Coupa Inspire in Paris – a Story of Growth and Croissants

There were some 300 people yesterday at the lovely Westin Vendome hotel in a damp Paris for the Coupa Inspire event, all present to get the latest from the spend management dynamos who form the Coupa team. And it is an impressive team, particularly when we remember only around three years ago Alex Kleiner was THE one and only Coupa person in Europe. The growth since then has been stunning.The Imperial Room where the refreshments were held must be the most beautifully spectacular conference room in (see picture) the world, we thought, until we saw the Aiglon breakout room later which is equally Versailles-like. But being France, of course breakfast was croissants not bacon sarnies!

So having got going, Rob Bernshteyn, the CEO of Coupa, kicked off with stories about incompetently designed hotel rooms, an analogy to technology and systems that do not meet user needs or over-complicate matters. Organisations that overpromise and under-deliver were another ripe target for him. He positioned Coupa as being "an extension to ERP applications" - that was re-inforced throughout the day really as the positioning for the firm, along with the focus on savings, usability, and rapid implementation.

He handed over to Alex Kleiner, General Manager for Europe. His presentation ranged widely through e-invoicing developments, two short interventions from clients who are implementing the system, the Coupa Advantage collaborative buying offering, and he even managed to work in a reference around the "Inspire" theme to singer Benjamin Clementine, whose debut album was nominated recently for the mercury Music Prize. (Kleiner was a fan before the nomination, we later learnt - an impressive bit of musical judgement, as we had never heard of Clementine). On a more serious note, the growth of Coupa Europe has been impressive; there are now 6 offices, getting on for 100 staff, and the firm is operating in 14 countries.

There were plenty of client stories during the day, from Cofely, Aggregate Industries and others, and we will be back with some further thoughts on those, and also our report on a very interesting presentation from Magnus Bergfors of Gartner, talking about "post modern" ERP technology.

In terms of new capabilities and products from Coupa, highlights included Enterprise mobility, improved e-invoice processing and "Smarter trip" for expense management. That is an almost scary tool that can track your location and work out mileage for expenses purposes, and even predicts activities to be expensed. (Data is only shared with explicit approval from the individual, thankfully). e-invoicing is clearly a major theme for the firm, and their recruitment of the impressive Marcus Hornberg, one of the world's leading experts on public sector e-invoicing and compliance, will undoubtedly help in that regard. More on that to come too.

"Supplier Information Management" was perhaps the biggest innovation discussed - we need to have a more detailed look at it, but it involves the concept of "right time participation". That means asking for information when it is needed, and creating some urgency, for example by linking invoice payment to information collection. That's not the only dimension, and we'll have more to say soon on the topic.

Future developments take us into fascinating artificial intelligence and collaboration ideas. "Spend Coach" will bring reviews from other users in the organisation and across the Coupa network into play (e.g. for restaurants). And "Source with me" will take the collaborative buying idea of Coupa Advantage into one-off sourcing events - where different buyers will pool volume and go to market to source. Very interesting; we want to think about the wider implications of this to procurement people, as it feels like this is another development that will impact the future role of the procurement professional and function.

So, an impressive and wide-ranging event from a firm that is no longer a "challenger" in Europe; Coupa is now one of the clear market leaders and it looks like their development path will keep them in that position for years to come!

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