Stephany Lapierre, CEO and Founder of TealBook, a supplier data platform that unifies systems, empowers people and optimizes suppliers.
During the conversation, Stephany shared her thoughts on trusted supplier records, data confessions, augmenting value, scale and speed, ESG, next gen inspiration, LinkedIn and…Nonino Amaro Quintessentia.
1. What is TealBook’s mission?
TealBook focuses on enriching supplier data at a speed and scale that only machines can do.
That allows us to really power the master data of large organizations so that they can have complete, richer, more accurate supplier data at scale. Users can send data to their system so that they can ensure that the systems have an autonomous way of enriching and continuously augmenting the quality of their information. TealBook also has an interface that allows our customers to see the consolidated view of their entire supplier base, which allows them to look at reporting, access insight and also deploy to buyers so that they can leverage readily-available, updated and complete information about the suppliers they do business with. They can also extend in an intelligent way to identify suppliers that could support by introducing competition to drive savings, innovation initiatives, identifying suppliers that are local, diverse, sustainable, and so on.
Traditionally, the way that we’ve addressed data has been through a combination of services, by cleansing and getting it categorised. This must be repeated because by the time the data comes, it changes.
“Most organisations buy software as a way to workflow data and complement it with a portal that suppliers will come to, to update their information. Trying to flow data between these systems can be expensive, along with the appropriate infrastructure, yet these can still fail to provide good quality data.
For a very long time, there’s been the assumption that buying software will fix your data, but it requires servicing and integrations. When you look at the complexity of the organization, the number of systems and suppliers they have, along with the number of changes and requirements of those suppliers, there is no sustainable, viable option.”
What makes TealBook different is that we are in a time where we can use computing power to access information through cloud technology and the internet, where we’ve been able to use machines to harvest information on every B2B company in the world. ‘Scraping’ is a very easy term, but TealBook has been able to develop ways to identify what qualifies this to be a B2B company versus a hair salon. We’ve been able to turn those into natural language tags that are now supporting our service and augmenting a supplier.
We look at where suppliers are physically located, where they do business, who their customers are, who’s most like them, who are their employees, finance and risk indicators. We’ve become really good at building machines that harvest, analyze and classify certificates before bringing them back to create a universal supplier profile. We look at certificates across small diversity, sustainability, GDPR, and quality, and we’re growing the use cases and the attributes without relying on customers to give us their data, which is a traditional way. We don’t need to rely on millions of suppliers to come to a portal to keep their information updated. TealBook doesn’t depend on either of those things to bring value. Value is when we give the master data of a client, we don’t just share the information; we’re able to activate it to give them so much more than they’re giving us, because we augment the quality and the completeness of the information across the suppliers that they may be spending $20 million with, which they won’t need as much of because they’ll know that supplier fairly well, all the way to the one that they may be spending $100 with.
As they optimise this data and they’re starting to either integrate TealBook into their systems or deploy it to people in the organization, they are contributing to augmenting this visibility, quality and relevance into their data. As we are growing really fast right now, we’re able to use multiple different paths, including continuing to build R&D to find information.
What are we doing with the master data? We can’t share it but there’s information like, who are the suppliers that are most important to the organisation? Where are the spend trends? What are the risk profiles? Who’s most similar? How many suppliers per categories per region and in what sector?
It helps us augment the network with more intelligence on finding suppliers that are most like the ones of our customers. We have additional data pipelines and partnerships and are augmenting all these things.
The last step in building a trusted supplier record is using machine learning and automated processes, which we are doing to augment the quality of our predictability. At scale, we can add to the quality and predictability. We’ve only just started to add the human element, which is something the market has not really seen.
2. What have been the most significant decisions in the TealBook journey so far?
I spent nine years trying to kill the idea of TealBook!
I was building procurement functions for hypergrowth companies and what I saw very quickly was that as soon as they started buying systems to automate payments, invoicing and contract sourcing, they started creating disparity and lost visibility and access in the connectivity of the data. I saw the same problem prior when I was working with much larger organizations building strategic sourcing functions, where the friction between procurement and the business often came.
“It wasn’t a people problem or a software problem: it was a data problem.”
