Rod Robinson Solves Supplier Diversity Disconnect with ConnXus (Part 1)

 

By: Safon Lloyd, Black Enterprise Author

Rod-Robinson

ConnXus Founder & CEO, Rod Robinson

It is no secret that the supplier diversity landscape could use a little tweaking. There is a very obvious disconnect in the ease and access of corporations utilizing minority and female-owned businesses. This has been a continuous problem that has finally found a solution: ConnXus.

ConnXus offers a cloud-based supplier relationship management platform that streamlines the administration of corporate supplier diversity initiatives, helping grow small woman, minority, and veteran-owned businesses by connecting them to Fortune 2000 corporate buyers.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with ConnXus founder, president, and CEO, Rod Robinson, and COO Daryl Hammet to find out how they created the platform that may single-handedly solve most (if not all) supplier diversity problems.

BlackEnterprise:com: What was the inspiration behind ConnXus?

Robinson: I was chief procurement officer at Cincinnati Bell, which is one of the regional bell operating companies based in Cincinnati. We were doing a couple billion dollars in revenue. I was responsible for all of the corporate procurement, and supplier diversity was one of the areas that reported to me. We had a responsibility to our customers relative to corporate and government mandates to report our results as it related to spending with suppliers/companies owned by women, minorities, veterans, and so forth. I found it costly to pay for access to multiple databases to find suppliers and to track and report the spend with those suppliers—sometimes on a monthly and oftentimes a quarterly basis.

It was frustrating to have my staff complain about having to spend so much time chasing numbers from prime suppliers, that we were required to report to fulfill contracts. I just felt like there had to be an easier way. I saw an opportunity to make that process a lot easier leveraging technology. With technology being leveraged in so many other areas, why hasn’t someone made the investment that is so important, it can actually help to drive the growth of minority and women-owned businesses which make up so much of the market in the U.S.

How have you seen ConnXus actively benefit diverse suppliers thus far since inception in 2010?

Hammett: I believe that we have created an awareness with corporations that did not necessarily have vehicles to get or engage minority suppliers, because they didn’t have a database and they weren’t posting requests for proposals (RFP’s) or requests for information (RFI’s) outside of their organization. We’ve created a lot of opportunity around giving corporations access to suppliers they never would’ve had access to.

Also, by bringing on suppliers to our platform, we’ve created millions of dollars in opportunities for suppliers to engage corporations that they never would’ve had access to. What we provide with this cloud-based platform lets companies connect, engage, and search for companies that have the capabilities, the size, the regional access, and the discipline to be able to engage at a higher level. What we do is provide the buyers the opportunity to post, vet, and have access. At the same time, we give suppliers the visibility that they need, because they can’t run around the country all the time and try to engage a McDonald’s or a Coca Cola.

This is where ConnXus, Connect U.S. has come in and linked these two together; it saves money, time, and allows for the connection to flourish through engagement.

Where do you see ConnXus in the next five years?

Robinson: Right now, we have a database of 1.7 million diverse suppliers. There are 14 million diverse suppliers in the U.S. representing over half of all businesses. However, that over 50% only accounts for six percent of the 30 trillion in revenue that’s generated.

How we plan to impact diverse suppliers over the next five years is to significantly increase that equation that’s currently out of balance. We’d like to see that number move from six percent to more like 30%.

By engaging suppliers and aggregating valuable opportunities, we are becoming the go-to place for major corporations to find posted opportunities and continue to make the market more efficient in helping major corporations find minority and women-owned businesses. We want ConnXus to become ubiquitous with that.

Check back for Part 2 of this enlightening conversation. For more information visit ConnXus.com.

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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.

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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.”

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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

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.

ConnXus takes home 2015 National BDPA Awards

 

The team at ConnXus is proud to announce recognition for its Supplier Diversity management platform from the National BDPA.

BDPA is an organization with a diverse membership of professionals and students at all levels in the fields of information technology, computer science and related S.T.E.M fields. Members are actively engaged in serving the community through outreach and charting the future of the IT industry.

