Among the fastest-growing segments in the IT industry, software-as-a-service (SaaS) is dominating the cloud computing market and penetrating all spheres of business. Today, more companies than ever favor SaaS over other alternatives, from both a financial and customer perspective. The model allows companies to consider some of their IT resources as a utility rather than a major investment. Since it replaces complex on-premise systems and operates on a subscription basis, SaaS has become the go-to technology for a variety of reasons. The full experience combines affordability, flexibility, reliability, and speed all-in-one package.
As SaaS, however, becomes a growing part of tech-startups or major enterprises, the true challenge is to efficiently have strong control over costs. While it allows companies to have a comprehensive overview of their tool stack, SaaS procurement needs SaaS spend management to accurately monitor costs and maximize value. Otherwise, unused tools, unused licenses, and duplicate use-cases can fly under the radar. A good SaaS spend management tool can significantly cut budgets and ensure getting the most out of each SaaS subscription purchased.
With 20,000 customers across Europe, Pleo is a multi-card business spending unicorn that just raised $200 million at a whopping $4.7 billion valuation. The platform calms the chaos of company spending and practically manages employee expenses. All by issuing corporate cards, automating expense reports, analyzing spend, and integrating to other related tools. André Reimers, Head of Sales at Pleo, is in daily contact with decision-makers from finance to procurement in German SMBs. In this interview, André gives us a glimpse inside Pleo, from revealing the new plans after the latest funding hit to reflecting on the pandemic drama and the special Sastrify link.
How would you explain Pleo's business model to your grandmother?
Pleo takes the hassle out of business expenses. It offers company cards to all employees of a company, so everyone can just buy whatever they need for work without spending out of their pocket and having to ask for reimbursements later. While people spend, Pleo automates expense reports and all the processes around expense accounting. Business spending becomes more transparent. With Pleo, it is effortless to track who is spending what kind of money.
What were milestones in Pleo's development since its founding in 2015 until its recent Unicorn status?
Apart from our first seed investment in 2016, following series A investment in 2018 and series B in 2019, we launched Pleo in the UK in 2017. We made it to Germany and Sweden in 2019, followed by Spain and Ireland in 2020. Watching the speed we are growing at makes you dizzy sometimes. Our product has evolved during all this time too. Nowadays, we offer way more than smart company cards. Our features for business subscriptions, reimbursements, bills, travel, and more truly make us the no-brainer holistic spending solution for all companies across Europe.
What are Pleo's plans for the immediate future with the new capital from the last funding round? Where will Pleo be in a year?
One of our main aims is to make our product fit even better into specific markets we already operate in, as well as the markets we plan to expand into. To reach our goals, we need countless new colleagues. Let’s just say in one year from now, we will be even bigger – way bigger!
After the challenging last 1.5 years, what positive and negative changes did you notice during the pandemic? Both internally and with your customers?
Despite some challenging times with a lot of uncertainty of what the future might look like for our customers, we have seen many positive developments. In many ways, companies were forced to evolve not only in the way they handle expenses but also by putting more trust into their employees in general. Remote work is way more accepted now, pushing the digitization of processes to a new level. Working efficient and productive is often all about giving employees more freedom. And that’s exactly what makes our product so relevant. With Pleo, it is easy for employees, regardless of where they are located, to buy what they need to deliver their best work. On a negative side note: In the last two years, our team has been growing immensely. We were often only able to connect with those new colleagues virtually, which is an entirely different experience than to actually being in a room with each other. Our team camp last September made up for this, though. Now, I finally know how tall or small my colleagues are.
As a SaaS procurement company, we are naturally interested in Pleo's tech stack. Which three SaaS tools are indispensable for Pleo?
There are probably a lot! But I would say Slack as this is our main communication channel. Notion is where we organize our work. Hubspot helps us to reach out to the world and generate new leads.
What do you think about the link between Pleo and Sastrify? What synergies and potential uses do you see for Pleo customers in Sastrify?
Pleo and Sastrify are both tools to automate formerly manual tasks. Not only do they save companies time and money, but they also help them make better decisions by offering greater transparency over spendings. Many of our German customers are in the midst of digitizing their daily workflows. It is highly likely that someone who is interested in smoother and smarter accounting would also be interested in optimizing their procurement strategies. This said: Procurement management is often found in larger companies because small teams miss out thinking they are too small for the need to optimize their SaaS handling or subscriptions. But in fact, small teams suffer the most from not being able to focus on what actually matters. Automation is key! Whether it comes to business expenses or procurement.
Finally, your company culture. What is it like to work at Pleo? What is your experience with decentralized working in multiple locations such as Copenhagen, Berlin, Madrid, London, Stockholm, and Montreal?
Working at Pleo gives you all the freedom you could wish for at a workplace. Like our product, our company culture is based on trust. Plus, we are (obviously) all somewhat digital natives who put the right infrastructure and communication channels in place to enjoy our company culture even though we might be miles apart. This also means remote work is widely accepted. To keep close to each other and strengthen work relationships, traveling between offices happens quite a bit too. And we have our annual team camps, where literally everyone from all over the world comes together to spend a fantastic time making some everlasting memories. What stands out most to me, though, is everyone’s commitment, energy, and motivation to make our product a success while simultaneously keeping an eye on personal growth. Sometimes I think that it stands from our unique hiring process that you really feel like working next to the best people in their field. And that’s truly inspiring.
Sastrify, a SaaS procurement service, and Pleo, a SaaS spend management tool, perfectly complement each other. On one hand, Sastrify vigilantly manages internal SaaS inventory with vital negotiation support, price benchmarking, and streamlining processes. On the other hand, Pleo offers the spending visibility and control that every company leader needs. A lack of efficient procurement or spend management can lead to a lack of oversight into the SaaS ecosystem, resulting in costly consequences. Lucky for you, we have all you need to turn things around and start making the best out of your SaaS buying.
A big thank you to André Reimers for sharing his time and experience with us. If this article piqued your curiosity, discover your SaaS savings potential now.