Coupa CEO Comments on Concur Acquisition

Rob Bernshteyn
Rob Bernshteyn
CEO & Chairman, Coupa Software

Rob Bernshteyn previously served as part of the executive management team at SuccessFactors (now part of SAP), running product marketing & management for this leader in HCM SaaS software. He also worked in product management at Siebel Systems, management consulting at McKinsey, and SAP systems integration consulting at Accenture. Bernshteyn holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Information Systems from the University of New York at Albany.

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The September announcement that Concur's formalScreen Shot 2014-01-27 at 12.33.00 PMRob Bernshteyn company sale process has culminated in them finding a home at SAP sent ripples through the finance world. With 23,000 customers, any changes at Concur will affect a lot of people. Many people have asked me what the acquisition of Concur will mean for Coupa and our expense management solution. Here are my thoughts.

By just about any measure, Concur has done an exceptional job of developing and dominating the expense management market up until now by consistently meeting or exceeding investor expectations, running a relatively cost effective, consistently growing business and buying any challenger that attacked them head on. 

I admire what they’ve done, and I had the pleasure of meeting Concur Chairman and CEO Steve Singh not long ago, and told him as much.  Being acquired by SAP is a wonderful outcome following over 20 years of effort, and makes complete sense.

Coincidentally or not, with this acquisition and the 2012 acquisition of Ariba, SAP is essentially following the product strategy we have laid out for ourselves: bringing the needlessly siloed areas of procurement and expense management together in one platform where they can be managed holistically from the cloud. I feel truly humbled that such a historically important company as SAP is following in our footsteps. Now, that's what I call validation!  Of course, their acquisition approach is very different than ours.

As we've seen repeatedly in the enterprise software industry, roll-ups like these create an opening for pure play providers that remain independent. Customers gravitate to the pure plays for real value while the incumbents digest their purchases and then try to monetize them.  Running simple and remaining laser focused on customer success becomes much harder when you are integrating acquired companies and trying to launch internal initiatives at the same time.  I can’t help but feel that this move essentially clears the field for Coupa. 

To be sure, the combined installed base of the two companies is formidable and they will remain the player to beat for the foreseeable future. However, I believe that customers will find that what a pure play company such as Coupa can offer is superior in three key areas that they care about:

1. Platform:  We offer the industry's only organically grown, pre-integrated cloud platform for spend optimization, providing visibility into all levels of spend—pre-, post- and unapproved—in one environment. Other benefits of this type of platform include:

  • Less end-user training, given the common interface across all modules
  • Less setup required, due to shared employee/sso, role and transaction security
  • Less administration required given the common approval chains, shared APIs and bulk load mechanisms
  • Less time and energy devoted to upgrades, given the unified platform and zero functional product overlap
  • Better ongoing support given the common code line to debug
  • Faster innovation due to the ability to leverage platform capabilities for all modules

2. Company:  Customers want ongoing value.  Executives ultimately want our brand of SaaS--Savings-as-a-Service.  We are focused solely on measurable customer success, with one unified team dedicated to that cause across the entire company.

With over 450 customers and a growing track record of attracting significant venture funding based on our ability to consistently meet or exceed expectations, we have the viability of a major player, with the agility and speed of a startup. We have one business model with no alternative agenda related to ERP, database, or on-premise offerings.

3. Philosophy: Customers want choice and freedom to do business with whatever partners they chose.  We believe that all commerce will be dynamic and paperless in the future. We believe that choices by buyers in any category of spend, from office supplies to travel, should not be driven by captive networks.

We are therefore open for business to all constituents with no friction and actively  focused on supporting any and all conceivable methods of buyer and supplier interaction, with no supplier fees.

From my perspective, SAP’s Ariba acquisition opened up the field for us in the procurement space.  The Concur acquisition does the same on the expense management side.  If there is a player to bet on now, I have to believe it is Coupa.