There’s a traditional model of employee expenses, and it looks something like this: employees are asked to spend money on their personal or corporate cards, file expense reports, and then wait for reimbursement.
Rob Khazzam knew there must be a better way. That’s why he, along with Griffin Keglevich and Ruslan Nikolaev (pictured), founded Float Financial Solutions to help small and medium-sized businesses simplify the process.
Today, Khazzam is the CEO of Float, one of Canada’s fastest-growing fintech companies. In the mid 2010s, however, he was working for Uber in Eastern Europe. According to Khazzam, helping to launch Uber in multiple markets meant overcoming major obstacles while remaining scrappy and tenacious. The experience, he recalls, was a bit like operating as a startup within a larger company.
“It was at Uber where I really felt the pain of having to incur hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenses on my personal corporate card and then chase down receipts for finance,” Khazzam says. “And so when I met Ruslan and Griffin, and learned they were working on solving this problem for Canadian businesses, I saw the opportunity to do something super impactful in Canada, and that led us to launching Float.”
Float’s solution is a smart corporate card linked to spend-management software that automates a lot of the painful manual processes involved in managing card-linked spending, such as issuing cards for employees, tracking down receipts, and reconciling expenses at the end of the month. Under Float’s prepaid model, clients fund an account upfront and can create and control any number of physical or virtual credit cards.
For startups, Khazzam notes, one of the major pain points often is getting a business credit card in the first place. “You have to wait weeks or months, and put up personal guarantees,” he says, “and if you do get approved, you are constrained by low card limits that make it impractical for the volume of spend that is running through a card. Imagine having to pay off your card every day in order to keep up with your Facebook ad spend, for example.”
For scaling companies and larger businesses with more employees, things get more complicated thanks to the multiple layers of management and the sheer volume of expenses. This added complexity can make things like receipt compliance, spend controls, and expense reconciliation cumbersome enough to slow down a company’s growth.
The past two years have seen organizations of all sizes making significant changes to the way they operate, with the COVID-19 pandemic necessitating the closure of offices and driving a widespread shift to remote work. Khazzam says that this new paradigm brought with it further spend-management challenges, as businesses must now deal with work-from-home stipends, ongoing expenses like internet for home offices, and virtual team events that require employees to buy their own meals.
“Our customers are using Float to issue physical and virtual cards for employees and manage their recurring or one-time expenses through our software,” Khazzam says. “Now, if someone needs to travel or purchase supplies for a company social, they can simply get a top-up on their Float card, text a copy of their receipt, and that’s it. No back and forth, and no waiting to file an expense report.”
Float’s solution helped ease a major pain point for Vancouver-based scaleup Klue, a market-intelligence platform. With over 150 employees, Klue’s finance team found itself spending untold hours tracking down and matching receipts, filing expense reports, and processing payments.
With Float, Klue’s employees can now make purchases with a virtual corporate card and upload receipts via Slack. Based on individual employees’ role or use case, the finance team can set different spend limits, with real-time visibility into each transaction. As Klue continues to grow, new employees can be set up with a card in seconds, dramatically reducing the time from onboarding to up-and-running.
Float is growing rapidly in its own right, having expanded its customer base over the past year to more than 1,000 Canadian businesses across diverse industries, including online auto marketplace Clutch, HR service Humi, real-estate startup Properly, and crypto exchange Coinberry. The keys to Float’s success, Khazzam says, have been its hyper-focus on the Canadian market, and its ambition to be recognized as the country’s biggest homegrown solution to corporate spending.
During that same time frame, Float grew its team tenfold, going from four employees to 40. The company plans to repeat that feat, with a goal of 40 new hires in the next nine months. Khazzam is well aware that the competition for Canadian tech workers is particularly fierce right now, and companies are scrambling to offer incentives to attract and retain a high caliber of talent. He makes the case that the digitization and streamlining of spend management can be one factor in improving employee satisfaction.
“Employee retention is on everyone’s minds right now, rightfully so,” Khazzam says. “As a CEO myself, I spend a lot of time thinking about employee experience. Anything we can do to make it easier for employees to focus on what matters is a win from a retention perspective. Something that is seemingly mundane, like an expense policy, actually reveals a lot about your culture. Is your culture about enablement, autonomy, and empowerment, or is it creating bottlenecks and unnecessary administration?”
In times of uncertainty, remaining nimble—being able to respond quickly to challenges and opportunities as they arise—can be crucial for any organization’s survival. Among the keys to achieving that level of flexibility is ensuring that finance teams have the tools they need to be responsible stewards of a company’s funds. Those same tools can free individuals and teams from the drudgery of filing expense records and doing manual data entry, giving them the ability to move fast and focus on what’s really important—growing the business.
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