Author Archives: Jason Busch

About Jason Busch

Jason is the founder of Azul Partners, which he started in 2004. He is regarded as one of the leading experts in the scintillating world of procurement, finance and supply chain technologies. Jason currently serves as Managing Director of Spend Matters Nexus, which provides market intelligence, strategy support and due diligence advisory for private equity firms, CEOs and corporate development teams. Prior to Azul Partners, Jason got his on-the-job education in procurement solutions working at FreeMarkets in corporate development, strategic sourcing, marketing and other areas. Before that, he started his career in consulting and merchant banking. Jason holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in English Literature and History.

5 Themes That Excite Me About Procurement & Finance Tech Venture Investing


I’ve spent over 20 years studying the procurement solutions and technology market. A tremendous amount has changed in this time.

When I first wrote a column for Information Week about B2B negotiations and reverse auctions in early 1999 before meeting the founders of FreeMarkets — who convinced me to leave management consulting and join them — there were perhaps a dozen providers in the market with any commercial traction.

To say the sector has grown up is an understatement!

There are over 1,000 providers out there today that my Spend Matters colleagues track (a number that is growing weekly).

Besides the sheer growth, there are five key reasons I’m excited about this market today from a seed/angel and venture perspective. These are:

Coupa acquires BELLIN, targeting treasury management (Part 2: TMS Market, Competitors and TAM / Market-Sizing Considerations)


Last week, Coupa made the surprise move to push its business spend management suite into an adjacent space that no other source-to-pay, procure-to-pay or AP automation solution vendor has gone before: the world of treasury — and specifically, treasury management systems (TMS).

See initial Spend Matters Nexus and PRO coverage here:

By acquiring BELLIN to compete in the TMS world, Coupa will ostensibly fortify its position in being able to sell to CFOs as much as CPOs with a broader value proposition (including broader-based payment capabilities than all of its procurement/AP/spend peers can support, at least without a TMS partnership and development of new combined process flows).

But beyond the expanded CFO value proposition and B2B payment intersections, there’s quite a bit beneath the surface with a TMS that could create additional value propositions linked with transactional procurement, supplier management, risk management, invoicing and payment capabilities.

This Spend Matters Nexus brief provides a quick overview of treasury management system market dynamics, including buyer trends and requirements.

It also offers insight into the competitive positioning of some of Coupa’s key competitors in this new market segment, including CGI, FIS (Integrity and Quantum), Ion (City Financials, IT2, ITS, Openlink, Reval, Treasura, Wallstreet Suite), Kyriba, GTtreasury (GTreasury/Visual Risk), Oracle and SAP.

Lastly, the brief shares TAM estimates (total addressable market) for the treasury management and B2B payments market.

The final installment of this three-part Nexus series will examine potential competitive landscape implications for Coupa’s competitors in S2P and P2P, including SAP Ariba, Oracle, Basware, GEP, Jaggaer and Ivalua.

We also will explore the converse: Will treasury management systems providers “push into” the procurement and spend applications world?

Jason Busch is Managing Partner of Azul Partners’ Investor Advisory Group. He works with sponsors, CEOs and boards on data-driven due diligence, M&A and strategy. Jason is also the lead author of Spend Matters Nexus, a private newsletter and subscription service. Disclosure: Azul Partners provided due diligence services to Coupa as part of this transaction.

Coupa acquires BELLIN, targeting treasury management (Part 1: BELLIN Analysis, Treasury Background, TMS Components & Procurement / AP Intersections)

Mergers and Acquisition News in procurement industry

The worlds of procurement and finance continue to collide. Earlier today, Coupa announced it had acquired BELLIN, one of the few independent treasury management providers in the market. BELLIN offers a full-featured treasury management system (TMS).

TMS solutions typically include capabilities to support cash management, bank connectivity, cash/liquidity forecasting, risk management, accounting/compliance and payments.

BELLIN has historically competed in a market where many solutions are not entirely substitutes for each other (e.g., comparing SAP Treasury and Risk Management to Kyriba is not apples-to-apples).

The same could be said for Ion’s portfolio of solutions (e.g., Reval, IT2, Wallstreet Suite, Treasura, Openlink, City Financials + commodity management plays, etc.), FIS, GTreasury and others.

This Spend Matters Nexus brief sets the context for Coupa’s acquisition of BELLIN. It begins by introducing BELLIN and then provides insight into how a broad-based procurement/finance/spend suite such as Coupa dovetails with the treasury function.

Subsequent Nexus analysis will focus on fleshing out the benefits of bringing together treasury and P2P capabilities, looking at treasury management’s total addressable market (TAM) in the context of source-to-pay — and B2B payments! — as well as the implications of this transaction on the competitors in the market.

