Tradeshift’s Analyst Day: Platform and Competitive Context

I’m blogging from TradeShift’s analyst day today from NYC. Pierre Mitchell and I are here to get a better handle on what an e-invoicing/network vendor with much larger ambitions to create a new sector, not just compete and win in an existing one. Tradeshift, with its solution and in its overall approach to connecting trading partners, points to itself as the only “platform” that sits between companies in the P2P market.

This isn’t entirely accurate, depending on how you want to sematically argue platform context, but it largely is (we won’t go there today, other than to note that both Rearden and Intenda are also true “platform” vendors in the broader procurement space too). But we do see this notion of a platform going beyond basic supplier enablement and connectivity to encompass the potential for multi-tier users (serving as both buyers and suppliers) combined with the ability to drive Facebook-like embedded apps has some seriously strong potential.

Add a service-oriented-architecture that can allow for simplified plug-and-play across third-party applications and platforms (such a Intuit’s QuickBooks) and the power of a network business model begins to come into focus. Yet Tradeshift is not alone in this vision. We think the next generation of the Ariba Supplier Network (built on HANA) combining elements of SAP Supplier InfoNet and a similar vision to Tradeshift will be fascinating to watch in the platform market.

But the question is not just who will get there first – and at what scale. Tradeshift thinks having a head start is key, and there’s some sound logic there. But MySpace was left in the dust by Facebook (and so was Yahoo, by Google). Moreover, companies are choosing e-invoicing solutions not just for connectivity and supplier enablement, but also for other reasons, such as complicated VAT compliance requirements in Latin America and elsewhere.

Stay tuned as we cover the key themes all day and the rest of the week. Tradeshift’s opinionated CEO Christian Lanng is kicking things off, delivering a talk that promises to “focus on the changing landscape of enterprise software and … the platform era of B2B computing.” We’ll also hear about the latest Intuit/QuickBooks partnership and from a customer (to be named) that recently selected Tradeshift.

We’ll avoid drinking the platform Kool-Aid and balance our coverage with the realties of e-invoicing, supplier network, and broader P2P street fighting that is still categorizing nearly all of the deals at the moment – rather than the broader view of what platforms mean (and don’t) for customers and business partners across networks.

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