10 Best CEOs to Watch 2020
Lisbon-based VORTAL, founded in 2000, has been supporting customers globally from small municipalities to entire public administration of several countries to SMEs and also large multinationals. Every day, thousands of public and private buyers connect with each other through VORTAL’s cloud eMarketplace for business.
The company is led by Miguel Sobral who rose through the ranks to become VORTAL’s CEO early last year. We interviewed him recently to know more about the company’s vision for the future.
Why are you working in this industry?
More than any other activity, buying and selling are a part of daily business. Changing the way in which companies and governments buy products and services has quite a significant impact on their competitiveness. The eSourcing and eMarketplace industry creates such a measurable impact in efficiency, savings and new business that I cannot imagine any other more exciting and rewarding job.
Our work impacts the daily life of people and companies, creating a new way of doing business. VORTAL e-Procurement and eSourcing solutions simplify the procurement processes, helping buying organizations on big contracts and crucial decisions, providing innovative technologies to support the decision-making process and risk assessment, and improving their efficiency. With VORTAL, buyers buy better through a more transparent and competitive collaborative digital environment, saving time, reducing costs, discovering new business partners and having access to valuable market intelligence data related with price trends, competitiveness environment by category of spend or geographic region. On the other side of the equation, suppliers have access to more business opportunities, from their current customers and potential new clients, counting on innovative solutions to improve their competitiveness and visibility over competition and over business opportunities that are typically available for the incumbent suppliers only; as a result, companies eventually sell more, meet new potential customers, improve their brand visibility and help their business grow.
Besides, this is a dynamic and challenging area. In this era of changing technology, businesses rise more quickly than ever before and we have to call for strategies. Procurement has evolved substantially as a result of changing technologies, existing legislation, changing economies, global competition or new supply chain challenges.
We need to predict changes, adapt our solutions, create new ones, and be disruptive. We cannot stop innovating and that is another challenge. The imminent change always represents opportunities for us to develop our services and new business models. For all these reasons, this is a fascinating industry.
Can you tell us about your professional life?
All my professional life has been led by technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. Since a very young age, I have been exposed to the graphic design industry. I believe that’s how I developed a special interest in harmony and how solutions need to be implemented in order to leave an impact and at the same time be attractive and cool to use. This passion for technology and the obsession of making complex things look simpler have always impacted the way I think, the way I act, the way I live my life.
Being part of a company where these are key elements makes my routine even more passionate. I love creating new solutions to improve the daily business of companies in an international landscape, making sure they solve real problems and are replicable among different countries and cultures. This is what I have tried to accomplish my whole life and what I expect to continue doing.
An organization needs leaders to disrupt the status quo with innovation, but they also must be pragmatic about focus, priorities and the pace of innovation in their organization. Do you agree?
I definitely agree. In an innovation driven atmosphere, such as the one VORTAL has, a number of new ideas flower every day in every team. To manage that flow of ideas, we have implemented processes to structure them and select those where we should put energy bringing to reality. Some fail, some succeed. Testing new ideas and, if that’s the case, fail fast, is the primary focus.
Learning from failure is the second one. We have to do it as fast as we can. So, we challenge the status quo, we take risks and we cannot be afraid to break the rules. Nevertheless, we always have in mind our responsibilities and skills.
We invest in new ideas but we try not to deviate from what we do best, from our strengths, avoiding dispersion that eventually may drive to further dispersion, defueling the overall vision.
What do you hope to accomplish within the next year?
We have recently launched a new version of our eSourcing driven eMarketplace, which creates a completely new level of simplicity, usability and automation of procurement processes for companies and governments. We are truly convinced that we have launched the most flexible G2B2B platform which is capable of dealing with the multiple legal contexts, regulations and even business models globally. This new technology creates a new space for delivering innovative and valuable new services oriented to buyers and suppliers, taking advantage of predictive analytics and artificial intelligence technologies to anticipate, for instance, the new contracts to be launched in the future and the probability of a supplier succeeding with a specific commercial proposal in a context of competition.
The New Year is also a year of consolidation of new leaderships in the company at senior and middle management levels.
What other CEOs and Entrepreneurs do you look up to, and why?
Elon Musk because of his vision, ambition and ability to make people believe they can do the unthinkable. The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla tries to do what has never been done before and he does it with an obsession and determination. When we compare some of the challenges we encounter at our workplaces everyday with what Elon is trying to achieve, everything seems achievable.
I have also admired Satya Nadella, for succeeding in the conversion of a software giant like Microsoft into a cloud-driven company. Shifting a company of that size with such a huge number of people requires vision and determination to challenge a very successful business model. If not challenged at the right time it would have driven the company towards a journey that reaped less success.
At last, Jack Ma, the former English professor and ex-Chairman of the Alibaba Group. He had the most extraordinary vision and ambition to build the most amazing ecosystem of buyers and suppliers, especially for SMEs. His story has inspired me since the first day I became aware of what he was doing, 15 years ago.
Meet the Leader
Miguel Sobral, CEO
Miguel is a senior business leader with 20+ years’ experience. He is well-known in SaaS business circles globally for his deep expertise in the development of sustainable SaaS business models. He rose through the ranks at VORTAL to become the CEO of the company last year.
He serves the European Commission as its eProcurement Expert in the EXEP and is the Chairman of EUPLAT, the European Association of Public eTendering Platform Providers.
“Our work impacts the daily life of people and companies, creating a new way of doing business.”
"We invest in new ideas but we try notto deviate from what we do best, from our strengths, avoiding dispersionthat eventually may drive to further dispersion, defueling the overall vision."