Rubicon’s mission is to end waste. This has been true since our company’s founding, and at the same time, our commitment has always been to take care of our employees, so as to ensure we foster their creativity and innovation while at Rubicon®, and further out as they move forward in their careers.
At Rubicon, we like to keep in touch with former employees, and as a part of this outreach, I recently spoke with former Rubicon team member Michael Otis, whose three years at Rubicon introduced him to the world of procurement. After leaving Rubicon, Michael went on to found Procoto, a self-service procurement solution for small and mid-sized businesses. Its software provides a lower cost, more user-friendly alternative to enterprise procurement platforms. (Procoto is currently participating in the internationally-recognized Y Combinator incubation program.)
I sat down, virtually of course, with Michael to talk about what Rubicon taught him about the needs of small business owners, his time at Rubicon, and his current role as Founder and CEO of Procoto.
How does Rubicon’s mission to end waste match up to Procoto’s company mission or philosophy?
Part of what I love about Rubicon’s mission to end waste is its universal application. While the core of the mission is limiting the physical disposal of waste, Nate preaches that it also applies to wasted time, resources, money, and more.
Helping companies end wasteful practices is central to what we’re doing at Procoto. We’re changing the way procurement software is bought, sold, and used. The process today is too inefficient and, well, wasteful. No more three-month sales cycles, no more six-figure annual contracts, and no more all-day training sessions.
Procoto users create an account and are up and running within seconds. In a world where B2B software is shifting toward self-service and increased usability, it’s time for procurement software to catch up.
What did working at Rubicon teach you about the needs of small business owners?
Nearly everything I know about small business and SMB operators comes from my time at Rubicon. I went from interacting almost exclusively with big companies to building personal relationships with small mom-and-pop waste and recycling haulers.
While they often have similar needs and problems to larger companies, small business owners have far fewer resources and funds to solve them. Probably more importantly, they have far less bandwidth to learn new systems or to go through labored onboarding processes. Their solutions need to be quick and straightforward, while still appropriately addressing their problems.
At Rubicon, you moved up from being the company’s first data analyst, to Customer Launch Manager, eventually becoming Director of Business Analytics. How did your roles and swift progression at Rubicon set you up for success?
Before I joined Rubicon in 2015, I was growing increasingly frustrated with the overly structured, hierarchical environment of large companies. I pretty naively thought all I needed to do was put my head down and work hard.
What I sought was what I ultimately found with Rubicon. Right from the outset, I was given more opportunities and trusted with more responsibility than I could have imagined at a larger company. I was managing teams, interacting with senior leadership, and having a real (hopefully positive) impact on the business. For the first time in my career, I felt like everything I did actually mattered.
Moving to Rubicon was a pivotal shift in my trajectory. It took me away from my corporate environments and set me on the path to tech and startups. Rubicon even introduced me to the world of procurement, and here I am building a procurement software company. I’ll forever be indebted to Rubicon for my time there and for the opportunities that Nate, Marc, and Renaud afforded me.
What is next for you and Procoto?
We’re wrapping up our participation in Y Combinator with their Demo Day at the end of the month. From there, our attention turns to building out the engineering team and launching the self-service portion of the platform.
There’s a long road ahead, but there’s no doubt I’m more prepared thanks to my time at Rubicon and our shared mission to end waste.