Morning Coffee with Steve Brooke, New CTO at CombineNet (Part 3)

See Part 1 and Part 2 of Spend Matters' interview with CombineNet's Steve Brooke.

Thomas Kase: What are your R&D objectives at CombineNet -- what can we expect?

Steve Brooke: Core R&D is focused on taking our optimization engine further, primarily through evolution of fundamental capabilities, further improving numerical stability and performance. That said, we already see outstanding performance in our optimization engine, with over 90 % of scenarios completing in under 10 seconds! This is an order of magnitude (or two) quicker than what we were capable of at Procuri – and with far larger and more complex data sets in CombineNet. Some specific short-term examples:

  • Our ASAP product will see increased levels of business support
  • Dashboards are coming with our next feature release this fall
  • Communications btw vendors and buyers will be more streamlined and better organized to make the user experience even more seamless

TK: Your thoughts on technology firm acquisitions -- technical and cultural challenges, lessons learned -- what advice would you have given yourself four years ago? For technology firms thinking about positioning themselves for an acquisition or IPO exit, what advice do you have to them?

SB: Fundamentally you have two kinds of acquisitions; technology acquisitions, and market share acquisitions. Acquisitions that broaden capabilities are more likely to be successful, while those that attempt to merge and assimilate functionalities are less likely to work. Let me give an example from my experience.

Since I participated in the acquisition of several technology firms while at Procuri -- the largest being CMSI -- I can say firsthand that technology acquisitions (the assimilation aspect) are extremely hard. Each company has approached their business challenges from their own processes and transferring that across companies is not easy. Any engineering process is filled with choices, and two companies will have many different choices as they grow, some might even be mutually incompatible. The CMSI acquisition was a huge success for Procuri, probably because of the clear functionality separation from the esourcing platform -- it was easy to decide where data would be passed back and forth.

Some related advice:

  • It is important to have realistic expectations – not to get drunk on the possibilities and wake up the day after the wedding thinking, now what?
  • Regarding strategies, for firms going for IPO gold – the key areas of importance are developing business processes and level of organization– for companies preparing themselves to be acquired, make sure your customers love you, develop loyalty and retention.
  • Focus on helping your customers succeed in a scalable way – it is easy to become a do-it-all for clients, but this doesn't scale. Build a base, then you productize and scale. In the SaaS field, this means being able to tell clients what you are about to deliver while making them like it!

Spend Matters would like to thank Steve Brooke for his time and insight.

- Thomas Kase

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