As someone who has from the very beginning loved all things social media whether it be Internet radio and television, chat rooms and webinars or social networking forums, when I received the e-mail inviting me to tune into the Live Ustream broadcast of Coupa Inspire ’14 I was immediately interested.
Let’s face it, while face-to-face interaction will never go out of style, we live in a world in which connecting virtually is an essential means by which information and insights on industry trends can be readily shared. Think of it in the context of having access to real-time data only the outcome isn’t directly linked to improved savings but increased knowledge.
With the fanfare of a rock concert experience, Coupa’s CEO Rob Bernshteyn took to the stage to launch this year’s conference from San Francisco. Suffice to say one could actually feel the energy sitting before a screen thousands of miles away.
As Bernshteyn talked about a “shared vision” and collectively “sitting on a gold mine of opportunity to make a difference” you could see that this was a company that had emerged from somewhat humble beginnings to assume center stage in its own rights. Started by a group of former Oracle people with an idea of how to do procurement better, one has to wonder if Coupa provides a blueprint for scalable disruptive innovator success, or is an anomaly that might never be replicated to the same degree by those competing in the same space.
Based on all the years that I have been in this business, dating back to the old Kaypro computers and CPM operating systems, I have learned one important lesson; technology in and of itself no matter how advanced it may be, is ultimately not the deciding factor in determining entrepreneurial success.
Don’t get me wrong technology, like the air we breath, is important as we can’t do anything without it. However, it is in the positioning of the technology and more specifically the relationships behind its adoption that matter most. And it is here that the true essence of Coupa’s success can be found.
Hidden not too deeply behind Bernshteyn’s words are the values that define the organization’s vision and purpose.
In talking about wanting to be the “unsung heroes” and to be the influential “players in the companies they work for” Bernshtyn referred to that special day when a procurement professional encounters the CEO in the elevator who asks “what do you do here?”
It is in that moment of epiphanic clarity that the truth of what Coupa does and how they do it was shared through references to avoiding “Administrivia”, and the importance of getting into the “transactional flow” of the procurement process.
Bernshtyn then talks about the enablement as opposed to the disablement of the organization, and the importance of bringing diverse stakeholders within the enterprise together for the purposes of achieving a shared outcome. These are all relational soft skills without which the Coupa technology might otherwise be relegated to a historical footnote status like so many other disruptive innovators before it.
In focusing on this relational aspect of the company’s approach to better serving its clients, Bernshtyn then made the announcement that Coupa was teaming with strategic partners such as Alibaba – which will add 2 million suppliers to it’s 1 million strong pool – and how these new alignments will further enhance its service capabilities.
Nowhere in the CEOs opening comments did he talk about market caps or revenue turnover as far too many vendors do, as if annual revenues are somehow a sign of creditability and market prowess. He instead talked about the total dollar amount of client savings that have been realized by Coupa customers, and the targets achieved in relation to areas such as spend compliance and supplier risk.
I guess when you are actually a presence in the marketplace, you don’t have to talk about how much money you make, but instead focus on how you will add further value to your growing client base.
In the end, this was one of the most interesting and engaging opening keynotes for a conference I have seen, or in this case watched.
Despite an incredibly busy schedule, I am certain that I will find the time to tune into other Live broadcasts from Coupa Inspire ’14 over the next two days.
If you would like to catch some of the conference from the convenience of your desk, I have posted the coordinates below.
Coupa INSPIRE 2014 is here! To watch all the main stage keynotes, please:
2) Enter password: NOBHILL
3) Sign in to the event with your name and email address.
4) Sit back and enjoy the show! (schedule below)