Tai Alegbe, CEO and Founder of Contingent.ai, a proactive real-time insights tools helping procurement teams to make the right choices and partner more closely with the wider business.
During the conversation, Tai shared his thoughts on empowerment, scaling machines, aligning values, compliance by design, Nelson Mandela and remembering to celebrate the wins.
1. What is Contingent’s mission?
Contingent’s mission is to change the way that companies procure and manage their supply chain.We help companies reduce friction and increase resilience within those processes, and ultimately empower procurement teams to make the right choices and partner with the right types of businesses.
Our thinking as an organisation is that,
“there’s a paradigm shift emerging at the moment that companies of all shapes and sizes will be procuring goods and services based on the values of organisations that they’re looking to work with, and through collaboration.”
This is pretty clear: if you look at some of the examples in the market that already are emerging, they aren’t purchasing based solely on price or capabilities, but looking at companies that align with the way they view the world. They look at companies they can collaborate with, often leveraging technology to do that. Ultimately, our mission is to foster and facilitate that shift in as many ways as we possibly can.
We’ve got some great examples of that. We work with a food retailer, for instance, where they use our software to collaborate with their suppliers more effectively and wider teams other than just procurement. They align across areas like compliance and technical capabilities within the product, including themes like ESG and quality.
I guess at a more strategic level, as this shift takes place, which we consider to be a macro trend, you can create a unique category, and we want to be the leaders of that category.
2. What have been the most significant decisions and milestones in the Contingent journey so far?
You’re constantly iterating your product to find that sweet spot in the market. There have certainly key proof points, whether that be from winning our first customer through to larger customers.
“I think getting recognition from customers is really important. Having them buy your product and help shape that is something that we consider to be incredibly valuable.”
We’ve raised a significant amount of capital to date, just under $12 million in funding so far, so I think that has acted as quite a good proof point in terms of not only investors, but obviously customers and their diligence of Contingent creating value in the market. That’s been very powerful.
Also, having people join your organisation from other really exciting companies and deciding to join us on the path is something that I’d consider to be significant.
3. What do you look for in the perfect customer?
I think it depends on the stage. Personally, it’s very important to work with customers that are collaborative in some shape or form. We’re very happy about the product today and the direction that it’s taking, and,
“if you can accelerate those learnings and capture unique insights from customers, that’s really valuable. So, working with customers that are willing to help you accelerate that learning and provide those insights so they can get more value is absolutely the best place for us to be.”
4. What are the foundations of a great team?
To build a great company at a high level, you need as many world class people as you as you can find, that can execute across the commercial, technology and product sides.
We’ve really focused on it and I’d say we’ve assembled a really strong team. We’re very happy with the direction we’ve invested in and the talent pipeline to build out, execute and acquisition motion in terms of being able to acquire the best talent.
There are things that we’ve embedded within Contingent to try and attract talent, such as entrepreneurial culture, embracing diversity, offering modern ways of working, looking at how we can present the business and the kind of brand in a way that resonates with potential hires.
In the same way procurement teams shift who they work with, I think individual employees are also thinking about working for companies that either share their values or align with the way they view the world and that’s something that we have definitely embraced.
We’re a fast-growing company and I think it’s an exciting journey for anyone to join. A lot of people were attracted by the kind of trajectory and the constant change that we are experiencing.
5. As we emerge from COVID what will you be doing differently?
All companies have been impacted in some way in terms of how they collaborate and work with teams and in numbers.
Pre-COVID, we were a sort of remote organisation. As a result of the pandemic, we looked at how we wanted to build Contingent and accelerated how we can work with people remotely and embrace new technologies to facilitate that shift.
From a business perspective, that’s something that’s been a key change or something that we’ve approached slightly differently than we would have before COVID.
In terms of the kind of business and product. I think from our perspective,
“how we engage with our customers has shifted. Companies are much more open to building relationships remotely, whether via video conferencing or other types of communication.”
On both points, we’ve figured out effective ways around synchronous and asynchronous communication as well as trying to find a balance across those to make sure we help people be effective and provide value to customers as well.
6. What is the vision for Contingent in the future?
We’re super excited about the direction of Contingent!
Along with our investors and the customers that we have, I think there is a significant opportunity here to build a new category, and as a result, a category-leading company, driven by the product and the macro trends and themes within this market as well. It’s clear there will be a leader or leaders in this category as it emerges.
