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Tradeshift aims to disrupt inter-business transaction processes

We met up with Tradeshift’s Christian Lanng, the company’s CEO and co-founder, to find out more about the business and to discuss about the recent announcement that it is partnering up with Intuit, something that could give it a leg up in the small business and entreprise sector.

What is Tradeshift and how does it help businesses?

Every minute you have to spend running your business instead of doing business is wasted time. Digital tools were supposed to make this faster and easier but instead have ended up running as separate islands, speaking different languages and bloated with a sprawling array of features you’ll never use.

Tradeshift wants to put everything you need on the same page by acting as a platform for all your business interactions. From invoicing to workflows, visualisations, POs and more, it ties seamlessly into the other systems you use to get things done. The platform is currently used by over 150,000 businesses in 190 countries including the NHS, French Government and Kuehne+Nagel.

Isn’t anyone else doing this? What makes you think you’ll succeed versus them?

Large enterprises with tens of thousands of suppliers have been wanting to work electronically with their suppliers on a shared platform for years (ed: some of it is done via electronic data interchange to some extent).

But every previous service aiming to solve this problem has sold it to the enterprise (for whom the benefits are clear) and then tried to also charge all those suppliers to use it. Naturally, they aren’t interested in paying another fee to invoice their largest buyers just to get the money they are owed.

Tradeshift rethinks this and offers free accounts to all suppliers. And because Tradeshift is a platform for all your business interactions, it hooks offers connectors to your accounting system or activate whole new functions like visualisations or quotes and POs.

What’s the news then concerning Intuit’s Quickbooks and how does that change things?

In the last couple of years since launch, Tradeshift had become a platform used by over 150,000 businesses in 190 countries. But the recently announced news of a partnership with Intuit means Tradeshift will be rolled out to the millions of businesses that use its Quickbooks accounting software. This is the start of a move to electronic business as the default - with over five million businesses joining the Tradeshift platform, you’ll soon be able to assume that those you work with are connected.

What’s the vision of where Tradeshift as a platform is going in the next year?

At that scale, the opportunity for third parties to provide apps that run on the platform becomes enormous. Today we work with a good variety of these developers but 12 months from now, we expect there to be Tradeshift Apps available that do things for small businesses we haven’t even considered yet.

We’re also always thinking about the design of Tradeshift. What other features would a business using our platform benefit from? It’s this kind of thinking that has led to innovations like Tradeshift Instant Payments in the past. There’s plenty more where that came from.

Why do businesses need to change in these ways? Isn’t everything working well enough already?

60 day payment terms. Enterprises shipping crates of paper to India for manual input. Companies going out of business every day by cashflow issues. Paper everywhere. That’s the face of global business today. Meanwhile, in your personal life, you’re using one of the most advanced piece of cloud software ever created to look up a recipe for what you want to eat for dinner or another to play Farmville with your aunt. It’s not a matter of if businesses will change in this direction, it’s more about when. We want to make sure it happens in a way that’s open, doesn’t hold small business hostages to their largest buyers and opens a new door of opportunity for all involved. And we think 2013 may well be that year.

Desire worked at ITProPortal right at the beginning and was instrumental in turning it into the leading publication we all know and love today. He then moved on to be the Editor of TechRadarPro - a position he still holds - and has recently been reunited with ITProPortal since Future Publishing's acquisition of Net Communities.