Abacus, The Expense Software Employees Love, Raises $3.5 Million


I hate expense reports. I do them once a year and I still hate it. Back when I had to do them monthly or have the finance department all over me I hated them twelve times as much.

Abacus fixes all that. The company was founded by Omar Qari, Ted Power and Josh Halickman (Foursquare, Google, Etsy Venmo and other experience) and they launched earlier this year at Winter Y Combinator. You can read their launch post here.

How does Abacus fix expense reports? When a company starts using Abacus, they link their bank account. Employees set themselves up in the app and also link their bank account. Employees then submit expenses via taking pictures of the receipts, uploading PDFs or forwarding emails. Managers approve, right away if they want, and the money is reimbursed to the employee the next day. Once the money clears, Abacus automatically syncs transaction information with the company’s accounting software.

No more filling out reports. Abacus does that for the company automatically. That’s most of the pain gone right there. And you get reimbursed immediately – meaning you don’t float the company for 30-60 days while your create your report and it goes through the system.

That’s the way expenses are supposed to be. And that’s why more than 150 companies are already using Abacus, including Pinterest, Foursquare, Coinbase and Betterment. Other very large companies are using Abacus but haven’t yet agreed to be announced publicly.

Companies love Abacus because employees love Abacus. And investors therefore love Abacus, too. The company has raised a $3.5 million seed round led by Bessemer Venture Partners and General Catalyst, with participation from Bloodstone, CrunchFund, FundersClub, Google Ventures, Homebrew, Sherpalo, Patrick and John Collison of Stripe, Josh Reeves of ZenPayroll, Jeff Epstein, former CFO of Oracle and DoubleClick, Naval Ravikant of AngelList, Andrew Kortina and Iqram MagdonIsmail of Venmo, Adam Erlebacher of Simple, Nas and Paul Buchheit of Y Combinator.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why I’m writing this here on Uncrunched when you don’t see this news anywhere else, here’s why. The company had a bunch of press lined up to write about this yesterday but someone (who only publishes a private subscription service) accidentally broke the embargo and then absolutely no one wrote after that. So I am. This company is amazing, we’re proud investors and more people need to hear about it.

And I’ll be sending Omar a copy of Jason Kincaid’s new PR book. I’m not sure he could have foreseen this disaster, but reading Jason’s book will at least give him the comfort of knowing lots of other people have gotten screwed from tech blog politics, too.

Update: Abacus blog post on the new financing is here.

Who’s Lying About Whisper?

Separately, Whisper has been following a user claiming to be a sex-obsessed lobbyist in Washington DC. The company’s tracking tools allow staff to monitor which areas of the capital the lobbyist visits. “He’s a guy that we’ll track for the rest of his life and he’ll have no idea we’ll be watching him,” the same Whisper executive said. – The Guardian

As far as I can tell from what The Guardian has alleged, and from Whisper’s denials, what happened is this:

1. When talking to potential partners, Whisper hypes its ability to track users so that those partners will know who the anonymous sources are and then write stories based on the data. The screenshot of the Whispers being written from (or near) the White House supports this (below), as does the quote above.


2. But when Whisper talks to the public, they say different things and deny that they track users (although I haven’t seen any comment denying the quote above, and only obfuscating comments about the screenshot).

The denials are strong, but 1 & 2 above can’t both be true. That means someone is lying, and based on what I’ve seen so far, and looking at who has what incentives, that someone is Whisper.

The additional information about Whisper working with the Department of Defense, and likely the Chinese government, are also huge stories on their own.

As an aside, I interviewed Whisper CEO Michael Heyward earlier this year at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York.

Picture Of Kevin Rose’s First App From North


Kevin Rose was just backstage at TechCrunch Disrupt and gave me a brief preview of his first app, called Tiiny, from his new development company North Technologies. He said it’s going through the app review process now and should be released shortly.

Image is terrible but this is his story to tell when he’s ready. Website describes it as “Share tiny little photos that disappear after 24 hours” but it’s more than that. Pretty slick though.

The Three Skills Needed To Become A Legendary Tech Blogger

Every once in a while someone asks me who I think the best tech bloggers are and why. It happened today, in fact, back stage at TechCrunch Disrupt.

I also have blogging on the mind in general after reading Jason Kincaid’s new book today.

Here’s my short answer – A great tech blogger needs to be exceptionally good at (1) breaking big stories, (2) writing powerful thought pieces, and (3) doing live interviews.

In my mind, there are just three or four great tech bloggers in the world.

The average tech blogger, which is just a commodity, probably isn’t good at any of these things.

They’ll muddle through a story that’s been handed to them, often leaving readers confused and bored. They won’t try to write thought pieces about the state of (or future of) the industry (although they’ll occasionally write outrage articles and think they’re adding to a discussion). And if they’re ever in a position to do a live interview they’ll be nervous, possibly sycophantic and definitely boring.

A good tech blogger, which is someone who’ll develop an independent following on social media and be an asset at any publication, will usually excel at one of the first two categories – either they have enough sources and reporting skills to break stories (you need both), or they’re smart and articulate enough to write interesting columns about technology. But not both. Those people can usually become passably good interviewers, too, once they overcome stage fright and learn to listen.

Then there are the great tech bloggers. These are the bloggers who attract others to them, and are able to build teams and companies around their personalities.

They break big stories without even pausing to watch as everyone else tries to catch up. On a slow news day, or just because they’re feeling it, they’ll write about something that shakes the industry, or focuses everyone’s attention for a time, or from which new companies are born. And they are naturally ferocious interviewers.

