Tag Archives: WTD Background

WTD Backstory- Part 6: Seedling of Vision & Inspiration by the WTCA

My vision is to impact the world through innovation within the arena of International Trade by:

  • Leveling the playing field.
  • Providing free access to vital trade information and resources.
  • Developing new methods and venues to bridge the gap of understanding and application.
  • Creating a community: a forum of free exchange members.
  • Contributing my unique experience, talents and insights.

My vision, like a seed, begins with the development of this WTD community: the open source access to advanced technologies and vast data repositories. If it is to flourish, my vision must evolve by the intertwined visions of other kindred spirits. To expand, it needs to become a communal vision, a viral entity in and of itself. That is the nature and life cycle of a vision particularly a global one.

The abiding motto of the WTCA – World Trade Centers Association – pioneered by Guy Tozolli in the ‘70s is “Peace and Stability through Trade”. The premise is that people who do business with each other are less likely to go to war with each other.

I remember the first WTCA conference I attended in Bejing in 2006. I happened to sit at the same table as Mr. Tozolli. Also in attendance were representatives from China and Taiwan, Palestine and Israel, Iran and many of the Middle Eastern countries all gathered in a common forum to discuss ways to promote their common interests. It was a profoundly moving experience.

World Trade Centers Association founded by Guy Tozolli

We (CenTradeX) had started as a trade information vendor to several trade centers. Later, we were invited to become a preferred trade technology partner to the entire WTCA organization of 300 plus World Trade Centers. We eventually acquired a license to develop the Nashville World Trade Center. For our contribution and involvement in the formation of the WTCA foundation, designed to “give legs” to their famous motto, we became recipients of their inaugural Global Corporate Leadership Award.

As WTC representatives we were the first to conduct a trade mission to Palestine. We became very close to our host and new Arab friend. Our intent was to facilitate trade and educational exchanges between the U.S and Palestine. Notwithstanding, I had studied Hebrew in college. My first wife was Jewish. My daughter traveled to Israel the summer following our Palestine trade mission with her Jewish boyfriend, while my eldest son has become a dedicated Muslim and calls the prayers at the Mosque. My ex-wife was/is a fundamental Christian.  I’m a liberal. Life is complicated.

Then again, it’s easy. It’s about people, not politics. That’s why I love trade data. It has no prejudices. It loves those that love it. It benefits those who apply it without bias. It is can give insight and success to those who embrace its message and instruction.

The most treasured aspect of my relationship with the WTCA and its members was belonging to a global community. Getting to know Guy, the man who literally built the twin towers under the direction of the Rockefellers for the port authority. Guy often referred to us not as members but as his family; sometimes a dysfunctional family to be sure, but still a family.

My WTD virtual family. A growing, close knit community.

After all, what is a family but travelers who share a common journey, for a time… or those who share a strong common interest… or those who are thrown together by life circumstances… or people who become so obsessed by trade data and technology that they are force to read, write or even create a blog site about it all?

WTD Backstory- Part 5: Retained CenTradeX Core Technologies & Licenses

Even though the ultimate UBM/ PIERS purchase represented a fraction of the intrinsic worth of the CenTradeX technology (IMHO), the agreed upon list of itemized assets along with their valuation had been further marginalized by the fact that what we considered to be our most important technological assets, namely our unique A.I. (artificial intelligence) engine and vast data repositories of company, product and statistical information, was not on their shopping list. They had their own (newly revamped) databases and engine into which they had invested sizeable resources. In fact, the first order of the day for our (now their) tech folks was to “hook up” our (now their) web applications to their engine and databases.

CenTradeX Prospects acquired and now marketed by PIERS

Thus, PIERS ultimately acquired several CenTradeX web applications along with our “book of business and tech folks along with assorted code and documentation. Two web applications have been taken to market: StatsPlus and Prospects. An annual single user license runs around $20,000 each depending upon the particular options chosen.

As partial consideration, I retain the rights to 13 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.

Under the terms of that agreement, 12 licenses are eligible for redistribution. Redistribution being “employees (of Robert Thompson/Centradex), independent contractors and consultants (of Robert Thompson/Centradex), “clients of the licensee, for whom, from time to time, the licensee or his appointees are carrying out consulting or other commercial engagements”. Currently I have assigned 4. 2 which will expire June 30, 2011. The other 2 are set to expire a year later.

