By Richard Auffrey
Not all of the interesting stories you'll find at the Seafood Expo North America (SENA) come from the exhibitors. Sometimes intriguing tales come from other attendees. When planning my schedule for SENA, I spoke to a number of people on Twitter, trying to set up meetings for the Expo to hear their stories. One of the companies which interested me was Ocean Executive, and I made plans to speak with them at SENA. At the Expo, I met with founder Mike Budreski, M. Nicholas Budreski, Mike's brother and a seafood distributor, and Brian Fong, who heads up the company's sales and marketing.
Mike and Nicholas Budeski both come from Nova Scotia and have a background in the fishing industry. Their father actually started the sea urchin business in Nova Scotia. Eventually, Mike moved to New York City, getting a job in finance in the energy industry. He now works in the stock market, dealing with energy stocks. During the course of his work, he realized the advantages and efficiency of the trading platform technology. He saw that numerous other industries utilized similar trading platforms. With his background in fishing, he started to consider how that industry could benefit from a trading platform, too.
With his entrepreneurial spirit, Mike forged ahead to create an electronic trading platform to centralize the seafood marketplace -- and bring e-commerce to an old-fashioned industry. He brought in Brian Fong, who has a background in marketing, and Brian's brother, who is a developer and helped design the program. They received some seed money, spent over nine months in development, and currently have a Beta version of their product. They have about 50 users from all around the world, and they hope to have 500 to 1,000 within a year.
The basic idea is to take the current process of seafood sale transactions and place it online -- making it more efficient, quicker and better for record keeping. The new platform is a business-to-business marketplace with two main sections: private and public auctions. The private auctions will allow sales to current customers, while the public auctions will permit new customers to purchase seafood, too. These are anonymous transactions, though each party involved will have the relevant data that is needed. The seller will select a cold storage area as a trading hub, and as soon as the transaction is completed, title will pass.
With the current system, sellers need to contact potential buyers through phone calls, emails and such, which can be time consuming. The trading platform will eliminate the need for all that extra contact, saving the seller plenty of time. For this ease of transaction, there will be a fee, based on whether it is a private or public auction. For private auctions, there is a flat transaction fee of $250, while public auctions cost 1 to 2.5 percent of the cost of the sale, depending on the amount of the sale. Sales over $100,000 incur the 1 percent commission.
The platform will focus on frozen seafood, at least at first, as it is more of a commodity and there are no time pressures to sell it immediately as there would be with fresh fish. Users can sign up for free in only a few minutes, and the only fees they must pay are the transactions fees. Ocean Executive does a background check on all users, checking on the economic status of the user's company. They want a system that users can trust.
Besides the benefits of a more efficient marketplace, the platform will also be the source of detailed analytics. It will aggregate a wide range of data on all of the transactions that pass through the system, from prices to trading values. Users will have access to all of these analytics for free -- a valuable business commodity. Much of this information is unavailable currently as no one is really gathering and collating it.
As the trading platform is still in Beta, that means it will be fine tuned in the coming months, and the company hopes to have Version 1.0 ready in approximately six to eight months. Trading will start on the platform in the near future. At this time, Ocean Executive has no real competitors. Allegedly, a similar platform was created about 15 years ago but failed, though we live in a very different time now than we did then. E-commerce is huge now, and I believe an electronic trading platform is warranted for the seafood industry. Sometimes all a good idea needs is good timing.
I'll be paying attention to what happens with Ocean Executive, to see whether their ideas help to transform the seafood industry.
Image credits: Richard Auffrey
Richard Auffrey is a life-long resident of Massachusetts, a licensed attorney, and has been involved in food and wine writing for about nine years. Beside my food, wine, saké & spirits blog, The Passionate Foodie, Richard has also written a food & wine column for the Stoneham Sun newspaper. In addition, he’s been published in other periodicals, including the Beverage Media, Drink Me,Boston Scene, North End Scene, and the Valley Patriot. He has also been a freelance contributor to the Medford Patch and Melrose Patch.