By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Brian Strong, Co-Founder of Vendor Registry, says the company is making good progress on its journey to serve local governments in their procurement activities.
“We are focused on the whole purchasing lifecycle . . . from acquisition to disposal,” he says of the now six-year old Knoxville-based company. With about 48,000 vendors and 315 local governments in 23 states, Vendor Registry is moving toward a $3 to $5 million Series A round later this year.
The company’s mission says it all: “generate new revenues for vendors and suppliers, decrease costs for government and institutional purchasing departments, and save valuable time for all parties.”
We first met Strong in early 2012, shortly after launching teknovation.biz, and have posted a number of articles spotlighting the company that also included conversations with Chris Van Beke, another Co-Founder and the Chief Executive Officer.
During the ensuing six years, we have watched the evolution of Vendor Registry’s suite of services from the initial focus of helping connect purchasing agents and prospective suppliers. Today, governments using the premium version of the product can gain valuable insights through the analytics features and also better manage contracts through a specially-designed module.
Strong says two new products will be coming this year. One, currently in beta testing, incorporates the growing popularity of Blockchain. “Governments want to prove they do it right,” he says, and Blockchain technology provides the validation.
The second new offering is an evaluation module for bids and requests for proposals that will replace the Excel spreadsheet process that many government agencies use. “It will automate the process, allow for digital scoring, and pick-out the scoring anomalies,” Strong says.
The size of Vendor Registry’s government clients ranges from 10,000 to 250,000 citizens, so the company is always looking for ways to support what he describes as “that underserved population.” One way that it is meeting their needs is through what Strong describes as hyper-local cooperatives.
“It’s not joint purchasing,” he says. “It’s piggybacking off another jurisdiction’s contract.”
The process is fairly straightforward. A larger government agency issues a request for proposals (RFP) with the clearly-stated condition that other, nearby jurisdictions can procure off the contract. The vendor that is awarded the business agrees to the condition.
Strong says that the arrangement saves the smaller departments of local government time – they don’t have to prepare, issue, and evaluate their own RFPs – and dollars by gaining the benefit of the larger jurisdiction’s purchasing power.
Being based in Knoxville, you would probably assume that Vendor Registry’s growth is occurring mostly in the Southeast. While it has a large footprint in the region with Tennessee having the most local government clients, Strong says that New Mexico is the fastest growing state.
Why? It’s all about relationships.
Strong met the Purchasing Director for Albuquerque Public Schools, the nation’s 31st largest district, at a conference in Louisville, KY. The ensuing work, coupled with word of mouth about the quality of Vendor Registry’s products, has generated many new clients.
As it looks to the future, Strong says that artificial intelligence will be an important technology.