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Home » Meet the Founder: #1 – Nick Verkroost (Canopy)

Meet the Founder: #1 – Nick Verkroost (Canopy)

Welcome to a new series of blogs!

This is where every month, we’ll ask the Founder or CEO of a procurement software company a few questions. The goal is to get to know them personally and also their product a little better.

Our aim here is to shine a light on some of the lesser-known solutions. These 5-minute insights are perfect to read on a coffee break if you’re keen to grow your knowledge of digital procurement tools.

This first one features Nick Verkroost, CEO of UK-based supplier data and SRM platform Canopy.

You can also find Canopy in our Software Finder App here.

Nick was also a guest way back when on The Procurement Software Podcast, when Canopy was in the process of being built as a stand-alone SaaS product.

So, over to Nick to tell us a bit more about him and about Canopy…

1. What did you do before you were Founder / CEO of your company? Where are you based?

Yes certainly, so my career has always been in the tech sector, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have sat on both sides of the Board table. Straight out of uni I went into strategy consulting, which for any young person is a fantastic foundation for any career.

I was then headhunted to build a venture portfolio for a family office.

And for the past 8 years I’ve been an operator of high growth early stage businesses as COO or CEO. I’m based in the UK.


2. Give a brief overview of the problem that you set out to solve with Canopy

It’s astonishing to think we’re in 2024, on the cusp of an AI revolution, and Procurement teams are still pushing paper like it’s the 1999! Your email inbox is probably your only real “database” of supplier information.

If you’re lucky, someone is desperately trying to maintain a spreadsheet. ERP data is a mess, and Sharepoint is no substitute for a proper library of contracts. It’s no surprise Procurement is totally blind to what’s going on in their supply chains!

As a result, practitioners spend more time hunting for information than they do interpreting, analysing and utilising it to make decisions – i.e. the job they were hired for. And it’s this hidden cost that means Procurement is ill-equipped for the world we live in today: frequent supply chain disruptions, new legislation, and persistent economic uncertainty.

That’s where Canopy comes in. Canopy is a Supplier Relationship Management platform that gives you complete visibility of your supplier data and eliminates manual administration from your supplier operations.


3. Which geographical territories, business sizes and industry sectors are you most active in?

Canopy has been specifically designed for SMEs and small procurement teams. Although we boast blue-chip customers, like CBRE, Liberty Global and Caterpillar, and support their operations globally, most of our customers are headquartered in Europe and are either procurement teams of 1, or have a couple of people supporting them.


4. What makes Canopy different from other competitors?

Our mission is to support small procurement teams, who we know don’t have time to sit through endless implementation workshops and wait months before the platform is ready.

They need something they can start using today! That’s why you can go to our website and sign-up to Canopy online. You’ll get a free trial, you’ll be able to configure the platform yourself, and start realising value immediately. And it only costs £99 a month!

That doesn’t mean the system is any less secure: our architecture and information security controls are audited to enterprise standards. So far, we haven’t found anyone else that makes procurement software this easy!


5. What is your biggest challenge as Founder / CEO of a procurement tech business?

Our biggest challenge is people. Finding great talent is really hard. But this is true of any tech business.

When it comes to the Procurement space specifically, I would say the biggest challenge is authority. In most organisations, Procurement needs the support of the rest of the business if it is to drive the change it wants to achieve.


6. Why do you think this particular challenge is the biggest?

Technology does not solve problems. People do, supported by well defined processes. Technology then enables those processes and creates huge efficiency benefits. But technology itself can’t fix a broken process or lead your people. This change has to be driven by Procurement.

The issue we find is that Procurement rarely carries the weight of voice needed to drive this change on its own. You see this in all aspects of Procurement, from people expecting invoices to be paid immediately to suppliers being engaged without performing any checks. Without the backing of senior leaders and a united voice saying, “we need to change”, no technology in the world will save you.

That’s why our relationship with our customer is so much more than just as a technology vendor.

We become the ‘change agent’, advising them on how to drive change across their organisation, starting with people and process, supported by Canopy as the enabler. And wherever possible, we look for opportunities to deliver immediate value to the Procurement Teams we support.


7. Can you share your projections for the next major trends in procuretech?

The big one of course is AI and the impact that will have on all aspects of business, not just Procurement. The foundation of AI is data. AI needs to have access to robust, accurate data in order to make informed decisions about what to do. And we also need data to train the algorithms in the first place.

If you look at the state of supplier data within most Procurement Teams, we are a long way from being able to train these algorithms successfully. So we need to go on a journey to fix this, and I believe the promise AI offers can be a powerful catalyst to drive this change.

In the short-term, the trend I see happening at the moment is the emergence of the “New Suites”. After the great unbundling of the incumbent suites and the emergence of best-of-breed solutions, we’re now seeing a trend for those.


8. What has surprised you the most when it comes to working with procurement?

How welcoming and inviting the community is! It’s a really wonderful thing to see.

In my career, I’ve worked across a lot of different industries, but none have been as open as Procurement. And what that gives you is a fantastic foundation for shared learning and support, and real willingness to want to improve. It’s a wonderful thing to see, particularly as a vendor.


9. If you had a spontaneous 5-minute chat in a hotel bar or conference reception with a CPO, what would you ask them?

I’d ask them how many suppliers they have, and where they’d go to find the answer.

99 times out of 100, they won’t know. Their instinct will be to go to ERP to answer the question, but this immediately triggers a problem: they can’t trust the data in ERP. For example, one of our clients works internationally, but their ERP system duplicates each supplier record for each country the supplier works in.

Canopy helped them understand who their actual suppliers are, where they operate, and what they do.


10. What do you do to relax when you’re not working?

You’ll usually find me up a mountain or on a sailing boat! I grew up in Switzerland, so the mountains are my home. That’s how I decompress and re-energise.


Thanks Nick for taking the time to answer our questions. If you’re curious about Canopy or would like to connect with Nick, he’s pretty active on LinkedIn.