An Insider’s View of Spend Management Software Vendor Coupa

We recently had the opportunity to extend our coverage of spend management software vendor Coupa with insider information from Coupa’s own top brass. Our questions and Coupa executives’ answers are as follows:

TEC: We have already heard about your winning value prop, but what is typically the reason that you lose to your competitors?
Coupa: Pricing is the typical reason we lose to competitors. Our pricing might be more than others on the market upfront; however, we don’t charge any supplier fees, which will ultimately help the customer’s pocketbook in the long run.

TEC: How extensive is your partner ecosystem?
Coupa: We have the following three types of partners:

  • Consulting and Advisory Partners: These partners provide global, national, and regional expertise in spend management, procurement, and expense management. They help organizations with operational transformation by leveraging process best practices and new technology. Our consulting and advisory partners share our dedication to fostering customer success through world-class solutions, services, and support. Examples of consulting and advisory partners include KPMG and Deloitte. We formally announced an alliance with KPMG, the US audit, and tax and advisory firm, at the Coupa INSPIRE 2013 conference. Through the alliance, KPMG will help clients drive sustainable improvements to capture the full value of the implementations of Coupa’s suite. KPMG works with clients to help them make procurement a source of value and innovation through better spend management, productivity gains, and improved internal controls. KPMG International’s member firms have 152,000 professionals, including more than 8,600 partners, in 156 countries.

  • Product and Technology Partners: These partners provide market-leading technology, complementary products, and infrastructure-related services that power and extend the Coupa suite. Our partners are leading best-of-breed innovators that share Coupa’s customer success philosophy. Examples of product and technology partners include IBM (Emptoris) and NetSuite. At INSPIRE we announced technology Integration with SnapLogic, whose intelligent connector for Coupa allows customers to easily synchronize valuable spending data between cloud or on-premises applications. Customers such as Pandora are already reaping the benefits. Pandora’s Richard Rothshild was quoted saying, “The Coupa Snap has helped us optimize our spend, while increasing IT productivity and eliminating tedious processes for synching and transforming data across our 100 percent cloud-based ecosystem.”

  • Distribution Partners: These partners enhance our customer impact and extend our global presence with integrated technologies, applications, business process outsourcing (BPO), group purchasing organization (GPO), services, and regionalized offerings. All of our distribution partners have been trained and certified to sell, demonstrate, and implement Coupa’s application suite. Examples of distribution partners include CCP/Amerinet and IBM.

TEC: How do your customers seek and invite new prospective suppliers and how easy it is to engage them in a sourcing or procurement event for the first time?
Coupa: Existing suppliers can be added simply with a smart search. New supplier discovery is external to the system at this time. We have services partners and internal teams that help with this for many/most categories. Engaging with suppliers is easy—they can access an event with one click from an e-mail without creating a profile if they prefer to do so.

TEC: What is your take on Ariba’s Networked Economy and Social Commerce themes, and what are you doing in that regard (cloud, social tools, big data analytics, mobility, etc.)?
Coupa: Ariba’s network business model is holding their customers and their suppliers hostage. First, Ariba has a transaction-charge pricing model, which actually discourages the use of the system. A customer pays every time they use the system. Ariba also charges suppliers, levying a tax on every transaction that that company has with its customers. This is extremely costly in terms of dollars and relationships for the customers. The Ariba Network is nothing more than a proprietary technology and Ariba’s attempt to control and tax both buyers and suppliers.

Coupa, on the other hand, is “open for business.” Our pricing model is an annual subscription that allows our customers to use our solution as much as possible to drive the greatest amount of savings. Additionally, we don’t mandate that our customers and suppliers transact on any proprietary network. We provide flexible alternatives for our customers and suppliers to communicate: Commerce Extensible Markup Language (cXML), electronic data interchange (EDI), or the Coupa Supplier Network. Coupa’s Supplier Network was designed to help smaller companies reap the benefits of the latest technology and send their invoices and POs to their customers without being burdened with the high costs of using EDI or cXML.

Being cloud native, the Coupa platform is designed to work on mobile devices so that businesses can use Coupa anywhere, anytime. In addition, Coupa offers mobile applications to handle request approvals and expense report creation and approvals so that people on the go can keep the process flowing without logging into the application. Ariba’s recent announcement around AribaPay and the partnership with Discover is an interesting idea, but it is just an announcement of intent (read here). Yet, doing it well will take time, and the final pricing remains to be seen. It is not clear if this functionality will tip the value of paying for all the supplier and per-transaction fees that currently frustrate suppliers and companies.

TEC: Is there anything you are at liberty to discuss on the company's future moves, i.e., new functional scope, verticals, etc.? Or simply, is there anything you would like to add?
Coupa: Our long-term business plan is based on one underlying mission: to deliver software innovation that breeds responsible spending while impacting the company bottom line. Innovation is critical to Coupa’s long-term stability and growth, and is integral to our long-term business plan, which focuses on the following elements:

  • Coupa will continue to organically develop a platform of financial applications that helps reduce costs and increase compliance. Coupa’s pioneering attitude is the real force behind the development of an amazing arsenal of industry-firsts in innovation. The agile combination of cloud technology, Ruby on Rails (RoR), and our application programming interface (API) will continue to fuel our ability to quickly turn innovative ideas into reality. Coupa is proud of all of our innovations because they help our customers amplify their spend power and make an impact on their bottom line. However, Coupa is not finished—our long-term plan includes ongoing development and innovation in areas such as: Sourcing, Inventory Management, Cash Management, Contract Management, Supplier network with seamless buyer-supplier interaction, Community of buyers for information sharing, etc.

  • In addition, Coupa is growing its business globally with more than 350 customers in 40 countries around the globe. Business to date has been predominantly conducted in the US, but the company has made investments in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Asia Pacific (APAC) and Latin America and the Caribbean (LATAM) to grow these regions. In addition, Coupa plans to double its headcount in 2013 over 2012. The company does business with any size business in any vertical, but there are a few verticals that are of particular importance: financial services, health care, retail, food & beverage, and technology. For more information on Coupa’s growth, refer to the company’s Q1 2013 results announcement. Revenue grew by more than 100 percent over Q1 2012, and the company has had 17 quarters of sequential subscription revenue growth.

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