Microsoft’s new expense tracker Spend hits the App Store

The team behind mileage-tracking app MileIQ, a company Microsoft acquired a few years ago, is out with a new application. This time, the focus isn’t on tracking miles, but rather expenses. The new app, simply called “Spend,” arrived on the App Store on Thursday, offering automatic expense tracking for work reimbursement purposes or for taxes.

Spend doesn’t appear to be a part of some grand Microsoft plan to take on expense tracking industry giants, like Expensify or SAP-owned Concur, for example. At least, not at this time.

Instead, the app is a Microsoft Garage project, the App Store clarifies.

Microsoft Garage is the company’s internal incubator when employees can test out new ideas to see if they resonate with consumers and business users.

Through the program, a number of interesting projects have gotten their start over the years, like the Cortana-based dictation tool, Dictate; mobile design creation app Sprightly; short-form email app Send; the Word Flow keyboard for smartphones; a Bing-backed alternative to Google News; and dozens more.

The new Spend app, at first glance, looks well-designed and easy to use.

Like most expense trackers, it offers features like the ability to take photos of receipts, expense categorization features, and reporting.

However, what makes Spend interesting is the app’s automated tracking and matching, and its user interface for working with your receipts.

The app begins by automatically tracking all your expenses from a linked credit card or bank account. You can then swipe on the expenses to mark them as personal or business. These expenses are automatically categorized, and you can add extra tags for added organization.

You can also add notes to purchases, split expenses, and customize expense categories, in addition to tags.

And the app can generate expense reports on a weekly, monthly or custom bases, which can be exported at spreadsheets or PDFs. There’s a web dashboard for when you’re using the app at your computer, but Spend doesn’t appear on the MileIQ main website at this time. It does, however, have a support site.

How well this all works, in practice, requires further testing.

MileIQ had been the top-grossing finance app in Apple’s App Store for the last 20 months at the time of its acquisition back in 2015. Microsoft had said then the team would work on other mobile productivity solutions going forward.

Since joining Microsoft, the team that created MileIQ has added capabilities to MileIQ, such as MileIQ for Teams, new intelligence features and a partnership with Xero. MileIQ is also now included with Microsoft 365 Business and Office 365 Business Premium plans

However, Spend is the first standalone app built by the team in that time.

The company says the new Spend app is an early version, and they plan to revise it going forward as they make improvements.

Microsoft responded to a request for comment, but didn’t provide any details about its eventual plans for Spend, like whether it will have business model or be included with Office subscriptions.

10/19/18: Updated after publication with information about Microsoft’s comments.

PayPal and American Express expand partnership, will allow use of points for PayPal purchases

PayPal this week announced an expanded relationship with American Express that will allow cardholders to use their Membership Rewards points when shopping from PayPal merchants, as well as more integrated experience within both PayPal and the Amex apps, among other things.

The deal is similar to those PayPal earlier struck with Visa and MasterCard., and follows a series of partnerships it has made across the industry, including others with Apple, Google, Samsung, and, most recently, Walmart, designed to increase its PayPal’s visibility and adoption.

In addition to using points for purchases at PayPal’s millions of online merchants, the new partnership will also allow Amex mobile app users to send money through PayPal or Venmo directly in the app. And they’ll be able to add their American Express cards to their PayPal wallet directly from the app, too.

On PayPal’s side, users will be able to pay their Amex bill with their PayPal or Venmo balance using the PayPal Instant Transfer feature, and it will more clearly identify users’ specific American Express cards in the PayPal wallet using card-specific branding.

These agreements have represented something of a change of course for PayPal over the past couple of years. Before, the company had been pursuing its own brick-and-mortar strategy to see its payment mechanism integrated at point-of-sale. But those ambitions have died down, and now PayPal is focused on expanding its relationships other payment providers, like Apple Pay or major credit cards, turning former rivals into partners.

“This partnership is the product of our companies’ strong commitment to create innovative payment experiences that utilize both organizations’ core assets, including the ability for customers to pay with American Express Membership Rewards points and the integration of peer-to-peer payments into the Amex app,” said Dan Schulman, President and CEO, PayPal, in a statement about the Amex agreement. “Our new partnership expands PayPal’s ubiquity, and enables us to offer consumers and merchants new and innovative product experiences,” he added.

PayPal says it will also integrate into the American Express Token Service, and continue its global card acceptance relationship, as part of this deal. The two companies will work together to implement the new features over the course of 2019.

These expanded agreements with stakeholders in the payments industry may be working.

