Rearden Raises $133MM; But Funding Source and Bank P2P Potential Proves Most Interesting

Last week, Rearden Commerce announced it had raised $133 million in funding in its latest round. By all accounts, this is a round that is at least 10 times larger than what we typically see for software providers in the source-to-pay area (inclusive of travel, T&E and related areas). Yet Rearden is not exactly your typical organization, and neither is its primary sales strategy. Even though they do have a direct sales component, their relationships with a range of banks and other travel partners are driving the real scale in customer acquisition. Perhaps this helps explain why their latest 9-figure round came courtesy of past investors including American Express and JPMorgan Chase and Citi, which joins this group of financial giants backing Rearden for the first time.

How does Rearden plan to use its funding? Specifically, "the new financing will be used for various high-growth initiatives, including acquisitions, working capital and debt repayment," according to the organization. It will no doubt help further cement its relationship with Chase and AMEX as well -- not to mention Citi now as well -- who have helped give Rearden "access to more than 60 million consumers" in the past year. In other words, Rearden has further aligned incentives between its commercial partners -- who will drive revenue -- and investors who are now one.

Yet in the history of the P2P sector, large financial institutions have a long track record of mucking up their own initiatives. One could write a book on American Express' dabbling over the years to capitalize beyond its p-card business on the broader P2P opportunity. Focusing simply on distribution will help its cause rather than having to build or license technology, but banks and card issuers in general don't have a good track record of driving broader, procurement-focused solutions into their business and consumer base.

Yet perhaps what may prove the killer app for Rearden and its financial investor and distribution partners will be when banks can really begin to capitalize on the financing side of the P2P equation beyond the basic card level. By tying both card and supply chain finance solutions more closely with eProcurement, invoice automation, travel and related capabilities from Rearden, they might finally have a good enough revenue and incentive story to tell to push procurement capabilities out aggressively through their massive distribution channels. Of course getting different groups to coordinate and work together consistently within a Chase, Citi or AMEX is the equivalent of both parties in Congress sitting down to sing "Kumbaya" together, but you never know what might happen if the combination of Rearden and bank financing mechanisms catches fire. It could -- and the conditional "could" is very strategic here -- be huge.

Jason Busch

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