Last week, in Vienna, Austria, Pleo, a Copenhagen-based provider of smart payment cards for employees, won the Piooners Festival startup competion, which has seen about 3,000 companies from 93 countries applying in 2016. In conjunction with the victory, Jeppe Rindom, who co-founded the company along with Niccolò Perra in 2015, answered our questions about himself, Pleo, the solution and its features, and future plans.
FinSMEs: Hi Jeppe, can you tell us a bit more about you?
Jeppe: I am a consultant by school but an entrepreneur by heart. I started my career at McKinsey & Co. 12 years ago and spend 5 years in consulting during which time I also moved on and focused on Mergers & Acquisitions. In 2009 I moved to a Danish bioscience company, Chr. Hansen. I was leading the business development department and led the IPO of the company in 2010. It was the biggest Danish IPO in a century and today a $10bn company. After that, I got bored and I decided to reboot my career and focus on entrepreneurship. I joined Tradeshift, at the time a small very young Danish startup building a platform for digital trade between companies. I was the CFO but in reality I spend more time on Operations, Financial products and partnerships. We raised $40mio. during my time and moved the company to San Francisco. After 3 years, when Tradeshift was operational in 4 markets and had 100 employees, I decided to return to Denmark to build my own thing from scratch.
FinSMEs: Why did you build Pleo? Which problem do you want to solve?
Jeppe: We are building Pleo because business spending has changed a lot in the last 10 years and I have been frustrated that no good products to accommodate this were available.
Today, most things you need to run a business are only a few clicks away. Really! All you need in terms of software, hardware, subscriptions, hosting etc. etc. Its all very available. But transactions have become more complex. No longer are we only making one-off transactions. Suddenly a high proportion of transactions are ‘repeat purchases’ or ‘subscriptions’, which are harder to manage.
Employees, have started to act like consumers. Whenever they need something for work, they prefer to buy it themselves. Why should they ask and instruct an assistant to buy that flight, when its done in two minutes?
BUT, reality is that the tool for business spending – the company credit card – has not changed in the past 25 years. It takes 8 weeks to get a card, paperwork by mail etc. . Once you have one, you can do pretty much everything up to a certain limit and the financial overview is delayed by nature. So you need to have a lot of trust in place before an employee is offered a card. Therefore, in most businesses, only few people get the privilege of a card.
Current processes creates pain everywhere in the organisation. Employees are frustrated about having to pay out-of-pocket, they feel mistrusted and we all hate the classic expense report. Financial people face a lot of complexity caused by cards being shared and missing documentation. Some companies have more than 50% unknown transactions every months, where they subsequently liaise with the employees to collect the receipts and check if subscriptions are being used. Managers lack real time insight into their budgets because today’s spend data is super delayed.
FinSMEs: How does it work?
Jeppe: Pleo is the first company card to come with an artificial assistant.
We onboard companies in minutes as opposed to weeks. You can delegate cards and payments very easily and set up rights and restrictions as you are comfortable. As an employee all you have to do is ‘spend’. We work hard (through machine learning technology) to automate the rest so you don’t have to spend time on collection of receipts, categorizations etc. For example, if you buy a flight online, we will automatically collect the receipt in your inbox, match it with the transaction and categorize it ‘travel’. Done.
We’re on a mission to revolutionize business spending. Much more to come :).
FinSMEs: Where are you in terms of growth?
Jeppe: We’re currently in private beta with a very limited number of users. 10 employees. Hundreds of companies have signed up in line representing more than 10,000 employees.
FinSMEs: You just won the Piooners Festival competition and raised €500k in seed funding from SpeedInvest. How are you using the funds?
Jeppe: Right now our focus is on our launch, which is going to happen in a few months in the UK and Denmark.
FinSMEs: Future plans?
Jeppe: Further expansion into other European countries. Making our solution available to other card issuers as a service.