Bellevue's Concur gets mileage from travel app products, investments



Posted on May 15, 2014 at 8:44 AM

Updated Thursday, May 15 at 9:52 AM

Frequent flyers frequently worship at the altar of technology. Apps and web-based tools that target business travelers have taken off with the rise of mobile devices like smartphones.

If you're a corporate road warrior and you rely on TripIt to manage your flight information and car rentals, then you've helped to lift Concur's stock price.

The Bellevue-based company was founded in 1993 and started trading on the Nasdaq five years later. Back then it was all about using the Internet to help corporations manage their employee business travel. Now it's focused on mobile solutions like ExpenseIt -- use a smartphone camera to snap a picture of a receipt while on the road and it captures data for automated expense reports.

When everything works, travelers get a smoother, faster trip. The companies for which they work get to trim paperwork and costs, thereby becoming more efficient.

It all goes back to co-founder and CEO Steve Singh's vision of the perfect trip, which has become his company's business model.

"One, two, three clicks and you're done," Singh said. "You never have to talk to anybody. You never need to do anything other than just sit there and do what comes naturally, and your expense report is filed for you and your trip is being managed for you automatically."

Concur's TripIt, which ranks high on many mobile platform lists of top travel apps, has more than 10 million users. Its 22 million worldwide customers include a lot of corporations and 10 government agencies. At its recent Fusion conference in New Orleans, the company announced new suppliers - airlines, hotel chains, car rental agencies - as well as more than 30 new Concur App Center partners whose products will be integrated into the company's technology platform.

Wait a minute: some of those suppliers have their own reservations websites and travel apps. That makes them competitors, right?

"Suppliers love this platform, they love the perfect trip concept," Singh answered. "First and foremost, they want to make sure you get your corporate rates and your personal preferences, whether you book through a travel agent, whether you book through Concur or whether you book directly on their website."

As long as they are integrating their products with Concur's, everybody wins, he said. "We want to see all those suppliers building on top of the Concur platform in any way they can."

Concur's latest earnings report was better than analyst expectations as it reported $169 million in revenue. The stock price has lost some value in the recent tech selloff, but a five-year chart shows steady growth. The company has added 1,200 employees over the past year and now has a global headcount of 4,000.The headquarters in Bellevue takes up five floors of a high-rise that sits one block over from online travel pioneer Expedia's building.

Concur is also investing in other related apps such as Seattle's Trover, which targets travel photography and advice. It recently was part of a $4.6 million funding round for Table 8, a San Francisco-based company that guarantees reservations at hard-to-book restaurants.

Singh thinks Table 8 can offer even more features to business travelers, like reserving a particular table or pre-ordering menu items before arrival. "For me as a traveler, it's very convenient. For you as a restaurateur, you've got an exact definition of what food you have to buy."

Similar advances are very close to becoming reality. Business travelers could have hotel rooms assigned and check-in done shortly after their flight lands, with everything posted automatically into TripIt. "Not too long from now, not only will you get a room assignment, but I'm going to give you a (smartphone) code that you can hold up to the door in that hotel room and walk right in.

"So this is a vision of the perfect trip, and that's what our partners are actually helping us build."