Staff Member Spotlight: Tyler Johnson

 

This month, we’re shining the spotlight on ConnXus’ Senior Manager of Technology Solutions, Tyler Johnson. Tyler joined the company in September of 2014 and currently leads the ConnXus IT Development team.

Tyler-Johnson

What motivates you to jump out of bed in the morning?

TJ: Jump is far too strong a word to describe my motion out of bed in the morning. However, it’s easier to go to sleep after having accomplished something during the day—at ConnXus, I always feel as if I’ve accomplished more than I set out for each day. Staying in bed longer just gives you less time to achieve your goals.

What are your top three responsibilities as Sr. Manager of Technology Solutions?

TJ: My largest responsibility is 1) ensuring a constant secure access to our software services is available, 2) providing and maintaining quality solutions that have passed rigorous testing requirements, and 3) producing innovative enhancements and features so that our services literally meet our motto: “Supplier Diversity Made Simple.”

How is your role pertinent to a fairly young software company?

TJ: We are in a stage where we have proven our model and have created a solid technology platform. Our next hurdles will be scaling to meet ever-increasing demands and usages of services while continuing to innovate. We have been preparing for this progression for years. My role is important in keeping us on track to have the technology, services, and processes of the company that we want to be not the company that we are now.

What song best represents your company and why?

TJ: Movin’ Out by Billy Joel—time after time ConnXus has shown that we won’t accept what the majority receives as “good enough” for a supplier diversity program. The largest sum spent with diverse suppliers does not always equate to the greatest economic impact. The materialism in “Movin’ Out” represents this outdated outlook on the supplier diversity industry as just another corporate checkbox.

When you’re not working, where in Cincinnati do you like to spend your time?

TJ: In my free time I most enjoy spending time at home with my family, single-track mountain biking around Cincinnati, Indiana and Kentucky, and attending my daughter’s sporting events.

What attracted you to work at ConnXus?

TJ: I knew that I had a purpose at ConnXus. I believed that our founder and CEO, Rod Robinson, was more than confident in his vision for ConnXus, and I saw a strong demand for advances in the under-served levels and quality of technology solutions in the supplier diversity space at that point in time. I had worked for similar small companies and larger companies and believed I could drive ConnXus’ growth in regards to development, infrastructure, and processes.

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ConnXus Raises $5M in Series “A” Funding

 

PR Newswire, Mason, Ohio – May 11, 2016 

ConnXus, a supplier diversity technology platform, today announced that it has closed $5 million in Series “A” funding, led by Techstars Ventures, Serious Change L.P. and Impact America Fund.

“This round of funding will significantly accelerate ConnXus’ long-term impact on generating sustainable and diverse supply chains,” said Rod Robinson, CEO and founder of ConnXus. “To date we’ve raised $10 million in investments, including participation from Techstars Ventures, CincyTech, Serious Change L.P., Impact America Fund, and several private angel investors.”

Rod-Robinson

ConnXus’ cloud-based, supplier diversity sustainability dashboards open the door for procurement, supplier diversity, and supply chain professionals to access a wealth of global supply chain analytics. Robinson believes Techstars and the other investors are the right investors for the company to disrupt and add imperative value to the $10-billion supply chain and procurement software market.

Robinson founded ConnXus in 2010 as a result of his personal experience and frustration with the complexities associated with locating qualified diverse suppliers, tracking spending, maintaining diversity certifications, and reporting reliable results in accordance with corporate and government mandates. ConnXus now solves this problem with a user-friendly and cloud-based technology platform. “During my tenure as a procurement executive with responsibility for supplier diversity,” he said, “I thought it was expensive and inefficient to pay for access to separate databases to search for minority-, women- , veteran-, and other classifications of diverse-owned businesses. ConnXus now makes it simple, with a single database of 1.7 million+ suppliers that combines all diversity classifications. Bid opportunities disseminated through the ConnXus platform have led to millions of dollars spent with diverse suppliers.”

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While minority- and woman-owned businesses represent more than 50 percent of all U.S. businesses, they only account for 6 percent of the $30 trillion in total annual revenue generated. Because small businesses provide 65 percent of net new jobs, it is imperative to foster an economic environment that supports the growth of small and diverse businesses. ConnXus is proud that 29 percent of its own employees are minority and 38 percent are women. This includes the hiring of COO and early investor Daryl Hammett, previously the highest-ranking African-American executive at the global retail giant Luxottica Retail, where he was a senior vice president & general manager running a $900-million brand. In support of young business leaders, Hammett has been a member of the prestigious, Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) international Cincinnati Chapter since 2012.

