BravoSolution: Quietly Becoming One of the Largest Providers in the Market

Even though it would seem the Emptoris and Ariba PR battles seem to get significantly more press than they're actually worth -- I'm as guilty as anyone for taking the bait -- there are vendors that prefer to quietly push into the upper echelons of the Spend Management market from a revenue perspective. BravoSolution is one such provider. Their latest yearly revenue announcement suggests to me that they're one of the largest providers in the overall market (with $68.3 million in revenue in their fiscal year 2008). According to the news, Bravo's fiscal year 2008 saw a "38% percent surge in revenue, considerable expansion of its international presence and successful penetration into new markets" representing "its fifth consecutive year of profitable growth."

Despite the fact that competitors often try to dismiss BravoSolution as focusing exclusively on the European public sector market, in reality, they are doing a commendable job branching out into a range of market segments. I've been able to validate this from my own research and domestic reference calls. I am also seeing them more often in deals in North America, owing to a range of factors, including the core strength of their sourcing, supplier performance and spend visibility capabilities. Despite their recent average placement in the Forrester E-Sourcing Wave, I have spoken to companies who have looked at BravoSolution's products -- whose roots date back to VerticalNet -- that prefer their capabilities to that of the competition. To each his own, I suppose (which is further proof that such comparisons as the Forrester Wave are quite useless when it comes to creating anything more than an initial shortlist -- and I'll leave it up to you at how useful they are even for that).

But back to Bravo. On a global basis, BravoSolution now has 12 offices in 8 countries and is serving customers with its 420 employees. For those who have been to a BravoSolution office, it becomes pretty clear that this is a company that favors substance over style. Their digs in Chicago, London and outside of Philadelphia are nothing special in the least -- especially in comparison to Ariba and Emptoris, Bravo's largest global competitors. Without question, this is an organization that has put products and customers ahead of building the spiffiest market operations center. I suspect in this economy, such conservative spending will serve them well, especially with customers that value frugality as much with their own vendors as within their four walls.

I asked Nader Sabbaghian, Bravo's CEO, about his views on conservative and fiscally responsible growth and he suggested, "We take pride in our longstanding ability to run a profitable company. We've nearly quadrupled our business in the past 5 years while standing on our own feet. Too many players in our sector continue to rely on shareholder generosity to pay their bills. Well ... the graveyard of supply management vendors is a pretty crowded place with many once notable names resting in peace. It's all quite simple: running a financially viable business will determine whether many of today's survivors will still be around in the next few years. Caveat Emptor!"

What is next for BravoSolution besides spending wisely on facilities? In addition to forecasting growth in 2009, I suspect we'll see BravoSolution continue to double down on its core supply management capabilities rather than branching out into the broader P2P technology environment. After all, they've not yet become an automatic on the RFP vendor list (as they should be) even in their core areas. But as they get invited to a greater share of deals, I suspect they'll continue to increase market-share, throughout both Europe and North America. In this regard, Nader notes that "Diversification is at the heart of our corporate strategy. We are very well balanced in terms of turnover mix and delivery capabilities on key measures such as software/services, Europe/US, Government/Commercial sector. We believe in serving our clients locally and have invested heavily in staffing our offices worldwide. These local professionals are the backbone of our success effectively evangelizing innovation, delivering change and driving our business growth within each country."

Could anything keep BravoSolution from maintaining a top position in the market? Some competitors have suggested to me on multiple occasions that Bravo's ties to Italcementi could hold it back if the parent-company's scandals in Italy become more public. Having met much of the management team, however, I can honestly say that they all have ten digits on their hands. Granted in a few of my meetings / briefings everyone has worn gloves, but I suspect that no one is faking a finger. Seriously, I consider the parent company's scandal old news. Here's what Nader had to say on the subject: "Italcementi is simply a very happy shareholder of a completely autonomous BravoSolution. It does not establish the strategic direction of our products/services and it is not engaged in the day to day running of our business. None of BravoSolution's top management comes from Italcementi or the cement industry. Italcementi is a successful $7 billion multi-national controlled by one of Europe's most prominent entrepreneurial families, the Pesenti's, who founded the company back in 1864. An industrial shareholder has been and will continue to be an important element of stability for BravoSolution. This cannot be said of many of our venture backed competitors whose shareholders have declared speculative intent and defined timeline for exit. I'm afraid we'll have to get used to the Italcementi rhetoric as a cheap shot by our increasingly desperate competitors."

I'm curious what the practitioners, analysts and tech-savvy consultants in the audience have to say about BravoSolution. Please post a comment or drop a line.

Jason Busch

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