Case Study

Pain Point Becomes Product

Development of an SaaS solution for travel expense accounting

In order to counter the growing overhead costs that are incurred at INNOQ each month for travel expense accounting, four INNOQ employees simply built an SaaS solution themselves, laying the cornerstone for the Reisekostengorilla.

INNOQ expertise at a glance

  • Agile development of an SaaS solution
  • Development of an intuitive UX concept
  • Conception and validation of complex features in Design Sprints
  • Product management and ownership
  • Marketing
  • Independent operation

Travel expenses: pain point or opportunity?

When the topic of travel expense accounting is mentioned, it is not uncommon for people to roll their eyes. For a long time, that’s the way it was at INNOQ, too. Although any lengthy stay at a customer site is more an exception, business trips are part of the equation. On average, therefore, employees spend up to two hours each month submitting receipts, travel expenses, and per diem costs. In addition, there was a part-time position to handle the accounting in the back office.

As a result, four committed INNOQ developers decided they did not want to put up with this nerve-racking status quo any longer. In the absence of suitable tools available in the market, they just built their own travel expense solution.

From MVP to market maturity

It was clear that it needed to meet certain prerequisites:

  • Web-based with data storage in the cloud
  • Intuitive UX and maximum simplicity for travelers
  • Relief for the back office, for instance through uncomplicated data import/export
  • Mobile-first development: universal use on any device without native apps

An initial MVP (minimum viable product) was first used internally at INNOQ. Based on the feedback and constant usage by more than 100 colleagues, it was developed further continuously over a period of one year. In the fall of 2017 the decision was finally made to make the Reisekosten-Gorilla available to other companies as well. The product was officially launched and quickly led to the first sales to paying customers. A prior market analysis also showed that a subscription model based on the SaaS approach (software as a service) is the most attractive to many potential customers.

Beyond development

For the launch of the Travel Expense Gorilla, many things had to come together. In addition to the actual development, above all, good product management was a must.

Particularly for start-ups, it is essential that the feature backlog be prioritized rigorously. Time is a scarce resource. We develop only features that lead to better usability or show additional sales potential.

Robert GlaserFounder

It was also shown once again that the famous 80% (in this case: development and testing of an MVP) often goes much more smoothly and easily in product development. The devil is in the last 20% – product facets like payment and operation take a lot more effort and should be considered at an early stage. Strategic decisions must also be made. For instance, based on a competition analysis, a suitable price model was defined. But even the best solution does not sell itself. An initial marketing concept was drafted, ads were placed on Google and Twitter, telemarketing was carried out.

The Travel Expense Gorilla is still in bootstrapping mode and does not allow for any big marketing budgets. So we have to be creative. An important success factor for us is strategic partnerships.

Tim Keller, Founder

Making it future-proof

Currently, the Travel Expense Gorilla is being refined and operated by the four colleagues in addition to their work at INNOQ and is receiving initial financing from INNOQ. In the long term, however, the Travel Expense Gorilla will have to stand on its own feet and pay its own way. Until then, a lot of sweat and tears will have to flow into development. In addition, we need to find a scalable marketing strategy, get external financing, and build up a dedicated core team.

The work on the Travel Expense Gorilla is very fulfilling. We have maximum freedom and flexibility and learn a lot of new things every day. However, it has also shown us how much it takes, not only to found a start-up but also make it successful.

Roman Stranghöner, Founder

Technical highlights

  • Web application with responsive design, universally available on any device
  • ROCA and progressive enhancement in the front end
  • Back end based on Ruby on Rails and Postgres

Conclusion

Even though a lot of obstacles had to be overcome, the current feeling in the team is excitement. To build a product to meet a true user need, to validate it, and improve it, can often be an arduous task – but it is definitely worth it, because the users can pay you back through their satisfaction. After all, the accounting now takes only half as long for travelers and the back office.

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