Jason Busch is Managing Partner of Azul Partners’ Investor Advisory Group. He works with sponsors, CEOs and boards on data-driven due diligence, M&A and strategy. Jason is also the lead author of Spend Matters Nexus, a private newsletter and subscription service. Disclosure: Azul Partners provided due diligence services to Coupa as part of this transaction.

SirionLabs raises $44 million, signals its arrival at the CLM winners podium


SirionLabs just announced it has raised $44 million in a Series C round that brings cumulative fundraising to $66 million for the contract lifecycle management firm with 400+ personnel. This is a major funding round and vote of confidence for SirionLabs as it moves into the leading positions top CLM market players, which includes providers such as:

  • Icertis, the current unicorn in the CLM pack. Both Icertis and SirionLabs are based in the U.S. with large development teams in India.
  • DocuSign, the ubiquitous e-signature vendor that has moved up the value stack by acquiring sell-side-centric CLM player SpringCM and also acquiring AI-pioneer Seal Software (a very smart move).
  • Apttus, now owned by Thoma Bravo, just announced its acquisition of Conga to help it penetrate the huge Conga customer base (another smart move albeit with some CLM application overlap in the portfolio).
  • Agiloft, an innovative CLM and services management application provider built upon a no-code platform that brings usable RPA and AI “in a box” alongside the apps.

We’ve been covering SirionLabs (and all of these players) for a long time. In its six-year history SirionLabs started out as a niche tool for managing strategic third-party relationships (and the contracts that sit underneath). It’s the detailed modeling of those complex services contracts that SirionLabs has mastered. You can see this in the webinar that we participated in with Unilever where Unilever has used SirionLabs to handle complex services contracts with literally tens of thousands of contractual measurements.

It’s this ability to model complex service levels and obligations (and the associated risks, opportunities and downstream “value leakage”) with a best practices knowledge base that is embedded into its system content and analytics (much of it with robust native machine-learning capabilities). This is why we’ve counseled SirionLabs to go all guns blazing into CLM, because in an everything-as-a-service (XaaS) world that is increasingly digitized, externalized and complex, the contract gets elevated from a one-size-fits all risk transference document owned by the legal department to an ultimate commercial system of record for business value — especially in B2B (this is also far more than a siloed sell-side CPQ systems that configure customer-facing proposals/quotes).

We call this new prospect for contracts and business value “Commercial Value Management” and it’s an underlying competency that underpins all enterprise business applications that manage processes or services that deliver business value — hopefully all of them!

SirionLabs has attained “Value Leader” status in our CLM SolutionMap for a while, with good reason: It has leading solution capabilities and it gets good marks from its customers. Some of the other industry analyst firms are only now starting to wake up to SirionLab’s capabilities. Our SolutionMap has hundreds of requirements in it and reflects our deep assessment and also pure voice-of-the-customer assessments, which is a differentiated methodology relative to the “magic wave scape matrices” out there. In fact, we’re in the midst of evaluating SirionLabs right now for our upcoming Fall 2020 SolutionMap release, and they’ve made huge strides in usability and AI, while furthering the embedding of deep knowledge and best practices into the platform.

So, how will the CLM battle play out with some of the players above? And what does this mean from an M&A and investment perspective? We’ll address this now in the rest of this Spend Matters PRO brief, and we offer some related PRO articles below.

3 Deals Signal a Changing M&A Landscape in Procurement Technology and Solutions (Part 1: Coupa-ConnXus)

Mergers and Acquisition News in procurement industry

Despite coronavirus lockdown measures, the past couple of weeks have seen a flurry of deal announcements in the procurement technology and solutions world (which represent the M&A “re-start” of about a dozen material transactions that you’ll be hearing about for the rest of the year).

Deal activity is not just financial engineering. It is form following function. And form in this case is the fact that procurement technology and solutions are still going strong in most cases inside companies and government. In other words, they’re still buying stuff, at least in many cases.

The reason procurement technology and solutions, even in the economic uncertainty maelstrom of COVID-19, are still hot compared with other sectors is simple: No other set of capabilities or tech can be tied so directly to cost reduction/takeout, risk mitigation, working capital improvement and process efficiency/automation (yeah, we know what that can sometimes be code for, but unfortunately it’s true — as labor economists would agree).

In short, even in the current mess, companies and the public sector are still active consumers of procurement technology and solutions. And on the transaction side, deals aren’t slowing down entirely either, even if the debt markets are still a challenge. Moreover, valuations aren’t taking the same hit as in other sectors (either in the private deals we’re seeing or in the capital markets). Coupa’s stock, in fact, just hit an all-time high last week, valuing the company at nearly $13 billion, putting the firm at over 30X revenue on a trailing basis. That’s HUGE.

Still, there’s changes afoot from a deal perspective. And I believe three recent transactions collectively suggest precisely how the M&A landscape is changing.