We think we’re really well positioned to be that leading company. There are many benefits that come from that, like being able to build a very large company that can ultimately scale and hire thousands of employees, and bring a billion dollars’ worth of revenue which should be a by-product of being able to lead and having the market grow in the direction that we believe.
There are several building blocks to enable that, such as having a product that’s leading in the market and the technology that can support. Also, understanding what it is the customer requires and being able to serve them in the places that they congregate and the places where they want to be engaged.
“Being able to build out a team that can effectively build each of those individual building blocks is really key. Secondly, is build a ‘machine’ that can scale to embrace that, so not necessarily being in the machine at all times, but being able to build that machine so it can drive forward and scale to the size that it needs to, including the product and the tech.”
There are a number of key components that we provide that are quite differentiated, like the ability to provide proactive insights. I think much of the market now is quite reactive in the way they approach some of these challenges.
The Contingent team is continuously improving the platform, its features and coverage, which supports us as we continue to grow as a business.
Being able to embed collaboration by default and also enabling companies to be compliant by design is the way that we describe it, so not having to worry so much about whether compliance is there or not, but enabling them to achieve that in their own way. There are examples of companies that we work with today where they’ve really benefited from us helping them manage and monitor risks. Things like ESG and risk management are becoming an increasing focus.
7. How are you doing good for the planet?
Our product is enabling companies to be compliant by design, and as a result, they pick those organisations they want to work with based on their values that lean very much into ESG and sustainability. As part of our latest investment round, we’re delighted to add investors that have a unique thesis around sustainability and want to contribute to that shift as well.
In terms of the actual product itself, I think we see ourselves as being able to provide a solution that really helps arm companies to embrace that shift.
INSTANT TAI INSPIRATION
1. What is your favourite book or blog?
Perhaps this is a controversial one, but I think it makes a lot of sense for me anyway: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
It’s a heavy book, but well worth read. I like the stoicism of the book and Aurelius’ philosophies of how you approach problems in the world, and I think the overriding theme is the power of the mind and really harnessing that in your thinking.
2. Who is your favourite inspirational leader?
Nelson Mandela resonates with me a great deal. The grace he showed as a leader is pretty remarkable. In addition to that, and I think this is the hallmark of great leaders, is his ability to evolve. I think for any leader, evolution is key and it’s inspirational if someone can shift their thinking, approach or ideologies. As human beings, it’s very hard to do that often, so to see someone who can do that, I think that’s very inspirational.
3. What is your favourite app or piece of technology?
I really like Notion actually. I think it’s great application. It’s a really good place to collect my thoughts and understand other people’s thoughts as well. It’s a good, flexible communication tool that it does what I need it to.
4. What is your favourite cocktail?
I’m not a heavy drinker. I’ll grab a drink socially, like a beer. But cocktail: a negroni or Old Fashioned does it. I’ve definitely been given that poison at times in the past!
5. What’s your favourite way to celebrate a success?
I should probably celebrate success more often! I’m always looking to move on to the next thing as quickly as possible. But a meaningful way of celebrating is with family and friends, as they are often the ones who have contributed to that success. I never think of success as a singular thing that can be achieved, so it seems only right that you would celebrate with those who have contributed in those instances.
“My family has a saying ‘Your success is my success’ and it’s true, my success would be their success too.”
That’s the reality of how all things work. No one ever achieves anything because of a singular effort; it’s a team effort.
1. Align values between you and your customer to create an ideal medium.
2. Engaging with customers to help shape your solution is incredibly valuable.
3. Build a solution (‘machine’) that can scale and has compliance (and adoption) embedded through design.
4. Find the right, world class talent to grow your organisation and work together.
5. Embed attractive, meaningful practices that resonate with your team into your company.
6. Leadership evolution is key and it’s inspirational if a leader can shift their thinking, approach or ideologies, especially through continuous learning.
7. No one ever achieves anything because of a singular effort; it’s a team effort.
Contingent is on a mission to fundamentally change how procurement is done, helping companies reduce friction and increase resilience, while empowering procurement teams to make right choices and partner more closely with the wider business.
Easy to use and simple to set up, Contingent’s lightweight and proactive real-time insights tool fits seamlessly into an organisation’s existing procurement workflow and technology ecosystem, and provides the answers the team needs to act.
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).