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- August 28, 2017
- Rob Bernshteyn
Every company faces the fundamental and ongoing challenge of clearly and effectively communicating their vision and their unique value both to the marketplace and internally.
How do you help people make sense of what you’ve done, what you're doing now, and what you plan to do going forward? How do you get everybody in the organization aligned around your vision? How do you get prospects and customers to understand your differentiators? How do you make it interesting, compelling and memorable? How do you do it in a way that stands the test of time, and that encompasses who you are now but doesn’t restrict you as you grow?
What’s in a name?
Some of the iconic companies in the enterprise software industry have names that stand for something meaningful. IBM stands for International Business Machines. SAP, founded by five former IBM engineers, originally stood for Systems Analysis and Program Development, before making some alterations along the way. While Coupa is not the same size as these two companies, I imagine they first considered these questions in depth long before they evolved into large corporations with tens of thousands of employees.
So, what does Coupa stand for? Our name was inspired by the Coupa Café in Palo Alto, a popular meeting spot for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. About a decade ago, the URL was available, and the name was memorable, and that was good enough back in the day. Earlier this year, though, I began wondering whether the letters C-O-U-P-A could stand for something more. Could they help us correctly and clearly articulate our vision for the company? I kept turning this problem over and over in my mind.
Tapping the subconscious mind
Sometimes, the best way to solve problems is to let go of them. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, when I interviewed him on stage at our annual INSPIRE conference this year, casually mentioned that when he found himself stuck on a difficult technology problem, he would simply go to sleep and let his subconscious mind work on it. Often, he said, the right answer would reveal itself when he woke up in the morning.
Of the many insights he shared with us that day, this one stood out to me. Perhaps it was because I had recently experienced the same mechanism for problem solving that he described to us on stage.
A couple of weeks before I interviewed The Woz at INSPIRE, I found myself in a hotel room in Stockholm, Sweden, buttoning up our acquisition of TradeExtensions. In the back of my mind was the knowledge that I had a keynote speech to give in a few days. To top it off, I was in bad shape that evening. I was running a high fever, and couldn’t sleep. Well into the night, I finally fell asleep, only to wake up in the early morning with an idea. I wrote down the letters C-O-U-P-A, and what each of them would stand for. The right answer had revealed itself.
Simply put, we want to apply the best information technology in the world to help companies spend money efficiently and effectively. Our vision is focused on being Comprehensive, Open, User-Centric, Prescriptive, and Accelerated.
Comprehensive: We want our solution to cover every core aspect of spending—procurement, invoicing, and expenses. Then we want to extend outward to power user applications—sourcing, contract management, supplier management, analytics, and more—until we can help any company ensure that they are as operationally efficient as they can be.
Open: We want to lead our industry with openness, transparency, and authenticity among our customers, employees, and partners, at a level unlike any that the world of enterprise software has ever seen.
User-Centric: We want to focus on the principle, "the best UI is no UI,” allowing our technology to do as much of the work as possible for our users, requiring them to get involved only when they can add meaningful value to any given process.
Prescriptive: We want to provide prescriptive advice and insights to our customers based on the intelligence of the entire Coupa Customer Community.
Accelerated: We want to provide real, measurable value for all our customers year in and year out with a fast, results-oriented, and highly agile approach unlike anything they have ever experienced in the past.
This is our vision. This is what we're going after. This vision is why we've done the things we've done in the past, it is why we're doing what we're doing now, and it is why we're setting this up the way we are for the future.
A couple of weeks after my Sweden trip, I made C-O-U-P-A the centerpiece of my INSPIRE ‘17 keynote. Now, in a series of five blog posts, I’ll go into much more detail about each word within C-O-U-P-A, why I believe it matters, where we are today, and where we’re going. I feel that these are five good pillars on which to hang our vision. I hope you’ll agree and will follow along.
Rob Bernshteyn, Chief Executive Officer, Coupa
Rob is the Chief Executive Officer of Coupa, and drives the company’s strategy and execution. Rob has over two decades experience in the business software industry. He came to Coupa from SuccessFactors, where he ran Global Product Marketing & Management, as a member of the executive management team, as the company scaled from an early start up to a successful public company. Prior to that, Rob directed Product Management at Siebel Systems, where he helped build Siebel ERM into one of the company’s fastest growing product lines. Rob also did a stint in management consulting at McKinsey & Company, and spent four years at Accenture, where he focused on global SAP systems implementations.
Rob is a guest lecturer at Harvard and Stanford business schools, and a frequent contributor to Forbes and Fortune magazines. He can often be heard providing commentary on major news channels including Bloomberg and NPR. Rob earned a BS in Information Systems from the State University of New York at Albany and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
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