The company also reported earnings this week, noting the addition of 9.1 million accounts during the quarter and a 25 percent increase in total payment volume. Payment volume in Venmo was also up 78% in Q3. PayPal’s total revenue grew 14% in the quarter to $3.68 billion, while earnings were up 26 percent.

Twilio shops, Uber and Lyft IPO scuttlebutt, and Instacart raises $600M

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week we had the Three Excellent Friends (Connie Loizos, Danny Chrichton, and Alex Wilhelm) on hand to kick things about with Scale Venture Partner’s own Rory O’Driscoll.

As I’ve written the last few weeks, what a pile of news we’ve had recently. And like the last few episodes, we had to pick and choose what to drill into. This week: Twilio-Sendgrid, Palantir, Uber, Lyft, and Tencent Music IPOs, Instacart, and Saudi Arabia.

In order, I think? First, we tackled the week’s biggest venture-themed M&A: Twilio buying SendGrid. Keep in mind that they are both recent IPOs; Twilio went out in 2016, and SendGrid in 2017.

The $2 billion-ish all-stock transaction is effectively Twilio using its rich market cap (rich in terms of its revenue and profit multiples) to snag an obvious (though intelligent) extension of API-powered communications toolset.

Next up we dug into the chance that Palantir is worth $41 billion. Spoiler: It isn’t. Then we chatted the two other recently-floated IPO valuations for Uber ($120 billion) and Lyft ($15 billion). They probably make more sense, depending a little on how you add and then divide.

All that and we also touched on the recent delay in the Tencent Music IPO, a profitable company.

Then we riffed through the Instacart round ($600 million more at a $7.6 billion valuation; wow), and re-touched on Silicon Valley’s currently least popular dinner party topic: how much Saudi money has recently gone to work powering tech startups.

A big thanks to you for not only sticking with Equity for so long, but also for making it quite literally as popular as it has ever been. It’s super fun to have the biggest crew with us every week that we’ve ever had.

You, yes you, are a delight.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast, Pocket Casts, Downcast and all the casts.

Anaplan hits the ground running with strong stock market debut up over 42 percent

You might think that Anaplan CEO, Frank Calderoni would have had a few sleepless nights this week. His company picked a bad week to go public as market instability rocked tech stocks. Still he wasn’t worried, and today the company had by any measure a successful debut with the stock soaring up over 42 percent. As of 4 pm ET, it hit $24.18, up from the IPO price of $17. Not a bad way to launch your company.

Stock Chart: Yahoo Finance

“I feel good because it really shows the quality of the company, the business model that we have and how we’ve been able to build a growing successful business, and I think it provides us with a tremendous amount of opportunity going forward,” Calderoni told TechCrunch.

Calderoni joined the company a couple of years ago, and seemed to emerge from Silicon Valley central casting as former CFO at Red Hat and Cisco along with stints at IBM and SanDisk. He said he has often wished that there were a tool around like Anaplan when he was in charge of a several thousand person planning operation at Cisco. He indicated that while they were successful, it could have been even more so with a tool like Anaplan.

“The planning phase has not had much change in in several decades. I’ve been part of it and I’ve dealt with a lot of the pain. And so having something like Anaplan, I see it’s really being a disrupter in the planning space because of the breadth of the platform that we have. And then it goes across organizations to sales, supply chain, HR and finance, and as we say, really connects the data, the people and the plan to make for better decision making as a result of all that,” he said.

Calderoni describes Anaplan as a planning and data analysis tool. In his previous jobs he says that he spent a ton of time just gathering data and making sure they had the right data, but precious little time on analysis. In his view Anaplan, lets companies concentrate more on the crucial analysis phase.

“Anaplan allows customers to really spend their time on what I call forward planning where they can start to run different scenarios and be much more predictive, and hopefully be able to, as we’ve seen a lot of our customers do, forecast more accurately,” he said.

Anaplan was founded in 2006 and raised almost $300 million along the way. It achieved a lofty valuation of $1.5 billion in its last round, which was $60 million in 2017. The company has just under 1000 customers including Del Monte, VMware, Box and United.

Calderoni says although the company has 40 percent of its business outside the US, there are plenty of markets left to conquer and they hope to use today’s cash infusion in part to continue to expand into a worldwide company.

Zuora partners with Amazon Pay to expand subscription billing options

Zuora, the SaaS company helping organizations manage payments for subscription businesses, announced today that it had been selected as a Premier Partner in the Amazon Pay Global Partner Program. 

The “Premier Partner” distinction means businesses using Zuora’s billing platform can now easily integrate Amazon’s digital payment system as an option during checkout or recurring payment processes. 