The BDPA Motto is: “Advancing Careers From The Classroom To The Boardroom.”

We appreciate the awards and, as a minority owned company in this space, we continue to strive to make Supplier Diversity initiatives more accountable, efficient and successful.

BDPA awards include :

  • The 2015 Earl Pace Beacon Award for Outstanding Technical Contribution.
  • Individual Epsilon Award for Outstanding Technical Contribution: Rod Robinson

Find out more about the ConnXus platform here.

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What I Learned from P&G at the 2015 NMSDC Conference in San Diego

2015 Year in Review

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ConnXus Spearheads a Brave Frontier with Supplier Diversity Sustainability Dashboards

 

MASON, Ohio, April 26, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — ConnXus, a supplier diversity software company based in Mason, Ohio, now streamlines products into a smart dashboard—opening the gateway for procurement, supplier diversity and supply chain professionals to access a wealth of supply chain analytics in two clicks or less.

The ConnXus supplier diversity sustainability dashboard is complementary with all product purchases and includes two brand-new product offerings:

  1. SmartScrub, an automated, streamlined data enrichment and validation service
  2. ConnXSmart, a “matchmaking” tool that connects large companies with diverse suppliers

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“That’s right,” said ConnXus chief operations officer Daryl Hammett. “We are giving away state-of-the-art dashboards with every product. We believe everyone should experience the visibility that supplier diversity brings to an organization’s supply chain.”

“Our unique, smart dashboard is a game-changer—disrupting more traditional approaches to supplier diversity management,” announced Anthony Mitchell, senior manager of product management. “ConnXus equips clients with visual representations of their supply chain data that can be easily exported for boardroom presentations and many other purposes.”

Hammett elaborated, “As ConnXus continues to make strategic global partnerships, our dashboard’s recently expanded international supplier registration portal offerings now reach eight different countries—providing corporations and suppliers more opportunities to connect.”

The software company will debut its upgraded suite of dashboard-based applications as a first-time corporate exhibitor at the 2016 Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference in Orlando, Fla. June 21-23. During the conference, ConnXus will again leverage its unique supplier matchmaking tool—ConnXSmart—to facilitate meetings between Procter and Gamble’s (P&G) community of partners.

ConnXus continues to innovate the supplier diversity industry space. Upcoming software releases include business intelligence, networking, blogging and category management capabilities.

To learn more about ConnXus supplier diversity software solutions, feel free to schedule a demo prior to the WBENC National Conference. Please contact sales@connxus.com

About ConnXus

ConnXus (www.connxus.com) is a supplier diversity software-as-a-service (SaaS) certified minority-owned business (MBE) headquartered in Mason, Ohio. The SaaS-based company helps small and diverse businesses, including woman-, and minority-owned companies, grow by connecting them to Fortune 2000 corporations.

View press release on BusinessWire and PRNewswire

WCPO: WHAT’S NEW IN BUSINESS: CONNXUS GAINS TRACTION AT LINKING CLIENTS WITH DIVERSE SUPPLIERS

 

What’s New in Business: ConnXus gains traction at linking clients with diverse suppliers

Revenues double in 2015, more hiring planned

By: Kevin Eigelbach, WCPO contributor

Posted: 6:01 AM, Feb 5, 2016

 

Rod Robinson, founder, president and CEO of ConnXus, in the companyÕs offices in Mason. Founded five years ago, the company now has 21 employees. (Kevin Eigelbach for WCPO)

Rod Robinson, founder, president and CEO of ConnXus, in the companyÕs offices in Mason. Founded five years ago, the company now has 21 employees. (Kevin Eigelbach for WCPO)

MASON, Ohio — ConnXus, which helps companies find qualified, diverse suppliers and keep track of their spending with those suppliers, is ready to scale up.

“We have companies that are demanding our product,” said founder, president and chief executive Rod Robinson. “We want to get in front of them and help them.”

