FTT Expert Q&A With Rippling’s Rishab Hegde
By Ian Kar
1. You’ve been at Rippling for a few years now, and we’ve chatted a bunch on fintech in the past. When did you guys start thinking about how to embed fintech into the Rippling platform?
A: Finance has always been in Rippling’s future – our mission was never to be just an HR or IT company, we’ve always wanted to be the operating system that you can run your business on and that inevitably involves Finance. And if you look at some of the biggest problems Finance admins face – disconnected standalone systems that don’t talk to each other, dealing with products that aren’t organization-aware, and an increasingly global workforce that has to deal with region-specific software – it’s a place where we feel we are uniquely positioned to deliver a ton of value to our users.
2. How was being a founder in the past helpful in developing this new product inside of Rippling?
A: A lot of companies have teams that try to be a “startup within the company” but Rippling is the only one that I know of that has really achieved this in a balanced way. We’ve been able to keep a lot of the good things about building a startup while removing a lot of the negatives too. It’s never going to be exactly like a startup – for example, I have a boss now! But the tradeoff has been more than worth it for me. I still get to build a brand new product from 0 to 1, hire and work with a bunch of incredible and talented people, and wear a bunch of hats to work with people cross-functionally across engineering, design, marketing, sales, finance, etc. On top of that, there’s a bunch of common stuff that has to be built in basically every enterprise software application – reporting, approval flows, audit trails, notifications, and so on – that just comes out of the box for us. We have this incredible Hub team that builds all of this common stuff once for all our product teams which really enables us to move fast with a smaller team and focus on our differentiators.
The other big thing for me is my startup never reached product-market fit and I remember literally staying up at night just from anxiety wondering if more than a handful of people would ever use my product. Here, I knew from day one, we have tons of existing customers that are literally constantly asking for our product. I can’t reveal any numbers here, but the interest we’ve seen in just the last week has been really incredible and personally it’s been so fulfilling to finally see people really excited to use a product I had a hand in building.
3. From a product development perspective, you are all super aware of how crowded the space is. How did you think about differentiating your product? And what benefits or leverage does Rippling’s platform and data give that makes your product work better than others?
A: Companies spend money in 4 ways: payroll (paying your employees), corporate cards, expense reimbursements (employees pay for things personally and get reimbursed), and bill payments (companies pay vendors directly via ACH/Wire/check). The cool thing about that is Rippling already does payroll and so we can actually show you all your outflows, every single dollar that leaves your door, in one place. That’s something that no one else can do. Before this, we were using Rippling for payroll, Brex for corp cards, Expensify for expenses, and Bill.com for bill pay. Just figuring out how much we had spent in a given month was a giant pain for our finance team but now you can see your burn rate in real-time in Rippling. That consolidation is really valuable.
The other big thing is the same advantage we have in every product we launch: the employee record. The employee record allows us to completely change the game when it comes to control and visibility into our customers’ spend. The key word in Spend Management is, well, management. And when you manage your spend you really want to be able to set different rules for execs vs ICs, part-time employees vs full-time employees, people in the NY office vs people in the London office, engineers vs salespeople – and with our product that’s the simplest thing in the world. With other products, it can be nearly impossible to create and maintain those rules. And it’s not just the basic stuff either, these rules can be so specific – one of my favorite examples is a rule that we set up for ourselves: you’re not allowed to purchase Microsoft Office software unless you use a Windows device for work. And because we use our device management product, we can do that and it just works. This works across blocking card transactions in real-time, requiring receipts for expense requests, issuing cards to people, and much more. So you can say “hey, I’d like our channel sales team members who live in SF to get a physical card for $5,000 a month” and when someone joins that team in SF they’ll automatically get a card shipped to them and next month when they move to NYC, that card will automatically be deactivated. The possibilities are endless, it really is just magical for a lot of our customers.
4. The business financial stack is still a mess. Spend management is a critical area but not the only one, other areas like corporate finance or treasury management are also super antiquated. Without divulging too much, are there other areas within business finance you want to modernize, and how does Rippling think about where and how deeply to expand into a new vertical?
A: Finance is not a side project of ours, it’s really the third leg of our offering. We started with Payroll, and built a ton of great products like Insurance, Time & Attendance, Pulse, and more in the HR space. We started with App Management and then expanded into Device Management, SSO and Password management in the IT space. Spend Management is really just the beginning of our Finance Cloud offering. We’re just getting started and will hopefully have much more to share very soon 🙂