Jesse Lee, CEO and Co-Founder of Brooklyn Vendor Assurance, a SaaS-based platform uniquely focused on the Enterprise Vendor Management discipline.
During the conversation, Jesse shared his thoughts on ‘alerting up’, optics, unlimited grit, VendorOps, Allyson Felix and Pilsner…
1. What’s Brooklyn’s mission and your key point of differentiation?
Brooklyn Vendor Assurance’s (BVA) mission is to promote the Procurement, organization and its leadership to be a recognised and valuable strategic partner to the business.
“We will accomplish this by bringing supply chain resilience, sustainability, and value for money to the enterprise.
That is a holistic discipline which we call VendorOps.”
BVA are differentiated in a few very important ways.
We’re the only platform conceived and built to cover all major pillars of that VendorOps role. We are geared and designed to ‘alert up’ rather than be a repository for ‘drill down’. Since that covers all the major aspects of managing the supply chain, it opens up the ability to work pursuant to policy that leadership sets. Leadership to set the policy — which Brooklyn automates, drives, measures, and audits — for how good governance gets done; and how great best practices across vendor management a.k.a VendorOps get done.
BVA is different as it is built from the very beginning around some lightweight workflow to push out best practices; many are in the box, but the platform’s ready for customer configuration as well. We can digitally profile – scan and understand – all the important supplier contracts using AI and natural language processing, and the platform will profile how a certain policy stacks up against a stack of contracts. For instance, today ‘How are we positioned around anti-slavery – or are we not?’ ‘When do I need to know about all the novation and termination agreements?’ For all these types of questions, BVA helps ask those questions in our engine, which traces through an unlimited number of legal documents to get a head start on answering them. It saves time, mitigates risk, and opens up a new era of control and optics across the entire contract stock, along with the constant change to those agreements.
BVA is unique as it consumes all the important management information around contract performance, risk controls, and other things in a consistent way by alerting teams when there is something they need to know. Vendors report in easy fashion right into the platform, re. their performance against SLAs and key control indicators (KCIs), among other things.
BVA are already a marketplace where other knowledge partners post their best practice, ways of working, governing and scoring. When customers buy that capability, we share revenue, almost analogous to Salesforce AppExchange.
BVA is destined to be an ever more valuable hub of best practices and a community of experts, underpinned by the best technology.
2. What have been the most significant decisions, milestones and innovations in the Brooklyn journey so far?
The most significant decision was to be a broad platform that solves the challenge holistically, rather than be a narrow point solution that goes to the very depths for a narrow use case.
We think the procurement organization always seems to want one solution to solve many challenges today, which will continue supporting them as they move along their own maturity journey. They don’t want to buy a dozen point solutions to have a well-rounded capability. Ubiquitously, leaders see more potential to be a better strategic partner which calls for our type of approach, that’s what we’ve bet big on now rather than on a narrow sharp tool solving one thing only.
I’d say our first major milestone was getting our first customer, Danskse Bank (based in Copenhagen) who liked our approach! In December 2019 they took a chance on a new company with a new concept. Another milestone I’m proud of is a very fine case study that has come out of that organization; among other benefits, they acknowledged achieving more than a 200% productivity gain on average per Vendor Manager across the entire bank.
Another key milestone is as of March this year, we are now a venture backed business! We have grown aggressively through COVID and concluded a venture capital raise at scale which I am very proud of.
We are also operating as a multinational, our customer Arm has users from San Francisco to London to Tokyo where we help accelerate their work and ability to extract value.
3. What do you look for in the perfect customer and what do they look for in you?
“Passion. We want a customer that is passionate about accelerating the roadmap of their business and IT organisation.”
They want their company to succeed and want to contribute. That is a step beyond the procurement organization that buys and hands stuff over to the users before moving on to the next one.
Our perfect customer wants to accomplish something transformative in a hurry.
In turn, customers look for different things in us depending on the type of leadership within their organization.
“They all want great optics – a need to see far into their supply base.”
Before Brooklyn, our customers couldn’t see much further than what they accomplished through holding meetings with the top few suppliers.
They absolutely want ease of use, people are tired of learning a new system, so you have to be intuitive and easy to use.
They want automation, what can be accomplish digitally in more ways than I can summarize here, but always tailored around that Vendor Manager role and its leadership.
They also want innovation and more value that they haven’t already thought of with suppliers.
Finally, great customers want to know that they can start where they want, to get where they want, as fast or as slow as they want. So, they want flexibility in terms of how they’re going to adopt BVA and at what speed.
4. What are the foundations of a great team?
In my 25 years of doing this there are 4 main things that make up a great team:
1. Trust (almost love!) within the early team, with everyone remembering we all have a positive intent.
2. Unlimited grit with a huge work ethic – we must work hard!
3. Superhero capability in the very earliest team.
4. “Diversity. A team with a diverse skill set, diverse people and backgrounds makes for a more complete team.”
5. As we emerge from COVID what will you be doing differently ?
COVID impacted our roadmap and our own operations.
For our roadmap,
“COVID made the market realise that they can and must work digitally, remotely and efficiently.”
