Executive Interview with Thao Hill

Thao Hill is the VP of Sales and Marketing at ProcureNow, a government procurement solution designed to help local governments simplify and improve the procurement process. CBJ asked him to discuss how ProcureNow has helped local governments so far, as well as how it can continue to help clients into the future.

Tell me more about ProcureNow. Why create the platform?

ProcureNow is a California certified small business headquartered in San Francisco. Our mission is to transform efficiency and innovation in local government by offering the modern, intuitive software alternative for public procurement.

Government procurement processes can be complex and adversarial.  When we first started, we saw an industry struggling to build complex solicitation projects effectively. Originally, we designed an alternative to using word processors to build out government RFPs and bids by combining clause intelligence, workflow automation, and real time collaboration. It worked.  We successfully built a structured system for managing the development of solicitations.

The final result of exporting these structured masterpieces into flat, boring PDF and Word documents – just to have them imported back into archaic vendor notification databases and antiquated bidding tools – didn’t sit right with the team. So, we set out on a journey to build a new best-of-breed e-Procurement solution that took full advantage of the critical front-end information that was captured by our solicitation development system. Modern, intuitive e-procurement that met the comprehensive needs of an already mature software industry… but an industry where the words “modern” and “intuitive” were nowhere to be found.

What in your background inspired you to start this new venture? 

Liam Dorpalen-Barry, the CEO, and David Gertmenian-Wong, the CTO, invited me to help launch the company exactly 2 years ago after spending 16 of my previous 18 years defining the legislative and agenda automation industry at the federal, state, and local levels.

My inspiration? After selling to local governments for more than 16 years and being forced to do “five paper copies” or to register with a sea of painfully difficult to use vendor databases and electronic bidding systems, I – along with Liam and Dave – realized that challenging the e-Procurement industry was the one biggest impact I could make to top off a full career of transforming government efficiency with web-based software. I also met some amazing procurement professionals that wanted to join us in doing something that would benefit their colleagues in a permanent, positively impactful way.

What do you do in your role at ProcureNow? 

I lead customer advocacy which includes marketing, sales, implementation, training, and support.

How can ProcureNow help local government clients with the procurement process? Why should someone use your product versus other incumbent products? 

ProcureNow is the only e-Procurement “point solution” in the government market that starts at the most critically important part of the process – managing the upfront workload of procurement, procurement teams, and solicitations within a government agency. Our solution intuitively guides department project leads and buyer teams through the process of writing high quality scopes of works and developing comprehensive and compliant RFPs and Bids, while helping them design the best vendor user experience for reading and responding to solicitations. ProcureNow agencies give vendors the best experience possible because ProcureNow also helps write and organize the solicitation itself.

Government agencies should give us a serious look because we not only have the easiest to use solution in the market, confirmed by customers and bidders, but we’re also not too big where our customers are just another logo. Combine with the fact that we built our solution to evolve… to be future proof, and what you get with ProcureNow is an actual procurement technology partner who listens and responds to your ever-changing needs.

How is the procurement space changing for local government? 

I can speak to e-procurement.

I believe there is clear recognition that software tools for procurement belong in a class of their own, not as an afterthought or bolt-ons to ERP and financial systems.

I also believe, and our customers have proven, that issuing big complex PDFs as a vendor’s first impression of your solicitation creates an enormous barrier of entry that turns many companies away. We can email hundreds of inboxes an invitation to respond to a bid, but if the bid is too hard to read, the result will continue to be the same.

Modern companies expect the same online experiences from government that you experience in the private sector. You can no longer fool local businesses with web tools built in the 90s.

Vendor databases that ask 100 questions before giving you access to a bid is another enormous barrier of entry that turns bidders away.

If your application requires a user’s guide, then you know something’s wrong. Apps these days don’t need user’s guides. Think about all the apps you use on the phone and on your computer and name one modern tool that comes with pages and pages of user guides.

The bottom line is that procurement has always been at the forefront of technology innovation, but that technology that was ahead of its day in 1990 is no longer acceptable in 2020.

You previously worked for Granicus, a platform commonly used to help local governments communicate with their residents. How has your professional experience helped you become more successful?

The most important things I learned from my years helping build Granicus into what it became were:

  1. Competency First. When I interface with customers, I have to be competent in what they do day in and day out. It’s also important to know what drives customers professionally and emotionally, and I have to offer something that transforms their careers from less mundane tasks to more creative opportunities to be valued. They must trust me enough to consider me a vital part of their team.
  2. A Culture of Customer Advocacy. When I listen to customers and make every interaction an opportunity to learn and grow, that will equal success in anything I do. Also, I say yes to my customers as much as possibly can…  without upsetting engineering too much. When you are a scrappy startup, customers define your vision and your plan, not you. I fight for my customers every chance I get, and they in turn tell their friends how much we change their lives.
  3. Make room in your life for a thousand buyers to be your new best friends. I love our customers like they are my family. They know that. If they don’t know that, I’ve done something wrong.

Founded in 2014, ProcureNow is still a relatively new entity in the world of local government. What do you hope to accomplish over the next five years? 

 We deployed our first subscription agency in July 2018 for the City of Santa Monica. Over the next five years, I want public procurement professionals to be seen by the agencies they work for as the lynchpin for government innovation and operational efficiency. For so long, procurement has been seen as the adversary – as one of the main reasons that government bureaucracy exists. This isn’t their fault. They just haven’t been given the proper tools to grease the wheels of government innovation and efficiency.

If we give them the right tools to do their jobs more effectively – they become the reason why public/private partnerships work to build agencies that exceed the expectations of citizens, students, passengers, humanity. Dream Big!

You can find more information about ProcureNow on their website, LinkedIn, and YouTube pageYou can find Thao on LinkedIn and on his webinar channel.