We’ll cut to the chase: to the ordinary individual, procurement is not a sexy industry. It’s not cryptocurrency, does not let you plug in a VR headset, and will not fly you to the moon (yet). Though to Natasha Foster, the COO of Paid, a next-generation procurement automation platform, procurement is the next hot battleground for disruption. Paid enables small businesses to connect and work with large businesses, simplifying collaboration for all.
Paid’s mission excites us. This is why we are thrilled to back Natasha, her co-founder Tom Howsam, and the rest of the Paid team in their £2.2M raise, led by our friends at Crane Venture Partners. During their launch, we sat down with Natasha to pick her brain about Paid, COVID’s impact on supply chain, and her post-fundraising goals.
What excites you about supply chain and procurement?
At Paid, we are a procurement platform and that’s what we are doing today. But our big mission is to create equal opportunities for businesses of all sizes all over the world, giving everyone the opportunity to be successful. That mission is what I identify with.
“Big Businesses are big tankers, they move so slowly.”
Big businesses have loads of options available to them. They’ve got financial security. But they are big tankers, they move so slowly. And that’s your advantage as a small company. You can move and be nimble, you can grab opportunities when they come up, because it doesn’t take five committees and 25 people to make a decision. The idea behind Paid is to give both sides access to each other’s plus-points. We are enabling big companies to work with small, agile suppliers so they can be innovative. And we are giving small companies the ability to work with these keystone clients.
So yes, supply chain and procurement aren’t very sexy. But getting behind that mission, that is sexy, you know?
What was the point you knew this could become a venture-backed business?
When I met Tom, he had built the product already. I joined about a year in. He had built a product to solve problems for SMEs and freelancers. It was quite a one-sided way of looking at the world. What we realized when we started working together, and we spoke to big businesses, is that actually, the client side had the problem as much as the supplier side. This was a two-sided issue. Both sides had things to lose and things to gain by working better with each other. And that was when we were like, ‘oh, we can make this work for everyone’. And that’s what’s going to make it a billion-dollar business.
You’re currently managing teams across London and Teesside — how do you manage a fast-growth remote team?
Communication is key. You need to be 100% transparent. You need to keep the whole team updated in a way that you may not do when you’re sitting in an office together because you would filter by osmosis. You don’t get that general chatter when you’re in an office together so you have to be more proactive about that.
“Co-workers exist outside of work…This is a huge thing for our company ethos.”
So much about being a good team and working well together is not just about getting the job done. It’s about feeling comfortable with each other and knowing about each other’s personal lives. Co-workers exist outside of work. You have to be very conscious of that and this is a huge thing for our company ethos.
Tell me about the impact COVID has had on supply chain and procurement workflows.
I think there are two broad themes that COVID has shown big businesses who have complicated supply chains. COVID has shown us that it’s really important to have a good diversity in your supply chain. Most big enterprises historically have thought about consolidating longtail, trying to decrease the number of smaller suppliers so that it’s not that inefficient to work with them. COVID has shown them that they can’t do that. They need to have a diversity of suppliers. And they need the businesses that can move the most quickly and be most agile. They need access to those SMEs.
The other side of it is this concept of remote working and being able to do things on-the-go. Big enterprises have quite manual processes generally. You either need to be on-premise to do some of the work you need to do for procurement, or you need some form of complicated VPN access, all of which hike up the cost of working with those suppliers.
Without wanting to be too tongue and cheek, the impact of COVID has been quite useful for us to open enterprise’s eyes to the changes that need to be made. You need to be agile, you need to have access to diverse suppliers, and you need to be able to do all that from your mobile phone. That’s what we can offer them.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned over the past six months about the procurement industry?
Traditionally, procurement professionals have been seen as a blocker to buying. You get these jokes about procurement being the place where deals go to die. I don’t think we ever believed that, otherwise we wouldn’t be trying to hero the procurement function. But the kind of camaraderie and level of enthusiasm to do better in the procurement community has been amazing. It just goes to show, if you give people the opportunity to be innovative and transformational, then they will do that.
Paid just raised a stellar £2.2M seed round. What are your plans for the next six months?
Yes, we are in a really exciting phase now thanks to Seedcamp and Crane VC and our other investors like Techstars and other awesome angel investors. We have closed our round and are now hiring to support our growth. We are hiring developers because we have some big plans in the product roadmap. We are ramping up our sales process as well. And then we are building the customer service and operational team to be able to support those clients because that will ramp up really quickly.
Some hiring, some sales, and loads of tech developments. That will be the next six months for us. It’s really exciting, having spent quite a bit of lockdown on the fundraise. Lockdown 2.0 will be focused on this.
If you are interested in learning more about Paid or joining the team in redefining the procurement process, visit paid.co.uk.