Graphite Connect Brings Modern Networking to Procurement
Social networks make it easy for individuals to update their own information for others in the network to see. Why can’t businesses do the same?
That’s the idea behind Graphite Connect from Graphite Systems Inc. The Lehi based company launched in 2018, securing its first clients in 2019. The two founders, Conrad Smith and Aaron Oyler, managed procurement at Adobe for ten years before launching Graphite. The duo raised 3 million dollars from Kickstart Seed Fund and a small group of angels last year.
Procurement itself is a simple idea, even if it’s historically been complex to manage.
Every company, from the humble garage startup to major multinational corporations, has to secure the tools of their trade. Whether IT infrastructure, pens and paper, or just chairs to sit in, every business needs to procure services and supplies from suppliers.
A few years ago, Smith noticed something about procurement. The industry was essentially unchanged from when he started in the 90s.
Sure, people weren’t sending faxes anymore. But as Senior Director of Global Procurement of Adobe, Smith’s team managed many aspects of his 3 billion dollar procurement budget through emails and phone calls. It was slow and required constant repetition.
“When I engage with a supplier, they have to share a bunch of information with me, and I have to share with them," said Smith. "And at the enterprise level, that’s thousands of businesses you’re interacting with. When the next customer comes along, the new customer need the same info. We had extremely high talent procurement professionals spending too much of their time hand-holding administrative processes.”
Add to that a rising burden of regulatory compliance and increasing sensitivity to company data, manual processes were not only cumbersome. They were becoming a liability.
“The amount of time and resources wasted collecting, sharing, and managing repetitive and redundant supplier information is astounding," added Smith.
Smith and Oyler built Graphite Connect to reduce the friction. Graphite Connect helps procurement departments manage their supplier information and regulatory compliance. Like a social network, companies can simply update their own profile, rather than sending documents to all of their suppliers or customers. This helps prevent fraud or corruption across the supply chain, something corporate executives can legally be held liable for. It also helps smaller businesses take advantage of opportunities that may have seemed only attainable by larger organizations.
“If you think about LinkedIn, it’s a pretty thin profile,' says Smith. "You don’t have a lot of info there. But for each company, we get really deep in the info they share about themselves. For example, suppliers can indicate that they are a veteran-owned, or minority-owned, or owned by women. And there are government incentives to work with suppliers that fit those categories.”
The COVID-19 pandemic created a period of uncertainty for Graphite. “Most projects and investments went on hold. That froze our revenue for a few months. But we’re in the building-the-product phase. We believe it’s helped us because we’ve been able to stay focused on high-velocity product development.”
And business is finally picking up again. Clients include some well known Utah companies, like Pluralsight, Workfront, and Pure Storage. But Smith is quick to point out that every company has procurement needs, and Graphite can help no matter the budget or company size.
“Companies like Walmart and Home Depot have huge IT departments and can make automated solutions for their supply chain. And think about Uber drivers and Airbnb, and how automated that process has become for consumers. That ought to be available for everybody. Small to medium sized businesses should have access to that same easy interaction.”