Ex-corporate banker Eric is the Co-Founder and COO of JED – a company with a B2B trade optimization tool built on smart financial and blockchain technology – and he shares his passion in the trade finance space and how innovation can strengthen relationships between partners in the ecosystem.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Currently, I am Co-Founder and COO of JED, and my role is focused on strategy and overall execution of our FinTech venture. Prior to JED, I was a Corporate Banker for the last 10 years and was leading the Food, Agri and Commodity Trading portfolio in Mizuho Bank for the last few years. Trade finance has always been a subject close to my heart and I believe there is much room for innovation and development in this space to benefit more companies. This belief continues to motivate me on this exciting journey with the entire JED team and our clients.
What is your business venture about?
JED is a digital trade platform for Suppliers and Buyers to initiate and accept early payment on their trade invoices. The aim is to facilitate trade and working capital flow for businesses that are leveraged on existing trade relationships. Benefits to businesses include: Advanced cashflow and reduced Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) for suppliers; and discounts/savings earned for Buyers. Our partners include financial institutions and market lenders to plug into our model to provide additional working capital access to our clients.
Our solution uses a combination of smart data to collate and organize optimal trade outcomes between Suppliers and Buyers, and also blockchain technology to provide authentication, transparency and double-financing checks for lenders.
What is your mission at the outset?
Our mission is to create an inclusive trade and finance ecosystem that benefits ALL enterprises – big and small.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
We are a team of 7 with an inimitable blend of banking, blockchain and technological backgrounds. So when we came together, we were in a unique position to marry our domain knowledge and expertise to build something great together. The idea was first conceived when my co-founder was consulting for a leading supply chain lender and realized the opportunity of a self-financing supply chain. Initially, we started with the intention of joining a FinTech competition “for the fun of it” but following a series of serendipitous events that gathered interest in our solution, it made us realize the potential of our idea which drive us to develop and commercialize it.
What is unique about your business?
Traditionally, when companies think of raising working capital or earning returns on their available cash, banks and financial institutions always come to mind first. What is unique about our business is that companies can now through JED, raise working capital or earn higher returns on available cash within their trade supply chain first. There is no complicated system integration required, it’s easy to use and affordable for all businesses – Big and Small.
Who do you sell to and how do you get customers?
Any companies who trade on open account terms would benefit from JED. We acquire our customers through a combination of our own client network, and business referrals. In addition, we are actively involved in various outreach programs through industry and partnership collaborations.
Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?
At the heart of our solution is to bring values to our customers – be it in reducing costs, increasing efficiency, providing working capital access – it is about how we can help make doing business easy for our customers and how we can help them thrive better. We believe that staying close to our customers, solving their problems and understanding their needs paves the way for a long term relationship.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
To start – the first step is almost always uncomfortable and it sucks. Just like when you start a diet, it sucks (Ok confession. This has constantly been one of my top New Year’s resolution for the past few years). When you start, you are bound to face many headwinds and you will continue to feel uncomfortable. However, learn to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable! What a paradox but it’s true! As start-ups, tenacity and perseverance are key attributes we need to hold on to. If you have an innovative idea, go for it! Start small, dream Big and move fast as you continue to innovate and improve! Push on and keep trying. It is better to start, try and fail than to never start and try at all. Isn’t it?
Do you have any final thoughts?
We are all living in a time where things around us are moving and changing at a fast pace. Often we are uncertain of what lies ahead. So quite often it is not what we know that counts, but what we do not know that requires continuous learning, innovation and improvement. As the saying goes, “The best way to predict the future is to create it“.
Who is your biggest inspiration or drive to do what you are doing?
People – JED team and our customers. Bringing values and improving people’s lives are what drives me everyday.
What’s next for you and for JED?
We have a product and market roadmap that we hope to achieve in the next 3-5 years. It is an aggressive and challenging target but at the same time exhilarating as we develop new products and explore new markets. We are all excited in what lies ahead.
Hock Lai has 18 years of experience in the financial industry, having performed roles in both business and technology. He graduated from the National University of Singapore (Real Estate), Nanyang Technological University (Infocomm Technology) and Nanyang Polytechnic (Fund Management & Administration).
He is also a Fellow of the Singapore University of Social Science, advisor to FinTech Startups and mentor to student FinTech projects.
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