Some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have been focusing on the financial management needs of small and medium-sized businesses. Bento for Business CEO Farhan Ahmad has set out to facilitate the management of employee expenses by providing prepaid debit cards which the boss can configure remotely.
In the United States a number of financial players offer prepaid cards for private individuals, but up to now no-one had come up with a solution exclusively designed to meet the needs of small businesses. “Choosing to target solely this particular segment seemed the natural thing to do. We saw a great opportunity in a market where there are no direct competitors,” explains Allie Morse, Head of Business Development at Bento for Business.
The Bento dashboard gives an overall view of a firm’s expenses
Bento’s first product, claiming to be the ‘Full-Featured Master Card Exclusively for Small Business’, was launched in April 2014. It enables a company boss to transfer funds on to a single account which then feeds all the prepaid payment cards handed out to employees. S/he can use the Bento for Business platform to configure daily, weekly or monthly limits for each card, together with the types of payments for which the cards can be used. A card may for example be configured so that a member of the sales team is able to pay to fill up with petrol using the Bento card, but would not be able to make purchases at a grocery store, or so that use is authorised only Monday to Friday, not on weekends.
A year after the launch of their beta version, things are looking good for San Francisco-based Bento, a startup with the ambitious long-term goal of revolutionising financial services for small businesses. In order to do this Bento is forging partnerships and integrating its services with those of other providers that are also targeting small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The platform is already integrated with small business accounting software package Quickbooks, and the company is continuing to bring on board new partners so that in the longer term all SMBs’ financial needs can be covered. Bento is also looking to link up with traditional financial institutions, thus providing a way for incumbent players to offer innovative tailored services to their corporate clients.