Wednesday Oct 17, 2012 by Susan Johnston - Contributor, VentureFizz
Back in 2006, while running an earlier software company called Recruiternet, Bob Neveu noticed an annoyance that many managers and executives face every month or quarter: processing paper expense reports. “We had about 100 employees with expense reports coming in from across the U.S. and the U.K.,” he says. “As a growing business, we were spending a large amount of time dealing with receipts, approvals, travel issues, and policy compliance. We really saw an opportunity to bring a new level of automation to the process.”
Bob and his brother Alan Neveu founded Certify, a Portland, Me.-based startup focused on automating expense reports, in 2008. The Neveu brothers had started their previous company, Recruiternet, in 2000, and sold it to First Advantage Corporation in 2005, so they initially funded the new venture themselves. They secured $1.9 million in a series A funding round in 2009.
Earlier this year, Certify reached profitability and added ReceiptParse to its mobile and web-based platforms. “Using the Certify mobile app, you take a picture of that receipt and ReceiptParse will automatically extract expense data and build an expense report automatically, all of it coded,” says Bob. “We’re literally automating the process so a CFO or comptroller can choose from 11 different methods for capturing receipts.”
While most providers in the space focus on expense reports, Certify also offers Certify Travel, a corporate travel booking tool launched in January. Through the online booking platform, companies can establish corporate booking policies such as “they cannot book business class or they have to get the $89 rate at a hotel,” explains Bob. After a user books an itinerary in Certify Travel, it automatically generates an accompanying expense report.
Another way that Certify differentiates itself from competitors is by offering on-demand expense reporting. “You can literally go to our website as a single user or a small business and have the product live instantly,” says Bob. “[Other companies] still have elongated implantation cycles. We’re a true SaaS model.”
The brothers have worked together since 1998 and attribute their success to complimentary skill sets and a willingness to stick to each one’s individual strengths. “I see a lot of companies that are a whole bunch of tech people trying to make a company,” says Alan, who is CTO to Bob’s CEO. “Or you see a company that are excellent marketers. I think I read probably 15 years ago about the benefits of having both sides of the house covered by two strong leaders.”
They may respect each other’s skills, but Alan can’t help adding, “once in awhile Hardware Bob comes out to reconfigure a router and you’ve just got to let him do it.”
Now with 22 employees, Certify has tripled its business year over year for the past four years, and Bob predicts that they’ll continue to see growth in all segments: Fortune 500 companies, mid-market and small businesses. “We have one product that scales to all of those various marketplaces, but the mid-market, companies with 100-5,000 employees, for us has been the real sweet spot,” he adds.