COUPA CEO’s fever gets the better of him

Posted on August 29, 2017


We have all played the word association game at one point in time or another.

For those unfamiliar with the premise, here is how it works;

  1. I give a word
  2. You tell me what immediately comes to mind when you see or hear that word

Pretty straight forward, so let’s play.

Word: IBM

  • “THINK”
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Big Blue
  • No one ever got fired for buying IBM
  • F-U-D (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt)

What did you come up with?

Now I may be going out on a limb here, but I doubt that anyone would encapsulate in their word imagery a cute acronym for IBM. In fact, right now the only thing I could come up with is “I Believe Mother.” Oh well back to therapy.

Perhaps I could have been more “visionary” if like COUPA’s CEO Rob Bernshteyn I was stuck in a hotel room in Sweden running a high fever.

Apparently, that is all it takes to tap into one’s “subconscious mind” to get a big picture perspective on what C-O-U-P-A stands for as a company. At least this is what Rob wrote in his recent blog post aptly titled “C-O-U-P-A: OUR VISON.”


I have been writing about COUPA for a very long time. From my controversial post Are these profile images representative of the brand Coupa wants to project? (which garnered 38 comments and so many social media shares that the numbers spun over a couple of times), to articles such as Money and brains is a dangerous combination . . . for COUPA’s competitors that recognized and acknowledged the company’s pending greatness.

During all these years through all of these stories, I never once thought of reducing the COUPA vision to a cutesy acronym.

When I heard the word COUPA, the following immediately came to mind;

  • Entrepreneurial
  • Maverick
  • Game Changer
  • Imaginative

Using words like Comprehensive, Open, User-Centric, Prescriptive, Accelerated was never on the radar screen, and never would be. After all, and as Bernshteyn himself writes in his post, the company name was inspired by the Coupa Café in Palo Alto, which was a “popular meeting spot for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.”

Given a choice between my words and Bernshteyn’s, I doubt that many in that famous Café would limit their vision to an unimaginative series of succinctly “functional” terms.

But then again, the only thing I could come up with for IBM was “I Believe Mother.”


Posted in: Commentary