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

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.

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

Reshoring Opens Opportunities for Diverse Suppliers

BlueSilkConsulting

Rosemary Coates, Founder of Blue Silk Consulting (WBE) and The Reshoring Institute, recently shared insightful information with ConnXus regarding reshoring initiatives and the opportunities it presents for diverse suppliers, including woman-owned, minority owned and veteran-owned businesses. Learn more about how The Reshoring Institute supports the diversification of US supply chains in this guest blog authored by Ms. Rosemary Coates.

A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group found that 54% of companies over $1 billion in revenue are reshoring their production now or at least considering it. Reshoring is the process of bringing manufacturing back to the US – the opposite of offshoring. While there are a lot of news articles and people talking about reshoring, there are very few resources to help companies through the process. The US Department of Commerce offers ACE, an analysis tool for evaluating your reshoring program, and there are other organizations doing some work in this area, but it is not enough for most companies to complete a Reshoring project.

To fill this gap, Blue Silk Consulting and the University of San Diego established The Reshoring Institute, a 501c3 Non-profit organization. The Reshoring Institute is organized under the umbrella of the University of San Diego Supply Chain Management Institute, to provide research and support for companies trying to bring manufacturing and services back to America. This research may include things like site comparisons, tax incentives available, science and math education available by area, marketing and PR and cost comparison development. The Reshoring Institute Directors oversee and guide this reshoring research and support work, using graduate student interns from the University.

The Reshoring Institute has a dual purpose:

  • To provide support and research for companies trying to reshore manufacturing to the US
  • To educate students about manufacturing in America

The University of San Diego was chosen for this collaboration because of its strong programs in global supply chain management, its proximity to Mexico and production that could return from there, availability of graduate-level interns and its very active Supply Chain Management Institute.

The ConnXus Connection

As companies reshore production, they must also rebuild their supply base in the US. During the past 25 years, production has moved offshore and supporting suppliers have followed. Whole industries such as furniture, apparel and footwear and plastics left in the 1990s and 2000s, but are now starting to come back. Rebuilding a supporting supply base is a non-trivial task and can easily take a year or more. This presents a grand opportunity for woman-owned businesses, small businesses and disadvantaged suppliers. The doors are open to new ideas and new suppliers.

To discover new Reshoring opportunities, suppliers should:

  • Be alert for news articles about companies that are reshoring
  • Stay in touch with local and state Economic Development organizations – these people are usually the first to know about new businesses in their area
  • Subscribe to the Reshoring Institute’s Quarterly Newsletter (www.ReshoringInstitute.org)
  • Visit the Reshoring Institute’s on-line free library of articles on Reshoring and other research

The future is bright with pathways to bringing manufacturing back to America and supporting these efforts with American suppliers.

About the Author

Ms. Coates is the Executive Director of the Reshoring Institute and the President of Blue Silk Consulting, a WBE Global Supply Chain consulting firm. She is a best-selling author of: 42 Rules for Sourcing and Manufacturing in China and 42 Rules for Superior Field Service and The Reshoring Guidebook. Ms. Coates lives in Silicon Valley and has worked with over 80 clients worldwide. She is also an Expert Witness for legal cases involving global supply chain matters. She is passionate about reshoring.