Hi, Rujul. Welcome to our Interview Series. You have an enriched background in building SaaS applications from the ground up. Please tell us a little bit about your journey in this industry and what inspired you to start Zip?
I began my entrepreneurial journey in 2012 when I co-founded FlightCar, a car-sharing company that gave customers free airport parking by renting out their car to someone else, fully insured. After the company was sold to Mercedes-Benz in 2016, I worked as a product manager for a period of time. That’s where I developed a close friendship with my colleague, Lu Cheng, who would later co-found Zip with me.
Lu and I had both experienced firsthand the disjointed and complex process that is required for employees to purchase software. Employees often wonder not only how to begin the process, but how to secure all of the proper approvals—just to purchase technology and services needed to do their jobs. This left us wondering, “What is the best way to seamlessly secure approvals across finance, legal, IT, security and risk teams for a purchase request?” At the time, there was no obvious place to begin this process, nor an easily accessible way to see a purchase request through to approval. In 2020, we set out to create a holistic solution that provides employees with an easy way to efficiently purchase software—and thus, Zip was born. Zip’s no-code platform simplifies the entire intake-to-procure process and gives non-technical business users the ability to easily build sophisticated workflows.
What is Zip and what are your core offerings?
Zip is a leading intake-to-procure solution that provides a single platform for employees to initiate a purchase or vendor request. The Zip platform allows organizations to gain clear and timely visibility across all software and services purchases, while dramatically improving the employee experience. The platform’s no-code configuration and intelligent workflows integrated across back-office systems enable businesses to automatically route requests for faster approval for all cross-departmental stakeholders. Employees begin the purchase request within Zip by answering a conditional intake form, which Zip then uses to automatically generate a policy-based approval workflow. With a modern user experience that employees are happy to use, Zip improves the adoption of procurement processes and can reduce the total time of spend requests by more than 35%.
How do you define an intake-to-procure platform? How do you exactly fit into a modern CFO’s ever-expanding enterprise technology stack of ERP/P2P?
Finance and procurement teams today struggle to keep up with the rapid adoption of technology and services driven by digital transformation. The complexity of the procurement process has only worsened with the explosion of SaaS and increasing decentralization of purchasing decisions. Intake-to-procure platforms, such as Zip, provide a uniform technology solution to shepherd purchase requests from the initial intake to the orchestration of complex approval workflows, through to purchase order creation—with complete visibility for all stakeholders.
With deep integration across core business systems like ERP and P2P, Zip can easily fit into an existing tech stack and allow CFOs and finance leaders to continue using their own tools and software. The platform also integrates with key collaboration tools that are already being used by employees, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, making it easy for employees to quickly initiate or even approve a purchase request.
You partnered with Sage for procurement orchestration and accounting/ERP. Please highlight the key areas of integration with Sage that would help the finance, accounting and procurement teams.
The Zip integration for Sage Intacct automates vendor creation and ensures daily synchronization of records across the two platforms. Joint customers can easily maintain a more complete, up-to-date vendor record, which significantly streamlines workflows across historically disparate procurement and accounting/ERP systems and processes.
As the volume of spend requests and approvals continues to skyrocket for modern businesses, maintaining accurate and consistent records across core business systems is no small feat. Zip’s connector with Sage Intacct allows joint customers to eliminate much of the time-consuming work that can create significant headaches and bring innovation to a halt.
Upon configuration of the Zip-Sage Intacct connector, Zip initiates a daily sync process with Sage Intacct to various sync entities, locations, segments and existing vendor lists. When Zip users submit a purchase request with a new vendor, an approval workflow to onboard and approve the request will appear and prompt the user to create a new vendor record in Sage Intacct. Users are then automatically provided with the necessary data from Zip to build out and complete the vendor record. Approvals in Zip for spend can proceed in parallel, across data security, IT, legal, and other teams.
