Talking business and baseball cards with Coupa’s Rob Bernshteyn – The Mercury News
What do Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle have in common?
Besides all three being in the Baseball Hall of Fame, each of them also sits on a shelf in the office of Rob Bernshteyn, chief executive of San Mateo-based Coupa. Well, they don’t literally sit in Bernshteyn’s office. Instead, Bernshteyn, an avid baseball card collector, has replicas of some of the players’ most-famous cards, to go along with some player bobbleheads and other baseball memorabilia. For Bernshteyn, baseball cards, and the information and history he learns from them, act like a metaphor for business and the purpose of Coupa.
Coupa provides cloud-based software and services for companies to improve how they manage employee and corporate spending and expenses. Founded in 2006, Coupa went public on Oct. 6, 2016, and raised $133 million when it priced its shares at $18 each. Since then, Coupa’s stock has climbed to around $30.
“It’s wonderful (being public),” Bernshteyn said. “We’re a lot more known, and there’s an understanding that when we say we’re going to do something, we do it.”
Bernshteyn sat down recently at Coupa’s headquarters to talk about the company and its direction. His comments have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Coupa has been around for a few years, but is relatively new as a public company. For those not familiar with Coupa, how would you describe what the company does?
A: We employ best-in-class cloud technology to help companies optimize the way they spend money. We help them get visibility to all of their spending. We help their users route purchases, get the best deals for all the things they need to run; we help them streamline and automate the typically paper-based processes of interacting with suppliers, placing orders, managing their invoices, managing their expense reports. Any which way a company spends money, we employ best-in-class technology to help them ultimately save a lot of money.
Q: So, we’re talking about more than just somebody showing up with a handful of receipts from a business trip and saying, “Hey, how do I file this?”
A: Exactly. With our application, they can speak right into their iPhone, if they want, and say, “I just spent $23 at this dinner, and these people attended.” Then, they can take a picture of the receipt and it gets sorted out for them and managed on the back end.
Q: One of the things Coupa says it does with regards to expense management is “pull it together.” Can you explain what that means?
A: If you think about how a company spends money, it’s typically one of three ways. You either have to get pre-approval to spend money, in which case, you have to route through some workflow and you have to send an order. That’s a procurement process. Another way is they already spent the money and they need to get reimbursed. That’s post-approved procurement. The third way is those expenditures that come in via invoice. Things like your facilities or your lighting or your rent, whatever they may be. We’re really the only cloud-technology provider that looks at all three of these processes and helps a company get them under one umbrella.
Q: How would you say Coupa’s model of expense management differentiates itself from others in the market?
A: One of the ways it works best is that it’s not just for standalone expenses. It’s post-approved expenses, with procurement, invoice control, sourcing, contract management and supplier information management. So, we look at every which way a company spends money and bring that into a much more strategic world of optimization. We also help the back office identify the people that are most likely to be overspending in certain areas and alerting them to change how they spend company money.
We also apply what we call “community intelligence.” We look at all the ways that hundreds of billions of dollars are spent through Coupa, and we inform each individual customer of ours about best practices they should consider employing. Everything like how many people are touched in the expense-approval process — you’d be amazed, some companies touch 15, 16 people in the approval chain, and that may be wasting a lot of time. We help them find ways to improve these processes.
Q: What would you say are some of the challenges you face with getting your customers to employ these new concepts in managing their expenses?
A: It is a new concept, and first of all, you have to have enough data, and you have to have all that data normalized and structured in a way that you can distill it and gain some insight from it. We think we’re well ahead of anyone else in this area. The challenge initially was having enough of a data set in a given industry, or in a given country, geography or location to make the data meaningful. Now that we have looked at and processed well over a trillion dollars’ worth of spend data, we’re solving that problem.
Q: On a non-work matter, you have a big interest in baseball and baseball card collecting. What interests you so much in this and what do you feel you get from it?
A: I like it for a lot of reasons. First of all, we spend a lot time in the CEO role thinking about the future and how to move faster and set directions. Looking back at a nostalgic thing like baseball cards is a nice way to reflect. It’s around sports, which is, I think, a wonderful metaphor for business. And I really like looking at the careers of certain players. I have every card of Willie Mays from his 1952 rookie to his 1973 season last card. You look at the progression of an individual’s career, and the teams he was on, why he stayed on one team, it’s a nice way to reflect on the human spirit and people’s choices.
Rob Bernshteyn profile
Family: Wife, Kira. Sons, Tyler and Kyle.
Current place of residence: San Mateo.
Education: Bachelor of Science in Information Systems from the State University of New York at Albany; MBA from Harvard Business School.
Five Facts About Rob Bernshteyn
His hometown is Brooklyn, New York.
He became CEO of Coupa in 2009. Prior to joining Coupa, he ran global product marketing and management at SuccessFactors.
He ran cross-country and played baseball when he was a student.
He has often provided commentaries on business on National Public Radio.
His favorite baseball card is a 1984 Don Mattingly rookie card produced by Donruss.
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