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“Not only does ConnXus align with our initiatives to serve high-performing, emerging technology companies, but they have created innovative software that directly improves diversity in the supply chain for startups and corporations,” said David Cohen, Techstars’ co-founder and managing partner. “Our investment in ConnXus is the latest investment from Techstars Ventures, our third fund, which is focused on seed and Series ‘A’ investments.”

This investment by Techstars also comes on the heels of its commitment to the White House to increase diversity in tech entrepreneurship, as well as the Techstars Foundation’s inaugural grants. Robinson is a founding member of the TechStars Foundation advisory board.

“Unprecedented in the supplier diversity space, this $5-million investment will redefine supplier diversity and inclusive procurement with a technology solution that is innovating economic inclusion analytics,” said Hammett, investor and chief operations officer of ConnXus. “We will now be enabled to ramp up marketing and sales, augment our software engineering team, pursue global strategic partnerships, and add to our management team.”

About ConnXus
ConnXus is a supplier diversity technology platform and certified minority-owned business (MBE) headquartered in Mason, Ohio. The cloud-based company helps small and diverse businesses, including woman- and minority-owned companies, grow by connecting them to Fortune 2,000 corporations.

About Techstars Ventures
Techstars Ventures is the venture capital arm of Techstars. Techstars Ventures has $265 million under management and they are currently investing out of their third fund totaling $150 million which is focused on Seed and Series A investments. They primarily co-invest alongside venture capital and angel communities in Techstars accelerator program graduates, new companies started by Techstars alumni, and companies formed by Techstars mentors.

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News Coverage

Fast-growing Cincinnati Startup Raises $5M to Fuel Expansion

Mason startup ConnXus lands $5M venture capital investment

The 8 Questions Small Business Owners Should Ask When Seeking Capital

 

Publishing Note: We’re pleased to introduce an 8-part small business financing blog series in partnership with The Business Backer. This blog series will clear the financial fog, providing you with the tools necessary to make the best financing decision for your diverse or woman-owned small business.

Each blog will address a key question you should ask potential funders before accepting a deal. Making an informed financing decision can help you avoid the traps and find the right partner for your business.

The-Business-Backer-Logo

Since 2007, The Business Backer, a Greater Cincinnati-based company, has helped thousands of small businesses across the country secure the financing they need to thrive. Their area of expertise includes factoring B2B invoices into cash, purchase and specialty financing, equipment leasing and help accessing traditional loans and lines of credit.

The 8 Questions Small Business Owners Should Ask When Seeking Capital

Just like we need water, oxygen, Netflix, and other basic human necessities to survive and thrive, you need capital for your business. From covering payroll during a lull in business to capitalizing on an opportunity to expand, working capital is essential to your livelihood. While the importance of working capital has remained the same for decades, accessing it through traditional means has changed dramatically.

It wasn’t more than ten years ago that you could pop in to your local bank, talk to your banker and access the capital you needed in a few weeks. Unfortunately, times have changed. The economic collapse of 2008 resulted in a regulatory environment with an even more conservative approach to commercial lending, and the sector that has taken the brunt of this conservatism is small business. While market conditions are slowly improving for small business, it is still an uphill battle.

Read more here.

Supplier Diversity Innovation Track: From Best to Next Practices

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Daryl Hammett, ConnXus COO

“Our leaders must be willing to have the conversation to reset the expectation…Let’s raise the bar on increasing Tier 2, 3 and 4 supply chain spend.” – ConnXus COO, Daryl Hammett

Supplier diversity innovation means moving past “best practices” toward the future, or what ConnXus refers to as“next practices.” This means moving beyond meeting reporting deadlines to challenging the status quo and increasing spend not only in Tier 2, but in Tier 3 and Tier 4.

The future of supplier diversity is rerouting mandatory reporting requirements by challenging the status quo: Increasing multi-tiered spend, building relationships with local businesses and reflecting the economy through key performance indicators.

As procurement officers, supplier diversity and supply chain managers, let’s go beyond basic tracking and reporting spend to measuring the economic impacts of diverse hiring and engaging with local business.

In order to reach this heightened level of innovation in the supplier diversity arena, three key changes need to be addressed:

Increase Engagement with Suppliers

Increased enterprise engagement with Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers will diversify the supply chain and solidify future business opportunities. By registering suppliers in a portal database, supplier relations, qualifications and specific data are readily accessibly to maintain and prospect impending business relations. Place the focus on building mutually-beneficial, long-lasting relationships with suppliers.

