Following my latest post about cc-hubwoo, now rebranded back to Hubwoo with a new logo, I’ve had the opportunity to meet Mark Williams (CEO) and Xavier Lablancherie (CMO) a month ago and discuss about the eP2P (electronic Purchase to Pay) Business.
My latest and controversial posts about Hubwoo were boldly underlining difficulties and unclarity which I believed were not addressed in Hubwoo’s official press releases: How to ‘read’ the unexpected departure of Alain Andreoli and his replacement by his CFO otherwise than a cost-cutting strategy? How seriously was the lack of growth perceived and managed? how would the company meet growth again? What about Hubwoo’s plan to launch a supplier network?
On his side, Mark was undoubtedly eager to tell me face to face his disagreement with my bitter -kind of- analysis. On my side, purpose was definitely to rationalise my perspective but also to benefit from this face to face meeting to get a more accurate and tangible understanding of Hubwoo’s intentions and analysis of the current situation.
First thing was meeting Mark Williams for the first time. Always interesting. I’ve not been disappointed. Sincerely, I’ve met a ‘pro to know’: a professional acknowledging risks and difficulties, a committed and convinced entrepreneur focused on problem solving, positive and realistic, struggling all-out for Hubwoo’s success. To be honest, I’ve been amazed seeing how much Mark Williams did appropriate Hubwoo’s past and future within 18 months-ish (since he joined Hubwoo) as if it was and always have been his ‘baby’. I do not mean anything about his abilities to succeed, how could I?. I mean however that Mark is far from only being an ex-CFO in charge of cost-cutting solely. He has the right stuff to make things happen, come what may.
Second point was to get a better understanding of Mark vision (2007 status and future). I won’t go into details (that will most probably be presented the 3rd of April when results will be commented to the press) but simply throw a couple of enlightening bullet-points I grabbed:
- Revenue growth over the last two years have been ‘killed’ by the financial agreement related to the acquisition of Trade-Ranger (Revenue from Trade-Ranger clients was not value-driven and set to decrease over years). No further negative impact is expected from 2008 onwards.
- 2007 was a tough turn-around year focused on a unique and essential target to keep the business and confidence up: profitability. Target achieved.
- Cost-cutting is part of the plan as well as shifting a Business Model from a ‘pioneer’ one to a more ‘industrial’ one. This might explain Mark’s role and positioning.
- Ambition is still high but kind of argued: Ariba is the unique company comparable with Hubwoo for the following similarities:
- A eP2P solution offering (not only eSourcing),
- An Inter-continental implementation and not only international,
- A comparable SaaS revenue in volume which is actually favourable to Hubwoo from a % perspective and not so far in the absolute between each other. The huge difference (between both companies total revenue is coming from the consulting services delivered by Ariba (but which is dramatically decreasing year after year, thus not a source of growth).
- Emphasis is given to Sales and Marketing (team and… means). Latest partnership agreement with SAP shall mechanically speed-up sales and growth, being compliant to business fundamentals (both parties have financial interests in making business together… which was not the case so far).
- The supplier Network Hub initiative – a catalyst for growth – is not stand-by but now at a stage of POC (Proof of Concept). A pilot shall be launched soon. I’ve been shown the ‘Hub’ and presented the business drivers: Although it is clear that this kind of business needs a snowball effect to be successful and much more than technology, I’ve been impressed by the Beta version.
Bottom line, I believe from what I heard and seen that Hubwoo hangs on with great assets in its back pocket. Plans and objectives for 2008 shall mean it.