If you don’t have the information available, you’re not adding value, right? If you don’t have it, you’re not trusted by the business and it’s very difficult to influence. However, with data, you can bring a different perspective; you can bring value in that conversation that may influence business decisions in the way that you can impact without it.
When the Source-to-Pay market was selling that ‘cloud technology was going to fix a data problem’, I just didn’t buy into it because they’re competitive in themselves. They’re creating disparity by being in a crowded market. The reality of customers is that they don’t just have Source-to-Pay. Spend is important, but it’s only a piece of the equation. If you’re just focused on Spend, you’re missing out on all this other value. Between these highly complex legacy systems and all these new digital tech companies that are coming to market, how are you going to connect those to each other? It’s an integration nightmare!
And if you keep them as standalone, it’s not going to have connectivity. This propelled me to build TealBook because I fundamentally believe you needed an agnostic way to deliver better data in your system. That vision never changed. But building a tech company using AI, has been an interesting challenge, and it was a puzzle. Initially, the catalyst was just launching TealBook and then looking for ways that we could accelerate gathering data.
I then found my first CTO who worked at Ariba for 10 years, who studied big data and machine learning. He introduced me to the fact that we could use computing power and machine learning to see this information. I was also changing TealBook‘s strategy. We were becoming a real data and technology company, not just a software platform. When you’re building data, you can’t sell it because it’s new. It’s not good enough and people wouldn’t trust it, so we were trying to figure out ways that our customers would consume data through workflows. We started to build applications on use cases that we knew we could deliver. Even if it’s not 100% accurate, it’s fine. It will still give you an indication of the suppliers that are most similar and appropriate for you.
We started with that and then figured, as we’re getting more data, we could augment the master data in a way that that people or companies could use it effectively. We then started selling that and then a client challenged us on supplier diversity: if you have the technology that would improve the error rates and the quality of my data over time, what about supplier diversity?
They’d say it would take them a long time to do this; it’s a manual process and very important to the organization, but it’s something that we have to do and we would like to do it better.
We were looking for successes and looked for an additional 50 suppliers that our technology may have missed. We came back 10 business days later with 800 qualified certified suppliers that met their requirements… it was a huge win. The client couldn’t believe it! They did a spot check with their data, and it was accurate. Since then, we’ve built supplier diversity as a feature.
Two and a half years ago, we were selling ourselves as a software company, which was confusing to the market: is TealBook a supplier discovery or diversity company? Do you provide knowledge management? Once you have data, it enables so many use cases.
We witnessed clients really struggling with the implementation of their large-scale Source-to-Pay systems. They’d spent millions of dollars on software systems, but we didn’t have the data yet to be rich enough nor the functionalities that could help the procurement market.
The catalyst for change at TealBook was someone that’s now joined our team, Matt Palackdharry, who reached out via LinkedIn and said he’d heard of TealBook via a mutual customer. His company had been acquired by Coupa and he saw the same challenges they were experiencing yet weren’t solving.
Matt reached out and said, “if you’re building what I think you’re building – an autonomous way of enriching supplier data – it’s the single point of failure of large-scale Source-to-Pay implementation and digital transformation – you’re sitting on such value, but when I’m reading your website, you look like a software company!”
Matt and I met and within the following months, we were strategizing on how to change our positioning. The good news is we didn’t have to change the tech, as software depends on services and portals for data. It was about augmenting these systems into one which could deliver more value faster to their customers depend on the cleaning up front, along with suppliers to come to the portal to generate value and provide more visibility to our clients.
When we launched this positioning for TealBook, I went to a Procurement Leaders event full of CPOs and some of the largest companies in the world where I asked two questions:
“Raise your hand if you have some confidence in the quality of your supplier data today. I’m not talking about transactional data, not even spend data. I’m talking about the completeness of the information about the businesses that you have under contract today.” No one raised their hand.
“Okay, now raise your hand if you believe that having good quality and complete supplier data is absolutely critical to your digital transformation.” 100% of the CPOs raised their hand.
We can all agree that we have a big data problem. And the next piece of the puzzle was figuring out where to start. Even though TealBook was built for this, no one was going to fully integrate us into their systems on day one.
We looked at the use cases where we could demonstrate value fast enough to show them how to extract value out of their data. How can we provide enough confidence to know which records to syndicate to which system? What use cases would they want to support by using our application?
It took off. And then 6 months later, COVID hit. We announced we had supplier lists and ISO certifications for suppliers for PPE and we got 170 certificate requests in the first 2 weeks. TealBook got recognised by Forbes and from there, our pipeline grew massively. Software companies were coming to us, even though they could deliver data, but not at the scale or speed that customers needed.
“We ended up raising series A funding three quarters ahead of schedule! From there, it was about scale.”
How do we build this repeatable process? How do we get our customers from first use cases to expand faster with more value?
The past year has been really fun. We’ve hired executives with impressive backgrounds and built a team from 30 to over 100 expanding into EMEA. We’ve also announced multiple partnerships: Ivalua, Jaguar, EcoVadis, GEP. Plus, we’ve opened into new sectors: retail, CPG, higher education, technology, mining, construction, real state, entertainment and consulting to name a few!
We’ve even closed a sizable deal with a very large company in 15 days from them coming to TealBook which is unheard of!
3. What do you look for in the perfect customer?
“We want them to admit that they have a data problem! If you don’t understand the value of having good data, it’s going to be hard to build a business case and hard for us to keep helping to grow with us.”
I’d also say by having a complex environment, we can definitely accelerate a smaller company in the early stage of their digital transformation.
We start with data first, but what we find is that we bring a lot of value for clients who have bought Source-to-Pay and have other digital solutions, but they’re having challenges thinking about the future of how these solutions are going to be fully integrated.
Even if they were fully integrated, it assumes that the data in those systems is good, and it’s not. It shows a narrow view compared to what you don’t know. As soon as we start talking about future architecture and how can you buy the best of breed or complement your legacy system with all these cool new digital solutions, that really resonates with the CPO.
Then we work back towards the use case; for example, what are the top three priorities this year? That’s where ESG-related use cases, supplier diversity, and sustainability are big wins because the value of the investment is so fast. Some clients may spend over $500 million which requires investing in vast systems and a digital transformation and understanding that data too.
4. What are the foundations of a great team?
We have been so fortunate to have attracted amazing talent and I think success, growth and energy are attractive to the market, especially as TealBook is doing something completely different.
Culture is very important to me. Our core values have been embedded from early on. I’m doing this as I believe it is the right thing to do for the industry…
“If we win, the entire industry wins.”
My motivation and passion for solving this problem is real and I think I’ve shown my conviction to make it into the successful company that TealBook is.
I believe that drive attracts talent because they seek inspiration. I do think that being a female founder and entrepreneur has an advantage; if you were to interview most of my team, they would tell you that that was a big part of joining TealBook is that it feels different. There’s authenticity, genuineness, and it’s a challenging environment. We built our core values around transparency and collaboration, and we will win because there is a strong need to fix this issue that TealBook exists to solve.
There’s a lot of noise and many consulting firms advising on building data lakes and a data foundation within their organizations, so we cut through the noise for our clients to see this as a viable path that will give them such a competitive advantage and for CEOs to be able to do something that solves the problem that existed for a long time.
Part of TealBook‘s culture involves being curious and finding the best practices to connect yourself with advisors, thought leaders and a wider network. It is challenging, and change is hard which happens constantly. We are all going to keep on evolving and it shouldn’t be a surprise, which energises people! It’s a very challenging yet highly rewarding environment.
It’s important for the team to drive at 90% all the time and not 115%, because that’s asking for trouble for someone’s mental health. We have an unlimited vacation policy which allows people to take time off when they need to, whether that is personal or to take care of their mental health. So, it’s about taking care of the team and respecting that.
5. As we emerge from COVID, what will you be doing differently?
From my home, TealBook has grown at great scale! This has involved hiring more talent, executives and onboarding more people, new customers and even fundraising. We embarked on our second set of fundraising during COVID. The pandemic has provided a lot of negativity and uncertainty for many businesses and individuals, but I can carefully say that it has made me consider the time I have and whether it is necessary to travel as much as again.