Impact Local Businesses

Engaging with not only prime suppliers, but also Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers gives the enterprise company more visibility, opening up windows for prospective primes in the future. Local vendors will reduce transportation costs, and in turn, corporations are fueling and mirroring inclusive economic activity.

Revamp KPI’s

Key performance indicators, or KPI’s, should already be marked, managed and measured on a tight schedule. Setting goals to track each point of direct and indirect spend in the supply chain will only enhance and boost supplier diversity initiatives. Measure not only the percentage of spend dedicated toward diverse suppliers, but also set goals for increasing the percentage of spend over the next five and ten years, while enhancing supplier development and efficiency.

Tweaking these supplier diversity “next practices” will stimulate more diverse supply chains and fuller reports of indirect and direct multi-tier spend, while increasing corporate comprehension of the shift in the local economy.

Let’s not lose sight of the importance of reporting tiered spend, but begin to aggregate our focus on spend that echoes the economy–ultimately creating a more robust supply chain, reducing costs, and fueling the local economy and inclusion efforts–a win-win for both the enterprise sector and the vendors. Let’s never forget, suppliers are and can be customers.

ConnXus Named one of Nation’s Best Supplier Diversity Programs

 

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Hispanic Network Magazine has named ConnXus one of the best Supplier Diversity Programs in the nation. Our company, based in Mason, Ohio, was included in the 2015 Hispanic Network Magazine “Best of the Best” Summer award series.

“These nonbiased studies are valuable resources for jobseekers, business owners, students, consumers, senior management, business associations, employment agencies and consumer groups,” according to Hispanic Network Magazine.

As ConnXus celebrates it’s Fifth Year in business, the staff is proud to be named to this prestigious list, which includes a host of respected companies, including The Coca-Cola Company, CVSHealth, Ernst & Young, LLP, Hilton Worldwide, Lockheed Martin and Verizon Communications Inc.

ConnXus received the same award in 2012. You can read the entire Best of the Best list here.

Cincinnati Start-up ConnXus® Launches Solution to Strengthen Corporate Connections with Women- and Minority-Owned Companies

Web platform brings simplicity to corporate Supplier Diversity initiatives and more opportunities for a growing number of minority businesses across the globe.

CINCINNATI–(BUSINESS WIRE)–ConnXus®, the Mason, Ohio-based start-up that connects diverse and small businesses with companies seeking to expand and diversify their supplier base, has upgraded its technology platform to better connect buyers and suppliers in the marketplace.

The intuitive, new Web interface allows buyers to access compliance information, find, hire and manage suppliers, and track diverse supplier spend. Additionally, suppliers can create and manage a custom profile, upload certification documents and find potential opportunities with match notifications in the ConnXus platform.

“I love the new website. It is so easy to navigate and houses loads of great content for diverse suppliers, including certification and business trend information,” says Cathy Lindemann, president of Evolution Creative Solutions in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Lindemann’s company is a WBENC and WOSB certified woman business enterprise that specializes in creative business and marketing solutions for small and large companies.

“We work with Fortune 500 businesses across the country and add new, qualified suppliers to our database every day, so we need a robust platform to handle the tremendous growth we have experienced over the last few years,” said Rod Robinson, founder, president and CEO, ConnXus Inc. “As we celebrate our 5-year anniversary, we’re already looking ahead to the future. We’re excited to unveil our new website and refreshed brand, as we recommit ourselves to Supplier Diversity Made Simple®.”

The web portal update is part of a wide-ranging ConnXus brand refresh initiative.

“Our new web portal is the result of spending months responding to feedback from our buyers and suppliers. The upgraded website is more intuitive, with a new look and feel, and increased content to support the success of our users,” says brand manager Feoshia Davis.

gyro Cincinnati, a full-service business-to-business marketing agency, supported ConnXus on design and content development for the new website.

“We knew that an easy-to-navigate Web portal would be a game-changer for ConnXus. It’s exciting for us to take our extensive background in Web development and put it to work in our own backyard,” said David Rosenthal, vice president and business leader, gyro Cincinnati.

Currently, ConnXus has more than 1.6 million suppliers in its database. The platform was designed based on Robinson’s experiences with incomplete databases, fragmented resources and expensive procurement software. ConnXus fills this gap by not only helping corporations reach diversity goals, but also helping suppliers market themselves and gain the proper classifications and certifications to reduce instances of penalty or fraud.

