Coupa Software CEO’s Value-as-a-Service Vision Propels the $1.6 Billion Company to Success

Rob Bernshteyn is the CEO and Chairman of Coupa Software, a leading provider of spend management solutions for the cloud. With multiple decades of experience in enterprise software, the tech executive believes in a future wherein SaaS turns into VaaS, or Value-as-a-Service. This long-term vision explains the gist behind his recent book “Value as a Service: Embracing the Coming Disruption,” which offers a perspective on the B2B technology solutions space wherein Bernshteyn foresees providers becoming more like strategic partners that help their customers define and deliver greater value.

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Rob first gained experience in the software industry at his junior year internship with Anderson Consulting (now Accenture) while studying at the State University of New York at Albany, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology. Upon graduating, Coupa’s CEO spent a half decade at Anderson as a programmer, project manager and systems integration consultant for SAP programs.

Like many tech CEOs, Bernshteyn was driven by his efforts to solve a major issue that he saw while working at his previous company. At Anderson, Rob was extremely frustrated with the inefficiency of the enterprise software space, wherein businesses paid large sums of money to implementation teams, without fully realizing the value of the software. Charged with the vision of a better model, the tech disruptor enrolled at Harvard Business School.

With a fresh MBA certificate in pocket, Rob set out for Silicon Valley, where he started at now Oracle-owned Siebel, a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. He is attributed to growing the company’s employee relationship management (ERM) business into one of its fastest growing product lines while serving as the leader of the firm’s Product Management division. At Siebel, Bernshteyn was again confronted with what he saw as the misalignment of customer spend and value realized, believing that businesses were paying too much and receiving too little for it. As an early SaaS champion, the tech CEO preferred a model wherein customers paid as they went, offering recurring revenue and incentivizing a more collaborative relationship between software companies, their clients and third party or internal consulting and implementation teams.

At his next position with SuccessFactors, Rob ran Global Product Marketing & Management, playing a hands-on role in scaling the firm from an early-stage startup to a successful public company. In February 2009, during the rough of the Global Financial Crisis, Rob left SuccessFactors to serve the procurement and supply management space at Coupa, as its CEO and President.

Amidst a slow period for tech IPOs in 2016, Coupa hit the public markets at $18 per share. The company’s $75 million IPO in October was only the second “unicorn” of the year, a company with a valuation over $1 billion. With Bernshteyn at the helm, the San Mateo, Calif.-based company has grown to a $1.6 billion market leader, securing a 41% top line improvement over last year in the first quarter of 2017. Rob has helped grow Coupa from a team of just 19 when he started, to over 800 as of late. Trading at nearly $30 in August 2017, Coupa stock reflects an approximate 64% return since it hit the public market on the Nasdaq exchange.

Rob told Spend Matters in an interview that “the ultimate challenge” that any CEO faces is developing and nurturing the culture of his or her company.

“With the right set of values, I believe that a company’s potential is limitless,” suggested Coupa’s CEO, who says his company’s core values include ensuring customer success, with a results driven environment that strives for excellence. The total cloud-based enterprise says the most difficult barrier with clients is their tendency to resist change, which is where Coupa steps in to try and demonstrate value and act as a trustworthy partner instead of merely a software vendor.

Outside of overseeing Coupa’s strategy and execution, Rob frequently lectures at Harvard and Stanford’s business schools, and contributes to publications including Forbes and Fortune. With his deep industry insight, the tech executive is often featured on news channels such as NPR and Bloomberg, where he is seen championing his idea of VaaS, founded on the idea of delivering software in a new way, benefiting both the provider and the business by driving consistent, quantifiable value.