Zepol, Part 2: Company Background, Evolution & Competitive Position

Zepol was the first company, other than PIERS of course, to offer a commercial searching/reporting utility to atop the U.S. Customs Waterborne Import (BOL) data.  Their voluminous database of 100,000,000 records extends back to January 1, 2003.  With only a smattering of sales in 2004 and 2005, Zepol really began to emerge as a player in 2006.

I remember meeting with Paul in Minneapolis early on.  He struck me as a solid businessman.  His style was clear, concise and savvy.  We explored cost sharing the daily expense of the daily Customs CD’s. On the surface, it seemed plausible.

Our business plans and prospective clients didn’t overlap much.  At CenTradeX our approach was developing custom integrated solutions (utilizing multiple statistical, company, transactional and referential databases) and Zepol’s straightforward business plan was to exclusively offer the U.S. Customs data with a superior search/reporting utility at 20% discount over PIERS base product (which at the time ran around $5,000 to $6,000 annually).  Their singular data product was/is called “TradeIQ”.

I also remember checking in with my business associates at PIERS.  At the time, they really didn’t think Zepol represented any competition whatsoever.  PIERS maintained a comfortable monopoly that they believed was unchallengeable.  My, how things have changed in just 5 years! Five years represents a whole generation, technologically speaking.

We (CenTradeX) never did the deal with them.  We couldn’t agree on the particulars of reselling processed data, and we already had a data partner in China.  I think the new management at PIERS closely monitors the comings and goings of all their competitors. Zepol, recanted on their position to exclusively offer U.S. Customs data.  Their “TradeView” product now offers their same user interface to search and report on monthly U.S. Statistical data (with data extending back into 2007).

Whereas Zepol first competed on price alone (and a slicker search UI). With the emergence of Datamyne, Panjiva, Import Genius along with dozens of ultra cheap competitors coming on the scene, they have been forced to evolve into a different company.  Paul emphasized that they have heavily invested in infrastructure and improving their product as well as in customer service in an attempt to bring additional value to the equation.

Most TI providers see that there is nothing to be gained by a “race to the bottom” wherein products compete on price alone.  It’s about bringing true value to the end-user.  It’s about creating solutions, not selling data.  It’s about looking farther and adapting faster than your competitors.

Zepol’s Home Screen. Entry points to Products TradeIQ and TradeView.

Zepol’s very cool Dashboard providing users four “big picture” graphic overviews of saved searches. Fully customizable by the respective user. Click on the picture to view a larger version.

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