Its painful, and Abacus is a simple, affordable solution for them.
Expense reports are a huge headache. How do you go about on-boarding new clients?
The on-boarding process is dead simple for Abacus organizations. Administrators can easily invite their teammates to create accounts and go through a simple sign up flow. Companies love it because after everything is set up, they can let the Abacus platform handle everything else when it comes to Accounting and Payments.
Why is mobile your key platform?
The very nature of incurring expenses has folks on the move, not sitting in front of their desktop computer. We make it more seamless for employees by geotagging transactions based on where you are and even auto-categorizing them. Managers are also on the move, so rather than wait until they’re sitting at their desk to approve an expense report, imagine clearing out your approvals while sitting in a taxi. The ability to manage expenses as they happen, in real-time, with our app helps make the expense process easier. Being able to take a photo of the receipt and enter in a few details is easy – users don’t want to stash receipts for filing days or weeks later, especially when they’re going to get reimbursed the next day.
What kind of feedback are you getting from your clients?
Our customers enjoy the simplicity of Abacus. What used to be a multi-step, manual process has now become a single swipe of the thumb. Administrators are surprised that Abacus manages all of the employee communications, so they’re able to comment right on each expense, as opposed to talking to an employee offline about their submitted expenses. Lastly, employees just love how quickly they get reimbursed with Abacus, which means they’re submitting in realtime and companies are enjoying realtime visibility into company spend.
Can you delve into and discuss your relationship with key investors, presenting your ideas, and how to attract VCs/angel investors?
The key insight into attracting investors is to stop thinking about attracting investors. Investors want to invest in teams that are focused on building their business. Very few businesses today require significant capital pre-launch, so build your product, signup customers and let the market speak for itself. Once you feel the market is responding to what you’ve built, pause and consider whether you need to raise capital. If so, do it quickly using your growth to justify the raise and get back to work.
What are the next steps for Abacus? What does 2014 hold?
We are working on a lot of features that will further enhance our product. Whether it’s making it easier for expense submission, supporting new types of expenses, having better administrator reporting, or having more accounting software integrations, we’re hard at work making expense reports obsolete.
Dev Anand heads up Business Operations for Abacus, a recent graduate of Y Combinator’s winter 2014 batch. Abacus creates real-time expense management software for small and medium sized businesses. Prior to Abacus, Dev worked on Foursquare’s Business Development team outside of it’s New York office, working with partners on strategic uses of Foursquare’s location data assets. Dev is a proud native of New York and graduated from New York University.