We are accelerating various governance capabilities, including a capability we call “e-Meet” to drive those optics, controls and assessments far down that supply chain, automatically. COVID has impacted and benefitted us because the market is ready and hungry for that now.
For our operations, there has been less change than you might think. We are a modern, digitally equipped company prepared for remote working. Hybrid working is going to be here for a long time, so we ask ourselves, ‘how do we have remote and in-person interactions where it’s all the same quality and participation for everyone?’
6. What is the vision for Brooklyn for the future and what will be most important to achieve it?
We want VendorOps to be a household name in this industry. We want BVA to be the work desk for vendor management across the board. It must be almost preposterous to consider working in this job without the assistance of such a thing, and we want to be the best among them all.
I want to hold a thick book of customer and partner stories of transformation, resilience, sustainability, value and results — powered by Brooklyn. In the end, we want the best community, practices and technology to create a powerful flywheel!
To achieve that, we need to have a history of thrilled customers that are willing to tell the world about their journey. As long as we do our end of it, that will help us build a better community and continue learning from those customers to build best practices, and in turn the best product that embeds those.
7. How are you doing good for the planet?
I’m very proud that one of the pillars of our product is sustainability and supply chain ESG.
We enable any customer or partner to measure, track and improve supply chain performance consistent with the United Nations’ 2030 vision and 17 Sustainable Development Goals. We partner with several partnerships including the Positive Impact Commerce Foundation, and have clients like the UK Ministry of Justice, where we drive measurement and business impact around people, planet, profit and society for their big suppliers. One thing we do is sell a product that improves the planet. Secondly, we try to give the absolute best pricing we can to non-profits, public service, and academia, for anything related to this ESG solution.
INSTANT JESSE INSPIRATION
1. What is your favourite book or blog & why?
My favourite blog is SaaStr by Jason Lemkin, as he has the most compact, yet highly valuable advice for SaaS CEOs.
My favourite book is East of Eden by John Steinbeck, which is very different to my favourite genre of Science Fiction!
I’ve a few favourites on the business side:
- Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey Moore
- Switch: How to change things when change is hard, by Dan and Chip Heath
- How Did That Happen?: Holding People Accountable for Results the Positive, Principled Way, by Tom Smith and Roger Connors
2. Who is your favourite inspirational leader & why ?
Lately I’m super inspired by an entrepreneur: Allyson Felix.
She’s a track and field Olympian and entrepreneur who ran to a bronze and gold medal in Japan…in her own shoes that she designed and built!
She’s already on her way to being the most decorated track and runner in Olympic history, but she slowed down when she got pregnant, and her sponsor Nike wouldn’t protect her as she recovered. They parted ways and she couldn’t find a sponsor. Despite this and against the industry worth billions, she pulled together a few friends and built her own track shoe designed by women for women, exclusively, and then ran in those shoes to bronze and gold in the Olympics.
Today she has a company called Saysh of 10 people, she’s found a great niche, built an awesome product and showed it off herself on the world stage. That is incredible and I’m inspired by that. She then donated those shoes to a non-profit that helps professional female athletes get things they need like childcare or when they’re pregnant and recovering.
3. What is your favourite app or piece of technology ?
My favourite app is MindManager, because I make mind maps all the time. I love it because it actually helps me think.
4. What is your favourite cocktail ?
I’m not a cocktail guy but am more into beer. I’ve been a home brewer for many years, and all roads lead to Pilsner in the end!
5. What’s your favourite way to celebrate a success?
The honest truth is I should celebrate and be sure to celebrate more than I do. But when I remember to do it, I always want to group up and share what we’re grateful for and share where we made something better.
1. ‘Alert up’ first before ‘drilling down’ into the finer details
2. Accelerate building capabilities to address the new normal working practices post COVID
3. Great B2B customers wants to accomplish transformative change at speed
4. Provide optics, ease of use, automation, innovation, value and flexibility to your SaaS customers
5. Trust (almost love), unlimited grit, superhero capabilities and diversity are cornerstones of a great start-up team
6. Partner up to embrace ESG factors and sustainability to build and sell solutions that help the planet
7. Remember to celebrate successes – whether that be on your own or together!
About Brooklyn Vendor Assurance
Brooklyn Vendor Assurance (BVA) is a SaaS-based platform uniquely focused on the VendorOps discipline. BVA automates administrative workloads unlocking higher value add activity to ensure the effective management of an organisations vendors.
BVA’s mission is to enable and equip every user with the platform, process and governance required to drive the highest level of accountability, transparency, performance, and strategic alignment with their vendor landscape. Founded and run by SaaS experts, BVA brings true Supplier Value Management to the Procurement Office.
BVA’s high-quality Vendor Management Framework is best-practise aligned and delivered through a lightweight workflow with comprehensive cross-vendor reporting.
Our industry is moving forward faster and faster, empowered by innovative, progressive digital procurement solutions created and led by inspiring teams. ProcureTechSTARS are the digital procurement company CEOs and Founders that are leading the change, they are entrepreneurs, engineers and architects collaborating to transform procurement and the enterprise. In an open conversation with these leaders Lance Younger will be discussing the highs and lows of building the future now, the challenges they’ve faced, their perspective on accelerators and hot topics, and what keeps getting them up in the morning (and keeps them up at night).