Rodolphe Ardant is the founder and CEO of Spendesk. He is a graduate of École Polytechnique and Columbia University and created his first company straight out of university. In 2013, he sold Wozaik, a digital advertising startup, to Solocal and took up the role of COO at Drivy before getting back to the entrepreneurial roots with eFounders. In 2016, he founded Spendesk, the first all-in-one platform to help manage the entire business spending process in one place and free people from the hassle of spending at work.
1. What is your role at Spendesk?
As the founder and CEO, I lead the company’s strategy and evangelize our mission and vision both internally and externally. Of course, my role has changed a lot as our team has grown from 20 to 200 people in the past two years. I can’t be involved in everything, and I wouldn’t want to be as Spendesk’s foundations are really built on trust and ownership. We decentralize responsibilities to empower employees to make their own decisions.
2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
I created my first company (Woziak) immediately after graduating from École Polytechnique and Columbia University. In 2013, the company was acquired by Solocal (formerly Pages Jaunes) and I took up the role of COO at Drivy. But ultimately I wanted to get back to my entrepreneurial roots and I found a great opportunity with the French startup studio, eFounders, where we founded Spendesk in 2016. I’m a builder at heart and I’m excited to seize this massive opportunity we see in the B2B financial sector.
3. How do you think technology is changing the financial sector?
We’ve already seen a lot of innovation in the B2C payment sector with new players like N26 or Revolut. But companies still majorly rely on archaic and mostly painful and inefficient processes – like expense reports, receipt collection and shared company credit cards, to name just a few. So our goal at Spendesk is to bring the same level of fintech innovation to the B2B world. We believe that technology can empower finance teams and help them decentralize spending across the business.
4. How does digitalization empower finance professionals?
We’ve really seen a shift in the role of modern finance professionals. When most of the tedious and time-consuming tasks are automated they can instead focus on being a true strategic business partner.
With the right level of visibility and easy access to all data, finance leaders can advise their companies with valuable insights and forecasts.
This way, they add much more value. Because why would you hire finance experts in your companyjust to let them chase receipts and maintain excel sheets?
5. How does your Spend Management solution help finance teams?
Putting them in the driving seat of all things spend management. Spendesk is the all-in-one spend management solution that delivers more visibility and automation to today’s finance teams. We combine spend approvals, virtual cards, physical cards, expense reimbursements and invoice management into one source of truth. So employees easily pay for what they need while finance stays in control.
6. How do you define your Accounting Automation Solution?
First, we are not an accounting solution but we integrate with the best of them, like Xero, Netsuite, Sage or Datev. We collect and store receipts for every payment and ensure data accuracy. With automated payment categorization, per diem and VAT calculations finance teams can save a lot of time during month-end closing.
7. What features of your Invoice Management Solution differentiates it in the market?
The biggest advantage of Spendesk is that finance teams can track every type of company spend in one place, including invoices. Our invoice management solution is specifically loved by finance and employees alike because it gives everyone a complete audit trail from approval to payment for each supplier invoice. Plus, they save hours with our OCR-technology that replaces the manual work of importing invoices. And to help businesses optimize their cash flow, we offer the option to split supplier payments.
8. Which advice would you like to give to other startups?
I believe that decentralization can help startups grow faster. This is how we’ve built our team at Spendesk: based on decentralized responsibility and ownership, so employees can make their own decisions and are not blocked waiting for approvals. Of course, this requires a lot of trust and transparent access to all important information. And you need a thorough hiring process to find the right people for this type of organization.
9. What work related hack do you follow to enjoy maximum productivity?
The great thing about the type of organization we’ve built at Spendesk is that it allows me to only take on tasks where I can make the most impact possible as a CEO. So my hack is letting go a little, trusting our people and focusing on the really important things.
10. We have heard that you have a very special work culture. We wouldn’t mind having a look at some of the pictures…
From the very beginning, we have invested a lot in our culture and now, as we grow, the challenge is to maintain it. Usually, in non-pandemic times, we organize offsites with the whole team twice a year to get to know each other outside of day-to-day business and to build common memories.
Just this once we can share footage from one of our last offsites (before Covid)… 🙂
11. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
As I mentioned, it is very important that I can trust the team around me to make decisions in the best interest of the company and with our vision and culture in mind. We have a great mix of young talent that have grown with Spendesk and taken a lot of responsibility over the past years, and more experienced specialists and leaders that joined Spendesk later. Most importantly, our team is very international which is something I wanted from day 1 for Spendesk. We decided to switch to English as the only company language early-on and started driving our international expansion in the early stages of Spendesk.
12. What are the major developments you are planning currently?
Obviously Covid has derailed plans in most companies. But I’m very confident in the future of Spendesk. In the past months, we’ve seen even faster growth than before the crisis and we can build on a solid foundation with sufficient funding, agile processes and a strong culture. So we will continue to drive our international expansion with our local teams in Berlin, London, and San Francisco. Plus we will keep improving our solution with some top requested features for finance teams.
13. How do you prepare for an AI-centric world?
I am a strong believer in AI to free people from constraints and time consuming tasks that are just not adding any value to their job. We are leveraging AI at Spendesk to automate tasks in the spend management process like data entry, expense monitoring, and expenses allocation, where AI can provide real value in automating tedious tasks or provide insights on where to focus our attention.
14. Which book are you reading these days?
On my nightstand I currently have:
● Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
● Smart Simplicity: Six règles pour gérer la complexité sans devenir compliqué, by Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman
● The Making of a Manager, by Julie Zhuo
15. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?
I have more than 200 applications on my phone! I download a lot of apps – some I use daily, others just to see the user experience. 🙂