Concur’s Raj Singh on the Emerging Mobile Scene and Where He Sees the Company Going in the Next Five Years (Part 2)
For Raj Singh, the co-founder, president, and chief operating officer of Redmond, WA-based Concur, a travel and expense reporting software developer, the recipe for success has involved jumping on trends as they are in the making. In 2002 and 2003, this meant getting on board the software-as-a-service-industry. Today it means staying relevant by embracing another game-changing trend—mobile.
Yesterday we published the first half of my conversation with Raj, where he talked about Concur’s 17-year history and how they’ve grown to be a veteran mid-size company in the Seattle tech scene. In the second half of our conversation, Raj dives into how the company has changed over the last two decades, why he thinks mobile is the future of tech (for the record, during our interview Raj joked, “I carry a Droid and an iPhone, so that makes me doubly geeky I think!”), and where he sees Concur going in the next five years. Here are some of the highlights:
X: You’ve touched on the big shifts that the company had made over the years. In 1993 when Concur started, you had a very different vision for the company than you do now. Has Concur stayed true to elements of its original design, or has the company truly shifted to something completely new in the last 17 years?
RS: I think there’s two parts to the answer. The first is we’re pretty true to the idea that the travel and expense business problem is the one we want to solve, and things that touch on those problems—we also solve problems for employee invoices. But ultimately we’re really tied around this core idea that there are some business problems that touch employees that we want to solve—travel and expense being the first and biggest. And so we’ve grown over the years, both by delivering that solution, but also by growing globally. Today we do business in Europe, in Asia, in Latin America and obviously all around America. Growing globally has been a huge growth area for us over the last several years.
The second is we’ve expanded into different market segments. If you checked in on us 10 years ago, we were really only selling to the biggest companies in the world. Today we sign more deals with small companies than we do with big companies. And what we launched three months ago, something called Concur Breeze, which was really for small businesses, companies with one to five or 10 employees. And that’s another area where we think there’s great growth.
And this final point that you raised is a really interesting one, and it’s mobility. What happens today is that with business travel, the first thing that you do when you get off a plane when you travel is you turn on your cell phone, and you check your e-mail and you do all of the things that you have to do when you’re preparing to travel, where Concur has always done a really good job in the past. We have a travel booking tool that helps you plan your travel. And we’ve done a great job of helping them when they come back from the trip, because we’ve got an expense reporting tool that does that for them and makes that really easy for them.
But when they were on the trip, there was nothing we could do to help them. And today all of that has changed. You’ve got really smart phones with location-based services. I know everything about that person’s itinerary because Concur helped create that itinerary. So we know where they’re going. We know what they’re planning to do. We know what their schedule looks like. We can provide them value-added services using our mobile applications to help the traveler make the business travel part of the process easy as well. And that’s clearly brand new. That’s not something we could have done 10 years ago, or even five years ago, because the technology didn’t exist on that platform level from a mobile perspective. So we get to think about a whole bunch of new things that we get to do for travelers that we didn’t get to think about before.
One of the cool ones—you use an iPhone right?—have you ever downloaded an app called Taxi Magic?
X: No, but I’ve heard of it.
RS: You have to download Taxi Magic, because it’s pretty cool. Concur owns a part of that company. It’s a classic business travel problem. You land at the airport and you want to get a cab. So what you can do with Taxi Magic is you can book the cab, it’ll show up where you are, and you can actually … Next Page »