Bright Idea: Taking Center Stage

An ‘intelligent’ credit card links an employee’s spending directly to the company budget.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

Buy dinner or supplies and put it on the company card. This employee convenience can also be a vexation for company budgets as casual expenses mount. A Bellevue startup, Center (centercard.com), thinks it has the right solution, and the track record of its founders suggests it might. 

The CenterCard puts the computing power and interactivity of a smartphone app directly into a slim credit card. Fitting easily into a wallet, the card device connects to the cloud via Bluetooth connection to a mobile phone and the card’s e-ink touchscreen. Employees can see how much budget they have and allocate a purchase to an expense category, making it easier later to fill out expenses. As Center cofounder Naveen Singh explains, expense tracking becomes “a physical part of the sale.” Supervisors can also track spending, approve special requests and reallocate budgets when necessary.

If this focus on expense accounts sounds familiar, it’s because Center’s other cofounder and sole funder, Steve Singh, also started and led Concur Technologies. Now among the leading cloud-based solutions for travel expense reporting, Concur was sold to the German software corporation SAP in an $8.3 billion deal in 2014. The father-and-son team launched this new venture that same year. Naveen, now 25, is the newly appointed CEO, while Steve serves as executive chairman and guide on strategy and partnerships. 

“Concur taught Center how to deliver enterprise grade software at scale,” Naveen explains, along with a deep understanding of spending management systems.

Center has partnered with some banks, such as Washington Federal in Seattle, to offer the card to business customers. Negotiations with a major card network are in the final stages, Naveen says.

While competition for virtual payment solutions is high, Center chose to focus on the enterprise market. “Our business didn’t make sense in the consumer space,” adds Naveen. “But as connected devices fill our pockets, it makes sense for companies like Center to find their money in our wallets.”

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