Customer Stories

The Yokoy revolution - With artificial intelligence and rapid speed to automated expense and credit card processes

Philippe Sahli, Co-Founder & CEO of Yokoy, who has closed a funding round with LEXR, talks about Yokoy’s rapid growth story including what they’ve learned along their path to success, what tips they have for entrepreneurs looking to raise funding, and how they won over all five investors on Swiss version of Shark Tank.

Philippe, what challenges do you solve with Yokoy and how can companies benefit from it?

With Yokoy, we solve three major challenges:

  1. We take the cost pressure and improve the marketability of companies:Our main medium is automation. We integrate automation into all processes with the help of artificial intelligence – from autocomplete function for receipt scanning to VAT validation, the export and correct booking in a company’s accounting system, to the integration of travel expenses and credit card processes.We now offer our own Yokoy Business Prepaid Mastercard for companies. Corporate credit cards are usually associated with various high fees. We are changing that, which means no foreign currency surcharge, no credit card fees, no API fees – a revolutionary new business card.
  1. We improve security for companies:As a company, you can’t afford to neglect security these days. With automated checks and fraud prevention based on artificial intelligence, we have built-in the right controls throughout the automated process. Artificial intelligence is simply better at doing these checks than a real person. As an example: If receipts were already submitted a year earlier, the AI will recognize the duplicate immediately, while a real person has hardly any chance to notice it.
  1. We increase employee satisfaction:With our intuitive Yokoy app, employees can take photos of their receipts in seconds, set reminders, and download reports where they can look at what was paid out to them and when. To a large extent, these customer-centric and intuitive features are already expected by today’s employees. With Yokoy, we’re looking to stay at the forefront when it comes to customer experience and intuitive features and will continue to improve the Yokoy experience.


Yokoy has had a rapid growth story within a relatively short time frame. What are the most important things you have learned and your biggest milestones so far?
  1. The product: The core (especially the AI model behind it) has to keep up and lead the way. We stand out from others in the market because our automation is a lot higher, faster, and better.
  2. The customers: We quickly gained well-known international customers (e.g. Stadler Rail, Swissquote, Planzer). We have been operational for more than a year now and already have more than 250 customers.
  3. The team: Somany customers in such a short period of time are a challenge for the product and team. The team plays a very important role. It has to pull along but also has a chance to do a job that is not an ordinary one. A job where you can have a say and shape things. When we opened our office in Vienna, even more complexity was added by the fact that we are now more international. If the team and the product work well together, such a pace is definitely feasible, but it is also demanding. 


In March 2020, Yokoy closed a seed round with LEXR. What was your experience regarding the funding round and working with LEXR?

Most of our leadership team has already been through a few funding rounds, so we were already in that “mindset”. Experience shows that it is essential to be aware of what funding is available in the market. There are many funding options, from venture debt and equity funding options (e.g. Kickstarter campaigns) to professional venture capital firms. Knowing what is actually out there can help you to plan what fits your company and growth best. 

When looking for the right investor, communication is important, and that you get across why exactly this partnership is important for the company. With Swisscom Ventures and Six Fintech Ventures, we were able to win important partners, and they did not become our investors by chance.  

We made the decision for LEXR for two reasons: 

  1. The advice was very professional and direct. We had a contact person who then accompanied us through the entire financing round. LEXR did not send anything to a secretary but provided a lawyer as a personal contact. He was not only present during the administrative part, but also during the negotiation phase.
  2. For us, especially as a young startup, it was incredibly important to have an uncomplicated and transparent legal advisor. With LEXR, we have indeed found that. This is not the norm, especially in the legal universe, where it is very difficult for non-lawyers to understand what exactly is needed and where what help is essential. 


What was the main reason for Yokoy’s decision to raise venture capital and what tips do you have for companies that also decide to do so?

Knowing what you want as a company is certainly a very important part. In Yokoy’s case, we knew we were in a market that is moving very fast and where the barriers to entry are very low. Simple expense tools can be brought to market quite quickly. Because of that, speed is very important for us. To achieve speed, you need capital and global partners who are well connected, so it was clear to us relatively quickly that we wanted to work with corporate VCs who can support us here. For us, time equals money: On the one hand, it helps us to expand quickly, and on the other hand, it ensures that we can maintain high-quality standards for our product at all times. 

My tip for companies seeking VC financing: Be sure to get help when raising for the first time. Personally, I have been involved in four rounds and feel that experience is crucial and helps a lot. If I were doing this for the first time, I would bring in an expert advisor or personal trusted advisor who has done this a few times. Financing is a business in itself which should not be underestimated, especially when dealing with professional VCs and private equity firms.


What is the secret to convincing five investors at the Swiss version of Shark Tank?

The show “Höhle der Löwen” with Yokoy was recorded in February 2020 and aired in September 2020. 

Clearly two things: 

The team:
An investor, especially someone who has done this many times before like all the “lions” on the show, looks at different things. For the team aspect, they look f.i. How does the team play together? Would they want to work with such a team, does the team have the passion to really push such a product? We put a strong focus on this aspect to make sure we bring it across well. 

The product:
The product is not an easy part. Either the investors know the market well or they would buy the product themselves. If they would not buy the product and are not familiar with the market, the chances are quite bad with professional investors. The way we approached this is that we looked at who had already used an expense tool, and who knew a bit about the market. We got our story across in a way that investors understood where we were, where we wanted to go, why we were different, and why we would ultimately win. The decision to join “Höhle der Löwen” (the Swiss version of Shark Tank) was a good move strategically, but also a challenging one. It’s not easy to get the story across in such a way that investors understand it, want to invest, and become excited about you and your team, and on the other hand to convince viewers to like and use the tool or even have them recommend it to others.  


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