In this three-part Spend Matters Nexus analysis, I will share my own perspective on the shifts, both from a corporate development lens (what I used to do) and a private equity lens (the practice I lead today for Azul Partners).

Some of these shifts are subtle, others not so much. But one thing is coming into sharp focus for me: More folks are going to miss out on opportunities if they fail to put the right pieces on the chessboard soon.

Deals covered in this series are Coupa-ConnXus, Apttus-Conga, and Bregal Sagemount’s recent $80 million investment in Corcentric.

For each, here are the questions I’ll answer:

  • What is the summary of the transaction?
  • What is the “gotcha” of the deal (for me)?
  • What additional factors make the transaction interesting?
  • What does it signal for tomorrow (why is it an important signpost for the road ahead)?
  • What are the competitive/market implications for sponsors and strategic buyers?
  • What other (related) providers are interesting to look at in the same or similar markets?

For this installment, let’s look at the Coupa-ConnXus deal.

Jason Busch is Managing Partner of Azul Partners’ Investor Advisory Group. He works with sponsors, CEOs and boards on data-driven due diligence, M&A and strategy. Jason is also the lead author of Spend Matters Nexus, a private newsletter and subscription service.

The impact of COVID-19 on M&A and procurement technology investing (Part 2: Private Equity)

Mergers and Acquisition News in procurement industry

Outside of highly targeted or opportunistic investment interests, the technology and solution areas for procurement and finance have only garnered significant attention within the private equity community in recent years. But in less than half a decade, these firms have become a staple in M&A in the sector. And not only has private equity driven the acquisition and buyouts of many of the largest companies in the sector, but it has also been a source of growth capital investments as well (albeit not as frequently). In recent years, just about every process above a certain size — including numerous providers eventually picked up by strategic buyers — involved one or more private equity firms at some stage.

I spend a good portion of my time leading Spend Matters’ effort to provide strategy and due diligence support to these firms, and in recent weeks, I have been in touch with over a dozen colleagues in the industry. Today, in Part 2, we turn our attention to this segment of the market, examining the COVID-19 situation on the private equity markets, in particular, as it pertains to M&A and buyouts.

This Spend Matters Nexus series, including today’s column, is open to everyone during the coronavirus crisis. It provides insight and analysis about what is happening with procurement and finance technology investing — as well as what we can expect in the months to come, as we emerge from the coronavirus disruption.

If you’re looking for a baseline of information on M&A in these markets at the moment, read Part 1 of this series: The Impact of COVID-19 on M&A and Procurement Technology Investing (Part 1: Introduction).

Jason Busch is Managing Partner of Azul Partners’ Investor Advisory Group. He works with sponsors, CEOs and boards on data-driven due diligence, M&A and strategy. Jason is also the lead author of Spend Matters Nexus, a private newsletter and subscription service.

Segmenting the $1 trillion B2B payments market: Our graphical take (Version 1.0!)

The B2B payments market has a lot of solution providers, and it's time for Spend Matters to highlight some key players across the market landscape. But first, let's take a look back.

Let's compare Goldman Sachs' 2018 overview of the $1 trillion B2B payments market with Spend Matters' view of the landscape now. We break out more than 40 B2B solution providers by category.

Updated! CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE: Sourcing and Commodity Management — Help with direct materials sourcing and automated supplier discovery

Updated April 23: This post about the Sourcing and Commodity Management category has been updated with profiles of additional solutions for direct material sourcing — Ivalua, SAP Ariba, Synertrade — as well as solutions that help with automated supplier discovery — SAP Ariba and Tealbook. The updated passages are italicized, and the new profiles are toward the end.

In this installment of our “Coronavirus Response” series, Spend Matters will explore sourcing and commodity management, with a focus on direct materials. With the COVID-19 crisis impacting logistics and existing supply bases, in China (even though China seems to be recovering), the rest of Asia and Europe (thus far), there will be numerous emerging needs for companies across manufacturing. This PRO brief will focus on solution providers that we’ll profile in this category: Allocation Network, Coupa, Jaggaer, Ivalua, SAP and Synertrade — which help with direct sourcing. You can also use solutions for automated supplier discovery from SAP Ariba and Tealbook, although other COVID-19 related resource sites for supplier discovery have also popped up from scoutbee, Thomas, and various sector-specific resources (e.g., D&B, govshop, and others in the federal government).

The mission of this series is to examine categories of relevant solutions and example providers that professionals in procurement, finance and supply chain organizations should investigate to reduce, and even mitigate, coronavirus supply risk. And even if the solutions are only addressing a subset of the issues, the ability to respond intelligently in the short term can also help set organizations up for the future when sanity returns to the world.