Sometimes someone is extremely good at just one category, so good that they rise to the very top of their profession. But for whatever reason they can’t crack the other category. It almost seems like having the skills needed for one category mean it’s much less likely they’ll have the skills for the other.

So when people ask me who the best of the best are, I talk in these terms. This person breaks stories but isn’t a thought leader at all. That person writes fascinating, thoughtful stories but has never broken news. Or they haven’t figured out how to maestro an interview yet.

So who are the legends in the industry today? I’m not going to say, but I’m happy to listen to your thoughts, below.

Jason Kincaid’s New Book Is A Must-Read For Founders

I had the pleasure of reviewing former TechCrunch writer Jason Kincaid’s new book The Burned-Out Blogger’s Guide To PR today for Techcrunch. It’s a must-have book for entrepreneurs, and laugh-out-loud funny. Read my review here, and buy the book here. Kindle only for now, but you can get a printed version in a couple of weeks.

Regarding Alexia’s Mind

Alexia Tsotsis, the editor of TechCrunch, interviewed Peter Thiel yesterday at TechCrunch Disrupt. Pando editor Paul Carr has this to say:


Alexia is the editor of TechCrunch. And that means she’s a competitor to the sites that regularly call out sexism, subtle or overt, that pops up in our industry. So she goes without defense.

Not only does she go without defense from her peers in the industry, it’s actually one of her peers calling her stupid.

Which is fine, she’s very tough. But if you see her today, let her know how much you respect her. She won’t show it, but comments like these might even be somewhat more ego-shattering than that time Jessica Livingston had someone hit on her at a bar.

And for Paul – if he takes a moment to think about it – he might even agree that some comments should be out of bounds.

Apple Is Totally Screwed

Apple has a very large problem right now.

I’m not talking about legal liability over the nude celebrity photos and videos being posted all over the internet right now (dubbed “The Fappening”), although I think that’s also an issue. Celebrities tend to have aggressive attorneys, and the damages here are extreme – some celebrities have had careers ended from leaked photos (while others have benefited)

But a much larger crisis looms – everyone, and I mean everyone, now knows that everything private they’ve done with their iPhone, if they use iCloud, is not only vulnerable, but extremely vulnerable.

The Next Web says that a tool that allows brute force attacks against the Find My iPhone service gives hackers a way in to iCloud.

That may or may not be what’s actually going on. Hacker Nik Cubrilovic, for example, says it isn’t slowing people down from accessing new accounts:

And it doesn’t really matter. Even if Apple fixes the problem, or has fixed the problem with the patch they just released, or even if all of this was caused by something else entirely, they’re still screwed. The damage, the massive damage, has already been done, and people associate it with Apple.

Because everyone now understands that their phones aren’t secure. Even things they thought they deleted are vulnerable. That’s something that will haunt Apple for a decade.

I’m not talking about people who trade their iPhones for Android devices. That isn’t a big issue, and Android isn’t any more secure than Apple anyway.

I’m talking about the fact that people won’t feel the same way about their phones after this. Your phone is no longer a part of you. It’s a weapon, pointed at you.

Lyft Line v. The Humble City Bus


One or two tweaks and Lyft Line will…reinvent the city bus.

The last tweet exchange below is the best, imo. No idea what that’s all about.

Explicit GoTenna Use Case: Buying Drugs

I read about GoTenna yesterday – a neat little device that connects to your phone via bluetooth that allows you to send messages to other people using GoTenna even if cell service is out. It basically turns your phone into a handheld UHF radio with encryption (which you can’t do as a normal citizen with a CB).

Watch the video here on the GoTenna site. I noticed the guy smoking (and selling) marijuana yesterday and chuckled.


Someone at Hacker News noticed the same thing and commented on it. Another says “I think they are quite deliberately pointing out that dealers can communicate with their users in private, outside of law enforcement spying on them [Use case A1].”

Cofounder Daniela Perdomo jumps in and says “Daniela, goTenna co-founder here, “Jason Greengrocer” is actually a real person in my phone I contact about once a month ;)” and “All transmissions are end-to-end encrypted, unless you use the “shout” or “emergency” features which are, by definition, messages to everyone within range of you.”

So there you have it. GoTenna – great for use while hiking, during power outages, and to get baked.

They Might Be Tearing Down The Creamery To Build Condos

If you’re involved in the startup world in San Francisco you’ve likely been to the Creamery on Townsend and 4th street. It’s iconic, even if only recently so.

In 2012 I wrote about the Creamery in a post talking about the shift in startups from the Palo Alto area to San Francisco, noting that “CrunchFund has probably closed (meaning the verbal agreement part) more deals there than anywhere else.”

Other press cemented the cafe’s reputation as the place to do business. Today there are probably at least a handful of startup meetings going on there at any given time – interviews, investment pitches, or just friends trading ideas.

Even this morning I ran into two people I know there. And a third saw me but I missed him.

Which is why I’m sad to say that from what I hear, the Creamery won’t be around that much longer.

The problem is the value of the real estate it’s sitting on. The cafe is a one story building sitting among much larger buildings.

CrunchFund recently bought a condo nearby as an office. In the disclosures of the building was a note that the land the Creamery was sitting on was being purchased.

I did a little digging – this is what I’ve heard: A group of investors have purchased the entire block, for hundreds of millions of dollars, and will be tearing all the buildings down and putting up a massive 20 story condo complex.

Good news for people looking for housing in the area. Bad news for those of us that like to hang out at the Creamery.

Update: Yup.

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