I recently gave Coupa a bit of a chastising in a recent series (Part I, Part II, and Part III) for failing to impress me with the rate of innovation ever since Dave Stephens left, as it looks like they’ve spent most of the last year developing flash (UI) and not substance (functionality).
But maybe that would be the right strategy for Coupa. Let’s look at the reality. There’s a large market out there consisting of companies (mostly mid-size, but some large and small) that have never used anything resembling a (modern) e-Sourcing or e-Procurement solution. At most of these companies, they don’t even know the difference between e-Sourcing and e-Procurement. All they know is Google and Amazon, which we all know are not the F-350’s of the B2B world.
At these companies, something that looks like an Amazon, searches like a Google, and connects like a Facebook goes over well. (After all, they’re not cricketers, and don’t know the perfect recipe for B2B canard a l’orange.) They don’t know that real e-Sourcing involves sophisticated analysis and negotiation techniques or that real e-Procurement is actually a nine-step process built around time-tested best practices to insure that the organization orders the right product at the right time in the right quantity off the right contract at the right price. They still think that ordering office suppliers and commodity electronics online is B2B e-Procurement. Forget about the fact that some of the old-time sourcing pros are claiming that strategic sourcing is dead, these companies haven’t even progressed far enough along the commerce curve to know what strategic sourcing is!
In other words, this market has no idea why it needs an F-350 work horse, and would thrilled to be getting a Chevy Cobalt. If Coupa adopts a keep-it-simple strategy, instances of their platform will sell like hot cakes, and Coupa will do great, as long as they don’t discover that there’s a major fault in the power steering five years down the road after almost one million (1M) seats have been sold.