Why we invested in Keelvar

Published on
June 9, 2020
Toby Coppel
Why we invested in Keelvar

If you've ever sold to large enterprises, we suspect you've felt the pain of procurement. You might have faced a seemingly endless RFP cycle; the tedious back-and-forth of requirements and specifications; or a cumbersome workflow in an archaic ERP system.

On the other side of the table, procurement teams feel the same pain - and this has major consequences for the enterprise at large. At the end of a major sourcing process, it's hard to know if one has found the best supplier, and achieved the best deal. It's harder still to build a truly flexible supply chain, when RFPs alone can take over a year. And this is before we get to the long tail of business spend: the small purchases which can take up much of a procurement team's time, and add up to a large volume of loosely controlled spend.

Now, all this matters more than ever. COVID-19 has reshaped supply chains in an unprecedented way: organisations need to procure more nimbly than before. And in a difficult macro climate, enterprises are compelled to scrutinise their cost bases more closely than ever.

Enter Alan Holland and the Keelvar team. Where procurement software has seen little innovation in the last decade, Keelvar is revolutionising the industry - not just with its modern UX and much-needed workflow automation, but also with the game-changing concept of autonomous procurement.

Keelvar emerged from a leading AI research laboratory at University College Cork, and started out by launching software to assist procurement teams in executing and optimising major sourcing events. This was an instant hit among customers frustrated by legacy products. Keelvar was quick to sign blue-chip customers like Siemens, BMW, Coca-Cola, and ABF - all of whom have enjoyed the dual RoI of improved outcomes and faster processes, benefiting both their buyer clients and their supplier bases.

But the next step in Keelvar's journey is what excites us the most. What if key steps in the procurement process could take place seamlessly and autonomously? What if we could remove the complexity and inefficiency of long-tail procurement? Imagine if we could quickly deploy sourcing bots, to free up procurement teams' capacity and give them superpowers to focus on what matters most? The Keelvar team is already executing on this bold vision: one early customer hailed Keelvar's sourcing automation as "the fifth industrial revolution for procurement".

Keelvar's market opportunity is enormous. Today, global spend on procurement software is over $6B - but we think Keelvar is on the verge of creating a new market that's far greater than this. Keelvar is not only demonstrating remarkable traction with its optimisation product, but also driving its customers towards an ambitious goal of autonomous procurement, a world where both buyers and suppliers use their own software bots to achieve mutually optimal outcomes.

Few teams could be better positioned to achieve this than Keelvar. We've been struck by Alan's wealth of expertise, with his academic background in AI for combinatorial auctions - not to mention his tenacity, and his passion for helping smaller suppliers through difficult processes. With limited early capital, he and the team have built an impressive customer list, gaining a chorus of evangelists across the Global 2000. The business is now gathering tremendous momentum, and we're thrilled to be part of the next chapter.

It's a pleasure to partner with Keelvar at its Series A, alongside our friends at Elephant Ventures and Paua Ventures - and we cannot wait to see the company go from strength to strength over the coming years.