60-second start-up: Keelvar

0-5 seconds: Sum your business up in a sentence:

Keelvar is an innovative procurement software offering that helps those procuring goods and services in the public sector to secure more efficient outcomes from the tenders they run.

5-10 seconds: What's the business model?

Keelvar operates a number of business models; ranging from a fixed fee one, to traditional software as a service (SaaS) licences, to a ‘shared gain’ model, where we get paid a portion of the savings our customer makes. This last option ensures incentives are aligned and it also derisks the decision to use us for clients as they only pay us if we deliver the goods by securing savings.

10-15 seconds: Who are your competitors?

There are a number of companies offering procurement software which effectively manages the process for those running tenders. We occupy a slightly different niche as we complement these offerings, by replacing the spreadsheets that capture the bids in a typical procurement. With Keelvar suppliers enter bid details directly into our software which enables us to compute more efficient outcomes than would be typically achievable. An added benefit is our solution facilitates more SME access which is a key goal for many public sector procurement divisions.

15-20 seconds: What's your USP?

Building on years of academic research we deal with complex algorithms that help compute more efficient outcomes. There has been little innovation in the procurement space despite the size of the market, partly because of the challenges involved. We believe that the tide is now turning (witness the success of the UK government’s G-Cloud initiative) and that Keelvar has significant disruptive potential in this space.

20-25 seconds: How have you funded it so far?

We are VC backed and growing strongly with offices in the UK and Ireland, and a diverse customer base from the Shetland Islands through to Cork in Ireland. Given our core proposition is focused on securing savings through more efficient outcomes we are creating significant interest amongst our key target market of procurement officers.

25-30 seconds: What were you doing before?

I was a research fellow in an academic research lab in University College, Cork, Ireland. My research examined the intersection between economics and computer science including computational mechanism design, game theory and auction systems.

30-35 seconds: Where did the idea come from?

My father noted that the pricing in the industry he worked in was far higher than UK counterparts were paying for a similar good. He decided to open a business in Ireland to offer better value and more choice which was welcomed by all. However before too long the dominant market leader decided to try and remove the new entrant (my dad’s firm) from the equation by pricing aggressively. Witnessing the behaviour of this firm got me thinking about whether there were ways to encourage competition in areas where a few dominant suppliers seemed to be behaving opportunistically.

I could see how my parents company and their government customers were losing out due to poor market designs in tenders that were being exploited by dominant market participants. My PhD research thus focused on devising improved market mechanisms that helped encourage competition, increase efficiency and strip out waste.

35-40 seconds: What's the smartest thing you've done so far?

It is definitely hiring some great people - they are an important asset for Keelvar and help ensure we are offering an innovative proposition. Great people make it hard for competitors to replicate what we do.

40-45 seconds: What's the stupidest?

This one is straight forward - not take VC funding earlier.

45-50 seconds: If your business was a biscuit, what would it be?

We would be a digestive - all substance with less of the style. We are very focused on building a great offering that customers really value. Many other startups seem to be more focused on courting the press when the underlying proposition is relatively weak or has a modest addressable market. We believe we have a truly disruptive offering and are content to focus on building a great solution to a very clear pain in the market.

50-55 seconds: Which idea are you a bit jealous of?

It has got to be Twitter - it’s simply genius.

55-60 seconds: Where are you going to be in 12 months' time?

We’ll be going from strength to strength. We are continuing to deliver strong gains for our clients and we are looking to increase our brand awareness so we can replicate these successes across more procurement divisions in both the public and private sectors.

Find out more about our clever procurement software at Keelvar.com and follow us on Twitter  @Keelvar  

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