Ramp expands into travel as the corporate spend category goes horizontal

Corporate spending has marked a huge opportunity in the world of fintech.

Multiple players have emerged with various solutions — from software to corporate cards — to help businesses of all types and sizes better manage their expenses and save money and time while doing it.

Now one of those players, Ramp, is announcing that it is expanding into the travel space, the company has told TechCrunch exclusively. The move, while no doubt a logical one, puts it in direct competition with another startup, TripActions. The latter, though, started its life focused on travel and pivoted to also offer general expense management when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020.

For the unacquainted, Eric Glyman and Karim Atiyeh founded Ramp in March 2019 and launched its first corporate card product in August of that year. The company last August raised $300 million at a $3.9 billion valuation and is rumored to be raising another round that could double the company’s valuation to $8 billion (rumors it has declined to confirm). Investors include Founders Fund, Redpoint Ventures and Stripe, among others.

Its launch of “Ramp for Travel” marks a new chapter for the company. The startup’s goal with the new offering, which will be offered to all existing customers and any new ones at no additional cost, according to Glyman is to help business travelers “book anywhere” while giving businesses an “unprecedented level of insight and control over their travel.” Ramp plans to use AI-assisted software to “completely” automate companies’ expense reporting, doing things like automatically collecting receipts and categorizing all travel-related expenses.

“We felt there were some fundamental design issues with how travel had been done by companies,” he told TechCrunch. “Usually the solution has been to use a managed travel app.”

Filing expenses is no doubt one of the biggest pain points of employees worldwide. And the use of existing corporate travel solutions, Ramp maintains, limits choices for employees and can cost companies thousands by not giving access to better deals. The startup says its new offering gives employees a way to book travel with whatever service they want to, for no charge.

Employers gain the ability to glean insights into all trips across an organization, including exactly what employees are spending on automatically, Glyman said. They can also look at historical transitions, including every flight booked, he added.

By offering employee travelers cards with controls, businesses can see not just a flight transaction, but details such as the routes, and if it was economy or first class and if the travel aligned with the company’s expense policy, he added. Companies are able to create travel policies with air travel, lodging and per diem limits that, according to Ramp, will “automatically get enforced.” For example, managers would get real-time alerts when employees spend out-of-policy.

“We wanted to provide a new way to enhance the information and deliver a managed form of travel that would give companies an unprecedented level of visibility and tools,” Glyman said. “We view this as a chance to take a new design approach to what’s been sort of an industry that’s operated in walled gardens.”

Ramp is doing this through a combination of structured data and some machine learning.

“You can actually visualize a trip on the map, and know when the trip started and when it ends,” Glyman said. “You can see, for example, if an employee took a trip down to Miami, and maybe had three dinners there, and took six Ubers or Lyfts. And the magic is, the traveler never had to enter it. Ramp is actually able to pull the information automatically. Most current systems are not up to that task.”

This saves employees time and employers money, Ramp believes.

As part of the new offering, the company has completed a direct integration with Lyft so that for customers that use Lyft, Ramp will automatically collect travel receipts. That integration is one of many the company is planning, according to Glyman. 

Ramp said it has also developed a new extension for Chrome browsers so employees can book travel with the service of their choosing.

The corporate spend space is an increasingly crowded and competitive one, with Ramp competing with other well-known startups, including Brex (which most recently raised $300 million), TripActions (which last October raised $275 million) and Airbase, which announced last week that it was working with American Express on a pilot that will see its service offered to certain customers of the credit giant. Other players are emerging in other parts of the world, such as Pluto, which aims to serve the underserved Middle East. But as TechCrunch has previously reported, it’s not a winner-takes-all space.

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