CenTradeX Stats Plus acquired and now marketed by PIERS

So, as a result, we retain several valuable resources: the core technology, A.I. Engine and Data repositories, upon which all our innovative web applications had been built and into which we invested many hundreds of thousands of dollars over a 10-year span as well as a dozen licenses to cutting-edge trade information technology. In addition, we were able to preserve another, though often overlooked asset (wink, wink)… me.

At any rate, it is my intention to use these powers, resources and assets for the good of humankind as long as I am able and before the chip (and licenses) expire and the A.I. engine rusts. I would like to offer “open source” access and utilization to all our resident data repositories and A.I. Engine… setting it free, but shepherding its’ growth and development. I would like to facilitate/catalyze the growth of a global community of those invested in trade information and technology by providing a forum of connection and exchange.

If you would like to help, let me know.

WTD Backstory- Part 4; Acquisition of CenTradeX by UBM Global Trade/ PIERS

One of the most successful and exciting aspects of CenTradeX was our core team. In my 30 years as an entrepreneur, they represented the most creative, talented, loyal, integrity-stamped people I had ever worked with. Therefore, we worked out a custom version of an employee purchase agreement wherein they would be highly incentivized to manage and grow the company together.

I served as coach–mentor to the CenTradeX team through a difficult 2009, which saw international trade activity plummet. Despite the best efforts, ingenuity and diligence of the newly established management and sales team, sales continued to plummet. We had generated twice the revenue during the first 9 months of 2008 as in the 18-month period thereafter.

As a person who believes strongly in independence and delegation, I wanted to let the team have every opportunity to make a go of it. Furthermore, I find it impossible in life to go “backwards”. Finally though, as insolvency was knocking strongly at the door, I had to step in and take the reins back. Although revenues had continued to shrink, corresponding liabilities and debts had not.

We began the (too long postponed) process involving severe cut backs–both to personnel and overhead-while developing a business plan and proposal to acquire an equity investor(s), joint venture partner or suitable buyer. Of course by then our valuation, once calculated in 8 digits (not counting the decimals) was struggling to bring 6 or 7 in real cash dollars.

Serendipitously, days before we intended to “push the button” on our intentions, we were contacted by representatives of UBM Global Trade/PIERS. Thus began a 120-day due diligence process that resulted in their acquisition of certain assets on May 5, 2010, namely our slick applications along with the underlying technology that made the magic work. In addition, they acquired certain “soft” assets, namely all our core tech crew and even one of our marketing/sales folks to boot.

UBM Global Trade /PIERS acquired certain CenTradeX assets in May, 2010

To their credit, the UBM Global executives I dealt with were impressive. They had been quietly revamping their entire I.T. infrastructure for sometime. Unlike the previous PIERS management team I had dealt with for years, they were forward thinking and decisive with a refreshing absence of guile. Straight shooters. Although I certainly would have liked to get a better deal, overall I have no complaints. Most of the time.

I’m happy the core CenTradeX team found lucrative employ with a Global Trade & Technology supplier with the financial muscle, organizational infrastructure and sales force to maximize the potential of the products we developed together. I believe UBM Global Trade /PIERS is positioned to become the undisputed leader in international trade information and technology. I am biased though, so consider the source.

WTD Backstory- Part 3; My Later Days with CenTradeX

This article continues a series of articles that chronicles my (Robert Thompson) personal and professional journey into the International Trade arena as well as the background of WorldTradeDaily.com.

We (CenTradeX) vastly expanded and improved our technology, databases and product lines. We began to attract the interest of major players in several industries. During the summer of 2008, a top venture capital group made a deal to apprehend $20 million through direct investments as well as another $20 million generated via new sales within their “network”.

Their stated objective was to take CenTradeX public within three to five years. The process included the installation of professional management, shoring up our infrastructure, a laser focused marketing and sales strategy and exclusive attention given to the commercial sectors versus our previous book of business, largely comprised of non-profits and custom development projects. In their opinion, I had been using “diamonds to cut paper.”

All this sounded quite heady and nice. However, in the process two things happened.

The typical venture capitalist loves to "invest" in promising start-ups.

First, since they were contemptuous of my personal penchant toward the inventive and the philanthropic, I eventually found myself losing my sense of vision, passion and interest, which hitherto kept me warm through the night. Thus I began the process of management transition leading to my semi-retirement.

Secondly, the official Nashville “signing” party, got postponed several times, due to the difficulty in lassoing all the key players and herding them into the same “remote” venue. Press releases had been prepared for weeks. In the meantime, as the fates would have it, an unprecedented global melt down within the financial sector occurred. BAM! See all the VCs scurrying back into their little dark holes.

The bleak winter of 2008. The adoring VCs had altogether disappeared. Several hundred thousand dollars in pending CenTradeX sales evaporated overnight. I had begun the process of semi-retirement. Recently divorced after a 30-year marriage, as in the musical Oliver, I was indeed “reviewing the situation”. After some extended beachfront soul searching in Florida, I crafted a plan.

WTD Backstory- Part 2; My Early Days with CenTradeX

This article continues a series of articles that chronicle my (Robert Thompson) personal and professional journey into the International Trade arena as well as the background of WorldTradeDaily.com.

We weren’t really attempting to construct an IT solution to a meet a specified market need or sell to a particular industry segment. We wanted to revolutionize the way people looked at world trade, craft beautiful, easy-to-use user interfaces, integrate sources and types of trade data that had never been wedded heretofore and level the world-wide playing field by making essential trade information available and understandable to all, not just through self proclaimed “high priests” and commercial middle men.

In the beginning, many of the players in our small Trade Made Easy had to wear many hats: graphic designer, database administrator, programmer, researcher, copywriter, web developer, hardware engineer, and office administrator – typical for start-up enterprises. We worked for almost four years, through three major iterations of development, before launching the first commercial version of the product.

CenTradeX Logo.

Just as we were preparing to announce our new baby to the world, our financial partner had a severe set back and was forced to pull out. Having worked on a “shoe string” budget for almost four years, investing every dollar I had, left with zero reserve (and a family of six) it was tough going. One concerned “supporter” once asked me, “When are you finally going to give up” (and get a job)? I replied, “When they pry the server from my cold, dead hands.”

However, empowered by 110% belief and passion in the product and the encouragement of a supportive community, I forged ahead. I had a simple marketing plan. If I could make 100 presentations/product demonstrations within a year, I’d have a solvent business. I branded the new company, “CenTradeX” (Center – Trade – X marks the spot where the world and commerce meet). Our motto became “The Center for World Trade and Business Intelligence.”

Belmont University was the First CenTradeX customer

The first sales were to our local Universities: Belmont, TSU, Vanderbilt, and MTSU in 2004. The professors of international business had never seen anything that compared to the likes of our CenTradeX interface.

We were introduced to many of our subsequent customers, trade educators, trade consultants, government trade offices and trade associations through NASBITE – National Association of Small Business and International Trade Educators.

Our expenditures in research and development as well as philanthropy always trumped other (commercial) concerns. Over 20% of our gross sales was re-invested in development. Another 20% was set aside for philanthropy through various sponsorship activities we became involved in. Although we grew fast, we were always handicapped by the lack of expansion capital, infrastructure and sales force. Notwithstanding, we became recognized as a leading innovator in the field of international trade technology.

WTD Backstory- Part 1; My Personal Journey Into the International Trade Arena

This article begins a series of articles that chronicle my (Robert Thompson) personal and professional journey into the International Trade arena as well as the background of WorldTradeDaily.com.

I’ve always been fascinated by the world of Trade. When I was a college student, I remember culling through the latest Almanac lists detailing country import & export figures just for fun during Christmas break, while everyone else was engaged in familial celebration.

I was also a student of the scriptures “back in the day”. The epic stories describing the historic rise and fall of this or that world power intrigued me. Many times I noticed aspects of trade would be mentioned. Typically, the prosperity of a particular kingdom was founded upon its ability to acquire and sell goods to other kingdoms. The wealth of the government, transportation providers and merchants were contingent upon successful trading.

It was a circuitous route that led me into the Trade profession. Propelled by an idealist’s vision to “impact the world”, I got a B.F.A. in Cinematography and an M.A. in Marketing Communications. Being somewhat of a rouge genius, I pursued the life of an entrepreneur early on. Amidst the litter of a handful of discarded business start-ups, I pioneered what became the largest independent motion-picture studio in Los Angeles.

For reasons I shall leave unmentioned, I abandoned this $25 million dollar enterprise to seek my fortunes elsewhere; first as the founder/director of a small offshore emerging market investment fund during the birth of the Chinese stock markets in the early 90’s. It was the Wild, Wild East of burgeoning capitalism. I visited many of the initial 26 companies listed on the Shenzhen or Shanghai stock exchanges. “To get rich is glorious!” was creed du jour.

Chinese symbol for loyalty

Thereafter, I diligently studied Chinese and got involved in several import – export opportunities. I recall my first import: an entire container packed with 36 8K Diesel generators, which I distributed during the Y2K fiasco. Scarier than a possible Y2K disaster was wiring $36,000 to folks in Hubei that I had never met in person… then anxiously waiting 6 weeks to see if my generators would actually arrive. It was also intriguing that even a tiny U.S. start-up (like me) could negotiate an exclusive distribution deal with a billion-dollar Chinese multi-national corporation.

I’ve also always been a technologist. My first job, as a 10 year old earning 50 cents an hour, was as a keypunch verifier for my mother’s data processing business in Dallas, Texas. As the Internet became a viable medium of exposition, communication and commerce, I sought ways to set up my particular fruit stand along the information highway. In the late 90’s a handful of other “rogues” and myself conducted some rather interesting (and wildly successful) experiments in the “new” area of SEO and Internet marketing. In one particular venture, we grossed $800,000 within about 10 months.

My reoccurring need for start-up capital led me to a veteran real-estate investor/philosopher in Nashville. Our interests aligned within the arena of International Trade information and technology. Subsequently, we created the company Trade Made Easy in the Spring of 2000, which endeavored to offer a missing “value added” component to readily available, inexpensive but obtuse trade statistics and reports. Four years of development resulted in a revolutionary way to put together and deliver trade data.

World Trade Daily Vision and Mission

Trade data, along with the technology used in unearthing the inherent riches therein contained to make business decisions that involve $trillions of trade flows, is what WorldTradeDaily.com is all about.

In the 10 years I was involved as founder and CEO of CenTradeX, I continually sought for ways to developed better methods for accessing, integrating and displaying world trade information. UBM Global Media/PIERS acquired the CenTradeX innovative software solutions May 2010. They ,along with other information suppliers, do much to further understanding and application of trade data. Notwithstanding, there continues to be a huge need for non-partial, non-commercial exploration and development.

My vision is to impact the world through innovation within the arena of International Trade by:

1. Leveling the playing field.

2. Providing free access to vital trade information and resources.

3. Developing new methods and venues to bridge the gap of understanding and application.

4. Creating and growing a community by providing a forum for free exchange among members.

5. Contributing my unique experience, talents and insights.

This vision, like a seed, begins the development of the WTD community, this blog, an open source (free) access to advanced technologies and vast data repositories. However to flourish, “my” vision must evolve into something more by the intertwined visions of other kindred spirits of common interest. To expand, it needs to become a communal vision, a viral entity. That is the nature and growth cycle of a vision, particularly a global one. It takes a village to grow a dream.

It’s about people, not politics. That’s why I love trade data. It has no prejudices. It’s global in scope. In encompasses the entire world. It loves those that love it. It benefits those who apply it without bias. It is can give insight and success to those who embrace the message and instruction buried in the (sometimes) obscure and detailed information.

I invite you to participate and contribute to this vision, to this community. You have something to offer and something that this community needs.

What we need foremost is an ongoing flow of content (articles) provided by suppliers, data users, consultants, technologists, teachers, analysts, trade specialists, etc. As the saying goes, “content is king!”

We need sponsors (advertisers, clients, benefactors) who will provide funds and /or in-kind exchange of data or tech services to update and expand our open source database access.

We need readers to get involved; comment, provide feedback and “spread the word” via their own social network and professional connections.