To date, ConnXus has helped Fortune 500 companies navigate the procurement process, including The Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s Corporation, Harley-Davidson Motor Company, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the YMCA of the USA.

For more information visit ConnXus.com.

About ConnXus

Headquartered in Mason, Ohio, ConnXus helps grow diverse woman- and minority-owned businesses by connecting them to Fortune 2000 corporations seeking a competitive edge through Supplier Diversity. Our cloud-based supplier relationship management platform enables major corporations to better manage every aspect of their Supplier Diversity compliance and programs. ConnXus is a Software as a Service provider and an NMSDC-certified African-American company. Visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

About gyro

As a global ideas shop, gyro has a mission to create ideas that are humanly relevant. gyro is the 2014 BMA Global B2B Agency of the Year and an Advertising Age Top 50 Agency. gyro also serves as Global Marketing Advisor to FORTUNE. With 600 creative minds in 14 offices, gyro works with top companies including BBC, Cars.com, DuPont, eBay, FedEx, HP, John Deere, SAP, Tate & Lyle, TD Ameritrade and USG. www.gyro.com.

View August 20, 2015 Press Release Here

Techstars leads $2.5 million investment round in ConnXus®

For Immediate Release

Techstars leads $2.5 million investment round in ConnXus®

First-of-its-kind Supplier Diversity management software company attracts investment from top U.S. startup accelerator

(MASON, OH, Aug. 31, 2015) – ConnXus®, a leading Supplier Diversity management software company, has closed a $2.5 million funding round from a diverse group of investors.

The lead investor is Techstars Ventures (Techstars.com/ventures), the venture capital arm of Techstars. The Boulder, Colorado-based organization is making seed stage and Series A investments out of its $150 million third fund. ConnXus is the first Cincinnati-area tech company to receive investment from Techstars Ventures.

“We are thrilled to work with ConnXus as they bring technology and innovation to this very important issue of Supplier Diversity. Our goal is to help ConnXus grow by exposing the company to our larger network. We operate accelerators on behalf of some of the world’s top brands and work with many amazing sponsors who, like us, are focused on diversity in their workforce and supply chain. We hope we can use those relationships, plus our enormous global network around Techstars, to help the company expand,” said Techstars Co-Founder and Managing Partner David Cohen.

The Supplier Diversity Reporting, Compliance & Risk Management market is a rapidly growing segment of the $10 billion worldwide supply chain management and procurement software market, according to data from the technology research and advisory firm Gartner, Inc.

“We are excited to partner with visionary investors like Techstars who understand how our innovative solution can reinvent the future of supplier relationship management, while solving the “supplier diversity” problem that has plagued corporate America for the last 50 years,” said ConnXus Founder and CEO Rod Robinson.

The round also includes participation from existing investors Serious Change L.P., CincyTech (cincytechusa.com), Impact America Fund (impactamericafund.com) and several private angel investors.

ConnXus has enjoyed 700% compound annual revenue growth since launching its first product in 2012, and 104% revenue growth in the last 12 months. “Our customers rate us top among supplier diversity software providers,” said ConnXus COO Daryl Hammett. ConnXus’ growing client list includes industry giants McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson, Caesars Entertainment and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“80% of our growth, to date, has come from customer referral. The new funding will enable us to invest in marketing, sales resources, product development and growing our database of nearly 2 million diverse suppliers,” Robinson said.

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About ConnXus

Headquartered in Mason, Ohio, ConnXus helps grow diverse woman- and minority-owned businesses by connecting them to Fortune 2000 corporations seeking a competitive edge through Supplier Diversity. Our cloud-based supplier relationship management platform enables major corporations to better manage all aspects of their Supplier Diversity compliance and programs. ConnXus is a Software as a Service provider, and an NMSDC-certified African-American owned company.

About Techstars Ventures

Techstars Ventures (formerly Bullet Time Ventures) is the venture capital arm of Techstars. We have $265M under management and are currently investing out of our third fund ($150M) which is focused on Seed and Series A investments. We are primarily co-investors alongside the venture capital and angel communities in Techstars accelerator program graduates, new companies started by Techstars alumni, and companies formed by Techstars mentors. We are based in Boulder, Colorado and also have offices in Austin, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, London, Los Angeles, New York, San Antonio, San Diego, and Seattle.

New Techstars Foundation aims to support minorities in technology entrepreneurship

Techstars, a recent lead investor in ConnXus, is taking its commitment to diversity in tech entrepreneurship a step further. Techstars Managing Partner David Cohen announced the foundation today.

