10 Best Startups to Watch 2020
The Silicon Review
“We never stop looking for ways to improve, change and adapt. The day we stop innovating, we become complacent and accept the status quo— we strive for greatness.” -Richard Martin, Requis CEO
It’s common knowledge in the supply chain world that the B to B supply chain is lagging far behind the advances in B to C. Astoundingly, many enterprises still rely on time-tested but inefficient, manual and siloed processes. Operations teams often accept digitization as a theoretical goal, but struggle to actually get started. They know that any mistake could mean their jobs, and even the end of their company.
Requis was designed to provide a way for enterprises to start their digitization journey at their own pace.
A cloud-based platform, Requis was built by supply chain and technology professionals for supply chain professionals. While running supply chains for major tier-one companies, the founding team of Requis realized there was a missing link when it came to the buying and selling of assets: an online marketplace purely for businesses.
The Requis mission is to bring transparency, innovation, and simplicity to the enterprise supply chain by enabling seamless asset transactions through a centralized platform.
Requis is different from enterprise resource planning systems because it was built to follow logical supply chain workflows. Enterprises can buy, manage and sell assets and interact with suppliers and resellers in a way that fully embraces the new value network thinking in supply chain.
The company was incorporated in 2018 and is headquartered in Houston, Texas.
Richard Martin, Requis CEO, shared his thoughts with The Silicon Review recently.
Q. Why was the company set up? How did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
Requis was designed by supply chain managers to meet the needs of supply chain managers. When Worley (formerly WorleyParsons) was looking for a supply chain management solution, it started talking to the team at 6fusion, where Richard Donaldson was working.
The platform worked so well that we decided to open up access to other firms. Richard Donaldson stayed on to lead platform development, and I was brought in to lead the team as a whole.
We decided to start small and focus on two things first: asset records and disposition.
Asset records are the heart of the platform, and they’re designed to keep track of the entire lifespan of a component. Once those were in place, we turned our attention to the disposition market.
The great thing about the disposition functionality is that it represents a low-risk way for enterprises to start digitizing their supply chain— and it can generate a surprising ROI.
Surplus assets are constantly losing value, and incur warehousing and management costs even while they’re sitting there doing nothing. Most companies should be looking at selling 5% of their assets every year. In fact, if the Forbes Global 2000 enterprises did this, they could be creating $9 trillion in free cash annually.
Requis now has a fully functional RFQ module in place as well that’s been getting great feedback so far. We took things step by step, and most importantly, took action on user feedback quickly. Like any startup, things weren’t perfect in the beginning, but because we were responsive we’ve become a more feature-complete tool in a short period of time.
Q. What’s your view of the current state of supply chain management?
For very understandable reasons, the supply chain management business function has been slow to digitize. Primarily, most supply chain managers are not permitted to fail— any mistake can cost their companies millions if not billions of dollars. It’s no wonder that they are so risk-averse, and cling to manual processes, spreadsheets, and multiple siloed tools.
Secondly, there simply hasn’t been a platform that has been designed to meet their needs until now. There are plenty of platforms that bill themselves as supply chain tools, but they’re really designed to provide information to finance, and don’t follow the natural workflows of procurement or disposition. They don’t have comprehensive asset records designed to retain information throughout the asset’s lifespan, as it passes from the manufacturer to supplier to owner, and so on.
Thirdly, enterprises have very different purchasing habits from consumers. We’re all familiar with Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba for consumers, but enterprises don’t purchase single items. Companies, as a rule, buy in bulk, and those platforms aren’t really set up to deal with an RFQ process.
We feel that Requis will enable a tsunami of digitization in the supply chain because we have solutions that meet the everyday needs of supply chain professionals and provide reporting and visibility to the C-suite.
Q. AI is a hot topic in supply chain right now. Do you think supply chain companies should embrace AI to drive innovative business processes?
AI and machine learning are promising technologies, but the reality is that they’re just not ready to be truly useful yet in the supply chain.
There’s a key factor that’s often left out of the equation: AI takes time to learn, and humans need to be involved in that learning process. Think of a parent raising a toddler: the parent provides guidance, but if there’s a failure of some sort the parent is also involved in ensuring that the lesson is learned. For example, most kids end up touching a hot stove. Only then do they truly understand why Mom and Dad cautioned them against touching it. But while Mom and Dad provide comfort when kids experiment with the hot stove, they also add a reminder about listening to their advice.
In order for AI to be useful in the supply chain, supply chain professionals need to provide similar developmental guidance. To do that, they need to be freed from the tedium of repetitive, manual processes so they can spend more time in forecasting and responding to challenges presented by political turmoil, regulatory changes, and even climate change. Adaptive processes need to be tried and tested before we truly understand the kinds of solutions that work and don’t work.
In a nutshell, AI isn’t a magic problem-solving technology at the flip of a switch. It will take time to learn the rules and mature.
Q. Can you talk about your products and services in brief?
Requis is an end-to-end supply chain management platform, allowing users to buy, manage, and sell assets in the cloud. It’s designed to be intuitive for supply chain professionals, following their natural workflows.
We also provide a concierge service, answering questions and even helping with tasks our users don’t have time to do.
Q. Unanticipated costs, unexpected setbacks, integration difficulties, and quality problems are an inevitable part of SCM. How do you overcome these without disrupting the business flow?
It’s important to acknowledge that these things happen and build as much flexibility and resiliency into your supply chain as possible. In the past 20 years, for example, supply chain managers have become more used to dealing with disruptions due to extreme weather events. Developing secondary contacts in other geographical areas is one of the answers to this solution.
But you can also be over-prepared, which impacts the bottom line. By using data to find a balance between being adequately prepared and carrying too much surplus, you can find a way to stay as lean and flexible as possible.
Q. Can supply chain management activities improve customer service?
Absolutely! When supply chains are leaner and more flexible, customers get what they need faster, with greater accuracy, and perhaps even at a reduced cost.
Customer feedback is essential to improving the supply chain, and those improvements create a better experience for future customers.
Leadership | Richard Martin
Richard Martin, CEO: Richard Martin is a 25-year veteran of the high-tech industry. He has worked for technology leaders such as VMware, Nortel, Bay Networks, 3Com, Chipcom, Memotec, Bell-Northern Research, and IBM.
Richard has a proven track record for providing strategic and operational leadership in research and development, product management, marketing, business development, sales, channel management, and operations.
Richard Donaldson, VP Platform & Marketing: Richard Donaldson has worked in Silicon Valley for over 20 years in a variety of business operations and leadership roles. Richard found a passion for supply chain when he was brought in as head of business operations for eBay.