Accounting startups aim to end the pain of spreadsheets

New services help business owners track expenses, invoices and more—all through a few taps on a smartphone

The Frictionless Office

You know who loves accounting? Accountants. For the rest of us, keeping track of expenses, inputting data into a spreadsheet and sending out invoices isn’t any fun.

Fortunately, a couple of Canadian startups now offer innovative options for spreadsheet-free expense tracking. While they may not necessarily make accounting enjoyable, they certainly make it easier.

Vancouver-based Trippeo lets users scan receipts using the camera on their phone. Using Optical character recognition (OCR) technology, it’s able to automatically detect pertinent information, like the amount and the supplier. The app also automatically syncs with 15,000 different credit cards and processes currency conversions, taxes and tips. “We do a lot of the heavy lifting for you,” says chief executive Adarsh Pallian. “It saves hundreds of hours of doing it manually.”

Trippeo also offers a flight-booking service, similar to online portals such as Orbitz or Kayak. It’s designed to save employers from using one app to book travel and another to track the expense.

The company’s basic subscription service, which costs $US6 a month per user or $5 a month on an annual contract, is aimed at teams of 50 or less. A premium tier, which includes pre-negotiated flight rates and a round-the-clock travel concierge, is aimed at bigger companies and costs $15 a month.

On the other end of the spectrum, Toronto-based Wave Accounting targets really small businesses—those with 10 employees or less. The company’s core accounting suite—including receipt scanning as well as invoice creation and sending—is free, with no limits on usage.

Businesses can then add extra features as they need. Payroll capability, including direct bank deposits, costs $10 plus $4 per employee per month, while the ability for clients to pay invoices by credit card costs 2.9% of the transaction, plus 30 cents. Advanced support services are also available for $9.95 a month.

Wave also lets users separate personal expenses from business expenses, a key feature for small companies where employees often use the same credit card to take clients out for lunch as they do for buying groceries.

These Canadian startups join international players such as Sage, QuickBooks and Xero. Chief executive Kirk Simpson says up to 60% of small businesses don’t use any software to manage their expenses because most of the available tools are designed for bigger organizations, and are thus too complex or expensive.

“We’re trying to build something exclusively for them,” he says. “I don’t have a lot of patience for accounting myself.”