Voting for the loser is no excuse

The other day I read a post on a mailing list lambasting the current state of the union (specifically how both candidates are shirking their jobs to run for office) and saying, essentially "it's not my fault, I voted Libertarian".  I've heard that a bunch of times in a variety of forms, so I had to respond as follows:

"If you're advocating a policy change to prevent active senators, legislators, governors, and so forth from campaigning while on the job, I think you'd have many supporters from all sides.  We need more of that constructive discussion.

But it's not helpful to bash the status quo and then claim you're not responsible merely because your party consistently loses at the polls.

If you're a US citizen, then you're responsible for the result of our political system, whether or not your guy won.  Voting for the loser doesn't excuse you from the results of the process.  It just means you're doing a shitty job."

We're all equal participants in this process.  We all share equal responsibility for its results, both the good *and* the bad.  if you dislike like those results, don't vent: rally some friends and make a difference.  Because if you don't, somebody else who thinks otherwise will just rally their friends, harder.

My Internet != Your Internet

So I'm debugging this SOAP protocol and having a certain problem: me and a vendor are submitting the "exact same" request but getting different responses. Furthermore, each of us repeatedly get the same response to our requests, but never get each other's.

At this point I realize that we have different meanings of "exact same". In my mind, "same" means "the bytes that go over the wire are identical". In their mind, "same" means "the objects being serialized have the same data". The difference there, of course, is the manner of serialization. Different request serializations produce different responses. Same != Same.

This made me realize that we all have different notions of how the internet works. I'm a low-level guy so I think in terms of bytes, whereas others think in terms of higher level protocols. I think there are benefits and detriments to thinking on every layer, but the most important thing is to identify when you're thinking on *different* layers.

Furthermore, it's caused me to wonder what I'm missing out on by thinking of the internet as a series UDP/TCP flows. What magical wonders are happening at the IP layer that I'm just overlooking? How does BGP *really* work? What are the actual differences between 802.11 a-g? I have no idea.

But I bet there's going to be a lot of exciting developments happening at these lower layers as programmable radios become commonplace and the average Joe can suddenly whip up a new wireless protocol from scratch.

Similarly, what's going on at those higher layers? I've heard of microformats and semantic data and agent programming and the like. It all sounds dreamy. But maybe I should be considering them in a more practical sense?

Regardless, back to the present. It's always an interesting to discover that the common ground you think you share isn't so common after all. My notion of the internet is not necessarily your notion, so beware.

Expense Reports (and a Million Bucks) for Those Who Hate Them

Expensify isn't so much a labor of love as it is a retaliation against paper expense reports.

Don't get me wrong: making business purchases doesn't phase me.  I'm fine buying tickets, renting cars, booking hotels, and generally getting things done on my own credit card.  But the process of getting paid back is just so excruciating.

I'm not sure which is the worst: keeping track of the receipts, typing it all in, waiting to receive the check, or actually depositing it once I get it.  The whole experience is so bad it blurs together into a general morass of pain.  It's so bad I find myself just paying for things out of pocket because that's preferable to the torturous process of getting reimbursed.

This has been the case for years, and as I clawed my way up the startup circuit, I always rather assumed the big companies had some magical solution that made it all easy.  Well, they don't.  It's horrible from top to bottom, and what few corporate card solutions exist are targeted squarely at the big guys.  I've got news for you: there are 25 million businesses in the US today, and 24 million of those have under 20 employees.  That means 97% of the market is has been neatly overlooked, leaving the rest of us in expense report hell.

Well, I'm proud to say that all that ends now.  Expensify is the corporate card for everyone else, the expense report service that not only pays you back faster, but pays you back *more* -- and does so without the grueling pain we've all come to associate with the words "expense report".

In case you don't already know, Expensify uses electronic payment cards to enable one-click expense reports.  Every purchase you make with the card we give you is billed back to your regular credit card -- there's no new monthly bill, and you keep all your frequent flier miles.  Come back to the site at any time to print out full expense reports (including receipts: just scan them in with our iPhone app or email them to receipts@expensify.com using any cameraphone), or type in your manager's email address and we'll mail them a PDF and bill them for the amount of the expense report, crediting it back to your credit card.  No checks to cash, no days to wait, we'll just instantly pay off your credit card when your boss approves the report.

Anyway, you might have heard we launched last week at the TechCrunch 50 and Wow.  What a response.  We were cautiously optimistic that people would like it -- we were unprepared for how much people would absolutely *love* it.  We pitched it over 150 times, and everyone was ecstatic.  One guy even gave me a hug as thanks for how much time we were going to save him.  I think he had a tear in his eye.

All this enthusiasm has really highlighted to us just how big a problem we're solving, and how important it is that our launch go smooth.  So as much as it pains me, we've decided to slow things down a bit and put some extra testing and polish into the site, and to send out our cards in smaller batches than initially anticipated.  We'll still send them out on a first-come first-serve basis, and once we're through the backlog our plan is still to get cards to your door within a week.  But we're going to take our time with these first batches to ensure the highest quality experience possible.