After five years in business, the Mason-based company has started to gain traction, doubling its revenue last year to well more than $1 million but less than $10 million (Robinson would not reveal the exact amount). It now has 21 employees, including Robinson, and plans to add more sales and development staff this year.

What does it do?

The most basic service involves taking a customer’s accounts payable or spending records and matching them against the company’s database of 1.7 million diverse suppliers to validate the customer’s spending on diverse suppliers. Different companies have different goals for diversity spending, Robinson said, but it generally means money spent with women-, minority- or veteran-owned businesses, or with small businesses generally.

More advanced services include enabling customers to track their secondary diversity spending — money spent on contractors who then hire diverse subcontractors — and enabling them to search the ConnXus database to find diverse suppliers.

How did it get started?

Florida native Robinson, now 48, moved to Cincinnati in 2002 when he became chief procurement officer for Cincinnati Bell. In that role, he learned firsthand how hard it is for large companies to find diverse suppliers and keep track of money that goes to them.

In 2005, he started his own consulting firm and spent many hours going over accounts-payable data line by line to find diverse suppliers. That reinforced his conviction that a software solution was needed, and he started ConnXus in 2010 to provide it.

Who are the investors?

They include local startup investor CincyTech; Boulder, Colorado-based TechStars, which invests in tech startups; and New York-based Serious Change LP, which invests in high-growth, high-potential minority-owned companies. Management hopes to raise $3 million to $5 million more this year from venture-capital firms, Robinson said.

He added that he and the other employees have also invested a significant amount of their own money with the company through an employee stock option plan. Altogether, the company has raised about $4.7 million, and, while it’s not yet turning a profit, Robinson said, it’s getting close.

Who are the customers?

They include large organizations such as Louisville-based distilled spirits maker Brown-Forman Inc., the National Basketball Association, American Express, Harley-Davidson USA and local clients that include Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Who else is on the team?

Daryl Hammett was consulting as a business coach when he met Robinson and became the chief operating officer of ConnXus two years ago. He’s a former vice president and general manager of Sears Optical and an executive for 15 years with Luxottica Group in Mason, a maker of eyewear. He replaced 90 percent of the existing team, he said, and took the company from a scrappy startup to more of a global business.

“We have built the most user-friendly platform in the marketplace,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are taking supplier diversity to the next level, which is supplier inclusion.”

That means not just hiring diverse suppliers, he said, but also listening to their ideas and seeing how they can add value to the hiring company’s strategic plan.

What has the journey been like?

The highs are really high and the lows are really low, Robinson said, but he wouldn’t trade owning this business for anything else. “I wake up every morning excited about what lies ahead,” he said.

In the early days, the challenge was attracting capital and getting clients to take a chance on a startup, he said. Now, the company has both capital and good talent.

“For a long time the wind was in our face,” he said. “Now, the wind is at our back.”

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Staff Member Spotlight: Jennifer O’Neal-Douga

 

ConnXus Senior Account Development Manager, Jennifer O’Neal-Douga, joined the team in July of 2015.

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“What motivates me to jump out of bed every morning is the thrill of seeing what surprises the day has in store for me and the interesting problems I will solve at ConnXus,” says Jennifer.

In the fairly young business environment at ConnXus, Jennifer’s role is especially crucial to maintain a clear plan for client onboarding and engagement. Her top three responsibilities as ConnXus Senior Account Development Manager include new client onboarding, project management and strategic business growth.

The entrepreneurial and family friendly company culture at ConnXus is what drew Jennifer to work at the Mason, Ohio office. When asked what song best describes the ConnXus work environment, she responded with “Eye of the Tiger,” by Survivor.

When she’s not working, Jennifer enjoys spending her time outside hiking—her favorite local trails are at Winton Woods and Miami Whitewater.

With over 15 years of accomplished leadership experience in the financial, retail and insurance industries, Jennifer brings exceptional strategic planning and operations management skills to the ConnXus team.

Jennifer obtained her bachelor of arts (BA) in history from Georgetown University, and her masters of business administration (MBA) from Xavier University.