As the spend management space continues to get more competitive, the various players seem to be constantly iterating to add new features to their products.
Today, fintech startup Brex announced it is moving in an unexpected direction with its travel offering while Mesh Payments said it’s expanding into travel in addition to general expense management.
Let’s start with Brex. Specifically, the company announced a new group events feature, designed to help companies book and manage events, including offsites.
It may feel like a big departure for a startup that started out focused on credit cards, but Brex VP of product Vineet Taneja said that it happened more naturally than you might expect.
When Brex began offering travel expense management to its customers earlier this year, the company noticed a pattern in looking at clients’ budgets. With more people working remotely either part or full-time, it appeared that more managers were holding offsite meetings in an effort to “help their teams make meaningful connections.”
“We saw a 3x jump in the [number of] offsites companies are organizing,” he told TechCrunch in an interview. “We realized something was happening so we sat with about 20 travel managers and asked them ‘What do you do when an offsite comes up?’ And we realized, it’s a mess.”
The new group events feature, Brex said, gives admins a way to not only manage travel needs but also to monitor events such as offsites, conferences as well as both internal events and external ones for their customers. For example, if a company sends 100 employees to a conference or trade show, the feature could be used by an admin to organize the travel, lodging, budgets, shuttle, etc. for all the employees attending that conference. And because it’s integrated into Brex’s overall product, attendees can manage their travel using the company’s software and use its card for expenses.
To be clear, Brex is not entering the events management space. It’s really more about helping its customers save time and money by aiding with the organizational logistics of the event. The company won’t be helping customers hire vendors such as caterers or bands, for example.
Since launching its travel product, Taneja said that Brex has seen 20% to 25% month-over-month in travel booking. Customers who used the new events feature while in beta include GoGuardian and SeatGeek, among others.
Meanwhile, Mesh Payments today announced that it is entering the travel expense space.
Mesh built the technology in-house over the last six months, according to CEO and co-founder Oded Zehavi.
“Our system is built to work with any TMC, we can work with any travel management company so that companies can use different TMCs for different regions or entities if they prefer,” he told TechCrunch via email. “We’re not locked into one TMC as some platforms.” Also, other companies have chosen to work with existing providers. Brex, for example, partnered with a company called Spotnana in building out its new travel offering, essentially white-labeling its “travel-as-a-service” software, which provides back-end infrastructure that integrates with global airlines and hotels.
Mesh says its new product includes AI-enabled travel and expense spend management with chat-based user experiences designed to streamline workflows. AI is a common feature in spend management companies’ offerings, with many of them, such as Navan, Ramp, Brex and Rho claiming to offer AI-powered or enabled features.
Zehavi said the expansion to travel management was an organic one for Mesh.
“We listened to our multinational customers as they navigated the complexities of corporate travel,” he said.
The startup joins competitors such as Brex and Ramp, who have expanded into travel in recent years. It also wants to go head-to-head with companies such as Navan, who first started out in travel expense management before moving into helping companies manage their expenses more broadly.
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