April 4, 2022

Ramp Virtual: Eric Glyman and Karim Atiyeh on the future of finance

Recently we announced our latest fundraise at a new valuation of $8.1 billion, earning us the title of "octocorn" just three years after our incorporation. The journey from March 2019 to now has been fast and furious, but this milestone presented a good opportunity for our founders to take stock of how Ramp got to this point and look ahead to the company’s next act. So last week our CEO Eric Glyman and CTO Karim Atiyeh sat down for a live fireside chat with Packy McCormick (founder of the popular Not Boring newsletter, Ramp customer, and investor) to do just that. 

Watch the livestream replay here for a behind-the-scenes look at how we are thinking about the future of finance and building the business, product, and team to deliver that vision. You can also read our key takeaways below.

How Ramp helps companies become better versions of themselves

“Historically, financial services companies have focused on how to optimize their margins, incentivize customers to spend more and minimize the cost of rewards. This has resulted in a lot of zero-sum thinking. Instead of trying to outsmart customers, we have focused on building products that help companies become more profitable on the other side, even if that means generating less revenue for Ramp in the short-term. To date, we’ve helped customers save $135 million and have automated 400 years of manual work. By focusing on identifying areas that drive wasted money and wasted time in business, we are able to build more enduring companies.” - Eric 

Companies grow when finance teams have more time for strategic thinking

"Imagine if you were trying to make life improvements but you weren't tracking [your fitness]. You'd have to spend a lot of time guessing what you ate, what you didn't, and guess your way into better health. If you have automated tracking, you're not having to waste time thinking about that stuff. You can actually think about how to interpret those numbers and make better decisions. And it's the same thing with finance teams. They're not spending their time chasing receipts and trying to guess their way into profitability or better performance. They actually have all the tracking and analysis pre-done for them. They can think strategically about the future and make better decisions." - Karim

"[We're] repairing the way that people interact with each other and actually having their time freed up so they can actually work on really valuable things, like figuring out how companies need to grow revenue, cut expenses, be more profitable—or, frankly, just go home. What we see happening is that the ratio of where people are spending their time is going from these low-value task-based items to actually much higher strategic planning." - Eric

Understand when speed or quality will satisfy customer needs

“We want Ramp to be the smart choice for companies. By default, that attracts smarter, more ambitious companies to Ramp that help push our thinking: they are demanding in the products they need, discerning in the quality of our UX and the speed of our software." - Karim

A one-size fits all approach to product development does not work when rising to meet these customer expectations, and rather requires a deliberate strategy around when to optimize for speed and when to optimize for quality. In some parts of our product, iterating on the final form of a solution, trying things quickly and recovering extremely quickly matters. In other parts, such as money movement and risk, the cost of mistakes are higher. We can’t iterate and it needs to be right the first time.” - Karim 

Instead of going against the current, take data and automate around it

“Before looking to cut out steps that save time or money, we look to understand the source of waste and then redesign new processes around the problem businesses are trying to solve. Instead of going against the current, we take data and signals and automate around it. [In the case of our travel product] we thought about how to meet people where they are rather than forcing them to use a new platform, something that requires zero work for any employee to use. This is how we can create value for 100% of transactions from the get-go.”  - Eric 

“[With our travel product], we’ve eliminated the trade-off between control and better prices. Consumer platforms typically offer better prices, but employees are forced to use their company’s corporate travel portal, where there is no competition and prices are higher. We started with ‘how do we save businesses time and money?’ and this creates room for our customers to understand where people are saving money, where there are better rates, and ultimately helps people to arrive at a better decision.” - Karim 

Looking beyond the first order opportunity: owning the transaction layer

“Our partner Visa, put out an estimate that there is $120 trillion in B2B payments in the US. It is enormous the amount of funds companies are moving. The first order opportunity is to own the movement of funds, in the way Amex has on the card side or Bill.com at the ACH layer. But for us, the opportunity is not just in moving funds more efficiently but in adding value above each transaction with intelligence so that each dollar goes further.” - Eric 

Hire for exceptional ability rather than zero defect

“Every generational company starts with people, and a lot of it is being intentional about who you hire early on. We put a lot of time into finding people who have exceptional ability in one area versus optimizing for zero defects. [And to motivate superstars to work together] you need to make sure they have hard, interesting problems to work on. In some ways you have to keep increasing the size of your ambition.”  - Karim 

Frame the problem around a larger mission to bring out people’s potential

“Orientation matters a lot. In some ways, we set goals that are unattainable: we can’t save all the money possible or all the time possible. Orienting our team around a larger mission creates conditions for extraordinary work that is aligned in intent but competitive in approach.” - Eric 

“A lot of what we targeted this time around was not ‘let’s go hit this high watermark,’ rather it was about ‘how do we grow 10% this week?’. Focusing on the near-term has allowed us to make important trade-offs, understand what will give us leverage today and help us to lay the tracks before the train comes so that we have leverage tomorrow.” - Eric 

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Former Head of Content & Communications, Ramp

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