As the world of cryptocurrency evolves and becomes a normalized alternative to standard forms of physical currency, a growing number of progressive companies are utilizing ICOs as viable means of raising capital.
These unconventional funding and payment sources allow founders to raise rounds from investors who are intrigued by their product and vision, rather than following traditional methods, formulas or rigid metrics to determine their decision to invest. Additionally, this shifting paradigm changes the dynamic of how investment syndicates are assembled and operate, transforming the way money is generated and exchanged.
Beyond changing the way companies raise funds, Blockchain technology is actively enhancing the quality of big data, while further advancing the way information is identified, collected and managed. For businesses poised to scale their products and services, ultimately increasing the number of vendors and employees, it is even more critical to eliminate errors in processes that directly impact the bottom-line.
Founded in 2017, ICO startup aXpire is a cloud-based, AI-enabled blockchain payment processing company. The SaaS startup currently offers members of their partner network two distinct products. Their flagship product is Resolvr, a spend management software solution that tightens up the vendor invoicing process, while the company is also continuing to develop their peer-to-peer job marketplace known as MatchBX.
The New York based company launched these latest tech innovations for the purpose of helping fund administrators at banks, hedge funds and private equity firms handle complex process of appropriating and allocating outside vendor costs specific to each fund, or separating funds respective to each deal. Employing a growing team of more than 100 staff members, the startup has raised $20 million to date.
I spoke with Co-Founder and CEO Gary Markham about the vision behind his company, how Blockchain tech impacts big data, and the startup’s evolving strategy for disrupting the industry.
What is the specific void or opportunity you noticed that inspired the idea behind aXpire?
Gary Markham: There is an increasing demand for real-time data. A recent study from MIT Sloan suggests that, on average, companies are losing 15–25% of revenue due to issues related to data quality. We are looking to tackle this issue, and the entire data ecosystem surrounding it. To do this, we are starting with what we know best: spend management. We were approached to help a $24 billion hedge fund solve this problem, and we beat out a number of horizontal software players to win our first project. This first solution was called Resolvr. It allows for invoice management and the connection of ‘digital islands’ to satiate the need for real time access to spend. We also saw a need for intelligent, connected services procurement, which is why we are creating a second product called MatchBX. It will complement Resolvr’s RFP functionality to allow freelancers to offer services directly to both businesses and other individuals.
Describe your business model and how both of these products work?
Gary Markham: aXpire currently has two products, one available and one in development — Resolvr and MatchBX. Resolvr is a cloud-based spend management solution that handles invoice approval and allocation using machine learning, a form of Artificial Intelligence. Businesses are able to receive invoices through Resolvr’s billing platform and then assign them around the mid and back-office electronically prior to approval. AI provides a score on each invoice, allowing accountants and attorneys to quickly determine if the invoice they’re handling is viable for payment, without the need for extensive manual checking. Resolvr also has an RFP portal, currently in development, which will allow intelligent services procurement and response sorting for capex intensive services, such as enterprise-wide software. For smaller tasks, such as website design, Blockchain advisory services, or marketing initiatives — enterprises can procure services from niche businesses and freelancers on MatchBX, which offers a services marketplace for both peer-to-business (P2B) and peer-to-peer (P2P) use cases. We have created a network of preferred providers to supply these services which is called the Preferred Provider Network. We will continue to add businesses to it with time.
What were some of the notable challenges you faced getting aXpire off the ground?
Gary Markham: As a small company facing off against some of the largest horizontal softwares on the planet like Oracle, SAP, Ariba, we had to fight to get into the room. We did that through having the best technology out of the group for a specific niche — spend management for asset managers — at the best price. We were taking a page out of the Salesforce playbook by putting customer success first. To complement a small team, we built out an advisory panel that filled any gaps in what we could bring to the table with respect to a Fortune 500 company.
What notable trends or shifts give you confidence that this type of software is needed in today’s market?
Gary Markham: We think, broadly speaking, security breaches of software make us a sought-after solution, and the increasing need for real-time data drives a need for our software. This is not even to mention the benefits of using decentralized technology, like Blockchain, which is essentially immutable. Regulators can have real-time access to an immutable trail of transactions from Resolvr, which we think will remove the potential for corporate abuse or bad actors. On the MatchBX side, we think we’ve received clear feedback from our community of freelancers that the current marketplace is full of monopolized solutions with high fees and excessive control over user data. We think the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal should be enough to push any niche business or individual towards a decentralized solution; not just in freelancing and service procurement platforms, but all platforms where user data is stored. Even if centralized sites were to cut their fees to below 5%, they still couldn’t compete with a Blockchain version of the same concept that turns fees into a benefit structure for early adopters, such as what we offer with MatchBX.
What have been some of the blindspots or issues plaguing the industry and how do you directly solve for them?
Gary Markham: In data management, and spend management specifically, data silos have been a significant issue. The synergies of combining different data sources and presenting it to the end user in a way that allows for proactive decision making will ultimately result in customer success. On the services procurement side, high fees for individuals and businesses looking to work solely online has been an issue. Our Blockchain-based P2B and B2B platform removes these fees and actually incorporates a token burn concept that benefits users rather than detracting from their experience.
In what ways are you looking to improve and expand your service offerings?
Gary Markham: We are looking to build an RFP portal on top of our Resolvr software and to also offer businesses the option of procuring services from individuals rather than other businesses. This portal is called MatchBX and will broaden their range of choice for RFPs. We are also looking to implement a Blockchain-based version of Resolvr and share that with our clients. We will be able to handle the tokenization of invoices if they aren’t comfortable with Blockchain interactions themselves. But the benefits of a decentralized, immutable transaction trail will become evident as the technology becomes more mainstream. If you don’t adopt early you’ll be left behind, and we ensure our customers aren’t. In regards to MatchBX specifically, we will be releasing a platform that is Blockchain-enabled from the start, and we look to continue building out our network of preferred providers who are deemed as high quality. The Preferred Provider Network will give Resolvr users an easy look into which service providers are most trustworthy and reliable, cutting down the time required to make a decision without cutting out the need for regular P2P users.
How do you see the industry evolving in the next 3–5 years and in what role do you see aXpire playing in this shift?
Gary Markham: Data management is only going to become more important moving forward, and Blockchain technology will help feed the demand for real time access to information. Blockchain applications, by nature, are well suited for any enterprise that values the importance of transparent, secure data. There is a lot of hype in this space and we think that the utility value of the technology will be able to catch up to the speculative value, which is likely to see a correction. None of these changes will necessarily impact the front-end of enterprise applications, but the back end benefits of a secure, immutable network will be tangible. As a result, as we saw with cloud, those that are late to adopt rarely catch up. We see aXpire building a suite of data management applications, guiding customers through the benefits of utilizing connected, decentralized and highly secure data. We hope to also guide other companies through the process of adopting Blockchain technology and benefiting directly from our partners’ success.
Find out more at www.axpire.io