Jeffrey Lam is one of the founders of INVICTUS – a FinTech company that is building a smart contract for Order Logistic Payment (OLP), leveraging on IBM blockchain. Jeffrey aspires to solve the last mile payments of SMEs, in particular for M&E and F&B businesses.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Ex- Corporate Warrior, Marketing & Channels Manager, and Private Banker. I am one of the founders of INVICTUS – a FinTech company that is building a smart contract for Order Logistic Payment (OLP), leveraging on IBM blockchain. In the past, we have invested in businesses and noted the extreme pain points of doing businesses in Singapore, especially, the last mile payments for M&E and F&B businesses.
What is your business venture about?
We have an integrated B2B e-procurement platform, Procure2Pay for trade transactions.
Our focus is to take the pain out of the last mile of a B2B2B business transaction through a blockchain Smart Contract, and working closely with banks, 3rd party liquidity providers, logistics partners, OEM suppliers and SME Customers.
What is your mission at the outset?
We had the idea that our platform had to be differentiated from other e-procurement platforms and that it had to address the pain points of SMEs, which constitute 99% of registered enterprises. By providing a secured and documented Procure2Pay platform and ecosystem, actual and almost real-time transactions and financing can be provided at all stages of the project, not just at the invoice stage, but even when a purchase order is issued. Blockchain provides transactional transparency across the whole project value chain. It is an opportunity that we do not want to miss, to solve a real problem out there in the market.
The solution does not rely solely on the SME’s financial health or SME’s relationships with their purchasers, that often limits the abilities of SMEs to secure financing. The blockchain Smart Contract provides a better assurance that the SME does have the ability to pay off loans that are being seeked, especially in Project and PO financing.
Transparency from blockchain technology promotes trust, which should result in lower risks, and hence lower costs/fees/haircuts. INVICTUS’s implementation will address the points on transparency, trust and risks. The distributed database created by blockchain technology has a fundamentally different digital backbone, the most distinct and important feature of blockchain.
Each node in the network comes to the same conclusion for each transaction, each updating the record independently, with the most current record becoming the de-facto official record in lieu of there being a master copy.
Transactions are broadcasted. Every node creates its own updated version of each transaction/event. Blockchain eliminates the need for a trusted party to facilitate digital relationships. This resulted in a system that does not need a trusted third party.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Moving trade transactions from paper, telephone calls and faxes alone would not be enough. The pain points are not only the low labour productivity of the SMEs. Being small, they have problems accessing financing for their business. As I have said, SMEs make up 99% of the enterprises in Singapore. They contribute to nearly half of the GDP, while employing 70% of the workforce. But many SMEs are facing severe problems and experiencing deep pain points in cashflow, manpower and resources. They have difficulty obtaining manufacturers’ credit and bank financing, due to weak financials, low bank balance and/or inadequate director’s income. In addition, SMEs face payment cycles, typically down the value chain, that are in excess of 45/60 days, sometimes stretching to 60/90 days. Unlike big companies that sit on lots of cash and have access to all sorts of credit and financing, SMEs are often strap of cash, because of late payments and collections, at all stages of business transactions.
What is unique about your business?
The innovation by itself may not be disruptive. In partnership with IBM, we are incorporating blockchain and Smart Contract into our platform, that will extend financing from the invoicing to the PO stage, providing a disruptive boon to the SMEs. Our Procure2Pay platform provides for 3rd party liquidity providers to complement banks to provide financing. We are integrating logistics partners into the ecosystem. We also seeking support from MAS and various government agencies. This will disrupt the way businesses operate, think and behave. We want to help promising SMEs to thrive and to survive in this new shared economy.
Who do you sell to and how do you get customers?
The B2B business comes in clusters. Each cluster has its suppliers and customers. Suppliers will have a much wider reach of customers, when they can onboard their products and services onto our Procure2Pay platform. Customers signing onto the platform will also have a much wider selection of products and services.
Business transactions of SMEs are generally inefficient, expensive and vulnerable. Projects and cashflows that drive businesses are a big source of problems for SMEs, as they have difficulties accessing financing at the right time. This will free up SME cash flow, reduces risk, securitizes payments, improves efficiency and enables real and effective SME Financing.
INVICTUS integrated 3rd Party Logistics will enable seamless and lowest cost for point to point delivery. In addition, a network of 3rd Party storage can be integrated to enable secured delivery throughout Singapore. Our INVICTUS Smart Logistic is designed to improve the last-mile B2B delivery.
Shortening transaction cycles, providing a much wider market for suppliers and customers, facilitating deliveries and extending financing from invoicing to the PO stage will be our distinctive value proposition. We start with the F&B and M&E sectors. Our solution is scalable and can be easily extended to cover other industry and service sectors. This will provide the growth accelerator for our business.
Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?
We solve a real problem out there: taking the chronic pain out of the last mile of a transaction, by opening up access to financing for SMEs. SMEs can relate to this problem. SMEs will appreciate our solution. We are confident that many of our customers will stay and do repeat business with INVICTUS.
What have been the biggest obstacles?
Getting SMEs to change their mindsets to embrace digital transformation. They can emulate big companies to take advantage of such innovations and participate in a disruptive ecosystem to deliver value to their customers, faster, cheaper and better.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
You cannot be the script writer, actor, director and spectator, all at the same time. Take time to recruit and form an A-team, with complementary skills and talent to execute the plan. Above all, have a board and management team, that are entrepreneurial, willing to take risks and willing to roll up their sleeves, to get the job done, in an entrepreneurial environment, that may not have the comfort or congeniality of an established business or large organization. To quote our Chairman Mr. Lim Soon Hock, “Businesses do not fail. People do “.
Do you have any final thoughts?
Be prepared and stay focus. You will encounter obstacles in every stage of the business. And it can be a very lonely and painful, as you will invariably encounter resistance from inside and outside. One must be constantly be wary of shortage of funds and retention of talents.
Who is your biggest inspiration or drive to do what you are doing?
Singapore’s market is small. There are too many players fighting for a share of the limited market. However, Singapore has a unique advantage of having thousands of OEMs/MNCs. They have sales & marketing headquarters and/or operational headquarters here that we can leverage on and bring onto our platform. Singapore is therefore an excellent testing bed for our Procure2Pay solution and a good springboard to expand into overseas markets.
What’s next for you and for INVICTUS?
INVICTUS can be the default and preferred access as well as support for all SMEs seeking business funding and financing from banks and 3rd party liquidity providers. INVICTUS offers a secured and documented platform for SMEs in Singapore and in the region. The financing cycle can be considerably shortened and disrupted. Our Smart Contract provides real time financing and credit options, including reducing the payment cycle to the SMEs, who are typically down the value chain, as I have said earlier. INVICTUS can take care of trust and payment with our blockchain Smart Contract. SMEs can now compete based on their skills. This will ensure that deserving SMEs get the necessary help and assistance for them to develop and thrive. In this regard, it is our hope that we can play our small part to contribute to creating a critical mass of large local companies, that are vital for Singapore’s future economic growth and survival.
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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