Kountable launched its Managed Marketplace for global trade at Bootstrap Labs’ Applied AI Conference. At the event, Kountable’s CEO and Co-founder, Chris Hale, held a discussion with Jonas Svensson, Head of Global Innovation and Technology at UNOPS, about the role of technology with a focus on artificial intelligence and shortening the timelines to solve the planet’s most pressing issues.
“Kountable exists to bring technology to some of the world’s biggest problems,” said Hale, “Helping to improve healthcare delivery, technology infrastructure, water quality, education — these are things we do every day. And we think there is a real place for artificial intelligence and machine learning to play a role in optimizing these processes. There will literally be trillions of dollars invested in building these infrastructure over the coming decades.”
Kountable’s Marketplace connects local entrepreneurs with multinational suppliers and top-quality goods that are then delivered to end payers such as governments, NGOs, corporations or multilateral institutions such as the UNOPS, who are looking to complete large scale projects. The types of goods Kountable helps procure are focused in the areas of industrial development, ICT and healthcare.
“The Global South is home to some of the fastest growing economies on the planet, despite being challenged by a general lack of traditional infrastructure, scarcity of information, trade frictions, political and currency risks or even corruption,” said Hale. “Nevertheless, the benefits to bringing the next billion people into the global trade economy outweigh the risks and massive investments are being made.”
The company’s data acquisition, normalization and scoring platform also measures the behaviors of the best trades and their traders, bringing never before seen transparency to these types of projects.
“With unique data describing the last mile of the supply chain and unique data on the traders who connect us to developing markets,” said Danielle Russell, Kountable’s Head of Product, “we’re building behavioral analysis for historical and live-updating trader behaviors, NLP to analyze the type of goods being requested/provided, matching algorithms to identify best-fit for traders and trade opportunities, time-series analysis on historic FX rates and fluctuation patterns, image recognition to automatically recognize and categorize key documentation, and social network analysis to assess the reliability and competency of traders and buyers without traditional ‘scoring’ mechanisms.”
Founded in 2015, Kountable launched its first market in Rwanda and in 2017 in Kenya. Since then, Hale explained, the company learned that every deal, project or transaction, is a triad, a relationship between three parties that are necessary to make the transaction move smoothly. There’s a buyer or end customer, the one benefiting from whatever is being delivered. There’s the seller of whatever is being delivered, and then there’s the reseller, or SME, who is the manager of that transaction.
In those initial years of testing the market, the company went deep, investing in building tools, technologies, capabilities and resources to institutionalize the experience that the marketplace manager, called the “reseller,” is able to deliver. Today, Kountable has completed nearly 200 projects worth 54 million USD and in 89 countries.
“As we upgraded the capabilities of that reseller or SME,” said Hale, “we have created an experience that buyers and sellers, the OEMs or global brands and the large payers like governments and multinationals wanted to participate in directly. The evolution of the marketplace was because we have been able to deliver such high quality results these large global players want in. That’s why now — it is based on our results over the last few years.”
Kountable’s high quality results are not just in delivering the highest standard of goods with warranties and efficiently, but also through their transparent platform they are able to implement anti-corruption practices and bring unheard of visibility to the supply chain transaction with information on when goods have been purchased, whether they’ve shipped or are in customs, along with other trade logistics. More, through the marketplace, all of those transactions have become repeatable, standardized business processes.
“Kountable combines local knowledge with global expertise,” said Kountable President and Co-founder, Catherine Nomura. “Kountable entrepreneurs deliver products from Fortune 1000 companies to these end users in areas historically burdened by logistical, financial and infrastructure constraints.”
Nomura added, “The world’s problems are our problems and they are also the biggest opportunities. We can solve much bigger problems because we are auditable. We are building product that maps every single decision that our experts make and the product architecture can help meet the sustainability goals of organizations like the UNOPS.”
Everyone has suddenly become much more aware of the very real role that functioning supply chains play in our quality of life, as individuals and societies, and that broken supply chains can, in fact, cost lives. The question of the day, month and year is, how do we fix them, and quickly? With a bit of support, SMEs can be a big part of the solution.
Digital transformation that allows for world class teamwork with the massive and distributed network of local suppliers, freight forwarders, customs brokers, buyers and banks who get goods to the finish line is necessary to win the race against a virus that is optimized only to replicate and scale.