Is innovation the sole domain of the young or why Kurt Warner and Tom Brady could have been in procurement? by Jon Hansen

Posted on February 18, 2015


Over the past few weeks I have been writing about the procurement world from the standpoint of what I referred to as being Generation Next.

I wrote about how procurement was a “brand new game, with new rules requiring new skill sets that the older generation does not possess.”

Now to once again be as clear as possible, this has little to do with the actual aptitude of the older set because as I had written, they do have the ability to acquire said skills.  However, and given the fact that the role and value of procurement as defined by those outside of the profession, has changed so dramatically, it is more of a question of adaptability. Today’s procurement world is faster, complex and global.  Few of the old pros are equipped to handle this frenetic pace of shifting variables.  In short, we are well beyond the best price, cost avoidance focus of the bygone era.

So there you have it . . . game, set and match.  Well . . . maybe not.  At least from the standpoint of Donald Jean (age 65) and Tom Middleton (age 73).

Who are Donald Jean and Tom Middleton you might ask? They are the founders of

Now before I tell you about, which will be featured in the SXSW Conference StartUp Village for entrepreneurs in March, I think a little background information might be in order.

When I was introduced to Don by way an e-mail from Buyers Meeting Point’s Kelly Barner, she indicated that she had been “in touch with him for years,” and that he had a “perspective as unique as mine,” and would be able to “match the energy and diversity of my questions with his own.”

It is hard to pass up on an introduction like this, so I scheduled a time to talk with Don.

As I do with all interviews, I try to get a real feel for the unique elements of a particular story.  I usually refer to this as contextual relevance in that rather than merely echoing back to you information I have received, I try to create a point of common reference that makes the insights both interesting and relevant.

For example, and as interesting as offering a patented “Civilizations Purchasing Application” for “businesses, organizations, non-profits, public entities, corporations and consumers” that can be deployed “within 60 minutes or less,” sounds, to me it is the story behind it, that stands out.

Here we have two gentlemen, who have a firm belief that their combined 85 years of business and procurement knowledge should not just “evaporate when we depart this world,” working hard towards creating a meaningful legacy.  Right off the bat, they defy the inability and/or unwillingness to adapt perspective that I had referenced above, because they are proactively seeking to apply what they know in a practical and meaningful way.


This reminded me of the special on Tom Brady, which talked about his being selected late in the 2000 NFL draft after six other quarterbacks were taken.  In discussing his decision to not draft the San Francisco native, then 49rs coach Steve Mariucci lamented the fact that with all the different analysis and tests available to assess a quarterback, the one thing they couldn’t do was open up Brady to see his heart.  In talking with Don, it is apparent that both he and his 73 year old partner Tom have heart and then some.  During our conversation, it became clear that Don’s passion for procurement is beyond anything I had seen and maybe ever will see.

Now if I stopped here, it would be a nice ending to a wonderful story.

But there is a reality out there that isn’t sentimental nor tolerant of those who come late to the party.  So I had to ask Tom, are you at a disadvantage coming at this late stage of the SaaS cloud-based game.  Let’s face it Coupa, Deem, Scout – who just secured VC funding, and other companies are beginning to hit their stride.  Especially given that the major obstacle of feigned disbelief that a solution could be deployed in weeks if not days as opposed to the ERP-era years, is now a thing of the past.

His response that my “insight into our SaaS, cloud-based procurement start-up goals, its e-Features capabilities, its timing into the marketplace and our plight of getting known with limited funding is exacting,” demonstrated a sure and steady acknowledgement of the challenges they face.  However, there was no resignation in his voice.  This tells me that they know what they are up against, but after so many years in a career spanning more decades than most of the young procurement professionals have been alive, very little if anything surprises them.

So what if they are late to arrive on the scene, didn’t future Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner get a late start on his NFL career?

Despite the inevitable ups and downs of an uncertain future in the increasingly competitive and diverse SaaS cloud-based procurement world, I think that they might have a chance.  I know that I will continue to follow them throughout 2015 and beyond.  Hopefully you will as well, because outside of their solution, it would be hard not to believe that the profession can gain something going forward from both their experience and drive.

In this regard, they have already established a legacy.

By the way, the reason I drew the comparisons with both Brady and Warner is that Don played football for Cornell for 4 years.  He was selected to the All-Ivy League team in his Junior and Senior years, and was also selected to to the Kappa Sigma all American football team in 1971.  He even had a free agent tryout with the 1972 Washington Redskins – who ended up losing the Super Bowl that year to the Miami Dolphins.  While he didn’t make the Redskins, he did have offers from a number of other NFL teams, but chose to return to school to get his MBA.  In explaining his decision, he said that back in the early seventies, starting MBA salaries were greater than NFL starting defensive back salaries.

Hmmmmm . . . even back then he had both common sense and common cents – a great combination in the procurement world.

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