The strategic rationale for Zuora is clear, as the partnership expands the company’s product offering to prospective and existing customers.  The ability to support a wide array of payment methodologies is a key value proposition for subscription businesses that enables them to service a larger customer base and provide a more seamless customer experience.

It also doesn’t hurt to have a deep-pocketed ally like Amazon in a fairly early-stage industry.  With omnipotent tech titans waging war over digital payment dominance, Amazon has reportedly doubled down on efforts to spread Amazon Pay usage, cutting into its own margins and offering incentives to retailers.

As adoption of Amazon Pay spreads, subscription businesses will be compelled to offer the service as an available payment option and Zuora should benefit from supporting early billing integration.

For Amazon Pay, teaming up with Zuora provides direct access to Zuora’s customer base, which caters to tens of millions of subscribers. 

With Zuora minimizing the complexity of adding additional payment options, which can often disrupt an otherwise unobtrusive subscription purchase experience, the partnership with Zuora should help spur Amazon Pay adoption and reduce potential friction.

“By extending the trust and convenience of the Amazon experience to Zuora, merchants around the world can now streamline the subscription checkout experience for their customers,” said Vice President of Amazon Pay, Patrick Gauthier.  “We are excited to be working with Zuora to accelerate the Amazon Pay integration process for their merchants and provide a fast, simple and secure payment solution that helps grow their business.”

The world subscribed

The collaboration with Amazon Pay represents another milestone for Zuora, which completed its IPO in April of this year and is now looking to further differentiate its offering from competing in-house systems or large incumbents in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) space, such as Oracle or SAP.   

Going forward, Zuora hopes to play a central role in ushering a broader shift towards a subscription-based economy. 

Tien Tzuo, founder and CEO of Zuora, told TechCrunch he wants the company to help businesses first realize they should be in the subscription economy and then provide them with the resources necessary to flourish within it.

“Our vision is the world subscribed.”  said Tzuo. “We want to be the leading company that has the right technology platform to get companies to be successful in the subscription economy.”

The partnership will launch with publishers “The Seattle Times” and “The Telegraph”, with both now offering Amazon Pay as a payment method while running on the Zuora platform.

The Hack Fund will use crypto to give startups early liquidity

Now that “utility” tokens have become a popular and international way to fund major blockchain projects, a pair of investors are creating a new way to turn tokens into true equities. The investors, Jonathan Nelson and Laura Nelson, have created Hack Fund, an early stage investment vehicle that allows startups to launch what amounts to “blockchain stock certificates,” according to Jonathan.

“Our previous business model exchanged equity from startup companies for services, and wrapped that equity into funds that we then sold to investors. These fund investors have included family offices, institutions, and high net worth individuals,” said Jonathan. “However, Hack Fund represents a new business model. Because Hack Fund leverages the blockchain, investors all over the world at all levels can participate in startup investing by trading blockchain stock certificates. Also, its SEC compliant structure means that it is also available to a limited number of accredited investors in the US.”

The team originally created Hackers/Founders, a tech entrepreneur group in Silicon Valley, and they now support 300,000 members in 133 cities and 49 countries. Hack Fund is a vehicle to support some of the startups in the Hackers/Founders network.

“HACK Fund, through its Hackers/Founders heritage, has a large, unique global network,” said Jonathan. “This provides Hack Fund with unparalleled reach and deal flow across the global technology market. There are a few blockchain-based funds, but they are limited themselves to blockchain-only investments. Unlike typical venture funds, HACK Fund will provide quick liquidity for investors, leveraging blockchain technology to make typically illiquid private stocks tradeable.”

The idea behind Hack Fund is quite interesting. In most cases investing in a company leads to up to ten years of waiting for a liquidity event. However, with blockchain-based stock certificates investors can buy shares that can be bought and sold instantly while company performance drives the value up or down. In short, startups become liquid in an instant, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the founding team.

“HACK Fund is a publicly traded closed-end fund. The fund’s venture investments are valued on a quarterly basis by an independent third party, audited and posted to the blockchain for all token holders to review. There are no K-1 statements issued, there is no partnership/LLC, rather HACK Fund is an investment company akin to Berkshire Hathaway which invests in the same manner as early-stage venture capital,” said Jonathan.

The team is raising a little over $2 million in an ICO to build out the fund. They’ve already raised most of their $100 million total goal from individual investors but the ICO will let retail investors buy some of the tokens as they are made available on the BRD wallet.

Humbition is a new fund led by the Indiegogo’s Slava Rubin

Zocdoc founder Cyrus Massoumi and Indiegogo founder Slava Rubin have created a new $30 million fund called Humbition aimed at early stage, founder-led companies in New York.

