Featured Article

Fintech Brex bets big on software, lands DoorDash as a customer

‘We’re very focused on signing up net new large enterprise customers,’ CEO says

Comment

Brex Founders
Image Credits: Co-founders Henrique Dubugras (L) and Pedro Franceschi (R) / Brex

The corporate spend space continues to heat up.

Today, decacorn Brex revealed that it is making a big push into financial software with the release of a new spend management product called Brex Empower. And it’s making the leap with one high-profile customer already signed up — DoorDash.

Now, normally, a startup announcing a new product is hardly fodder for a news story.

But in this case, it is.

Brex is one of a number of companies in the corporate spend management space that has grown increasingly crowded — and competitive — in recent years.

Originally, Brex was a startup focused on startups. Specifically, it provided corporate cards aimed mainly at startups and SMBs. Brex gradually evolved its model with the aim of serving as a “financial operating system” for companies. Historically, it has generated its revenue from interchange fees.

But now, the company is making a “big push” into software, which means its revenue generation will be more diversified as it will now be making money off of interchange fees and recurring revenue from subscriptions to its software. Brex is also placing greater emphasis on moving upmarket to serve larger customers, as evidenced by its landing DoorDash — a company with more than $36 billion in market capitalization and 9,000 distributed employees — as one of its first clients. While it will still serve startups, Brex wants to be able to support startups as they grow, as well as enterprises that are already huge.

“We’re very focused on signing up net new large enterprise customers and DoorDash is the first of many, with lots to come,” Brex co-CEO and co-founder Henrique Dubugras said in an interview. “It’s extremely important to us. The reason that DoorDash bought our product is that the entire software suite is very powerful. They don’t see Brex as a card or financial services company but as both a financial services and strong software company.”

He goes on to share the experience of a DoorDash GM who wanted to buy $1,000 worth of ice. The process took weeks and the GM had to create a purchase order and get it approved by the finance team first. It’s a problem that Brex wants to help solve.

The company’s growth has been swift and impressive. Earlier this year, Brex confirmed a $300 million raise that valued it at a staggering $12.3 billion. The company now has 1,100 employees, saw 100% YoY revenue growth in 2021 and has a customer base “into the 50,000s,” according to Dubugras. He declined to reveal hard revenue figures, but previously told TechCrunch Brex was still focused on growth and not yet profitable.

The majority of Brex’s revenue still comes from interchange fees, Dubugras said. But he expects that the proportion of SaaS revenue and “other revenue lines” will grow over time.

‘A much bigger push and bigger play’

In April of 2021, Brex said it had combined credit cards, business cash accounts and new spend management and bill pay software “together in a single dashboard” as part of a service called Brex Premium that cost $49 per month.

In announcing Brex Empower, the company said it was no longer offering Brex Premium. Currently, Empower’s first product is focused on spend management but will evolve over time to have “wider capabilities” such as travel, procurement, payments and banking access, Dubugras said. Empower is a very different model than Premium, the company said, in that it was built from the ground up to help companies grow at scale with a “trust and verify” approach.

“It’s a much bigger push and bigger play than Premium was,” the company said, noting that it would release pricing for the new product in “early summer.”

“We want to help companies build a culture of trust — but one of financial discipline so that it’s not a free for all. That way, companies can make decisions faster, and grow faster,” Dubugras told TechCrunch. “We want to make it super easy for employees to do the right thing. And we believe in increasing the speed of business.

Empower, the company says, will, for example, eliminate the collection of receipts. It automatically collects “many” receipts by “leveraging exclusive data from credit card networks, and integrations with thousands of POS partners,” according to Brex. A customer can’t use Empower without also using a Brex Card.

Image Credits: Brex

The company claims that it has also found a way to “visualize expense policies” so that its software is able to understand the business context for any expenses, across card, reimbursements and bill pay.

Its product also reverses the historical process of an employee making a purchase and then getting approval. Brex’s system gives companies a way to “manage by exception.” Because its software will be able to know what purchases are in policy, it can flag those that fall out of it or are over budget. It is working to introduce what it describes as “an anomaly detection model,” that will use ML to flag suspicious transactions based on data of tens of millions of transactions processed.

Empower, it said, also gives leaders the ability to create and request a budget for teams, trips, vendors and stipends (such as a work-from-home stipend). The product also gives finance teams real-time visibility into where spend is happening, Dubugras says.

The number of startups out there doing different aspects of what Brex does is growing rapidly. There’s Ramp, which in March announced a $200 million equity raise at an $8.1 billion valuation after an expansion into the travel space. There’s also Airbase, which recently landed a strategic investment from American Express; focused on the mid-market customer, it and has always hinged its future on making money off its software rather than on interchange fees. In fact, CEO Thejo Kote recently told TechCrunch that he sees software as a “higher quality, more durable” form of revenue.

Meanwhile, TripActions, which first focused on travel, continues to expand into general spend management. Divvy was snapped up by Bill.com last year in a $2.5 billion deal. Newer startups are emerging as well. Glean AI came out of stealth recently to offer “accounts payables with a brain.” But many agree it’s not a winner-takes-all space, considering that the number of companies needing spend management offerings is also growing.

And, coincidentally today, expense management software provider Emburse announced that, after building much of its nearly $200 million-in-ARR business in the enterprise, it is making a big push into the SMB space and going head-to-head with fast-growing startups like Ramp and Brex.

My weekly fintech newsletter is launching soon! Sign up here to get it in your inbox.

Fintech Roundup: Corporate spend just can’t be a winner-takes-all space

More TechCrunch

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender Solo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient, and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

OpenAI is removing one of the voices used by ChatGPT after users found that it sounded similar to Scarlett Johansson, the company announced on Monday. The voice, called Sky, is…

OpenAI to remove ChatGPT’s Scarlett Johansson-like voice

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

1 day ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets