Tag Archives: Op-ed & Guest Blogs

WTD Editorial: NY Equity Firm Looks to Buy Trade Intelligence Company

Last year, I was contacted by a New York based consulting firm on behalf of one of their clients: a major equity firm interested in investing in the Trade Information field. This multi-billion organization, who shall go unnamed for confidentiality reasons, focuses on investing in existing, profitable businesses (primarily within information technology) not start-ups. Seems they were looking for a trade information company to buy or heavily invest in.

As the expert du jour, I consulted with the principal – first providing an overview of the trade intelligence industry: history, sources and types of data, business applications, current challenges, and areas of potential opportunity.

Concurrent with his intention, we spent a goodly amount of time discussing the major players (along with their respective strengths and weaknesses). Of course, I gave him a run down of the “Usual Suspects” – those I call the “Top Tier” TI providers: PIERS, Datamyne, Zepol, Panjiva and Import Genius. I avoided the recent “Gang of Twelve”: newly minted domestic and foreign companies offering access to U.S. Customs Waterborne Import BOL data via an off-the-shelf BI intelligence software utility.

I started with TI companies offering the U.S Customs Data, because it is inherently the most complex to deal with and potentially most valuable data source available. Notwithstanding, we expanded the list of candidates to include statistical, company and reference based information providers (non-governmental).  Included on the short list was GTIS, WISER, Kompass, FITA /GlobalTrade.net and a handful of others.

What became obvious over the course of our conversation was that there really wasn’t any one company out there that I would put on the “A” list for one reason or another. The top choice would be PIERS, but since they are a member of a London-based publicly traded media conglomerate, it would be a complex deal to get done. Another problem is that, they are still laboring to overcome a decade of inertia left over from previous management. It is more of a challenge to stop and change the direction of a huge oil tanker, than it is a cruiser. The others really don’t integrate data (connect the dots) to any significant degree.

Really THE KEY, the Holy Grail of Trade Intelligence, is about INTEGRATION: connecting the dots, dimensionalization and visualization of interconnected layers of disparate sources and types of data.

In the movie world, from whence I came a couple of decades ago, a company called In-Three defines dimensionalization as “a method developed by In-Three of converting 2D content to stereoscopic 3D content.”  They employed the technique in the movies Alice in Wonderland, The Transformers and G-Force to give depth and dimension to an otherwise flat celluloid world, pixel by pixel.

How would dimensionalization be applied within the Trade Intelligence field?  Imagine an interactive, visually oriented dashboard designed for fund-managers and financial analysts whereby any given publicly traded company’s vitals could be displayed along with dynamic drill down and reporting capability including (for instance) real-time analytics, risk assessment and competitive analysis partially constructed from U.S. Customs Waterborne Import BOL records as well as other datasets.

Many pieces of the puzzle are there already.  Few (actually NONE) have invested adequate resources, creativity, intelligence and vision to put them together.

WTD Editorial: The Original “Letter to Stakeholders” and WTD Launch.

The following are excerpts from a letter sent to CenTradeX stakeholders and associates regarding the closure of CenTradeX and the launching of WorldTradeDaily.com.

The Global financial meltdown of late 2008, wreaked havoc in many industries and was particularly acute within the International Trade arena.  Prior to this devastating economic earthquake, CenTradeX was poised to experience skyrocketing growth via a promised capital infusion from a prestigious Venture Capital group.  In the wake of this severe financial crisis, CenTradeX, Inc. saw a dramatic decline in sales with corresponding operational difficulties which ultimately resulted in an acquisition of its innovative trade applications, clients and virtually all core technology personnel by UBM Global Trade/PIERS in May, 2010

Notwithstanding, many core technological assets were retained such as:

  • The A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) Engine which normalizes and “magically” integrates many disparate sources of trade related data.  
  • The vast data repositories containing decades of statistical, company, product information as well as the daily import waterborne manifests from U.S. customs and 5 years of transactional import & export data from China.  
  • The UBM deal also allowed for redistribution rights to 12 licenses of each of the three primary applications acquired from CenTradeX by PIERS; namely Prospects, StatsPlus and Dashboards to July, 2015.

I’ve always had more of a bent toward innovation, application development, education and philanthropy. Those who know me well know that I’m a person driven by passion, vision and mission, not just money and business as a review of my bank statements can attest.  The sale of CenTradeX allows me to focus my energies within the non-profit, educational sector, where my heart is.

My intention is to leverage the retained core assets mentioned (and into which over $1,000,000 has been invested over the last 10 years) along with my personal expertise, knowledge and passion for world trade to develop an interactive virtual community of trade data users, suppliers, educators, consultants and data-philes @ WorldTradeDaily.com.

WorldTradeDaily.com (WTD) will focus on issues relating to World Trade Data, information technologies and business applications. As a non-commercial forum, WTD will provide a forum for non-bias feedback on new products and applications.  It will encourage a free exchange of ideas,  facilitate connection, provide information and direction, and enhance the World Trade Community.

Another aspect of the vision is to provide free open source access to our vast data repositories and advanced technologies. We also intend to facilitate continued development, innovation and expansion of these available assets. This provocative approach is certain to cause quite a stir within the commercial sector!

As you know, providing free access really isn’t “free”.  At this point, the data is already a year or two out-of-date.  Ongoing data acquisition and handling, web site hosting and hardware /software maintenance will run $100k+ out-of-pocket per year. Also, not being independently wealthy, I need to develop an income stream to provide for me and mine.  So, I am looking to garner sponsors/advertisers/underwriters to help support WorldTradeDaily.com, both via in-kind contributions, or cash, or both.

We believe that the combination of open source free access to valuable databases and technologies, interesting daily publications by credible authors in the field, the unique needed focus of the forum, as well as social marketing could over time make WorldTradeDaily.com not only popular but vital.

A longer article with (almost) no pictures.  Not typical. Notwithstanding, I thought it apropos to restate publicly my original vision and intent, at this, the close of the first year of publication.

EFACW Announces Push to Increase Bank Lending to Washington Businesses

Guest WTD article submitted by Linked-in Business Associate, John Brislin:

State Trade and Export Promotion Grant funds joint initiative aimed at opening access to capital for small businesses trying to increase export sales.

SEATTLE, WA – The Export Finance Assistance Center of Washington (EFACW) and Washington State Department of Commerce today unveiled a new initiative aimed at increasing bank lending to the state’s small export businesses. The announcement came at a CFO conference hosted by the Washington and Oregon Banker’s Associations at the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle.

“With one in three jobs in our state tied to trade, increasing the number of companies exporting and helping those who are already successful to grow and expand into new markets, is a golden opportunity to drive economic recovery and growth all across Washington,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The Washington Export Finance Initiative is the latest in series of new and expanded state programs and services designed to promote Washington’s culture of exporting and increase international sales. The Departments of Commerce and Agriculture recently reported record sales generated by small and medium-sized businesses making use of state assistance to engage in international trade.

A $1.6 million federal grant is helping to fund this new program which hopes to increase participation of banks in export finance programs sponsored by the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank), the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and other government financing programs.

John Brislin

“Forging strong partnerships is key, and we are delighted to work with Commerce, SBA, the Washington Banker’s Association, Department of Financial Institutions and others to help Washington businesses realize growth opportunities in international trade,” said John Brislin, President and CEO of EFACW.  Brislin said EFACW intends to have 10 more banks making export loans in the next three years, with a target of supporting at least $20 million in export sales.

“Hundreds of smaller firms have developed innovative products and services; that’s where our state’s entrepreneurs really shine,” said Commerce Director Rogers Weed. “But they often lack the resources to pursue international opportunities. Getting banks to look harder at loans for these promising businesses helps tackle a key obstacle to their success.”

Weed notes that 95 percent of all consumers and 75 percent of all economic activity lie outside the U.S., yet just one percent of U.S. companies export – 4 percent for Washington state.

About EFACW: The Export Finance Assistance Center of Washington provides no-cost export finance counseling assistance to small- and medium-sized Washington exporters and banks who serve Washington companies. For more information visit www.efacw.org .

About Commerce: Commerce is the lead state agency charged with enhancing and promoting sustainable community and economic vitality in Washington. For more information, visitwww.commerce.wa.gov . For information on locating or expanding a business in Washington, visit www.choosewashington.com.

Holds, Penalties, and Communication: ISF with Noah Munoz Part III

“You need to know who your cargo is being shipped with, an exceptional freight forwarder, for they are responsible for communicating with Customs.” –Noah Munoz

While the FDA monitors the quality of food and drug products entering the U.S., Customs sees imports first from a security standpoint, then as commerce. In order to monitor what comes into the U.S., Customs has implemented ISF, known as 10+2. ISF is an electronic notification sent to Customs, before ships leave foreign ports, notifying them of a shipment destined for U.S. ports. Published late in 2008, the law began implementation at the beginning of 2009, allowing importers time to get used to paperwork involved before the law came into full effect in 2010. There are pretty steep fines ($5,000/penalty), for not dotting your “i’s” and crossing your “t’s.” Noah Munoz, of Platinum Cargo Logistics, has presented on the new regulation and comments on where we are today.

Munoz noted that while the $5,000 per violation scare tactic worked to get importers and companies to start filing paperwork, there are still mistakes being made. So in 2009 you filed your ISFs and you got an e-mail or a notification with a subject line saying that “Your ISF was accepted.” Ok, great, done deal, right? So why are you still running into problems now? Well, see past the subject line or the first paragraph of your “acceptance letter” (during the phase in period of 2009) and  there were a few details you may have missed as in corrections. While in 2009 Customs acknowledged your attempt at implementing the regulation…well now it’s crunch time and the consequences are real, not just mere e-mails or notifications, but $5,000 per penalty real.

While Customs has yet to collect penalties, according to Munoz, they seem to be taking a leaf out of FDA’s book, and have started conducting exams. These non-intrusive exams, use a gamma ray imaging system, VACIS, to examine cargo through radiographic images. Munoz noted that “exams have increased on a whole by 4% in the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles”. It appears that a lot of these exams occur with smaller shipments in consolidated containers where “it only takes one” non properly filed ISF for the whole container to be detained and incur the fee shared by all. Platinum clients need not worry, Munoz affirms: “We [at Platinum Cargo Logistics]  have taken the initiative to ensure that our clients have been in full compliance.” Unlike the FDA, Customs actually looks at an importer’s history and is now examining those who do not correctly file ISFs. Customs, more transparent than the FDA, is pretty clear about their intentions and corrections concerning ISFs. Munoz summarizes it like this: “If it’s not perfect, there’s no ISF on file, if it’s not on file, expect a hold.”

At the end of the day, we, the consumers, pay the fees not the importers or the companies. Prices are on the rise, so why are we taxing ourselves?

The FDA- A Game With No Clear Rules: Interview with Noah Munoz Part II

Let’s play a game. Ok, so you are a company making your way in the game of globalization, where you navigate through rising fuel costs, demands for sustainability, government bureaucracy, etc. Your freight is moving in the water, heading towards its destination, you’re doing alright. But, wait! Your last roll dictates that you have an increase in demand for the same product due at the same time as your ocean freight. You have two options, pay the cost of air transport or lose the client to whom you are selling. You decide to pay for the air transport. So things are running smoothly, and as you progress along the board, you land on a space that requires you pull a card from the dubious “Government Bureaucracy” deck of cards…yay! You pulled your card to find out that all your imports are put on hold by the FDA! You are asked to roll one more time to determine how long your products will be placed on hold…oh, awesome, a full twelve days. Twelve days on hold, for what reasons, you have yet to find out.

You don’t have to buy this game to find out what happens next. It’s probably already in play except the FDA actually charges a $224/hour re-inspection of your imported cargo without really providing clear reasons. The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed by President Obama in January 2011 began imposing re-inspection fees October 1st of this year. “It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it.” Since it is an obvious goal of the FDA, why are they assessing these fees? When I asked Noah Munoz to comment on this, he was just as lost as I was, but did say that, “The FDA is a type of agency that does not have the manpower that Customs Border Patrol has, but the way they have been conducting their line of business has been kind of backwards.” When asked to give an example, Munoz explained that FDA inspections officers are specifically for ocean or air, two separate divisions examining the same type of cargo. Munoz shared an experience where two imports of the same product were on hold—one ocean and another air—and samples from the ocean were taken first, though the air cargo arrived first. They ended up taking two samples of the same product from the same company and importer at different times, without the officers comparing notes.

Room for improvement? Well, according to Noah, “Don’t take it on a case by case basis” referring to the FDA ‘s practice of not looking at the importer’s record or history, which would indicate if there were any compliance issues or problems with said importer in the past. Since they currently do not provide reasons or feedback why cargo is on hold, nor does there seem to be clear levels of priority between hot cargo and other cargo, some transparency would also be appreciated.

From Here to There: Logistics Series Interview with Noah Munoz Part I

“Down to the pen you write with, the mug you drink out of, the shoes you wear, you tend to forget where it originates from or where it was shipped off to, just to get into your hands…that’s logistics.” –Noah M. Munoz

How many things that we buy are actually produced locally? Most likely not much, but that’s the beautiful thing about trade, we can specialize in industries, and essentially share our talent and products with the world, and vice versa. Take your morning cup of coffee, the mug is probably from China, the coffee from South America, sugar from Thailand, creamer, if you take it, hopefully from the continental U.S.  Your morning cup of coffee was probably made with 75% of the world’s products…the only way it gets from where it was actually produced into your hands is through logistics.

With increasing globalization, we get products from far off places, brought to us magically by transport logistics companies and their semi trucks that we rush to get past while a freight train passes below. Utilizing all modes of transport from air, to railroads, to trucks, and ocean freights, goods are literally moving in all directions, all around us everyday. Transportation logistics companies handle the nitty gritty of  product transport. You may have started a small business, and larger commercialized carriers like FedEx and UPS took care of you…ah the good old days. But now you’re growing, and that’s great, right? But now you have “outgrown” these companies and have to deal with government regulations and agencies, bureaucracies, and the loveable red tape. These newly emerging companies are the first to get fined because they have been spoiled with FedEx’s simplified practices.

Noah Munoz, West Coast International Operations Manager, of Platinum Cargo Logistics was gracious enough to speak with me about some recent developments of the transportation logistics industry, including the FDA’s Food and Safety Modernization Act and Customs Border Protections ISF, or 10+2. Noah hails from the Empire State (of Mind), New York, graduating from NYU with a degree in international business. He began his career in the automotive sector at Ford Motors Company, working closely with the design center contracting suppliers of car parts to create prototypes shown in car shows. While working for Ford Motors, he became International Imports and Export Compliance Manager in 2007. When he moved to California, he became more involved in logistics, overseeing ocean and air divisions and managing industry compliance, as an International Operations Manager, before obtaining his current position at Platinum Cargo Logistics.

Platinum Cargo Logistics, was founded out of the desire to do thing differently and better with customized service solutions: “Intelligent Solutions, Powerful Results.”  Dedicated to “Efficiency, Knowledge, and Solutions [… ] with Every Shipment,” Munoz joined Platinum as the West Coast International Operations Manager.  In this position, Munoz supports Platinum’s West Coast offices dispersed along the coast  (San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle) and the office in Denver.

Howard Cochran, International Business Professor, Belmont University

Belmont University was the very first CenTradeX customer- February 2004… after over three years of software development and the contributions of several handfuls of brilliant contributors. Among the most notable is Howard Cochran, Professor of International Business at Belmont University. He is a dedicated teacher, superior academician, compassionate humanitarian, china expert and a fellow data-phile.

One of the main perks about working in the international trade profession is the people you get to know. As I recounted upon numerous times… it’s people that are the are the real intelligence behind trade intelligence… not just technology. So here’s a bit about one.

Howard Cochran, Professor Belmont University, Nashville, TN

Dr. Howard H. Cochran, Jr.
Professor of Economics and Management
Belmont University, International Business

D.A. – Middle Tennessee State University
Harvard Graduate School of Education, Administrative Leadership
M.A. – Wayne State University, Economics
B.B.A. – Walsh College, Finance

Selected Honors & Awards:
Chaney Distinguished Professor Award Nominee (2009)

Presentation Excellence Award for Does China Underreport International Merchandise Trade Statistics?, Academic Business World International Conference (2009)

Best Paper Award, Academic Business World International Conference (2008)

Chaney Distinguished Professor Award Nominee (2008)


Dr. Howard H. Cochran, Jr., Professor of Economics and Management, teaches both undergraduate and graduate economics and international business courses in Belmont University’s College of Business Administration. He earned his B.B.A. in Finance from Walsh College, M.A. in Economics from Wayne State University, and Doctor of Arts in Economics from Middle Tennessee State University. He has also completed post-graduate study in administrative leadership at Harvard University.

He has taught courses in macroeconomics, microeconomics and international business. Being a veteran of international studies, Dr. Cochran has also lead several Belmont student study-travel trips to China. His teaching, research, and consulting interests are in the areas of economic education, managerial economics, and international trade.

Dr. Cochran is an advisor for firms seeking to source and sell products in that country. His most recent research relating to China includes articles with working titles including E-Music Growth in China – Obstacles and Opportunities for Foreign Firms, Toward Developing an International Index of Music Piracy, Use Chinese Merchandise Trade Data with Caution, Assessing the Impact of Trade with China on U.S. Manufacturing Industries, and Asian Manufacturing Trade Dominance. His extensive travels have taken him throughout North America, Western and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Far East, and the Indian Sub-Continent. While in Bangladesh he was able to spend time with Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

His research has been presented at national and international professional conferences and published in academic journals including: International Advances in Economic Research, Atlantic Economic Journal, Journal for Economics Educators, Journal of Economics and Finance and has an article accepted for 2008 publication in the Journal of Business, Industry, and Economics.

Dr. Cochran has served the economics profession, Belmont University, his community and his church in a variety of endeavors. He has been honored by Delta Phi Omega for his guidance and mentoring of students. He is a director of the Nashville Rescue Mission and a member of the Tennessee Export Council, an appointment made by the United States Secretary of Commerce.

Guest Blog: U.S. – MENA Trade Treaty: Four Primary Objectives Outlined

Back in 2003, President George W. Bush proposed a new trade treaty between the US and the Arab states of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). “The Arab world has a great cultural tradition, but is largely missing out on the economic progress of our time,” he said at the time. He predicted that the pact would be in force by 2013. Unfortunately until now not much has happened on this front.

MENA Economic Growth. Click for larger image

But much indeed has happened in the Arab world over the past year. So, at an event hosted by the U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Coalition, the National Foreign Trade Council and Washington International Trade Association Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Miriam Sapiro proposed several initiatives to increase US trade and investment in the area, but was short of proposing an overall Free Trade Agreement. “Ever since the Arab Spring began, the Administration has been working to define how we can best support the aspirations of the citizens of the region for expanded opportunities. We are particularly focused on ways to create broad-based economic growth that can help support democratic reforms by providing a strong foundation for inclusive development and prosperity.”

The Administration has four main objectives for trade development in the MENA region:

  1. Trade facilitation: Lowering tariffs and other non-tariff barriers that currently hinder trade between the US and many of the MENA countries. “We see significant possibilities for early productive collaboration, not only bilaterally with our MENA counterparts, but also with other governments and international institutions. Improvements and cooperation in customs procedures and establishing fair, predictable, and transparent rules are essential.”
  2. Greater SME involvement in trade and investment-related activitiesOPIC (the Overseas Private Investment Corporation) is proposing to provide up to $2 billion in financial support to catalyze small business investment in the MENA region and to “fast track” loans to SMEs in the region.
  3. Expansion of services and investment: “Transition governments that implement policy changes creating a welcoming environment for investment – especially the transparency, predictability and rule of law-  will be the first to see foreign investment flow, spurring welcome innovation along with new jobs.” As a start, the Trade Development agency (TDA) is providing grant funding in the form of pilot projects, feasibility studies and technical assistance in the region. The program in Egypt is featured on a new TDA website, Egypt: Forward – Partnering for Trade and Economic Growth.
  4. Improving access to and utilization of preference programs, such as the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP): The U.S already has FTAs with Bahrain, Jordon and Morocco. The administration wants to expand tariff reductions to other countries in the region as their political situations stabilize.

Ambassador Sapiro concluded her remarks stating, “While we are focusing initially on key trading partners in transition, we are also structuring our cooperation in a way that facilitates greater economic integration within the region and creates opportunities for other regional partners to join us. We envision sitting down with our regional counterparts and starting a dialogue that will enable us, as a group, to identify the most promising avenues for increasing trade and investment with, and within, the region. This dialogue would be an important step towards constructing a broader trade arrangement.”

Let’s hope this time it works!

WTD Editorial: Is WorldTradeDaily.com and its Editor-in-Chief for Sale?

In response to one of our recent articles on Trade Intelligence Providers, Import Genius: On the Nature of Genius and Intelligence within Trade Intelligence, I received a very nice response (posted under comments) from Ryan Petersen, founder of Import Genius.com which calls for some clarification that may be useful to other WTD readers.

“Thanks for the review Robert. Don’t you work for Piers.com though?  In any case, stay tuned for some interesting new features and product lines from ImportGenius.com. We think there’s a lot of untapped potential to do new and interesting things with the data. Our visual mapping was our first attempt at that, and it’s been a key differentiator for us versus Piers and the other IT providers. Another important way we’ve stood apart has been price, where we’ve remained the low-cost provider and steadily eaten away market share from the bigger players.”

UBM Global Trade /PIERS acquired “certain assets” of CenTradeX in May, 2010.  UBM Press Release. 

In the acquisition, PIERS acquired several of our Trade Intelligence Applications that have since become lead products, namely Prospects and StatsPlus as well as several others which have yet to be marketed.  They also obtained rights for the various technological “wiring” and referential tables by which to attach these applications to their own engine and databases.  They bought our customer list. They hired our three core technologists and the lead sales person.  I didn’t come with the package.

As outlined in WTD Backstory- Part 5: Retained CenTradeX Core Technologies & Licenses, post sale, we (CenTradeX) retained:

  • Our most important technological assets, namely our unique A.I. (artificial intelligence) engine and vast data repositories of company, product and statistical information.
  • Thirteen licenses of my (now their) software for five years: 13 licenses to StatsPlus, 13 licenses to Prospects and 13 licenses to Dashboards (which they have yet to bring to market). Said rights expire July 1, 2015.
  • Further (potential) performance-related consideration based upon retention and sales to previous CenTradeX Customers and aggregated sales of acquired software over two years, to May 2012.

I don’t receive salary, commission or other compensation from PIERS or any other TI provider.  As Editor-in-Chief of World Trade Daily, I am committed to report on the news, views and who’s who in trade intelligence from wherever and from whomever.  To bring my best, though notably biased, discoveries and opinions to WTD readers.

Therefore, be it Ryan Petersen, founder ImportGenius.com, or any other Trade Intelligence vendor, user or trade professional, I invite you to submit pertinent information on your company or product to us for publication.  See: You and/ or Your Organization Can Be Featured On World Trade Daily. General article guidelines may be found in, World Trade Daily – Content Guidelines for Prospective Articles and Interviews. If you have something that WTD readers would be interested in, I’ll publish it.

The only caveat is that I’m likely to put in my 2 cents as well.

WTD Editorial: Starting Up a New Company to Sell U.S. Customs Data

We’ve written a handful of WTD articles on new TI (Trade Intelligence) Suppliers coming on the scene with off-the-shelf BI (Business Intelligence) tools sitting atop U.S. Customs Waterborne Data:

Recently, yet another would-be TI Provider (from China) contacted me asking guidance. The following are excerpts (with notes) from our email correspondence (my responses in italics).

“I just wanted to check if you receive my message and have interests in sell AMS data to me. I’m in China and I’m also interested what kind of data your are selling.  In China, TI products are mainly used by manufacturers to find foreign customers. All major providers have customs data. I’m also curious how large is the TI market in the US? Do you still offer any TI products? May I ask besides WTD blog, do you engaged in any other TI products which is still available in market? Is PIERS based on your processed data?

With regard to the AMS (U.S. Customs) Data, you may apply directly to CDP (U.S. Customs) which is now under DHS (Department of Homeland Security).  They only used to distribute it via DVD by overnight FedEx shipment each day (with Sat. Sun. Mon. data overnighted on Tuesday).  Now they make it available via FTP. It is $100 per day. You are billed every month, thus around $3,000 for each installment. They may not sell it directly to an offshore (foreign company).

A word of caution. The $100 per day data disc you get from U.S. Customs is very raw and virtually unusable. We spent 10 years and many hundreds of thousands of dollars developing the most advanced processing system (which we call our A.I. Engine) that exists on the planet, and years developing various refinement processes.

PIERS bought several of the applications that sat upon our technology last year.  Since the PIERS purchase in May 2010, we have not bought or processed new data. Nor do we offer retail products. In time, we hope to find a partner, investor or buyer who will find value in the underlying technologies and databases we maintain. 

Two of the lead PIERS products that were purchased from us last year are Prospects and StatsPlus. These applications use data (including AMS /U.S. Customs) in uniquely innovative and integrative ways. 

I never told him how large the T.I. Market is in the U.S.  I really don’t know.  I know it should be larger than it is. I know it’s growing. I suspect that the growth is not keeping pace with the new companies that are sprouting up in China and elsewhere.

Trade Data Analysis and Reporting: Profile on Trade Professional David Schneider

David Schneider is one of the few people I’ve ever met who knows and loves Trade Data as much or more than I.  We first met when he was employed by the State of Oklahoma as an analyst.  They, along with many other International Trade Offices, Trade Associations and World Trade Centers, were customers of CenTradeX.

In fact, David was the one who originally evaluated our product for purchase by Oklahoma. He knew the intricacies of data, he knew the suppliers (our competitors) and he knew the hard questions to ask.  Ultimately, we (rather our product) won him over and he became an enthusiastic advocate. Several years later, after a decade plus doing suit-and-tie government service, he decided to go independent.

Before of the Before and After Pictures

More comfortable and productive as a Beatnik Nuevo working out of a local coffee shop, donning earring, tee-shirt, jeans and a laptop, David generated high quality analyses and reports on various aspects of trade. Since he was now a free agent, we didn’t waste anytime grabbing him up as our Chief Analyst.  It was a good arrangement.  He retained his autonomy, worked virtually and set his own schedule while we obtained the services of a five star veteran trade professional.

His first project was sizeable.  It was during the tainted toy crisis of ‘07. Children’s playthings coated with toxic levels of lead based paint had been imported from China and distributed by major U.S. toy companies.  Reports of acute sickness and death among children were causing widespread panic and a flurry of stopgap measures.

CenTradeX, in association with ECRM, Walmart and the Arkansas World Trade Center, undertook a massive study into the issue. Utilizing the Waterborne Import Shipment Data from U.S. Customs, China transactional import-export data as well as other statistical and company databases we analyzed over 400,000 toy shipments exported from China into the U.S. by 4,000 retailers over an 18-month period.

China Report

Mr. Schneider, as Chief Analyst was ultimately responsible, under our direction, for the comprehensive in-depth report that resulted.  Sources at Walmart testified that it was “the best report of its kind they had ever seen”.  A New York Times business reporter (who ran the China beat) requested and used excerpts for stories he was writing.  Not a bad first project for David.

Thereafter, he cranked out product sourcing analyses, market research, global industry reports and state export studies as regular as clockwork. Unfortunately, the ultimate sale of CenTradeX assets in 2010 saw our business relationship come to an end.  I miss the comradeship and data jokes we used to exchange.  A sign of real geeks is when they revel in data humor.

I checked in on David a month or two ago. He freelances out of the same coffeehouse, teaches a class or two on international trade at his local college and still has a love affair going on with data.

Mr. Schneider represents another example that the transformation of data into intelligence is, was, and forever shall start and end with people not just technology.

Musical Maestro Undergoes Midlife Renaissance to Become the Minister of International Trade Webworks

The World Trade Information business, like most professions, is as much about art as it is about science. It requires intuition and vision in addition to operation manuals and financial statements.

Barney Lehrer was a Juilliard-trained professional cellist, who performed all around the world, before making World Trade his vocation.  In 1990, relatively late in his life (but in the infancy of the internet), he left a successful musical career to get his MBA from the prestigious Thunderbird School of Global Management.  Thereafter, following a short stint with a trading company in New York, he joined FITA (Federation of International Trade Associations) to develop their website.

In the Wild, Wild West of the World Wide Web back in those early pioneer days, there weren’t a lot of guidebooks and gurus to tell you how it was supposed to be done.  Therefore, Mr. Lehrer invented it as he went, and became a self–taught maestro in the many facets of website development. Now, some twenty years later, FITA (http://www.fita.org) is a recognized staple for trade information.  Approximately 100,000 visitors frequent his web site every month:

  • Searching for advise on how to start an import -export business.
  • Looking for a job in the international trade industry.
  • Hunting for merchandise trade leads, where/who to buy from or sell to.
  • Fetching background information on a particular industry or country.

The FITA website and newsletter (Really Useful Sites) was sold to the Paris based company, Export Enterprises, three years ago.  Since the sale, Mr. Lehrer not only continues to shepherd the FITA as Vice-President, but also has been charged with directing content development and U.S. operations for EE’s new enterprise, GlobalTrade.net, launched November 2010.

Global Trade Net

Barney Lehrer is a man of vision.  In our recent interview, he remarked that the next important trend in international trade information would be in and about social media; hence the focus of GlobalTrade.net.  Creating transparency and interactivity within the global trading community is not easy.  But the need is there.

Vetting prospective service providers, foreign manufacturers or potential buyers is vital.  Can technology really help bridge the trust and accountability gaps?  Apparently, many companies have tried and failed to establish methods to adequately validate potential foreign suppliers.  Alibaba’s recent “Trust Pass” scandal further testifies to the difficulties involved.

Thus Barney Lehrer undertakes, through GlobalTrade.net, to begin the bridge building task.  GlobalTrade.net attempts to provide users background information on specific industries in specific countries through 15,000 reports obtained from their various global government partnerships. Then, through their network of 12,000 service providers, GlobalTrade.net tries to bring trading parties separated by miles, languages and customs a little closer to THE DEAL.

Still in its infancy, investors and sponsors are called upon to provide the necessary financial undergirding.  It is hoped that upon reaching critical mass, the “pay-per-lead” revenues (resulting from the matchmaking process) will sustain and prosper the enterprise.  In the end, the best way to establish trust and validate a potential supplier, as Mr. Lehrer attests, is “to get a plane and meet face to face.”

Notwithstanding, the Maestro will certainly bring his best to the task of bringing all the players together within GlobalTrade.net in an effort to provide greater harmony, synchronization and facilitation within the arena of global trade.  To that end, we wish him well.

Maurice Kogon, Director at Center for International Trade Development

Maurice has been a Trade Professional for 50 years.  That’s a half-century!   He served with the Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, U.S. Foreign Commercial Service for over 30 years, beginning in 1961, and ultimately directing their entire office.  Mr. Kogon now directs the El Camino office of the CITD, California International Trade Development office, where he has been employed since leaving the ITA in 1994.

Mr. Kogon attended American University where he obtained a M.A. in Foreign Affairs and George Washington University where he obtained a Candidancy in Ph.D. in International Relations.  His 50+ year tenure as a trade professional has honed him into one of the most respected sages on the planet.

In my 10 years as CEO of CenTradeX, I had the privilege of occasionally working with Mr. Kogon in our role as a vendor to the State of California (CITD trade offices who utilized our Trade Intelligence products) as well as during the annual NASBITE conferences (we were a regular presenter and exhibitor) where he presided as board member, president and/or guiding hand. His quiet, non-assuming manner cloaks the imminent authority of his vast experience and insight.

When CenTradeX was developing an innovative trade portal, called the Virtual Trade Advisor (kind of like “Web MD” for Trade) for the State of Pennsylvania, the ONLY “outside” expert that PA director Pete O’Neil wanted feedback and critique from (prior to launch) was Maurice.  (BTW, Pete’s international trade office was recently awarded the President’s export excellence award. PA has the international trade budget and resources of 10 states put together and are wholly committed to increasing exports and attracting foreign investment.) Notwithstanding, Mr. Kogon was acknowledged as the “Godfather” of trade.

Maurice Kogan, Director of CITD trade resources and links

Whether identified as sage, guru, Godfather, or simply as director for the El Camino CITD, Maurice continues to make waves.  He has assembled and organized perhaps the most comprehensive collection of links, sources and resources on International Trade.  You can access this vast trade database on the CITD web site.  Barney Lehrer of FITA recently informed me that Maurice generously shared these accumulated treasures for integration within their new venture: GlobalTrade.net – a Network of International Trade Services. So you will likely see the influence of his research there as well.

Maurice has developed many valuable tools for assisting new-to-export or veteran traders.  Of particular note are a series of podcasts on export assistance found at ExportAssist.org. Funded by the CITD, these are free educational resources created to help your company export competitively.

In this collection of 18 short episodes, Maurice will walk you through all phases of the export process from getting started, to getting paid and delivering the goods. Throughout the series, he will share resources that can help motivate and prepare you to export successfully, including free Web resources and further reading… such as:

Maurice Kogon is truly one of the central intelligences within the world of trade intelligence.

Dean Peterson, Director of the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Nashville

Mr. Peterson has been helping businesses in the International Trade field for more than half a century. Dean’s office is one of the hundred plus centers deployed by the U.S. Commercial Service across the country.  Typically, he counsels over 100 companies throughout Middle Tennessee each year.

Whether a company is “new to export” or wants to further expand their international reach, the resources available through the Department of Commerce/International Trade Administration branch offices, such as Dean’s USEAC, can be of tremendous assistance.

USEAC maintains access to many third party Trade Intelligence statistical and company data sources including WiserTrade, GTIS, PIERS, D&B, and Kompass that may be cost prohibitive for small companies to purchase for themselves.

They are also well versed in a plethora of other resources and services that are available through the U.S. government to aid exporters.

Each USEAC has direct links to global field offices in over 80 countries and can help facilitate a matchmaking process called “Gold Key Service”.  These foreign correspondent offices serve to provide “on-the-ground” intelligence on specific industries and potential buyers in their respective countries.

Mr. Peterson has an impressive background. It began as a Commodities Analyst with the International Trade Commission.  (In the early 1960’s, this department was known as the Tariff Commission).

Within the private sector as Chief Economist at Nabisco, Dean spearheaded international market research and strategic planning. Thereafter, he did a stint with EBRD in London helping to rebuild the economic infrastructure of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Later, he rejoined the government sector and was assigned to the Michigan USEAC. Then on to Calgary, Alberta as their Commercial Officer before finally landing at the Nashville Export Assistant Center, where he has been for over a decade.

In addition to his impressive work in the field of international trade, Mr. Peterson has distinguished himself as a respectable economist particularly with regard to China and it’s role in global trade, finance and economy.

I greatly benefited from Dean’s sage advice during the early days of CenTradeX (a provider of innovative Trade Intelligence applications). Mr. Peterson helped me with invaluable counsel on the best data sources to pursue, understanding on the specific challenges of data integration and coding systems, a deeper understanding of the global marketplace as well as expanding my vision for the needs and opportunities that existed for development and innovation.

Dean Peterson is one of the many dozens of Trade Professionals I have come to know and respect during my tenure in the Trade Intelligence field.  I am convinced that Trade Data &amp Technology can never solely be relied upon to provide the complete picture.  It will always be up to trade professionals like Dean Peterson to help us transform information into profitable application.