We’re back with the final part of our 3-part series of live episodes recorded at Procurement Summit in Berlin on 29 and 30 September 2021.Each podcast features a different theme, focusing on some of the newer, less well-known startups who pitched and exhibited during the summit. This final episode looks at 3 solutions out there who have doubled down on tackling the lucrative and under-served niche of digitsing services procurement.
Philip Rathjen joins me from Prospeum, a pretty new solution out there that has recently been launched.
Philip explains that the idea came to him and his co-founders when they were working together in IT and they realised how much work goes into tenders, and what a manual, admin-heavy process it is to manage.
This led them to ultimately go their own way and build Prospeum.
Prospeum's features start with supplier scouting and vendor onboarding, and then moves through the complete sourcing process up to the point where a vendor is selected. Their focus is on the big ticket, complex services sourcing requirements in IT and marketing categories. It doesn't offer contract lifecycle management or SRM functionality: it is solely an e-sourcing platform.
So, why not just use one of the established suites for this? Phil explains that the suites are often not just focused on e-sourcing and even those which do have strong e-sourcing modules tend to be a) difficult to use unless you've received a lot of training and b) usually designed with raw materials or commoditised goods in mind, meaning that none of the templates favour services.
Sourcing nuanced, complex services is a whole different board game. Prospeum has a feature that enables pre-qualification of vendors before inviting them to an event, and then enables internal stakeholders and suppliers to collaborate on the platform. A welcome change to what usually happens, when stakeholders and suppliers just email you outside of the e-sourcing platform because they hate using it!
Typical avatar customer for Prospeum? Any business with a large IT spend, typically the higher end of the mid-market towards enterprise level. Banking, financial services, insurance and high growth tech companies would be some examples that fall neatly into that category.
Prospeum websitePhilip's LinkedIn profile
This one is a bit of an outlier because it's vendor funded. In other words, the suppliers pay to have a profile and a presence on Apadua rather than the buying organisation purchasing a SaaS subscription or a license to run the software.
Here to tell us more about this unique approach is Gregory N. Vider, Apadua's Founder.
Greg sees their strength as being "by procurement professionals, for procurement professionals", as both he and his co-founder Markus have a procurement background.
Direct procurement is usually pretty strong in most companies, whereas indirect procurement and specifically services procurement usually lags behind in the maturity curve.
This is especially applicable in smaller businesses, and as Greg explains, the platform can be used by SMEs with just a couple of million € spend, right the way up to enterprise level clients.
The purpose of Apadua is to make services procurement free at the point of entry to buyers, while at the same time providing both sides with smart technology to create value together and build sustainable business relationships on an equal footing.
But if your own incumbent vendors aren't on the platform, then what? You can also onboard your existing vendors onto the platform in plenty of time to run an RFP.
Does Apadua have issues with getting vendors to pay to use the platform? Gregory argues that in industries such as consulting, for example, the sales cycle is not only notoriously slow but also very expensive. Instead of having to do business on the golf course or at corporate hospitality events, why not instead use a platform like this where you're only getting warm leads approach you?
A good argument, at least in theory.
Apadua right now is mainly focused on European markets but has also recently seen activity in the MENA region too, and is seeking to expand further as their platform grows and the company expands.
New features being added include frame agreements and rate cards, which have been based on customer feedback. They were able to pre-sell licences before developing and launching it, to ensure that there was demand out there!
Apadua websiteGregory's LinkedIn profile
Combining both strategic and tail spend on services is where Mercanis' solution has its sweet spot.
Companies don't necessarily want to invest in multiple platforms to deal with sourcing and managing their services spend.
Flexible workflows to be able to adapt to different types of services souring enable Mercanis customers to source both the high level items as well as the more tactical spend through their guided buying capability, driven by Mercanis' built-in taxonomy for services.
Integrating this into the day-to-day workflows and communications from within organisations is done through a Microsoft Teams and Slack integration functionality.
For strategic spend, there is a workflow builder within the Mercanis software.
For the more day-to-day tail end spend, the platform seeks to take away the manual and tedious work, driven through automation.
I ask Fabian who is using this - more traditional corporations which happen to have a large amount of services spend, or service-based corporations? He mentions that in theory they have seen enquiries from both.
Having the "single source of truth" can be beneficial to companies from all industry sectors, as long as they have enough services spend to justify the investment.
Service-based businesses of €100 million and upwards can already benefit from Mercanis, as well as larger businesses in all sectors.
Mercanis websiteFabian's LinkedIn profile