That said, we want to thank you, the TechCrunch crew, and most importantly all the many, many people who spoke with us at the TechCrunch 50 and gave us such kind words of support and encouragement -- not to mention voted us 2nd place winner of the Demo Pit over a hundred other companies.  And what better way to give thanks than with cold hard cash!

That's right, from this moment on, the next 1000 users who sign up will get $1000 in free purchases.  That's a cool million dollars of Expensify service we're giving away for free to you, the early adopters, the TechCrunch readers, and the fledgling group of Expensify fans who make it all possible.  So sign up today and get in line for your Expensify card and $1000 of zero-surcharge purchases.  Your card will be in your mailbox before you know it, and your dread of expense reporting will soon be a distant memory!

Thanks again to Jason Calacanis, Michael Arrington, and the entire TechCrunch 50 crew for putting together a fantastic venue and the best launching pad that anybody could ask for.  These guys did a fantastic job, under difficult circumstances, and I can't wait to see what they cook up next year.  With any luck, Expensify will be there!

- David Barrett, Founder, Expensify

It's Alive! Expensify: One-Click Expense Reports

Well, the word is out: Expensify is live and taking orders for our one-click expense report service.  I'll have more to say in a bit, but for the moment I'll let Travis Kalanick (our advisor) do the talking:

"Expensify is launching at TC50!

Who here has a bag of stale receipts sitting in their closet?  Receipts that long, long ago should have made it into some expense report. . . of course to get there, you would have had to organize that big bag of receipts in chronological order, affixed and taped each of them to a separate blank sheet of paper, gotten some excel sheet or web-form and done a few hours of data entry.  Of course, you’d also have to remember what was discussed at that steak dinner in Denver (it was with customers. . .yeah, I’m sure it was), and then list their full names and titles.  The list of headaches stretches for miles. . .Taxi receipts not filled out, separating room charges from room service and hotel Internet, old faded receipts that are illegible. .. the list goes on and on.

So I think we all would agree that there is one word that is synonymous with doing expense reports. .. PAIN. 

So much pain that it takes up to 45 minutes per $1000 of expense reporting.  For employees with expense-prone job descriptions (there are 50 million of you in the US: salespeople, office managers, small-business owners) that comes to 30-40 hours a year.  That’s a week’s worth of vacation, or a week more of actual selling to hit your quota.

The pain for many of the less expense-disciplined among us, hits us in our pocket book.  Some estimates are that 5% or more of all legitimate expenses never get reimbursed because of receipts that get lost, and expense reports that don’t get filed (referring to that bag of wilting receipts above).

Expensify wants to change that

Expensify’s Company Mission:  Empower small-business employees, independent contractors and sole proprietors with easy tools for PAINLESS expense reporting.

Expensify accomplishes this with 3 main Expensify components:

1) Expensify expense card – a card that you use to make expense purchases.  You top-up Expensify card with your existing credit card. The card makes expense categorization a breeze, and allows Expensify to automatically fill out expense reports.

2) Receipt capture and upload – take pictures of your receipts and upload with either Expensify’s iPhone application or with simple email attachments from your phone or PDA.

3) Expensify Dashboard – Expensify automatically associates the receipt images with the expense card entries.  You’re only a few clicks away from a completed expense report.  Submit digital expense reports to your boss or client (via email) or print out and send physical expense report.

So now you’re saying, this is all way too easy.  Expense reports done with only a few clicks, submitted before I even get back to the office from a trip.  No more lost receipts or expense report hell??!!  How much does Expensify cost?

Identical to PayPal pricing on an existing credit card, Expensify charges 3% of transactions made to the Expensify expense card.

How can you justify Expensify cost??  If Expensify saves even one receipt in thirty from getting lost in the shuffle, the extra reimbursements means Expensify pays for itself!  We also know that time is money, and the time you save not dealing with expense reports should add to your overall quality of life

And remember, Expensify charges ARE reimbursable expenses!!

So how do I get started?

Step 1 – Register at Expensify.com
- Enter email address and password
- Verification email sent to you
- Sign up for Expensify expense card

Step 2 – Set up iPhone/PDA for receipt image capture
- iPhone users: Install iPhone application for quick uploading of your receipt images
- Other phones/pda’s: Email photos to receipts@expensify.com

Step 3 – Impatiently wait for your Expensify expense card to be mailed to you
- Should be delivered in one week

You’ve now been EXPENSIFY’D!!  Enjoy easy no-hassle expense reporting!

Thanks for checking us out.  Give Expensify a shot, let us know what you think, and don’t hold back. .. feedback for the product, venting over previous expense report nightmares, just sound off. .. . and thanks for getting EXPENSIFY’D!!

Travis Kalanick
Expensify Advisor and happy customer"

A great quote from Travis: "David thought it was a good idea, but when I started digging into the data, I determined it was a *great* idea."  Thanks for the intro Travis, I'll follow up in a bit once I have some free time -- the next flood of TechCrunchers are on their way!

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