“The fund is focused on connecting startups with investors and advisors experienced in building and growing successful businesses,” said Rubin.

“We are seeking to fill a void in NYC, where the vast majority of early stage investors have no significant experience building and scaling businesses,” he said. “The fund’s main areas of investment include marketplaces, consumer and health tech. But the primary criteria for investments is high quality founders. The fund is also seeking out mission-driven businesses because the companies that are socially responsible will be the most successful in the coming decades.”

The fund has brought on ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia, Warby Parker founder Neil Blumenthal, Charity: Water CEO and founder Scott Harrison, and Casper founder and CEO Philip Krim as advisors. They have already invested some of the $30 million raise in Burrow, a couch-on-demand service.

“New York City is home to a tremendous number of mission-driven startups that are simply not receiving the same level of support as their peers in the Bay Area. This void presents a unique opportunity for humbition to reach the incredible local talent who need the funding and guidance to build and grow their businesses in New York City,” said Rubin.

Recent departures hint at turmoil at Quartet Health, a mental health startup backed by GV

Backed with nearly $87 million in venture capital funding from GV, Oak HC/FT and F-Prime Capital, Quartet Health was founded in 2014 by Arun Gupta, Steve Shulman and David Wennberg to improve access to behavioral healthcare. Its mission: “enable every person in our society to thrive by building a collaborative behavioral and physical health ecosystem.”

Recent shakeups within the New York-based company’s c-suite and a perusal of its Glassdoor profile suggest Quartet’s culture is not fully in line with its own philosophy.  

In the last few weeks, chief product officer Rajesh Midha has left the company and president and chief operating officer David Liu is on his way out, TechCrunch has learned and confirmed with Quartet. Founding chief executive officer Arun Gupta, meanwhile, has stepped into the executive chairman role, relinquishing responsibility of the company’s day-to-day operations to former chief science officer David Wennberg, who’s taken over as CEO.

“I’m focusing on our external growth,” Gupta told TechCrunch on Friday. “David has really stepped up as CEO.”

Gupta and Wennberg said Liu’s role was no longer needed because Wennberg had assumed his responsibilities. Liu will formally exit the company at the end of the month. As for its product chief, the pair say Midha had “transitioned out” of the role and that an unnamed internal candidate was tapped to replace him.

When asked whether other employees had left in recent weeks,  Wennberg provided the following indeterminate statement: “We are always having people coming in. I don’t think we’ve had any unusual turnover. We’re hiring and people’s roles change and that’s just part of growth.”

Quartet, which provides a platform that allows providers to collaborate on treatment plans, currently has 150 employees, according to its executives.

In a LinkedIn status update published this week — after TechCrunch’s initial inquiries — Gupta announced his transition to executive chairman:

“Still full-time, though focused largely on our opportunity to further evangelize our mission, [I will] drive the change we want to see in this world, and expand our reach … I have tremendous confidence in David’s ability to lead our many talented Quartetians to deliver this next phase.”

Several former employees seemed less than pleased with Gupta’s performance, writing in a number of Glassdoor reviews that he was “abominable,” “kind of a monster” and “by far the worst executive.”

When asked for comment on those reviews, Gupta and Wennberg shrugged it off: “Glassdoor is Glassdoor.” They agreed its important to pay attention to but impossible to vet.

Gupta began his career as a management consultant at McKinsey and served as a consultant to The World Bank before joining Palantir, Peter Thiel’s data-mining company, as an advisor in 2014. Wennberg, for his part, was the CEO of The High Value Healthcare Collaborative, a consortium of 15 healthcare delivery systems, before co-founding Quartet.

In January, Quartet raised a $40 million Series C to expand throughout the U.S. F-Prime Capital and Polaris Partners led the round, with participation from GV and Oak HC/FT. The financing valued the company at $300 million, according to PitchBook.

As part of the funding, Quartet announced it was adding three new directors to its board: F-Prime’s executive partner Carl Byers; Ken Goulet, an executive vice president at health insurance provider Anthem; and former Rackspace CEO and BuildGroup co-founder Lanham Napier. Other outside board members include Oak HC/FT’s managing partner Annie Lamont, GV partner Krishna Yeshwant, Polaris managing partner Brian Chee and former U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy.

Quartet previously raised a $40 million Series B in April 2016 led by GV. The investment marked the venture capital investment arm of Google’s first in a mental health startup. Before that, the startup brought in a $7 million Series A led by Oak HC/FT’s managing partner Annie Lamont.

For now, Quartet remains committed to growth.

“We learn from what we are doing and we continue to learn,” Wennberg said. “That is part of growth. It’s hard and you just keep working and growing because we have a huge mission.”