Tradeshift’s Analyst Day: Summary and Key Takeaways

Yesterday, Pierre Mitchell and I attended Tradeshift’s analyst day in New York City. You can read my live dispatches here:

The event was a compact affair, held at a venue very emblematic of where Tradeshift is as a business – a hip penthouse loft space, with great light and views, well-catered, but slightly rough around the edges. The sum, in both cases, did not feel cobbled together, but both have some way to go for primetime scale. I assume this was intentional, as Tradeshift does not exactly want to become the Waldorf Astoria of supplier connectivity and enablement, with prices and an old school veneer to match.

What struck us most about the event was how…1999…it was. Pierre, Lisa and I collectively lived through the old B2B net market makers era as consultants and analysts, evaluating the marketplace models of old (remember the “fat butterfly,” anyone?) Back then, companies were on a mission. They were willing to think big and place big bets – and to adapt along the way. Many ended up not making it – the vast majority, in fact. Yet some thrived and ended up setting the standard for procurement technology systems and networks and a whole lot more, in certain cases.

Tradeshift is thinking big with its platform strategy. They seek to provide a central hub and development nexus for other vendors, customers, and suppliers to engage in shared transactional connectivity and workflow, and to build new “apps” on-top of an infrastructure designed to interoperate with its numerous pieces. If you think Tradeshift (and non-Tradeshift) apps talking to third-party apps built covering areas like supplier discounting, supplier management/on-boarding, trade finance, etc. sold on the platform, you’ve got the idea.

While providing a common infrastructure to build and deploy req-to-pay apps in a manner that is somewhat more akin to Twitter and LinkedIn (think about all the “clients” that rely on Twitter for messaging, but wrap their own interface around it), Tradeshift is also focused on building out application capability of their own. In regards to their own tools, if you had in mind internal AP system workflow, matching, approvals, etc. for e-invoicing that is sufficient to entice some of the largest of global buyers onto the platform to enjoy the other goodies, you'd not be far off.

It’s our bet that when Tradeshift gets into deal cycles early enough, they’ll be able to convince a good many CPO, CIO and CFO types of their vision. But if prospects and procurement/AP/IT middle management have already defined specifications around best-in-class e-invoicing requirements, Tradeshift will have an uphill battle for the coming quarters until their foundational application capabilities fully catch up (and they have, potentially, a broader P2P vision to sell).

We think there will be a good number of early adopters out there.  At the event, we spoke to several potential Tradeshift customers, each of whom seemed willing to focus on the big picture of potentially buying a platform that would sit between their companies and suppliers (and even customers). This self-selecting set of individuals that came along for the day were obviously excited by the bigger picture vision that Tradeshift has – and the broader capabilities that a true platform can provide over the more foundational types of network connectivity from its competitors.

We’ll be providing additional analysis, recommendations and comparative insights to prospects examining Tradeshift in relation to Ariba, OB10, Hubwoo, IBX/Capgemini and others over on Spend Matters PRO next week. Stay tuned!

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