Coupa CFO explains how community intelligence brings big data benefits to supply chains

A high EQ culture and strong empathy for customers makes Coupa Software a natural partner for organisations seeking to mitigate their supply chain risk. Todd Ford, CFO for the Nasdaq-listed tech player explains how the company helps customers navigate within a financially stressed world.

Headquartered in San Mateo, California, Coupa Software is a business spend management company that has grown beyond its North American roots to serve customers throughout the globe.

Today, the company serves a spectrum of industry sectors including manufacturing, various consumer segments right the way through to the public sector and large nonprofits. Todd Ford, the CFO who has been with Coupa for just over five years, defines the company as a business spend management platform that delivers value for medium sized businesses and large global enterprises.

“We are privileged to work with customers across all industries, allowing for a real depth of learning and community building across our client base.” 

This sentiment is echoed on the Coupa corporate website where it states ‘our core philosophy is that our customers are our greatest inspiration and that working together with them, we can continue to dramatically change how companies manage their spend.’ 

Todd admits that the past few months during the Covid-19 pandemic have been particularly tough for many of the company’s customers. Especially those companies in travel, leisure and transportation. 

“This is a financial crisis, an economic crisis and a healthcare crisis rolled into one. Companies are looking to reduce their financial risks, while at the same time wanting to take care of employees and ensuring their healthcare” he adds. 

Where finance meets risk and supply 

According to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence, shares in Coupa Software zoomed up 132.7 percent in 2019. Last year the company attracted a substantial number of high-profile customers to its platform. Major new customers included Cloudflare, Volkswagen, American Red Cross and Shopify. The software player also confirmed a ramping up of usage of companies already on board, driving better than anticipated sales and earnings growth during the course of the year. 

What can the company source? Just about anything including a carburettor for a ’69 Dodge Daytona, nets to combat malaria, right through to private jets. At the core of Coupa’s Business Spend Management Platform is a vibrant and growing community of companies, employees, suppliers and partners. With nearly 1.7 trillion dollars in spend under management, Coupa offers both savings and valuable supplier insights through what it calls Community Intelligence. 

This ‘community intelligence’ enables customers to harness the power of big data to perform tasks such as drill into their supply chain and view those suppliers flagged as being high risk. “The sheer number of data points allows companies to engage with the best suppliers with the highest quality products at the right price points,” adds Todd.

These big data insights and prescriptions are especially critical now as companies gear up to meet the business and supply requirements forced on them by Covid-19. In these times, Coupa has assisted companies across the globe to source PPE kits as well as large quantities of sanitiser and disposable masks. This is no easy feat considering the current supply environment. 

Preparing for a post-Covid world

For Todd, building the business muscles to overcome adversity is key to resilience for companies. A world where business risk is non-existent is also a zero-growth and opportunity one. 

“There will always be risk. This could be cyber risk or fraud, which can be planned for, to some extent. Then there are other risks such as a pandemic risk which very few organisations would have been able to foresee. Here it is important for the CFO to work with the executive team, operations team and Board to address risks as they emerge.” 

Also, as Todd points out, there is a serious risk related to ‘doing nothing’. According to research by McKinsey, companies who invested during and post the 2008 Global Financial Crisis outperformed their peer group by a minimum of 20 percent for a sustained period of four to five year. 
While managing overhead and risk is critical, Todd warns against an overly cautious approach. “There is always risk when running any business. Sometimes it is important to just survive and fight another day. But there comes a time when, if you don’t invest, your organisation will cease to exist.” 

Another potential upside that Todd anticipates in a post-Covid world is that companies will accelerate their digital transformation to  drive long-term  ‘stakeholder value’ as opposed to short-term business triage. 

The culture of Coupa 

Todd is especially proud of his role in working with CEO Rob Bernshteyn to take the company from a few hundred employees to one with more than 1,700 members globally, achieving the right ‘meritocratic’ culture where top performers are recognised and rewarded is key to this success.  
Last year, several former employees requested to re-join the company, bringing back their key skills as well as perspectives gained from working for other employers. This sense of community also flows over into interactions with customers. 

“We are always interested in what an individual wants to do. That’s always my first question in an interview. This means that our hires can be more productive. We invest in them and provide opportunities and encouragement that are consistent with their career path and personal goals.” 

EMEA leads the way 

Todd sees great prospects for company growth from the EMEA region and anticipates 30 to 35 percent of new sales in the coming years to come from this region. He has found that the preparations that EMEA made to steady themselves for Brexit have also prepared them for the business threat posed by Covid-19. 

He is particularly excited about South Africa and the level of adoption that the company enjoys here. Already, Coupa’s South African customers include Standard Bank and Multichoice. 

“We have been pleasantly surprised by the interest and maturity from the South African market. We have built a specific go-to market team for South Africa, as it is a cornerstone of our EMEA strategy.” 

“In a time of pressure, people and organisations reveal their true colours. We see people and organisations from all industries stepping up to meet the challenges of Covid-19. The goodwill generated by those who lead well now will last into the future,” adds Todd. 

For Coupa, helping companies to source critical products including face shields and masks from leading suppliers is part of their contribution to a post-COVID world. 

A natural appetite for risk

In 1988, Todd graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley. Today, he has more than 30 years of broad management and financial operational experience. He has extensive background in developing companies from early stage start-ups through to their initial public offerings and beyond. Before joining Coupa, he was the CFO of MobileIron, a company that he helped take public in 2014. 

When Todd is not wooing investment bankers on Wall Street or managing the financial affairs of Coupa, he spends time with his three boys, two of whom are in their early twenties. This includes ample time on the side-lines of the sports field and taking an active interest in their athletic pursuits. Todd has spent much of his free time over the years in coaching sports teams and also travelling. 

He is also a petrolhead and has a passion for racing cars. “I like the team aspect of racing. I like the fact that it’s consistent with striving for excellence – you can always get better. I also enjoy the technical aspects. And as you get older, you know, it’s a way that you can still compete!”