Woz Inspires at Coupa Inspire 2017

Read time: 8 mins
Wozniak and Bernshteyn having conversation on stage.

“Always design something new that does not come from anyone else’s design.”

“Motivation is more important than knowledge.”

“Don’t let success change you.”

“Always have fun.”

These were some of the most tweeted quotes from tech legend Steve Wozniak, who brought inspiration to Coupa Inspire ‘17 in a big way during a wide-ranging hour long main stage conversation with Coupa CEO Rob Bernshteyn.

Bernshteyn wisely decided to dispense with his prepared questions and Woz, in keeping with the conference theme, “Unleashing real value everywhere,” let loose.

What burst forth was a collection of anecdotes that revealed a man who seemingly innovates as easily as he breathes, and who expresses almost as much joy in having recently developed a $9 workaround for bad wifi in his home (a story he revealed in a meet and greet after the formal presentation) as in his historic achievement inventing the Apple I, the world’s first personal computer.

Perhaps lesser known are Woz’s contributions to both the tech community--most notably for his work founding the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international digital rights group--and to the community at large. After leaving Apple, he fulfilled a childhood dream by teaching computer science at various schools in Silicon Valley. He also funded and helped build some of the schools’ IT infrastructure.

It was fitting conversation for a landmark Inspire conference—our fifth annual and the first since our 2016 IPO. Fun has been evident from the beginning, from the now familiar rock concert like atmosphere of the main ballroom, to the videos from our product team/in-house production company revealing the heretofore unknown humor of struggles with expenses, invoicing, and supplier performance management, to the spectacular closing party.

What really shone this year though was the Coupa community, and the undeniable evidence that, together with our customers and partners, we are building our own design that, in the words of one analyst, “blurs functional boundaries in enterprise procurement.”

In his opening keynote, Bernshteyn spelled out the meaning of C-O-U-P-A: Comprehensive, Open, User-centric, Prescriptive and Accelerated—a description supported by recent acquisition, partnership and product announcements.

The acquisitions of artificial intelligence provider Spend360 in January, Trade Extensions just days before Inspire, and Riskopy, announced at the conference, extend the capabilities of the platform in analytics, complex sourcing and supplier risk management respectively.

Vice President of Product Management Raja Hammoud spoke to the platform’s openness in her day two presentation of Release 18. “We recognized from the start that to get spend under management, the platform has to be open--to third party software solutions and suppliers,” she said.

To that end, several new or extended partnerships were announced: A deeper integration with Nvoicepay to power Coupa Payments to automate nearly all payments; Coupa Open Buy with Amazon Business, which provides an enterprise control layer and embedded Amazon open marketplace content within the Coupa search experience; A product integration with Sabre to let employees book with that company’s GetThere online booking tool and automatically send the booking details to a Coupa expense report; and the announcement of the extension of the CoupaLink third party app certification program to include tax regulation compliance partners.

Hammoud also announced 3 million connected suppliers (a 50 percent increase from the same time last year), as evidence of what she described as Coupa’s commitment to “no supplier left digitally behind.”

As she walked through the highlights of the release, Hammoud was quick to note that it incorporates many ideas put forth by our growing customer community, as well as new functionality developed in close collaboration with small groups of customers. “Thank you for continuing to open your doors to our developers and product managers,” she said.

What drew the biggest cheers was her announcement that customers can now brand their Coupa instance with their company colors with just a couple of mouse clicks, but the announcement of Perfect Fit Insights was what they may appreciate most over the long run. This allows customers to tailor and track their spend management goals, see their performance benchmarked across the community, and receive automated recommendations in accordance with the metrics that mean the most to them—metrics that will be increasingly powered by community intelligence, an ever-growing body of aggregated and anonymized transactional data.

“This is the prescriptive part of C-O-U-P-A, and something we’ve been building to for a long time, first with application level intelligence, then suite synergy intelligence and now community intelligence, drawn from billions of transactions normalized and cleansed using artificial intelligence. This unparalleled community intelligence is something that has never existed in this space,” said Hammoud. As we’re fond of saying, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”