Expense management company Chrome River raises $100M

Steven Loeb · June 30, 2015 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/3e7d

Chrome River helps employees automate their company expense reports to get paid back quicker

Anyone who has ever had to fill out an expense report knows what a pain in the butt it can be. I remember one time I literally taped down a bunch of receipts to a single sheet of paper, rather than scan them one at a time, to get reimbursed for my travel expenses.

As they say so often in infomercials, "There has to be a better way!" And there is, if companies user Chrome River Technologies, a global provider of expense reporting and invoice management. The company automates the process for employees getting reimbursed for their expenses, saving companies time and money in the process.

The company announced a big new $100 million Series D funding round on Tuesday, from Great Hill Partners.  Financial Technology Partners LP and FTP Securities LLC served as exclusive financial and strategic adviser to Chrome River in this transaction.

This is by far the largest round Chrome River has raised yet; it preiously raised a $3 million Series B round from First Analysis and Argentum Group, followed by a $20 million Series C from both existing investors and Bain Capital Ventures. It has now raised $120 million in total funding. 

Founded in 2007, Chrome River is an expense management company that works on two modules, Dave Terry, company co-founder, explained to me in an interview.

First, it solves problems around expense reporting, which all companies, from the smallest to the largest, have to deal with, while the second module is on the invoice side, where employees have to  go to accounts payable, log in, and file their own expenses and invoice modules that they are receiving from third parties.

"Even with the largest companies in the world, there is little to no automation for expense reporting. You'd be surprised how many are still using Excel and Word templates to get reimbursed money. Or they are using disparate systems. Some do use some automation, but it is aged and doesn't have the flexibility and modern features that Chrome River has," Terry said.

Those features include a lot on the mobile side, such as being able to take a photo of a receipt, and have the system automatically parse out the data to approve it. Chrome River also links directly to credit cards, so a transaction can show up as soon as a card is swiped.

"Complex organization need a greater level of configurablility and that comes in couple of forms, including policies. So, lets say I put in for expenses, and I'm allowed to spend $500, but a co-worker can only put in only $50. That's a pretty simple example, and it get far more complex than that for large organizations, determining who can spend what, and in what regions, based on title," Terry said. 

On an expense report, some items might have to be approved by one department, and others approved by a different department, so Chrome River also solves problems having to do with routing.

Besides the obvious benefit of making expense reporting more efficient, and taking away the time and responsibility of workers needing to automate data, Chrome River also translates into big cost savings, a big part of which has to do with making workers less eager to try to game the system.

"Much like a red light traffic camera, if you know the camera is there you are going to slow down regardless. When you have a system like Chrome River, we can see by our tracking, in the first month companies see savings because employees become better stewards of company checkbooks," Terry explained.

"They say, 'I can invoice receipt but this one, maybe not so much I don't need to expense that.' Or they think, 'Do I need to make this trip, and can I do it in a  cost saving manner?' We also do pre-approvals for expenses, where workers request the money before they go, which translates into tremendous savings, because they have to think about it proactively."

With this funding, Chrome River has plans to expand internationally, building out its London office, and to put boots on the ground in other territories where it is currently being used.

"We are used in markets all over the globe, but they are not represented with sales and marketing. Companies have headquarters in the US, but another 30 or 40 or 50 offices around the globe," Said Terry.

It will be building out teams in Australia, Asia and further across Europe. That also, of course, means expanding its 130 member team, particularly in sales and marketing, but also implementation, customer support and engineering.

And, finally, it will be used for product enhancement in mobile, and in analytics. 

"Our analytics product sits on top of our expense and invoice modules, so besides the benefits to processing, we are doing some really interesting things in that space as well. We will be moving technology there so we can be more robust on our reporting. We wilk continue to fund a lot of money to that area, so we can extract more around rich data."

Part of the reason that Chrome River, which had been self-funded for a large portion of its life, decided to take this big round of funding now was that it saw a big opportunity open up in the market.

"We liked our own trajectory, growing 40% year to year, which we done with own investments and some conservative outside investment, but the market started to change. As we moved to the corporate space, we saw that they've needed system like ours. Then Concur, which had done fantastic job growing their business, sold to SAP and that shed a lot of light on the expense reporting business," Terry said. 

There were other vendors selling their own modules as well, including IBM, which decided to then sunset its own product, allowing Chrome River to hire a number of workers from that company. 

"There are a whole host of other vendors down at lower end, like Expensify and ExpenseCloud, but that is not the space we compete in though, and they don't have the capabilities we have. At the end of day of the day, companies may look at 10or 15 vendors, but they narrow it down to two: us and Concur," said Terry.

"Our biggest problem is that we're smaller, and we don't have as much market visibility. So we said. 'Here's our window, and if we don't step through it, someone else will.' There's all this opportunity, but we need more market awareness, and a lot of the funding will go to marketing and building a larger organization to be seen, so we can participate in the biggest deals going on."

The Los Angeles-based Chrome River is currently approaching 400 customers, many with at least 1,000 employees. It recently added 10 Fortune 1000 customers, including many in the Fortune 500. It also counts 75% of global top 50 law firms as customers.

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Expensify does "expense reports that don't suck!"  We do that by importing expenses and receipts straight from 94% of US credit cards and 82% of US smartphones (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, and Palm Pre).  Create, submit, and approve expense reports online via email.  Export pre-categorized expenses to QuickBooks or FreshBooks, and reimburse online with direct deposit.  Free for individuals and small businesses, $5/active-user/mo thereafter.