Meet Philippe Sahli, Co-Founder and CEO of Yokoy
Can you share the inspiration behind starting Yokoy and how the idea to leverage Artificial Intelligence for automating expense and company credit card processes came about?
Having worked at big companies like EY and UBS, I realized how much manual work there is still involved in processes like expense management, company credit card reconilliation and invoice processing. Most of the tools that are around are not actually automating the process but rather shifting the work from one person to another. Artifitial Intelligence has the potential to change this completely. Therefore, at Yokoy, we first built the entire AI engine to read-out and validate documents like receipts and invoices before building a tool around it. AI is at the core of Yokoy.
Starting out in 2019, how did the pandemic influence the development and growth of Yokoy?
During the pandemic, most companies realized that they needed to advance their automation capabilities. We heard from companies, which received invoices per mail delivered to their buildings and they couldn’t process them since all employees were working from home. The need of automation through technology has become very obvious for a lot of companies during the pandemic.
Expense and credit card processes are critical for businesses. How has Yokoy’s AI-driven automation solution proven to save time and money for companies? Do you have any specific success stories to highlight?
The average cost to process an expense report manually according to the GBTA is $60. Only to process one expense report. Expenses (like credit card transactions) need to be filed, validated, reconciled, booked, archived and finally reimbursed/paid. This is a lenghy process, especially if not automated by a modern tool. There is big saving potential for a company when using an AI-based expense-/company card solution like Yokoy to automate the filing, validation, reconcilliatoin and booking steps. The $60 processing cost per expense report can be reduced to $1 and below with Yokoy.
How has Yokoy positioned itself in the DACH market, and what unique challenges and opportunities have you encountered in serving businesses in this region?
Germany, Austria and Switzerland have different laws and regulations when it comes to expenses and invoices. Even though, the automation of expenses, company credit cards and invoices are a big topic (and high on the priority list of CFOs) in all three countries, the tool requires regional adaptions to ensure that all local regulations are covered. Also the go-to-market strategy is different and is set up locally. It’s important that sales executives clearly understand the challenges and country specific regulations to consult prospective customers on the best possible way to save time and money using Yokoy.
As an AI-driven solution, how does Yokoy adapt to the ever-evolving technology landscape, and what steps do you take to ensure your platform remains cutting-edge and relevant to your clients’ needs?
Yokoy has an inhouse AI lab with scientists only working on the AI models, monitoring trends and trying out new things. In such a fast growing and evolving field like AI, it’s important that an independent team (like the Yokoy inhouse AI lab) has the time and responsibility to focus on this topic only to ensure that Yokoy’s technology is developing over time and stays ahead of the game. Our customer promise is to save money on every CHF/EUR spent by automating their spendmangement with AI.
Integrating new software into existing systems can be a concern for businesses. How does Yokoy approach integration and ensure a seamless onboarding process for its clients?
Yokoy has an entire team within the R&D department that only focuses on integrations and Yokoy’s open APIs, which can be used by all our customers to connect all their favorite tools with Yokoy without requiring engineering resources from Yokoy. Today, integrations are not a USP anymore but are expected by customers since most customers adopt a best-of-breed strategy, whereby they choose the best possible tools for their use cases and connect them with API- or file-based integrations.
Fintech startups often face regulatory considerations. How has Yokoy navigated regulatory challenges in Switzerland and other markets, and how do you make sure that you maintain compliance while expanding your services?
Yokoy is a software company at its core and thereby we invest a lot of time and money in IT security and the respective certifications to show the customers that IT security is important to us and we take it seriously. We are GDPR compliant and hold the ISO 27001, ISO 9001, and ISO 14001 certifications. Our internal DPO is thereby an important figure. When it comes to company cards, we partner with banks and financial institutions, which are experts in regulations.
Looking ahead, what are Yokoy’s plans for the future? Are there any new features or innovations on the horizon, and do you have any expansion goals in terms of new markets or industry verticals?
Yokoy is continuously developing the product for new markets and industry specific use cases. We are releasing new features and additions on a weekly basis. It’s important to me that our customers feel that the spend management solution they bought is continuously improving and stays ahead of the competitors with newly improved UX or self-learning AI models.
Do you have any learnings that you could share: what would you do differently if you were to start all over again and what are you most proud of?
The most important factor for a successful startup/scaleup in my opinion are the people. We have a great team, which we’re expanding constantly. I don’t think there is anything significant that I’d do differently if I were to start all over again. I’d certainly spend a lot of time building a team of motivated experts that are hungry to change the world.
How can the Swiss Startup Association bring value to the startup founders?
As a startup founder, every day brings new challenges (which makes that job so extremely interesting). However, most of those challenges might have been overcome by another founder before, therefore, connecting us founders with other founders and industry experts is truly valuable