Pleo is a fundamentally new way to manage business spending. Powered by a smart company card, and linked app, Pleo uses automation to take the stress and friction out of expenses – a process that is still largely paper-based across the UK and Europe.
Built-in features such as automatic receipt fetching, virtual cards, and mileage tracking, means employees can easily buy whatever they need to do their job. At the same time, managers keep on top of company expenditure, with a real-time overview of spending on Pleo cards, the ability to set individual spending limits, and integration with accounting tools such as Xero.
Pleo aims to empower employees, giving them the autonomy to make company purchases with their Pleo card and removing the need to submit tedious expense reports – all whilst helping managers and financial directors to save time and invest it in more strategic endeavours. Results from our recent customer survey found that admins can spend on average 1-5 hours each week processing expenses. With Pleo, the same data shows these businesses are now reclaiming 11.5 hours a month previously lost to expenses – that’s a few strategy meetings back on your plate!
How did you come up with the idea for the company?
I’ve had a bit of a lifelong battle with receipts ever since I was young. They’re important but so time-consuming and tedious. My father used to run an accountancy business and he would pay me to spend hours matching up shoeboxes of faded receipts with company bank statements.
Later in my career, I worked as the CFO of a fintech start-up business alongside my then colleague, and now Pleo Co-founder Niccollo Perra. It was here I faced the same frustration of being drowned in receipts and expense reports. We decided to hand out company cards to everyone in the office in the hope of creating an atmosphere of independence, but the results were (understandably!) chaos. The employees felt empowered, but because of legacy processes we couldn’t track spending effectively and senior staff spent hours gathering and processing receipts.
While other expenses platforms have attempted to improve the existing system, we set out to rewrite it completely. After seeing how employees felt empowered when given responsibility for spending, we wanted to build a platform that would set employees up for success without sacrificing control, transparency or financial safety – the result was Pleo.
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What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?
If there’s one piece of advice I’d give, it’s to surround yourself with like-minded people. Earlier in my career, I worked as a consultant at McKinsey, and while the project-based work wasn’t really something that resonated with me, I really saw the power of bringing talented, hard-working people together with a common vision.
This fed into how I hired for and grew Pleo. If you want to grow your business, you need people who want to be part of building a business, not just a job. For example, in the early stages of Pleo’s inception, I’d often invite various team members into investor meetings. It’s important to take everyone along the journey of building a business, and this really helps to rally people behind your vision. Pleo is now 250 strong and operating in six European markets, and while I can’t invite everyone into investor meetings anymore, I’m always looking for ways to bring people on the Pleo journey.
What can we hope to see from Pleo in the future?
In the face of Covid-19, the past year has been extremely tough for any aspiring entrepreneur or business owner to operate in, and there are still many hurdles they’re having to overcome. We’ve always built customer-centricity into the heart of everything Pleo does, so our immediate priorities have understandably been focused on supporting our customers and the businesses who have been hardest hit by the pandemic. We’ve even made Pleo free for new customers until April 1st to give them transparency over their spending and time back to focus on the important things.
Looking ahead, I’m excited to see where Pleo’s journey takes us next. I’m massively frustrated at the disparity in service we see between our professional and personal lives. If our banking current account can offer us detailed spending information, why can’t B2B products offer this too?
I think our recent growth shows our customers are frustrated with this disparity too. In 2020, our software business grew 150% and we also doubled our customer base to over 13,000 businesses using Pleo. Not a day goes by that we don’t receive an inquiry from an investor, and at our current rate of growth, I’m confident Pleo will reach unicorn status in the next one to two years.