New Challenges for Alex Kleiner – European Boss Leaves Coupa After “Six Great Years”

The Coupa story will no doubt make a decent business book one day, describing how Rob Bernshteyn and his team took the firm from tiny to billion dollar valuation in just seven years.

We’ve observed the journey pretty closely here at Spend Matters, on both sides of the Atlantic, and it has been impressive on many counts.

Over that time, growth in Europe – from a standing start – has been as strong as in any region, and has been a major element of that wider success. And while many people have contributed to that, Alex Kleiner, who was literally Coupa’s first employee in Europe, has been the key player. We learnt last week that Kleiner is leaving the firm; hence this look back at his time there.

I met him first back in 2003 when he worked for Frictionless – indeed, he was a founder of that firm in 1998. I didn’t bump into him again until 2010 when he was at Hubwoo. In August 2011, he took on the Coupa role as EMEA Sales Director, later becoming General Manager and VP Customer Success for the region. We share a love of music, particularly live music, so as well as the work, we have also had a few expeditions to see interesting bands over the years.

In his first couple of years at Coupa, he seemed to be spending most of his time on planes, combining the management tasks of building a team with direct selling efforts. He’s one of those really effective sales people who doesn’t appear to be particularly “sales-y” when you meet him, yet can land big deals, and he has the credibility to work with CPOs, CFOs and CEOs. And he landed some very significant deals for the firm whilst in parallel recruiting and building the broader team; while their original target seemed to be “mid-market” clients, Coupa pretty rapidly was winning huge clients such as Sanofi.

We spoke to Kleiner last week, and while he can’t tell us yet where he is going – but not another of the big players in our core procurement space, we suspect – he wanted to emphasise both how much he has enjoyed his time at Coupa and that the move is very amicable from both sides. “It’s been six years now and it just felt like it was time for a change”, he said.

When he moved from Hubwoo to Coupa, he had the summer off, and took the time to read the top 100 novels of all time (as defined by Time magazine, I think). That sums up Kleiner; intellectually curious, hardworking, and a little quirky. But this next few weeks’ break seems to be more about Latitude Festival and some holiday for him before he takes up the new role!

Coupa’s product has of course been a major part of the firm’s success, but hiring the right people in key roles through their rapid growth has also been a vital component. Bringing in Kleiner to spearhead the European expansion drive was certainly one of those success stories, and we wish him well for the future. Our picture shows him (left) looking very casual at the pub last week with us and Mark McCarthy, VP Sales for much of Europe (and more) at Coupa.

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