Today’s brief focuses on the second of the seven solution categories that we’re covering:

1. Supply risk management solutions that include supply chain risk, CSR risk, supplier financial risk, etc. (Read this category’s PRO analysis and solution recommendations here.)
2. Sourcing and commodity management, including advanced sourcing, direct sourcing, automated supplier discovery, and commodity management to help dynamically plan and source.
3. Advanced procurement analytics to enable direct procurement and/or to perform “spend planning” when demand drops out or spikes. (Its profile for this series is here.)
4. Procure to Pay (P2P) that emphasizes working capital, dynamic discounting, payment control and related finance priorities to help inject cash into the P2P process — especially for many cash-starved suppliers. (This category is discussed in-depth here.)
5. Fraud, P2P and vendor management safeguards when new suppliers need to be set up quickly, and also when lowlife fraudsters try to use the pandemic as a way to steal money and IP. (Its profile for this series is here.)
6. Providers with deep contract analytics that can analyze a contract portfolio for affected contracts from suppliers (and customers) for not just force majeure clauses, but other related clauses that tie to the multiple risks popping up at once in the pandemic. (Read in-depth detail on this category here.)
7. Contingent Workforce and Services solutions that are able to, at a minimum, help rapidly ramp up on-demand workers to deal with massive resource shortfalls. We are looking at four categories of solutions: for sourcing remote/online work; solutions for sourcing and managing mobile-first contract workers anywhere you need them; solutions to “direct source” and manage contract workers; and solutions for data management and analytics.

Owing to the magnitude of the crisis, Spend Matters recently made the series introduction available for free to all readers. PRO subscribers can see our follow-up pieces that profile the other categories and their solutions in that market. We will include a lot of information on each category PRO brief that readers can see without hitting a paywall, but since we also draw heavily from our existing deep-dive analysis of the providers from our SolutionMap database, some information will be available only to our PRO subscribers.

For sourcing and commodity management, the emerging needs for companies across manufacturing will include rapidly identifying new sources of supply, conducting complex sourcing events for materials, parts and components (which may be tied to broader bills of material), qualifying suppliers based on targeted requirements (e.g., for a specific line), and managing and tracking suppliers based on custom scorecarding.

After the pause button is lifted on production — in cases where one is put into place — these needs will become especially acute during the recovery phase in specific regions (which may be different from the recovery phase in other geographies).

Each category-specific PRO piece in this series has three sections:

1. Problems and Use Cases. We’ll highlight the problems in force (which will vary through different phases of the crisis) and the various scenarios where solutions can provide deeper insights, intelligence and scalable workflows.
2. Solution Rationale and Value. We’ll outline how various solutions can help solve the problems and the specific questions that they’ll help answer.
3. Example Providers. We’ll highlight the solution providers that can support the problems and deliver value.

Some providers are offering coronavirus-specific programs and “freemium” commercial offers, and we’ll note those whenever we update this piece. We’ll also start the series with providers that we already have deep knowledge on, but we’ve been seeking information from other vendors too.

Let’s jump into how sourcing and commodity management can help.

Through April 2020, a special PRO Expert Survival Pack is available to procurement practitioners only* at up to 50% off — Learn more

Coronavirus-era advice: Tips on asking suppliers for payment-term extensions and other concessions

Disruption from the coronavirus outbreak is forcing some tough conversations about payments.

It’s never an easy topic, but asking suppliers for concessions on a call or video chat in an empathetic manner — or even pre-empting the discussions by socializing ideas early — is far more effective and conducive for relationship-building and joint development than sending out emails, letters or other methods.

Click on this post for a partial list of approaches you might take (and questions to pose), ideally in conversation with suppliers if you need to ask for concessions, given all of the disruption from COVID-19.

The Impact of COVID-19 on M&A and Procurement Technology Investing (Part 1: Introduction)

Mergers and Acquisition News in procurement industry

I’ve decided to open up new Spend Matters Nexus columns and research briefs for everyone, not just subscribers, in the next few weeks, as we’re all certainly in a crisis period with the COVID-19 outbreak. To help make my coverage of investing and M&A more digestible, these dispatches will be shorter than usual (some will include frameworks and charts, others will not).

Having worked through two major shocks and downturns — the implosion in 2001-02, the 2008-09 recession — I’m seeing both similarities and differences between those times and the coronavirus fallout today in the procurement, finance and supply chain technology worlds. But for different types of investing, asset classes and M&A activities, it’s clear the effects are already quite individualized.

Today, I’ll start with a summary perspective on what entrepreneurs, CEOs and business owners should expect for the next few months, based on transaction type. Please note: This column is not based on extensive primary research and survey data, but rather anecdotal evidence from what I’m seeing in the market, primarily as an advisor to sponsors and executive teams, but also as an angel investor and advisor myself.

Jason Busch is Managing Partner of Azul Partners’ Investor Advisory Group. He works with sponsors, CEOs and boards on data-driven due diligence, M&A and strategy. Jason is also the lead author of Spend Matters Nexus, a private newsletter and subscription service.