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Procurement problems means big opportunities for Atlanta-based Focal Point

by Maija Ehlinger

First, a business trivia question: What is the difference between supply chain management and procurement?

If you are tripped up by those definitions, you aren’t alone. “If you ask ten people what “procurement” is you are likely to get more than 15 answers,” Anders Lillevik told Hypepotamus. 

But procurement, or securing goods and services necessary to run daily operations at a business, is something Lillevik knows well. He led procurement efforts at Fannie Mae, QBE Insurance, and Webster Bank over the last twenty years. This gave him important insight into why procurement efforts are often problematic for many companies. 

“There are no standards in how things should be conducted, like GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) for accounting, leaving the scope of procurement up to individual organizations and the leaders of their procurement functions to decide. If a leader in charge of procurement does not have significant procurement experience, it is likely that this individual will not be able to appropriately understand the value procurement can bring to their organization. You often see internal promotions of successful leaders from other functions into procurement. While they are probably great leaders, they will not be able to appropriately resource, staff or lead the function,” he told Hypepotamus.

Lillevik jumped into the startup world in 2020 to help companies tackle procurement problems. “The pain points that I experienced as a Chief Procurement Officer are similar to what the industry faces today, some are self-inflicted, and others are a factor of the discipline still emerging into maturity,” he said. 

Lillevik describes Focal Point as a platform providing the “connected tissue for disparate data, processes and systems” for companies looking to better understand their procurement efforts. The goal is to streamline the three key aspects of procurement — intake, execution, and performance management.

Those employees working in departments other than procurement can use Focal Point’s portal to track the delivery status of goods and services. That is particularly important for legal, IT, and risk departments that need to know when work will hit their inbox.

“Procurement users have one system where they can receive and manage requests, gather information, collaborate with internal clients, and process participants. Taking advantage of existing data like contracts, suppliers and services, is fully integrated, shortening the time it takes to get things done. Best of all, the processes they need to follow are configured in the solution ensuring the right due diligence is done every time,” said Lillevik.

War & Fundraising 

Procurement might be the misunderstood cousin of supply chain management (the movement of goods or raw materials between a business and a new location), but it is big opportunity for innovation, says Lillevik. 

“Before I jumped in with both feet, I consulted with fellow Chief Procurement Officers to validate the need, and, to my surprise, I received two (potential) clients before a single line of code was written. Two marquee clients were willing to sign LOIs to try the system and were willing to buy it upon a successful trial when it was just me in the company. With those two LOIs in hand, I bootstrapped the company and outsourced development to launch the first product. To my delight, both prospects converted and became our first clients.” 

The early-stage startup has now secured four enterprise clients and just opened its office in Buckhead. In 2021 Focal Point secured pre-seed funding from Techstars Atlanta in partnership with Cox Enterprises and New York-based Surface Ventures. 

The team raised a $3 million dollar seed round this summer to help grow its team. Eight of those team members are in Atlanta with the rest largely concentrated in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. 

Their CTO was based in Kyiv when Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year. Just last week he arrived with his family in the US, thanks to work visas secured through the startup. Lillevik said about half of the Ukrainian-based team has been able to leave the country to date, but they are “in daily contact to ensure we provide all the support we can” to those still in the country. 



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