Author: Pete Loughlin

"What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive" Walter Scott I am a fan of supply chain finance. Executed properly it can allow buyers to optimise their DPO without painful extensions to payment terms for suppliers and it can lower the cost of working capital to suppliers. But it doesn't always work like that. There isn't a simple definition that covers all interpretations of supply chain finance but at a high level it involves the collaboration of a strong buyer extending their superior financial strength to their buyers to allow them to borrow on the strength of approved invoices. That sounds very worthy doesn't it? But let's look at what can really happen. Let's listen in to the conversation between a buyer and supplier. The supplier is on 30 day terms and his his generous customer offers to allow him to borrow money for 30 days at a favourable rate.

Most software sales people are like ventriloquists. They demonstrate software that looks the part but is often pretty dumb. They make it look clever by presenting it professionally and filling in any gaps in actual functionality with promises and distractions. We've all seen it before - software solutions that run best on PowerPoint. But occasionally you get to see a solution that stands up by itself and delivers. It just works.

Startups and young businesses thrive when their people do their jobs because they want to change the world, they want to get rich or they want to do what they love to do. But as they grow, founders execute their exit plans, hopefully happily, and the accountants move in. The business drivers change. The raison d’etre becomes about numbers and regulation. They’re either fixated on quarterly earnings figures or obsessed with compliance. They get third parties in far flung places to run their back office, even core business activities get outsourced and offshored. The business stops being about the hopes, dreams and ambitions of its people. They even outsource them.

[caption id="attachment_6736" align="aligncenter" width="480"] Bertram Meyer - CEO Taulia[/caption]

The British can make strong claims to the invention of the computer (Babbage) and the World Wide Web (Tim Berners-Lee) but examine the DNA of the modern world of technology and it's mainly American with a strong Northern Californian flavor. Ariba, Oracle, Google, Twitter - Silicon Valley born and bred.

But it's not just Americans that are behind this innovation. This phenomenon has more to do with geography. Two of the most interesting innovators in the P2P space, Taulia and Tradeshift, although San Francisco based, are European - well their founders are. Why is it so important, indeed, is it important, for tech start-ups to have a Bay Area address? I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago and took the opportunity to speak to Christian Hjorth, Head of Sales at Tradeshift and Bertram Meyer, CEO of Taulia to understand why Silicon Valley is still important.

The cost of credit to many businesses is so high that it threatens their continued existence – that’s if they can get credit at all. And it’s not just a problem for them – it affects their customers and their suppliers. The full extent of the supply chains within their industry is affected. But it need not be like this. By taking a fresh view of risk, that cost of credit can be reduced significantly. We’ve taken a detailed look at OB10’s Express Payment offering to understand how this new way of trading can work in practice.

The growth of social networks is allowing a silent minority to become heard with a crystal clarity. People with the ambition and enthusiasm to make a name for themselves in their specialist field are building the infrastructure of a new type of community of special interests that is effectively competing with industry analysts. A community of experts who aren’t saying what they say because they’ve been paid to say it but instead are saying it because it’s a well-informed belief. Whether your field is literature or linguistics, opera or soap opera, politics or purchasing, you can make a name for yourself by creating content on-line.  Content is increasingly consumed on the internet, on the desktop in the office or via mobile devices anywhere. Blogs syndicated through social networks reach their audience far quicker and in a manner much more convenient than the traditional channels of printed media, TV and radio. But should the traditional media be that worried about bloggers?

Despite their apparent compelling appeal, some great ideas just never take off the way you might have expected: 3D cinema; internet refrigerators; the umbrella hat. It’s not just the frivolous inventions that don’t make it and in the business to business technology space there are as many examples. EDI is one. In some industries, such as retail, it’s well embedded as a core tool but is never really took off and the overlapping emergence of the internet in the 1990s saw growth in VAN based EDI plateau permanently. Purchasing cards is another technology that promised more than it delivered. The benefits are compelling. To consolidate all of you supplier invoices into a single electronic statement that can be uploaded into your accounting system should be the default way we do business – but it never worked, apart from in a few niche areas. And there’s a third – supply chain finance. The concept is far from new but despite years of marketing and product development, there are few examples of commercial organisations that have been able to prove its full potential. But that might just be about to change.