As many readers will know, I’ve been a shareholder of Cactus Equipment for almost 25 years. Cactus is a manufacturer of high-quality backpacks and workwear. Until recently, Cactus sold to retailers in New Zealand and elsewhere (It has since moved to a vertically-integrated sales model.)

As a buyer of raw materials, and a seller of finished goods, Cactus understandably has credit arrangements with literally hundreds of different companies – either as a supplier, or a customer. In the time that I ran the business, I must have filled out hundreds of credit application forms and had customers fill in credit applications for us. I have many memories of chasing payment from customers whose credit applications were dismally out of date, and I also remember taking perverse pleasure in filling in our own credit applications with questionable data.

And so it is a matter of fact that the entire world around trade credit applications is ripe for disruption. While the “digital disruption” term is one that is often overused, in this case, it is justified. And so to introduce 1Centre (yes, we spell “centre” that way outside of the US!). It’s been a little while since I’ve written about one of my portfolio companies, but now is as good as any time to start again I guess, 1Centre is a company that I’ve invested in and joined the board of.

I’m super-excited about 1Centre for a number of reasons. The first has nothing to do with its product area but lots to do with wanting to change the way the typical tech startup looks. 1Centre was founded and is led by Miriana Lowrie, an outlier in the tech world in that she is a startup founder who is both a woman and Maori – two highly underrepresented groups when it comes to startup CEOs. And, while I’m stoked that 1Centre is able to tell a diversity and inclusion story, I invested because the space has huge potential, and the CEO has huge capability. This is pragmatism first and foremost, and token gestures don’t come into it in any way.

Anyway, 1Centre is bringing the ever increasing trend of digitization to the credit application world. With 1Centre, organizations can manage the entire lifecycle of credit applications digitally – information is updated from the relevant places (companies registers, for example) and the workflow around applications becomes completely visible. A supplier simply sends a prospective customer a link, and that customer can fill in the required forms online – with much of the data automatically being populated into the form.

But thereafter is where the magic starts – changes to information (a change of address, changes around guarantors, board changes etc.) can automatically be updated so that the creditor, if and when it comes time to chase late payment, has the most up to date information. There are a range of benefits that digitizing this process brings:

Visibility

Every organization wants to lubricate the process of finding a new customer and actually selling stuff to them. Credit applications are often a serious friction point and can delay actually selling goods to a customer for serious amounts of time. By digitizing the process, there is no risk of mail-related problems, and information can be quickly and accurately entered – making the process faster.

Perhaps more importantly, digitization increases the visibility that the supplier has. Say you’re a salesperson who has just signed up a new client, in the old days you had no visibility into where their credit application was at. Using 1Centre you can have real-time insights into how far through the customer’s application is and you have the ability to take remedial action if necessary.

Risk management

Let’s face it. Most suppliers, especially at the smaller end of the spectrum, will forego some of the finer details of credit applications in order to get a customer up and running. Sometimes this quest for speed means that terms and conditions aren’t signed off, mandatory checks don’t occur or guarantors aren’t properly set up. By digitizing the process, all of these functions become quicker and easier for all parties, helping to drive greater levels of compliance with credit application requirements.

Cost

It actually costs significant amounts to keep a manual credit application process working – paying staff to run administration, manually checking registries and accessing credit checks and the like all take time and money. By bringing all of these functions into a digital platform, serious cost savings can be made.

Indeed, research by Miriana and her team suggests that a prudent organization spends close to $200 per credit application – a cost that, by going digital, can be slashed.

Try it now

The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating. As such I invite anyone out there who runs a business which offers customers products or services on credit to give 1Centre a try. To make this even easier, 1Centre are offering the first 50 readers a 60 Day Free Trial – Head to https://my.1centre.com/user/register. They may even give you another 30 Days if you refer a friend!

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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