How do you help CFOs and other stakeholders gain deeper visibility into their company’s B2B purchasing and business spend?
In today’s distributed spend environment, visibility into purchasing decisions is a key factor to enable CFOs to gain more control over spend and reduce risk. Zip acts as the single source of truth for purchase requests and spend approvals, providing stakeholders like CFOs and finance leaders with comprehensive and real-time visibility into the entire intake-to-procure process. As a result, CFOs and procurement leaders quickly see major improvements in savings and compliance. Furthermore, Zip enables deeper visibility without sacrificing business efficiency by allowing organizations to handle larger volumes of vendor and spend requests with limited resources. Zip eliminates time wasted coordinating approvals and allows procurement to handle many requests simultaneously.
Please tell us more about your product development team. How did you develop this team from scratch?
Zip boasts more than 50 engineers who make up the product development team – with top-tier engineers from Silicon Valley tech innovators like Airbnb, Meta, Google and Square. We’ve been able to quickly build this top-notch team from the ground up in a relatively short amount of time, which I believe speaks to traction we’re seeing with our products and great feedback from customers. We are laser-focused on realizing our vision of reinventing B2B purchasing, which energizes our team to work hard together to make the vision a reality.
No code and low code analytics platforms are now transforming many business operations. Could you please explain how these relate to the transformation of modern finance organizations?
Digital transformation has taken root across the modern business landscape—and finance is no exception. As finance organizations rush to implement new technologies to improve their processes, achieve new efficiencies and increase productivity, many are constrained by legacy, code-intensive software solutions that require significant time to deploy. Additionally, major frustrations arise as business users try to adopt, use and maintain these new solutions. Low and no-code tools are fundamentally shifting this paradigm, allowing finance teams to quickly deploy and easily adopt technologies and automate processes that allow them to achieve their business objectives.
The last two years have accelerated digital transformation for businesses of all sizes and stature. What has been the biggest lesson for you that helped you stay on top of your company’s product management? Would you like to share your pandemic experience on how you managed to continue your development works and research during the uncertain times?
Zip was founded in mid-2020 – right in the midst of the pandemic. To sustain a collaborative working environment during this time, my co-founder, Lu, and I kept a video call open throughout the day to maintain (near) constant communication and stay on top of our company’s product development. Several years later, we’ve now built out a powerhouse of a product development and management organization that still relies heavily on the same principles: communication and collaboration.
Your take on the future of data science and AI in the procurement domain:
I believe that data science and AI will quickly become critical components for every finance and procurement department in the enterprise. With its ability to efficiently solve complex problems through software, AI holds the potential to dramatically improve ongoing procurement processes such as sifting through large data sets, conducting spend analysis, managing contract lifecycles, and even managing software and services processes. AI can also automate many of the time-consuming tasks that burden finance and procurement teams today, which can lead to significant productivity gains for the business that create more time for strategic initiatives.
Thank you, Rujul! That was fun and we hope to see you back on globalfintechseries.com soon.
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Rujul Zaparde is the co-founder and CEO of Zip, the world’s leading intake-to-procure solution. As a serial entrepreneur and former Visiting Partner at acclaimed startup accelerator Y Combinator, Rujul is deeply committed to using technology to solve complex business problems. Prior to Zip, Rujul co-founded FlightCar, where he served as CEO through the company’s acquisition by Mercedes Benz in 2016. He also served as a Product Manager for Airbnb.
Zip is the world’s leading intake-to-procure solution. Providing a single platform for any employee to initiate a purchase or vendor request, Zip helps businesses gain clear and timely visibility across all purchases, while dramatically improving the employee experience. The platform’s no-code configuration and intelligent workflows integrated across disparate systems enable businesses to automatically route requests for faster approval across finance, legal, procurement, IT, security and other teams. Leading enterprises and high-growth startups like Databricks, Canva, Airtable, Webflow and over 100 others use Zip to streamline their procurement processes while delighting their business users.