Very interesting interview on how B2B e-commerce is evolving both disintermediation and empowering of intermediaries to be more effective.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to yourself and Unified Commerce.
Ross Elliott: I am one of the founders and President of a company called TrueCommerce. We are a hundred-million dollar provider of B2B commerce and B2C commerce. We’re headquartered in Cranberry, Pennsylvania, which is a suburb of Pittsburgh.
Sramana Mitra: When you say B2B commerce and B2C commerce, tell us a bit more about what specifically is your business.
Ross Elliott: We started the business about 12 years ago with the idea that connectivity was going to wind up becoming the leading indicator of success in the supply chain over the course of time. Our focal point in building this company was to build out a healthy network globally that provided connectivity into a variety of different types of companies, principally buyers and sellers.
A buyer could be you, or I as a consumer. A buyer could be a manufacturer, or it could be retailers or distributors buying material that might be pushed to a consumer like us. A seller, on the converse, could be a retailer, manufacturer, or grower. We wanted to build a network to provide the electronic connectivity between all of those members of the supply chain. One of the means of doing that was to use a traditional methodology called EDI.
We started by buying up a number of EDI companies to give us the starting point for that any-to-any network. We’ve expanded upon it. When we talk about B2C or B2B, we’re really saying network in the center that’s responsible for moving transactions around, validating information, and then a series of services and applications that surround the network.
Those could be things like a web storefront for certain companies to present their business. It could be product information management for a manufacturer trying to get rich content out of their distribution channel. It could be integrations in the marketplaces like Amazon and eBay. For all intents and purposes, what we want to do is facilitate the flow of information between the buyers and the sellers and give them applications to add value to that information at its endpoint.
Sramana Mitra: How did you build the network? Where did you start? Did you start with enterprises and gave them the platform through which to bring all of their suppliers in, and is that how the network got seeded?
Ross Elliott: I wish it were that easy. We actually started at the other end of the market. We predominantly started with small-to-mid market customers. We’ve got about 12,000 direct paying customers and about 92,000 total connections into the network. Our starting spot was to go to the smaller companies that didn’t have either the financial wherewithal or technical expertise on how to build communication links with the people that either wanted to buy their products or they wanted to buy from.
Our largest single community on the network are QuickBooks customers. We have everything. from QuickBooks customers at the very low end to enterprise companies that might been the multiple billions of dollars at the high end.
Sramana Mitra: You started from the low end of sellers, and then brought in the larger buyers later.
Ross Elliott: That is absolutely a true statement. We started with the supplier communities and then brought in the retail community later in life.