At the tender age of six, Rob Bernshteyn was already contemplating his future in business. “Just after my family came to the US from Russia, I remember my folks talking to me about capitalism and the opportunity in our new homeland, telling me that if you work hard and you do things entrepreneurially, you are able to get an advantage,” the CEO of Coupa Software tells The CEO Magazine, adding that this is one of his earliest memories.
As a result, Rob believes he has always focused on the value he could deliver to customers, even at a time when his peers were busy kicking footballs and climbing trees. “On my paper route as a child, I would always be contemplating how to get that paper there earlier; how to make sure it stayed dry in the rain.”
He used these early earnings to establish a baseball card trading business, where he further displayed the customer-centricity that has become a hallmark of his career. “I thought about how I could package cards together in a unique way to help collectors find those missing cards as they built their collections,” Rob explains.
All-Star Sports Memorabilia, as his sports collectables business was called, helped fund his degree in Business and Information Systems at The State University of New York’s University at Albany (he also has an MBA from Harvard Business School).
It was in college that his interest in IT, and enterprise software in particular, was first stirred up. “I vowed to make the biggest impact I could in that industry during my career,” he says. “I created an apprenticeship for myself and worked in all roles from services to marketing and products in larger established companies, such as Siebel Systems, and in smaller start-ups like SuccessFactors,” he continues.
These early years exposed him to ERP, CRM and HCM software. “I wanted to understand every functional domain within the industry in companies of all sizes and business models,” he explains.
Ten years ago, in February 2009, he joined Coupa and guided the start-up through its successful IPO in 2016. “I went into business spend management after seeing the opportunity to save money through smart software and felt that we could build a pathway to very real, long-term, measurable value for customers,” he says.
With headquarters in San Mateo, California, and offices around the world, Coupa’s cloud-based business spend management (BSM) platform empowers companies with the visibility and control needed to spend smarter, simpler and faster. The company’s BSM applications cover invoicing, sourcing, procurement, payments, and travel and expense management.
“Coupa offers the most comprehensive platform for our customers all around the world to manage all of their business spend,” Rob explains. Yet, beyond that, he believes the software – and the intelligence that can be gathered from the community it serves – allows companies to unlock their greatest potential by giving them more resources and insights to power their missions.
Today, Coupa manages more than US$1 trillion in spend data and enables hundreds of well-known brands including Airbus, Lululemon, MGM Resorts International, Salesforce, and Unilever to achieve real business value on accelerated timelines.
His laser focus on ensuring customer success and delivering results aligns with Coupa’s core values and, rather than singling out a single occasion, Rob says his proudest moments are each time a client shares a story about Coupa delivering on its promise to drive value.
“I am both proud and humbled by the opportunity we have to serve our customers,” he says. “Their success has always been central to my success. Zeroing in on the value you can deliver drives prosperous businesses.”
The appeal of Coupa’s BSM platform spans every industry, including financial services, retail, consumer goods, health care and manufacturing. “All businesses, no matter the category, spend money and are looking for ways to optimize that spend, manage supply chain risks or maintain compliance,” Rob explains.
Yet, he cites “awareness for what we do” as the biggest struggle he has faced in his role as CEO to date. “Highlighting the value of our ecosystem and all the ways that Coupa’s BSM platform, and an integrated platform in general, can help our customers has been our greatest challenge,” he continues.
Thanks to constant dialogue with customers about the value its technology brings to their organizations, Rob says Coupa is now fortunate to be consistently ranked at the top for BSM.
“Many of our customers originally came to us to address discrete aspects of their spending, such as expense management or procurement. Many of them are spending smarter, simpler and faster today, gaining a competitive edge in their industries.”
Coupa continues to invest in its core BSM capabilities and powerful community intelligence to offer customers even more value from every dollar spent. “By leveraging spend behavior and data across our community, we can deliver prescriptive insights to all our customers as part of their daily experience.”
These insights are helping customers mitigate risk, remain compliant, identify smarter spending opportunities and improve process efficiencies across their whole business spend.
“Our journey of helping companies adopt BSM practices is just beginning,” Rob promises. “We’ve built a community of businesses and suppliers who engage with one another and manage their spending on our platform.
“None of us is as smart as all of us and by leveraging the intelligence of this community with spend data on more than US$1 trillion, we’re providing every customer with prescriptive insights that help them manage costs, scale for growth and, ultimately, spend smarter.”