Andrew Butt, Co-founder and CEO at Enable discusses the top voids that planning tools in supply chain still need to fill while diving into the importance of enabling modern fintech to streamline multiple payment channels in this chat with the GlobalFintechSeries team:
Hi Andrew, we’d love to hear about the Enable platform…how did the idea come about…take us through the story…
I met my co-founder, Denys Shortt OBE, while learning to fly helicopters at age 16…Denys was already an established entrepreneur building the DCS Group, the largest distribution company for health, beauty and household products in the UK. DCS wanted a smart, efficient way to manage its many complex trading agreements with suppliers and customers. But it couldn’t find a single solution that met all its needs forcing DCS to resort to Excel spreadsheets which are prone with errors and not up to the job. Denys and I realized that the complex rebate agreements that were giving DCS a headache were also giving problems to every other distributor in over 50 other sectors. There are more than $1 trillion of B2B rebates in North America and Europe with the vast majority being managed poorly.
We had initially built a custom solution for DCS and version 1.0 was not the most pretty. But every manufacturer, customer and buying group who saw it, wanted to purchase it. At the time, Denys and I had a steadily growing and profitable software engineering business, with a team of 100 supporting customers in many sectors. But the opportunity to launch a SaaS product to solve the rebate problem was so compelling that we pivoted the whole company in this new direction.
Enable empowers distributors, wholesalers, retailers, and manufacturers to make better trading decisions to drive mutually profitable growth, while improving cash flow and reducing risk. We have more merchants and suppliers in the UK and US than any other comparable software solution.
Tell us about your recent funding and your upcoming plans and innovations for Enable?
We saw the opportunity to disrupt this dusty space and create a new category. We knew that to do that we’d need to raise funding – continuing to bootstrap would be too slow – so I pitched up in Silicon Valley and met a few great VCs. I explained our vision and demonstrated the size of the opportunity. And I showed what we had achieved so far. My initial goal was to raise $10M of Series A funding. We had so much interest that we closed the Series A at $16M.
We have a million growth opportunities ahead of us, and the challenge is what to pursue and what to say no to. Right now we’re focussed on doubling our business again over the next 12 months, and so we’re focusing most of our resources on incremental improvement. Watch this space for some exciting new innovations, too!
Can you share a few thoughts on the biggest challenges that manufacturing and procurement professionals face in B2B – how can they optimize use of tech / SaaS solutions to streamline processes? What are some mistakes they should be avoiding (that you often still find in tech adoption within manufacturing).
There is a large void when it comes to collaboration and business planning tools in the supply chain. Specifically, tools that help distributors and retailers collaborate with their suppliers and manufacturers. We are here to change that. I find it amazing that over 50% of relationships between manufacturers and distributors are still manual. Paper, email, Excel, and ancient legacy systems. Now is the time to embrace modern tech to better, real-time coms with trading partners and work together to better serve customers.
As payments and B2B SaaS solutions reshape how users, banks, merchants transact today – what do you feel are some of the concerns that businesses and users need to be focusing on here?
Embrace modern tech and payment channels now. The world is changing at pace, and even if customers and suppliers seem happy with the old world, they’ll be eliminating these old payment methods rapidly. Don’t get left behind. The cloud is way past the point of being inevitable now. I occasionally meet people who in 2021 still don’t trust having their data in the cloud. This is an old world view and these people and businesses are going to die if they don’t embrace the cloud and move forward.
A few thoughts on some of the most innovative B2B finance solutions you’ve seen in the market changing the game for manufacturing / distribution establishments?
There are a few solutions on the Blockchain that are revolutionary here. EY (Ernst & Young) are doing some great projects in this space. Then you look at latest generation purchase-to-pay providers such as Tradeshift and Coupa, and they’re helping trading partners establish modern business networks online.
Distributors and manufacturers need to get close to ‘vertical integration’ to beat Amazon and better serve customers. There’s a huge opportunity for those who embrace this. And those who don’t will struggle to survive in the long term.
As global fintech trends change and the market shifts due to business environments (and also Covid-19), what are your comments on the state of fintech in 2021 and beyond?
I’m expecting to see a surge for fintech innovation in the supply chain this year. Indirect commerce – where goods flow to customers through an intermediary – makes up 1/3 of global GDP, and the supply chain is ripe for digitization. In a similar way to the modernization of B2C payments on websites and e-commerce platforms, the next wave will be payment processing and funds transfer between B2B trading partners, seamlessly integrated into financial and procurement SaaS applications.
Before we wrap up, a few biggest learnings and tips you’d like to share with fintech innovators and leaders?
Focus on solving a specific problem for a specific group of people. You cannot be too differentiated. 100x better to be a narrow and deep product for a single type of buyer. Then you can expand out into adjacent spaces as you gain traction and move to scale.
In 2017, Andrew Butt launched his third startup — Enable, a modern, cloud-based SaaS solution for B2B rebate management. The software is used by procurement and finance professionals in distribution, wholesale and manufacturing across over 50 industries so that they can have an easy, seamless solution to execute and track their full range of trading programs.
There are more than $1 trillion in rebates issued each year and 4% of potential rebate revenue typically goes unclaimed due to companies using other inadequate software solutions and excel sheets. Enable is solving this problem and has more merchants and suppliers in the UK and US than any other comparable software solution.
Andrew recently raised $16M in funding from Silicon Valley investors, Menlo Ventures and Sierra Ventures.
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