Expense and travel management has quietly become one of the most competitive areas of corporate travel, with upstarts and established players moving to compete against the strongest companies in the space.
Just last week, for instance, Coupa acquired air and hotel pricing intelligence firm Yapta to likely gain more customers in the travel buyer space.
One of the more interesting storylines in the expense management space has been the roll up several providers by K1 Investment Management, a private equity group based in California. The company acquired a variety of expense software services including Certify, Chrome River, Tallie, Abacus, Captio, and Nexonia over the last few years, and is now operating the services under a new combined brand, Emburse.
Emburse is led by Eric Friedrichsen, a former Adobe executive. Despite the roll up under one company, each of the six brands will continue to operate and service their existing customers.
“We’re not changing our strategy in terms of having our six core expense platforms, in fact we’re going to invest even more in those,” said Friedrichsen. “We’re going to support them, we’re going to invest more, and we have been investing a lot in them here over the last several months. Now we’ve got the opportunity to take technology that we might develop within one particular business unit and actually make it available across all of the business units.”
About those business units: the combined company has reorganized, with general managers handling each brand as individual business units. Resources and tools will be shared on the technology side, though. This means former Certify CEO Bob Neveu and Chrome River CEO Alan Rich have left their respective companies.
Users of one service, for instance, will soon be able to use features that were formerly available on a single platforms. The plan is to continue to grow the company’s workforce and invest in its various technology platforms along with advances in virtual cards and policy automation.
“We’re in growth mode; we’re building a company for the long run and believe that we’ve got a unique opportunity,” said Friedrichsen. “We’re going to staff up to be able to take advantage of [our scale].”
More Brands The Merrier
While it may seem confusing to put six brands under one roof, Friedrichsen says it makes sense because of the different target markets and geographies of each service. It also solves the problem of retaining customers, in all likelihood, since no major changes are being forced on customers. Emburse can then build new solutions that fit the needs of its diverse customers, which can then be deployed across all brands.
The big question is whether K1 will continue buying up smaller players in the expense technology space and the answer is: probably.
“We’re always looking at potential acquisitions that make sense, so most of our focus right now is looking on acquisitions that will provide technology that will service all 14,000 of our customers,” said Friedrichsen.
“We’re not necessarily focused on looking for a core expense platform to go serve a certain marketplace. We feel really good about the [platforms] that we have today and the markets that they serve,” he added. “They’re really tailored to specific segment sizes or company sizes or certain industries and certain geographies. It doesn’t mean that that we’re against the idea. I think if there’s a new geography, for example, where we feel like we could go serve that market a lot more quickly, we would consider we would [it].”
With more ambitious companies gearing up to take on SAP Concur, the approach of Emburse will certainly be interesting to watch.