Technology

Helping firms sail through sales, inventory processes: TradeGecko co-founder and chief executive Cameron Priest

Mr Priest started TradeGecko here in 2012 with his brother and a friend - all from New Zealand - under the JFDI, one of Singapore's earlier start-up incubators. Merging a business' back-end processes of sales, purchasing, inventory and invoicing into
Mr Priest started TradeGecko here in 2012 with his brother and a friend - all from New Zealand - under the JFDI, one of Singapore's earlier start-up incubators. Merging a business' back-end processes of sales, purchasing, inventory and invoicing into one intuitive interface is the core of what his firm does.ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

The tedious work involved in selling a product may surprise many aspiring entrepreneurs, who could find themselves caught up in layers of sales, purchasing and inventory processes. As the tech start-up scene slowly matures in Singapore, one firm has come along to tackle that issue. TradeGecko, an inventory management system provider, aims to help merchants tidy up their back end while growing their business, co-founder and chief executive Cameron Priest, 29, tells Wong Wei Han.

Q What does TradeGecko offer, and what is behind the company's name?

A We are a tech company that provides integrated solutions to merchants and distributors, to help them streamline their back end. We offer the management of sales and purchase orders, inventory control and optimisation, invoicing, and business data analytics - all in one platform that is cloud-based.

We have transformed a lot since 2013 when we launched. All the first version of TradeGecko could really do was help a customer pull orders and manage invoices. Now we do everything he needs, including integration with major e-commerce platforms such as Shopify and WooCommerce.

As for our company name, we don't get geckos in New Zealand, where we came from. There are a lot here and we thought they are cute - that became our company mascot and the rest is history.

Q Give an example of how you help your clients. Who are they?

A Let us look at Ice Cream & Cookie, a local company known for its ice cream cookie sandwiches. It started out making ice cream at home but as the business grew, it scaled up production and started selling to retail stores and hotels. It is now exporting to regional markets.

This is the challenge for all inventory-based businesses. Every step along the way, the complexity of the management process increases. You have to monitor sales in multiple currencies, or make sure your stocks are optimised so that you have the right products for the right customers, instead of things that are left to expire in the warehouse.

Merging all those processes into one intuitive interface is the core of what we do, and we also offer that on mobile devices through an app. The point of all this is to help merchants go back to focusing on what they love most, which is perfecting their products and selling them.

TradeGecko serves around 300 to 400 small and medium-sized enterprises in Singapore but we are, in fact, a very global business. The United States, Australia and Britain are our three biggest markets. The majority of our clients are in the fashion, food and beverage, and lifestyle product business.

Q How has TradeGecko grown in terms of size and business performance?

A Our service charges can be as low as around US$100 to US$200 (S$135 to S$270) per client. From a US$90,000 revenue in our first year, we grew to be a double-digit million-dollar business last year.

We currently have around 90 people split between our headquarters here and Manila. About a third of our staff focus on development and design. Two months ago, we opened a Toronto office, with a team of eight people, to deepen our presence in the North American market.

Q How did TradeGecko take root in Singapore?

A The firm was founded by my brother, myself and a friend, all from New Zealand. We started the business here in 2012 under the JFDI, one of Singapore's earlier start-up incubators. Soon after, we received US$650,000 in seed funding from Wavemaker Labs, which allowed us to launch our product in early 2013. Last year, we received a further US$6.5 million in Series A funding.

Choosing Singapore to launch our business was an easy choice. We grew up looking at this place as the place to be in Asia. For me personally, this is the city that offers just the right mix of business and lifestyle.

TradeGecko has been here to witness the growth of Singapore's start-up scene, and I see a lot more start-ups these days even though the truly successful ones are few and far between. But look at firms like Redmart and Carousell, and you can tell it is all slowly happening.

One thing that helps is the money that the Government puts in to jolt the scene. The ability of the Government to plan, invest and stay the policy course will bode well for start-ups. Still, commercialisation in a small market may be a hurdle for some companies.

Q How do you plan to grow your company and services?

A There are several things that we can work on. First, we want to expand our network of offices into Australia and Britain. And then, there is the language support. Our interface uses English only at the moment and we want to offer more languages, probably starting with Chinese before moving to European languages. Another thing that we are looking at is scaling up our inventory management solutions and making them applicable to bigger customers, such as manufacturers.

Our plan is that, by 2020, TradeGecko will have hundreds of thousands of customers and more than 1,000 staff globally.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline 'Helping firms sail through sales, inventory processes'. Print Edition | Subscribe