My husband is also an entrepreneur, so we’d exchange calendars frequently and see each other off at the airport, whilst balancing time with our children.
“As a result of the lockdowns and working from home, it’s meant I’ve been able to have more quality time with my husband and girls, so that has been a gift! It’s definitely put things into perspective about what is really important.”
There were client conferences and meetings, but upon reflection, I’m not sure why I was in New York and San Francisco as much as I was. I think my energy came from being in front of people.
Now, we are remote first. We also have a fun co-working space in Toronto with a coffee bar and yoga room! People can come here to collaborate. We’re also looking to open a similar space in the USA so our employees there don’t have to travel across the border.
6. What is the vision for TealBook for the future and what will be most important to achieve it?
We want to be the most trusted source of supplier data and foundations that power digital enterprises.
It’s not just within procurement… there is finance, legal, compliance and more.
We want to be the platform that unifies a system so that you can build an agile, flexible and interchangeable technology stack based on your own digital requirements. There’s a lot of cool technology out there. I would challenge anyone that asks those technologies if they’re collecting data through portals, they should add TealBook to augment the investment in that system! We want to optimise a supplier base. These are the biggest untapped assets of the enterprise.
“If you have visibility, you can optimise it to drive business outcomes in the hundreds of millions of dollars in value and that includes hyper savings. It includes introducing innovation that drives revenue, meaning corporate social responsibility and empowering people.
People want to impact their business and drive value.
By providing them with information at their fingertips, they can drive that kind of value. If they don’t and they have to search to collect information and go through processes and different systems, they are not being empowered.”
7. How are you doing good for the planet?
TealBook is very focused on finding suppliers that are sustainable. We heavily invest in ESG. In fact, we have full time ESG analysts and product managers, who are helping to build a data strategy around all ESG requirements. We aim to give enterprises access to suppliers that are sustainable and are making changes to their own business. We believe that making those connections is incredibly valuable and supports those initiatives. We know our customers must report to their shareholders for funding or drive sustainable businesses and we want to empower our customers to be able to do that.
INSTANT STEPH INSPIRATION
1. What is your favourite book or blog and why?
It’s all about a coach that coached a lot of the CEOs and executive teams in Silicon Valley.
I do believe it you have to care about your people. They have feelings, families and dreams, and so you need to spend time to connect with them on a personal level. I think being a really good coach empowers your team to do bigger, better things and have confidence and ask them what they need to be successful.
2. Who is your favourite inspirational leader and why?
I have so many, maybe too many. I don’t want to name one: each inspire me in a different way. I’m very creative and have been inspired by artists as well as leaders for different reasons.
3. What is your favourite app or piece of technology?
LinkedIn! The power of LinkedIn is astounding. You can build yourself, your team, connect, boost thought leadership, publish and share information. Even though it’s an old school app, it’s changed the lives of so many people.
4. What is your favourite cocktail?
My husband doubles up as a great bartender! I’d go for a Nonino Amaro Quintessentia!
5. What’s your favourite way to celebrate a success?
We have to take a moment to think about what we’ve accomplished. It’s so important! We are always onto the next thing; TealBook is getting historical quarter after historical quarter and I think it’s important to appreciate what has been accomplished, celebrate it and recognise the effort that has been put in by the team.
I also love going back to my family, spending time with them and inspiring my girls who may be proud to see their Mom on the covers of newspapers or something! I aim to inspire and let them pursue their dreams.
1. Don’t be afraid to admit you have a data problem!
2. Provide supplier information at the team’s fingertips, to drive value at speed.
3. You needed an agnostic way to deliver better data in your system.
4. Optimise your supply base – the largest untapped asset of the enterprise.
5. It’s important for the team to drive at 90% all the time and not 115%.
6. Make the most of things being virtual – think about your time and the planet.
7. Empower your customers to deliver their sustainability goals.
TealBook empowers procurement teams with a platform that leverages advanced AI to deliver better visibility, increased accuracy and effortless analytics across the supplier base. We enable buyers and suppliers to partner in a meaningful and scalable way by bridging the gap in traditional procurement processes. TealBook delivers on the promise of agile procurement with an engaging platform interface that puts supplier information at teams’ fingertips.
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).