Bob Neveu doesn't like to sit still.
A serial entrepreneur who launched his first technology company 10 years ago and is happily in the midst of his second, Neveu speaks, gestures and acts quickly. So to sit at a desk and process paper invoices as he did at Recruiternet, his first company, was torture. But it was also the inspiration for Certify, his new company, one that specializes in online expense management.
"I had a bunch of expense reports to approve every week, and it wasn't so nice … I thought, 'There must be a better way,'" says Neveu. "That's how we started."
Certify has developed a line of online expense management tools compatible with smart phones, camera phones and other mobile technologies to streamline collection and processing of expense reports. The software works in tandem with Certify's mobile phone app, Certify Wallet, to free executives from keeping track of paper receipts and plugging numbers into Excel spreadsheets.
It works like this: An executive on the road can use his phone to snap a photo of his lunch receipt, which is then transmitted back to his office and tracked through a Web-based program that's integrated with his company's back office system. If it needs approval, it goes to his boss; if it doesn't, it goes to the company accountant. The online reports can be submitted for automatic reimbursements as well as management assessments. And the program can be tailored to the clients' needs — that same executive can receive an alert that he is nearing his spending limit for a particular business trip (and can signal his boss as well).
Released in January 2009, Certify now has more than 100 business customers and 10,000 active users, says Neveu. The company expects to double the number of users by August 2011, a goal boosted by its recent partnerships with Travelocity and CompuPay. "According to one study two years ago, 59% of all employers don't use an expense management solution," says Neveu. "There's lots of opportunity for us to continue to focus on expense management reporting."
The partnerships with Travelocity and CompuPay allow business travelers to integrate their booking, online receipt submissions, expense management and reimbursement functions. Another partner, Vendormate.com, signed on earlier this month, tapping Certify to provide expense tracking functions for medical supply and pharmaceutical reps hitting the road to do business with physicians. The partnerships open up opportunities to "sell more of what we've got," says Neveu, and further refine its core product.
Neveu credits the success of the product to its targeted functions and market. Unlike some of its competitors in online expense management, Certify is designed for small- to medium-sized companies ("100 to 1,000 employees is our sweet spot," says Neveu) to primarily manage travel and entertainment expenses.
"We don't sell a whole accounting suite, we're not changing accounts payable or receivables," says Neveu. "We're taking what's a big problem at a lot of companies and selling a pointed, easy solution."
Certify also uses an effective marketing strategy, offering Certify Wallet free for 90 days and then billing users $4.95 a month to maintain access to the app. Neveu says they've been able to retain about 40% of their trial users.
Its implementation is equally as straightforward. "You can go live with Certify in 15 minutes," says Neveu. "One of our competitors was touting their rapid implementation program of 12 weeks."
The company, based in Portland, employs 10, but plans to grow. Neveu's first venture, Recruiternet, an online recruitment service, started in 1999. In 2001, Neveu and his brother, Alan, (both Deering High graduates) launched Projectix, a successful online resume management and job board for businesses through Recruiternet. The company grew to 100 employees before being sold in 2005 to First Advantage, which moved the operation to Florida.
Neveu and his brother started Certify in 2008 with $1 million of their own money before finding $1.9 million in venture capital and angel investments to expand and market Certify in 2009. He expects the next three to four years will be spent growing the business. "This is the fun stage," he says.
French ascent | Jason Parent, president, Maine delegation to the organizing body of the 2014 World Acadian Congress, Madawaska; director of development and college relations, Northern Maine Community College, Presque Isle