CloudTrade – and How Would YOU Make Invoicing Sound Exciting?

Last week I caught up with Philip Padfield, who was CEO of Science Warehouse for several years until earlier this year when he was instrumental in selling the firm to their new parent company, Advanced.  It was good to see him – he is clearly very smart but also one of the most personally interesting and amusing people I’ve met in our industry.

He left on good terms after the acquisition (“It’s going well, I understand”, he says) and is now pursuing a portfolio career, including a non-executive Chair role with CloudTrade.  He also introduced me to their new marketing head, Tara Burghardt (who is also, we discovered, the aunt of a young man my daughter knew as a teenage Surrey Heath “school disco” goer. Small world!)

Anyway, CloudTrade has been going since 2010 but seems to be slipping into a higher gear, raising £2.2M this year and bringing in Padfield (who knows his way around the software start-up / next stage world) to strengthen the senior team of three founder directors. When we weren’t talking teenage discos and music (he’s an ace guitarist), we talked about the CloudTrade business, which lies in the absolutely fascinating area of electronic invoicing, and more specifically, having very clever software that enables pdf invoices to be handled easily and accurately, with full capture of data and conversion into e-invoices.

There you go, I told you it was fascinating, didn’t I?  Well … maybe for some. But perhaps not for everyone! So Burghardt asked me how the firm could get the attention of procurement leaders.  Are they even interested in invoicing?

Good question, I replied. I wasn’t really when I was a CPO. It’s the boring end of the process, involving lots of admin (historically) and not a lot of glory to be had.

So, she asked, how do we get through that?

OK, three quick thoughts.  Some procurement execs will be motivated by “doing the right thing”. They can see that payment (invoicing) is the end of a holistic process, and really it should all be joined up. Making that more efficient – and addressing that long tail of small suppliers (which the CloudTrade product does) should be part of that overall process improvement.

Secondly ... is your software really clever, I asked?

Yes, she replied, we have patents on our core tech – essentially “robots” that read human readable documents - the solution can do things that the big purchase-to-pay suites and platforms can’t.

OK, so perhaps appeal to the techies amongst our community. It might only be addressing part of the process, but this sounds like “digital transformation” to me.  If the CPO can tell the CFO or SEO that they’re using leading-edge digital technology to revolutionise handling of invoices … there’s some brownie points in that approach perhaps?

And finally, if you can link it to supply chain finance, then that is a pretty hot topic – because it has given CPOs a way of actually generating revenue and profit from the invoicing process.  Can you do that?

Yes, we can, said Burghardt. We partner with other software firms, where our product adds to their functionality, and several of those offer SCF options. So, we’re an enabler for that.

That was the extent of my advice, but I was told that the firm’s main target market is “the massive middle” – possibly those mid-sized firms who may not have automated AP and invoicing too much as yet. All this is through the firm’s partner network – that includes Advanced, SAP and IBM who are deploying the Cloudtrade solution to larger end-user organisations.

So, there you go. We obviously haven’t seen the product in action, and try as I may, I can’t make invoicing the most exciting thing in the world. But if you haven’t gone far down the road of automating and sorting out what can be an expensive and difficult process, you might want to take a look at CloudTrade.

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