 Over the past year, many of our alumni, investors, and mentors have encouraged us to think hard about inclusive entrepreneurship. We decided that we wanted to do something very meaningful that would have a lasting impact on this issue — so we created the Techstars Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to improve diversity in tech entrepreneurship by providing opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs through grants, scholarships, and sponsorships.

You can read more about this exciting initiative. We want to especially thank Techstars for valuing the voices of diverse suppliers, by including our founder Rod Robinson on the foundation’s advisory board! If you’re not a reader, watch this short video:

From the founder’s desk: Tech-focused Supplier Diversity Initiatives can help solve Silicon Valley’s Diversity Problem

Note: This column was orginally posted on LinkedIn. Follow Rod.

There has recently been a lot of discussion of the lack of workforce diversity in Silicon Valley. The discussion came to a head after several large silicon Valley companies released their less-than-stellar workforce diversity data. Blacks and Hispanics make up only 5% of the aggregate workforce despite representing over 30% of the US population. I am not writing to dwell on historical numbers, but to simply offer my perspective and propose solutions for the future.

I applaud the efforts of non-profits such as Code2040 (www.code2040.org) which aims to create access, awareness and opportunities for Blacks and Latinos. I also praise Apple for donating $40M to the Thurgood Marshall Fund (tmcf.org) to support Computer Science Education at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s). While these are great initiatives that will likely help increase the future talent pipeline, I believe that tech-focused supplier diversity initiatives hold the key to potential breakthrough impact that could accelerate the talent pipeline.

Here are four key reasons:

  1. Existing Market of Over 1,000 Diverse Information Technology Firms

According to the ConnXus supplier database, (https://connxus.com/buyer-services/connxus-database) there are more than 1,000 US based information technology companies owned Women and Minorities. These companies range in size from start-ups, generating under $500,000, to mature companies generating over $100 million annually. Most of these firms operate globally across various IT disciplines, including software development, consulting, internet security and staff augmentation.

These firms represent competition for top diverse tech talent that may have a negative view of Silicon Valley firms. As such, this perception may lead them to prefer working at a smaller firm or to start their own. However, a robust supplier diversity program focused on engaging and contracting with such firms could be a great way to change perceptions and build value-added partnerships in the process.

2. Mentoring Opportunity for Silicon Valley Firms

Many corporate supplier diversity programs consist of mentor/protégé programs. These programs are designed to enable successful firms to provide various forms of business development assistance to smaller emerging companies.

The goals are to:

  • Enhance the capability of the emerging firms to be competitive
  • Achieve entrepreneurial success
  • Contribute to the strength and vigor of the broader economy.

For example, Facebook may be working with a minority-owned software development firm that specializes in internet security. A mentor/protégé program develops in the process, and Facebook helps this supplier develop skills in virtualization and other IT growth areas.

3. Building A Talent Pipeline While Having Economic Impact

As a former consultant and corporate operating executive, I’ve been on both sides of the talent poaching equation. It is pretty commonplace for a consultant or contract employee to get hired away from his or her company by a satisfied client. That’s merely another benefit of a robust supplier diversity program. In an environment where competition for talent (especially diverse) is fierce, it is extremely beneficial to have multiple sources feeding the pipeline.

4. Increased Focus on Diversity in Tech Entrepreneurship

ConnXus and Lisnr were recently profiled in an article that focused on the lack of venture capital backed start-ups with black founders. While ConnXus and Lisnr were two of fourteen identified venture-backed firms with black founders, those numbers are nothing to cheer about (www.wcpo.com/news/insider/connxus-and-lisnr-black-technology-company-founders-are-finding-success-in-cincinnati). There is still much work to be done in this area. It is great to see several initiatives under way including one that I am very proud to be a part of: The TechStars Foundation (www.techstars.com/introducing-the-techstars-foundation-a-non-profit-to-improve-diversity-in-technology-entrepreneurship). The goal of the foundation is to improve diversity in entrepreneurship by providing opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs, through grants, scholarships, and sponsorships. By providing access and opportunity to underrepresented minorities, we will create stronger entrepreneur communities worldwide.

In conclusion, I applaud all of the efforts to increase minority hiring at tech firms, but I would also like to see a simultaneous movement to support the growth of minority- and women-owned Information Technology firms. By doing so, we help build a culture of innovators and job creators.

Rod Robinson is the founder & CEO of Connxus, Inc. (www.ConnXus.com), a cloud-based supplier relationship management (SRM) platform that streamlines the management of corporate supplier diversity programs. Follow him on Twitter.