Expense reports are a pain. And, as if tabulating the amount you’ve spent on each trip wasn’t enough (not to mention keeping track of all the receipts), many businesses have archaic systems that make submitting a report even more arduous. Fortunately there are a few services looking to help make things easier — and some of them make it as simple as taking a snapshot with your phone.
One such service is Abukai, a startup that was founded last summer. Here’s how it works: first, you take photos of your receipts using the service’s iPhone, Android, or Blackberry applications. Hit submit, and the service will try to generate a full expense report, complete with categorizations.
The service uses a variety of tricks to make the report as complete as possible — if the receipt has a phone number on it, for example, the service will automatically look it up in a location database. You can annotate each submission with notes (for example, if you want to point out that a dinner was with a client). In addition to generating reports in standard Excel and QuickBooks formats, Abukai also works with businesses on a case-by-case basis to create custom templates.
The 10-person company has been self-funded so far (CEO Philipp Schloter sold his last company to Nokia).
Of course, many of the employees who stand to benefit from this kind of tool aren’t necessarily in a position to switch — they’ll need to convince their bosses that it’s a good idea, too. To help with this, Abukai has built a ROI calculator that produces rough figures on how much money a business will save, based on how much less time their employees will need to spend on expense reports. Granted, this is a biased calculator (Abukai wants to show that you’re saving a lot of money), but it’s hard to ignore just how much time is wasted on expense reports.