Coupa Inspire: Kicking Things Off (Plus an Acquisition Announcement!)

Rob Bershteyn, Coupa’s CEO, kicked things off at Inspire this morning (to a crowd between 400-500 including Coupa employees and “200 customer leaders”) with a brief history of Coupa’s ambitions and a number of elements that have inspired the provider over the years.

As with a Tradeshift event a few weeks back, one of the common enemies of procurement progress continues to be Ariba, as portrayed by Coupa (and other competitors). Rob lasted all of two minutes on stage before a subtle “we got burned by Ariba” quote came up as one of over a dozen customer refrains on a single slide that Coupa claims they hear that “inspire them” to do better.

It’s competitive rhetoric. In Spend Matters’ view, customers are the ones who often burn themselves with eProcurement tools by not asking the right questions and making the right investments upfront (blaming vendors is so 2000). Yet there’s definitely a history of challenges in P2P automation.

Still, overcoming these challenges is something that all companies can do – and often faster than before, whether they use Coupa, Ariba, or others.

“Speed matters,” according to Rob. Companies “need to embrace this” view to make the type of impacts that are possible. Rob mentioned the case of Pandora, which is buying everything through Coupa including artists, IT, and stereo equipment to operate its core business – everything beyond indirect and services, which are obviously just the ante for spend control – and got up and running fast across all categories.

As another example, Rob talked about Blackstone, which saved $120K on bottled water by using a centralized contract and requisitioning after it discovered remote offices buying off contract. It’s a basic use case, but it illustrates the power of visibility into spending and a compliance engine to right maverick buying wrongs.

For Coupa’s overall vision, Rob shared that “spend happens one of three ways” in companies. These are: pre-approved spending activities, post-approved spending activities and transactionally-approved spend activities. These three areas map to Coupa’s product vision of building out different procurement, expense management, and invoicing capability.

After all, if, as Rob notes, spend “takes the path of least resistance,” you better be there to shape the optimal path it will weave for itself if left unmanaged. Perhaps this explains why Coupa is buying Xpenser (see our initial coverage here: Coupa Acquires Xpenser, Gains Expanded Mobile/Capture T&E Capabilities) to round out its expense management capabilities.

Stay tuned as our live coverage continues!

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