Boosting trade with the power of networks
Valuechain goes back to startup mode, and beyond supply chain dashboards
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Supply chain software startups aren’t exactly in short, er, supply.
But today’s startup wants to go further than a SaaS dashboard product, harnessing the power of networks to open up new markets and opportunities for businesses around the world.
Scroll down to read all about Valuechain.
But first! A few things you should know about…
🔥 The finalists for next week’s Thinking Digital Startup Competition have been revealed and they include two startups we’ve previously covered: The Smart Container Company and Fyous. I’m a judge for the event in Newcastle.
🐙 Octopus Investments has unveiled its new £40m deep tech pre-seed fund.
🤖 …oh and OpenAI has announced its first international office will be in London. Nice.
Valuechain wants to turbo-charge industry with the power of networks
While most startups we cover in PreSeed Now are very young, occasionally I come across another type of company. This type has been around for years, but with a revised cap table, fresh leadership, and a new direction, has been reborn as a startup.
Valuechain fits into that second category. The company began 10 years ago as a supply chain consultancy focused on the aerospace industry. After a few years, it launched a SaaS product, built in partnership with an aerospace components manufacturer.
It was then I first encountered Valuechain, after it was named one of the 2016 Northern Stars by Tech North, an organisation I worked for at the time.
But now, following a change of leadership, the company is back to being a startup, with a focus on both scaling its SaaS platform and growing a new offering; a collaboration network.
Valuechain’s new CEO, Nishant Raj, is bullish about the impact they can make by greatly improving the ability for companies in the industrial sector to collaborate and trade.
“There are lots of individual things that go on in silos, and that's a massive gap that needs filling. Because you don't grow on your own, you grow through partnership and collaboration.”
The two sides of Valuechain
Let’s dig into how the two parts of the business work. The first might sound somewhat familiar. The second is where the company sees it's biggest growth potential.
Firstly, Valuechain’s supply chain management platform, called Supplier Portal, connects with ERP systems and maps out all a company’s suppliers and their performance. It tracks metrics like ‘quality parts per million’, ‘on time in full’ performance, spending, and any non-conformance issues.
Customers can share this data with suppliers to provide a ‘single source of truth’, helping them collaborate to resolve any problems in the supply chain. It can also give users an overview of which suppliers are causing issues.
“The cool thing that this platform enables is data traceability across the product and supply chain, and across the tiers of the supply chain,” says Raj.
“It enables productivity because you're not having to go through multiple emails, miscommunications across suppliers in terms of when orders were delivered, and non-quality conformances.”
Raj claims this can save a team of two to four people 200 hours a month in managing the supply chain. He says current customers benefit from using the product across multiple factories.
Valuechain is currently working to add features like carbon footprint monitoring, and being able to monitor the total cost of working with a particular supplier. If a supplier always delivers late, that offsets any benefits there might be to them offering the cheapest price, for example.
Enter the Network Portal
The new side of the business is dubbed ‘Network Portal’, and it’s almost a ‘Facebook for supply chains’. It allows businesses to create networks of the companies they trade with, communicate with others in their network, share news, and connect with other networks on the platform to expand their business opportunities.
And Raj says it’s attracting trade associations looking for a way to digitise their activity, as well as businesses looking for a way to visualise their supply chain and expand their networks. He says 57 trade bodies and 6,700 individual companies have signed up since Network Portal went live in July last year.
“Trade bodies in Canada are now collaborating with trade bodies in the UK,” says Raj. “The trade bodies are the first strategic element, because then we don't have to individually go and engage each member - that's already happening. Then we can leverage enabling technology to let the trade bodies do more.”
And trade bodies can use the platform to interface with networks in other sectors. Raj says industries such as textiles, space, tooling manufacturing, and rail, are all using the platform.
Network Portal can also provide useful market intelligence, Raj explains.
“We have 1,300 individual capabilities mapped out across networks; we have certifications across companies and across industries mapped out. And you can imagine, when you start to pull all this data together, what that means for a new company coming in. We know where the gaps are for them to go into new sectors, letting them explore new opportunities and do more.”
A little history…
Raj moved to the UK from India in 2009 to do his degree, after which he carved out a career in the industry 4.0 space.
During the darkest days of the Covid pandemic, and inspired by the UK Government’s Ventilator Challenge, he began to look at how opportunities for collaboration between different businesses could be exposed in a more efficient way.
It turned out Valuechain had been working on something similar themselves. Network Portal had begun life as an Innovate UK-funded project.
This eventually led to Raj joining Valuechain as CEO at the beginning of this year, after founder Tom Dawes stepped down for personal reasons. The company is now pushing Network Portal as its big growth opportunity.
Raj has taken the decade-old company back into ‘startup mode’, downsizing its office space at Sci-Tech Daresbury in Cheshire, as the team of six in the UK plus 10 developers in China take a focused approach to growth.
Supplier Portal operates to a traditional SaaS subscription model.
Network Portal is also a subscription product, but is a little more interesting in how it works. When a trade association joins, all their member businesses are added as part of that price.
An additional subscription tier is on the way for individual companies. This will offer what Raj describes as “advanced A.I. capabilities in terms of tender recommendation, opportunity recommendation based on capabilities, gap analysis so if you're in aerospace and wanted to go into automotive, you’d know what certifications you were missing.
“If you can use that to grow opportunities to open into markets that you didn’t even know existed…, that's really what we like to enable.”
Go deeper on Valuechain
Much more on their funding, competition, vision, and challenges: