Seed is a microbial sciences company with a robust R&D team that conducts extensive research into body microbiomes. The company currently offers an adult probiotic to promote gut health and is looking to expand into other areas of microbial science. The team has nearly doubled its headcount over the past few years and is poised for rapid growth.
As a rapidly-growing startup, Seed places a lot of spend on credit cards. The company’s legacy system, which centralized card issuance among a handful of employees, simply wasn’t working.
“We were very hesitant to give corporate cards to employees,” says Sarah Bird Seed’s Controller. “We had a few American Express cards floating around. Someone would inevitably lose it, and everything would have to be reset.” Operationally, issuing cards without commensurate controls presented a huge challenge. The finance team was spending 10-15 hours each week manually reviewing charges.
Moreover, the credit card company instituted spend limits that didn’t make sense for a growing business. “I think I was paying [our credit card bill] every two weeks, maybe every 10 days,” says Sarah. “From a cash flow perspective, that’s not what you want to be doing.” 90% of Seed’s growth marketing happens on credit cards, so spend limits could result in real revenue lost. “I don’t even know the number of times that ads were shut off because of all this,” says Sarah.
The credit card issue was symptomatic of larger challenges within the finance department. The team had no established system for gathering receipts, and its manual accounting process was time-consuming and prone to human-error. “We use QuickBooks, and without a seamless integration, the process was really manual, without great transaction-level reporting. ”External accountants were booking journal entries without support. “From a control perspective, that wasn’t ideal,” says Sarah.
Seed needed a new spend management partner that could decentralize credit card management, reduce inefficiencies through automation, and infuse visibility into a cumbersome, opaque process.
Seed partnered with Ramp to improve its corporate card management process. With Ramp, the finance team can issue credit cards with built-in controls to as needed for as many tasks and spend categories as needed, and throttling spend limits are a thing of the past.
“Now, every single person who works here has a card,” says Sarah. The finance team can offer benefits like a quarterly wellness stipend directly on these cards, which makes programs like these easier for employees and more compliant for the business.
“Decentralization is such a vast improvement,” says Sarah. The Ramp platform has reduced the time needed to manually review charges and also improved coding accuracy. “Before, our outsourced accountants would try to code monthly bills, and they’d be guessing at random vendors,” says Sarah. With Ramp, coding is easy, self-serve, and often automated.
“I think one of the things people like is that we on the accounting side can set rules, so they don’t even have to do some of the work. For example, our marketing team uses cards for digital ad spend. I can issue them a card just for Google Ads. I can tag the accounting category for them on every transaction. I can not require a receipt, so they don’t have to worry about uploading receipts. All of that can be automated.”
Shifting from manual processes to automation is an overarching goal of Sarah’s. Ramp helps achieve that goal -- and not just regarding card management, but for AP as well. “The Ramp integration we use for Bill.com is automated, so transactions sync directly through those systems,” explains Sarah. “The focus on automation is to reduce error and reduce time to make the process more efficient.”
Ramp has made the credit card management process frictionless, both in terms of card control and credit availability. “On the credit line, Ramp was able to match and exceed where we needed to go,” says Sarah. “Ramp was a fast growing startup itself and they understand how to scale. Our legacy provider just couldn’t do that.”
Ramp also understands the benefit of automation for busy, fast-growing teams. Since deploying Ramp, Seed has reduced its reliance on manual processes and embraced automation, which has positively impacted the business. “We’re able to focus on more strategic priorities,” says Sarah. “Accounting and finance always get looped in at the 11th hour. Having more free time will allow us to be really present in some of these more cross-functional strategic initiatives.” With Ramp, Sarah says, the finance team can shift from a reactive mentality to a truly proactive partnership with other Seed stakeholders.
The visibility Ramp allows further enables this shift. “It allows us to be more on the pulse of what’s happening with the business and make sure that if we’re seeing any unexpected changes in spend, that we can flag those immediately,” says Sarah. And, she adds, “it’s not just people spending money and then letting us know after. We have foresight into what will be spent. That allows us to know where things are going to land in a given month and know whether we’ll be on track for budget.”
These deeper insights help strengthen Seed’s commitment to compliance. The team recently completed its first audit and feels confident that Ramp will only make that process easier going forward.
“Now I don’t live in fear that if our auditor comes along and asks to see a receipt, we won’t have it,” says Sarah.
The benefits Ramp provides has added real value to the Seed team. “It’s rare to feel like a company and a team is a partner, and that they really want to understand what you need,” says Sarah. “That’s what we’ve experienced with Ramp.”