Executive Q&A with Coupa CEO Rob Bernshteyn: ‘Getting a Seat at the Table’

Coupa Inspire 2016

Rob Bernshteyn has been quite busy lately, to say the least.

Just last week, Coupa filed for a $75 million IPO just before the Spend Matters analyst team released its deep-dive on the company’s technology capabilities and comparative analysis. As the second “unicorn” of the year — a company that achieves a $1 billion valuation — Coupa’s attempt to go public injected a bit of life into an otherwise ho-hum tech IPO market in 2016.

Just before all of the excitement, we had the chance to pick Rob’s brain in August and get his thoughts on procurement, leadership and where his company is headed.

Spend Matters: How did you first get into procurement? What drew you to it?

Rob Bernshteyn: I've always felt that there was a lot of information technology being applied to the problem of helping companies sell more stuff. I've [also] always felt there is a shortage of effort in applying information technology to the problem of helping companies properly spend.

SM: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing procurement today?

RB: I think the primary challenge that procurement faces is “getting a seat at the executive table.” I think that is just a matter of making sure that the executives at that table have a perfectly clear view of the quantifiable business value that procurement provides.

SM: What are the biggest challenges in your current role as CEO, personally?

RB: I think the ultimate challenge that any CEO faces is developing and nurturing the culture of the company he or she serves. With the right set of values I believe that a company's potential is limitless.

SM: How do you see the role of procurement evolving inside Coupa itself?

RB: We have been using MyCoupa (our internal deployment of Coupa Software) for years. We manage it against a set of success criteria just as we manage the deployments for virtually all our customers. With more value delivered will come more responsibilities and more impact. Our head of procurement understands that very well.

SM: How else has Coupa deployed technology to its own advantage?

RB: We are a 100% Cloud-based enterprise. Our server rooms are hangout rooms filled with bean bags. We believe that anything that can be delivered digitally requires no physicality. The huge advantages are in everything that the cloud has to offer in every area of our business.

SM: How does your team anticipate changes or trends in the industry?

RB: The biggest trend we anticipate will be the ability to gain collective intelligence as a community of like-minded professionals and harness that intelligence for the benefit of the companies they work for. We look forward to contributing to that evolution.

SM: What are the biggest barriers to transformation for your clients, or even within Coupa?

RB: The human tendency to resist change, despite the fact that they often seek this very change.

SM: How vital is industry intelligence to you in your role, to your team and to your organization?

RB: We are very interested in understanding the dynamics of each and every industry that our customers are in.

SM: What are the key traits you look for in partnering organizations (or potential partners)?

RB: Folks who are willing to ascribe to our core values of ensuring customer success, focusing on results and striving for excellence.

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