Uber, Airbnb go after businesses

New services try to make it easier for companies to manage employees' bookings

Uber's mobile app.

Uber's mobile app.

Uber and Airbnb, which have already proved popular with travelers and urbanites with smartphones, have unveiled new features and links to other services designed to attract more business users.

Uber lets people request a black town car service or a ride in someone's personal car through its app; Airbnb's site and mobile app lets people book places to stay in people's private homes.

People traveling for business are already big users of Uber and Airbnb. But the companies are looking to make it easier to have their services used in a business setting, with an eye toward business owners and managers.

Uber announced on Tuesday "Uber for Business," which will let employers create a business account, link a payment method, and then add employees to the account. When workers are out and about, they can charge the Uber ride to that account.

The billing system is available now in the U.S. and Canada, and is being tested in the U.K. and France. People who already use Uber will be able to toggle between the accounts, the company said.

Both Uber and Airbnb have also announced integration with the travel and expense management company Concur. The integration will allow people to link their Uber or Airbnb accounts and Concur accounts for expense purposes.

"Travelers have the flexibility to book their preferred listings and travel managers have total visibility into location and expenses," Airbnb said Monday in its announcement. Airbnb's Concur integration will go live in the fall; Uber's is active now.

Airbnb now also has a new Business Travel portal, for business travel search and expenditure management. The site is designed to help business travelers find listings for, say, convenient access to meetings, or comfortable meeting spaces. More than 35 companies have signed up to work with Airbnb on the program, including Salesforce, Evernote and Eventbrite.

As use of these companies' services grows among businesses, others may roll out new partnerships of their own. The car summoning service Sidecar said Tuesday that it was testing some new features and exploring partnerships that could yield more attractive options for commuters and business travelers.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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