With Morgan Goodwin, Abdul Mann is set to disrupt the international trade market with the online platform Edge:CTP
As Britain inches closer to the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, company heads are feeling increasingly anxious about what leaving the EU will mean for their businesses. Given these uncertain political conditions, it’s no secret many entrepreneurs are looking outside of the EU for their next opportunity. However, in doing so they face the challenge of cutting through a lot of red tape. And that’s where Morgan Goodwin, the business consultancy and software company, comes in.
The startup was co-founded by CEO Abdul Mann and chairman Mark Sheahan. Their aim is to make it easier for SMEs sailing through international waters. “I want SMEs to trade globally without any second thought and, besides, a customer is a customer whether he’s in your country or another and the same goes for the EU after we Brexit,” Mann says. His solution was to create Edge:CTP, a platform aiming to be a one-stop shop for SMEs looking to expand internationally. Essentially, it cuts through all the red tape and empowers entrepreneurs to know what legal hoops they must jump through thanks to it being connected to the European Commission’s market access database.
The lightbulb moment came when the founders were asked to develop an export solution for the Scottish Chambers International (SCI) in 2010. But when SCI went into administration a few years later Mann and Sheahan didn’t abandon the idea. Instead, they launched Morgan Goodwin in 2012 as a vehicle to give life to Edge:CTP.
Despite their technological expertise – with Mann having a background as a developer – and long-term plan, they required a mentor who had experience in the field. For the founders it was Murdo Beaton, the former director of international trade at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce. “He helped us with the whats and hows to support national and international trading requirements,” Mann explains.
Initially just aimed at assisting in trade certificates, Edge:CTP has since grown into a complete workflow solution for small-business owners. “When I explored the idea, I thought why don’t we develop a complete platform that generates certificates, controls stock, is a workflow [tool] for customer management and tracks orders and logistics,” he recalls. Essentially, instead of SMEs being forced to type in the same data over and over in a slew of different platforms to get the right documentation, Mann wanted small-business leaders to only have to do it once. “We amalgamated all of those softwares into one platform,” he explains. “Just like decades ago, people carried various gadgets but now only need a smartphone.” Then in 2017 they launched Edge:CTP and now, 18 months later, even Asian companies are using the platform despite it only being available in English.
Getting to this point was a turbulent ride for Mann. Especially when you consider that no startup can be successful without solid finances. “The difficult bit in terms of raising funds is telling yourself and the other investors that it’s not just a gamble,” he says. Luckily, Mann and his co-founder were able to raise £1.4m from VCs to build the Morgan Goodwin brand and develop the platform.
The next step for Mann was to ensure the platform was capable of assisting in end-to-end deals. This is no small ask. Consider that when a company deals with a potential buyer or seller it has to go through the time-consuming process of checking its stock, generating an invoice for the quotes and co-ordinating incalculable other details.
That’s one of the things Edge:CTP aims to change. The platform enables company heads to do an entire deal sitting right in front of a potential trader. “If both parties are on Edge:CTP they don’t need to get on the phone or correspond over email to place orders,” he says. “And if the owner decides to delegate the project to his manager, the risk of miscommunication is small as all the information is stored in the cloud.”
Even though Mann was confident about his product after equipping it with these features, he did face some obstacles “the size of a skyscraper” to get the product off the ground. For instance, he was repeatedly rejected by various chambers of commerce. “Every time someone sees a potential for disruption, they’re most definitely going to say ‘no we don’t need that,’” he argues. “Even though what we’re offering is completely free new technology as opposed to their current service provider.”
Indeed, it took Mann over a year just to get approved by the British Chambers of Commerce and his frustration is palpable. “That resistance people have to change was the most difficult part for us,” Mann says. “And we still have to deal with it.” Even though his passion kept him going, Mann confesses he had moments of doubt. “I didn’t have a huge research and development team and saw the return on investment get further and further dim in the distance,” he remembers. “You then question yourself whether this was even worthwhile doing or not.”
But while he struggled with doubts, Britain’s upcoming divorce from the EU has made his product more necessary than ever. “With Brexit the EU will [seem like] another country added to the list,” he says. “If you were trading with Angola, you would be exporting there after looking at all the requirements.” In his view, multinational companies have the resources and spend millions on building systems that can help them with their trade. However, SMEs aren‘t as fortunate. Again, that’s where he hopes Edge can shine. “Whether you are exporting to Asia or the EU, the requirements and the processes will be available easily,” he says.
Having all the strategies in mind, Mann is still treading slowly with the platform. He is aiming to roll out the complete platform in the English-speaking countries like the US, Canada and Australia by January 2019, although he’s more ambitious to see the feedback from countries like China, Russia, Brazil and India.
Soon, he wants to see Edge:CTP being downloaded as an app. “We haven’t gone to the App Store just yet. It’s anamorphic but we are looking to roll out an app later,” he says. Mann is also planning to improve the platform further. For instance, he’s actively looking at incorporating blockchain into the platform to make international transfers more secure. And it’s easy to see why he’s bullish about the technology solving many of these woes.
One of the major aspects with blockchain is it creates a digital ledger. Every entry is stacked on the next and everyone can see who amended it. As a result, there’s more control of how the information is handled, which means more security if it’s used by people trading overseas. “The future is in blockchain – it gives the security and trust that businesses need especially when trading with foreign countries,” he says.
Housing more than 700 SMEs as clients from all across the globe on the platform, Mann ensures he gets real-time feedback about any glitches they encounter. With further developments, he’s set to have a huge portfolio in the next few months. And he believes the more people that sign up to use his or similar platforms, the better everyone will be. “As businesses and their customers become more easily connected, using combined trading platforms in order to kill the inefficiency in trading will become the way forward,” Mann concludes.