We need you.

WTD Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) engine, analytics and reporting tools.

One of the most significant achievements over the last decade was the progress made toward normalizing and linking disparate sources of world trade and company data… translating into plain English and understandable graphics. To that end, many custom applications were developed that “sat on top” of the (integrated) database collections.

There is always a tension between making trade data easy, quick and understandable… versus retaining detail, depth and versatility. They are sometimes mutually exclusive options. It really depends upon the intended use and the resources (time & money) allotted.

What we intend to provide, via WTD, is open source (free) access to our vast database repositories – some of which (such as the U.S. Customs /DHS U.S. waterborne daily import shipping manifest data) have been “run through” our sophisticated A.I engine… others like “bread and butter” statistical collections (from the U.S and other countries) have been linked and normalized as well as company and proprietary database collections.

Important to note though… is that the access we provide to these databases will primarily be through third party, open source business intelligence analytic and reporting software… NOT through one of our “custom” applications (easy-to-use user interfaces). While this affords the opportunity for greater versatility, depth and detail… it does require a steeper learning curve and investment of time.

The two current options to access these databases are: through an ad-hoc reporting tool called MYDBR or directly via SQL Server Reporting Services (special permission required).

The (temporary) link to our WTD MYDBR ad-hoc reporting tool can be accessed by clicking here: We will be a sending user names and passwords to subscribers once WTD is launched May 1. Please feel free to contact us for additional information.

MyMDR offers a free demo of their product which is available MyMDR.com MYMDR documentation – on how to use the reporting tool – can be downloaded from our Google Docs site here

Although we plan to provide Open Source access to any and all WTD members, ultimately the ability to sustain and expand upon these resources will entirely depend upon support and sponsorship from the community… or whatever business model will make this possible.

We do intend to require members to a register and agree to basic parameters. In addition, we plan to employ a simple mechanism whereby other members in the WTD community can benefit from the research and reporting conducted within this open source (free) portal.

Open source (free) access WTD database repositories.

Give us this day… our daily data: As an integral aspect of the WTD community, we are planning to provide members’ access to the following trade data repositories:

• World Statistics: Annual trade flow data (imports & exports) garnered from (up to) 192 countries, years 1996 through 2008. All commodities organized by HS code – by 2, 4 & 6 digit detail- as well as summary tables.

• U.S. Statistics: Annual trade flow data (imports & exports) also organized by HS code – by 2, 4, 6, & 10 digit detail along with summary tables; years 1989 to 2009.

• State Export Statistics: Annual trade flow data organized by HS code – by 2, 4, 6 digit detail along with summary tables; years 2000 to 2008.

• U.S. company information; a rather extensive database, accumulated and refined over a decade, that details U.S. companies engaged in some aspect of world trade; exporters and importers as well as ‘service’ related entities.

• Global trading companies; gathered from many sources over 10 years highlighting importers & exporters as well as ‘service’ related entities.

• China company /statistic database; a huge, transactional database of Chinese trading companies – along with virtually EVERY import and export transaction (including the values of each shipment) from years 2000 through 2006. Translated and normalized into English.

• U.S. Customs waterborne manifest data: a mammoth, highly refined database collection detailing virtually every U.S. import (waterborne) shipment– on a DAILY basis – from January 1, 2006 though May 31, 2010; Millions of transactions per year with extensive detail on products, shippers (sellers), importers (buyers) and shipping data.

• Reference tables: Normalization and referential tables that serve to LINK the various databases referenced above as well as provide easy access to and /or understanding of obtuse data such as harmonized code language, trade nomenclature or obscure data fields.

As you can see, some of the databases (although very valuable) are out of date. As WTD grows and gains community support (and sponsorship), we will be updating many of the referenced data collections as well as expanding upon the list.

Robert Thompson, Editor-in-Chief, World Trade Daily

Written by Doyce Powell

WorldTradeDaily.com, a new virtual forum providing world trade data, corresponding technology, and business applications, will be launched on May 1, 2011. As a trailblazer of international trade information for two decades, Robert Thompson has become a major player whose efforts have been successful in reshaping the global economy and global trade technology.

In 2008, Thompson was the first recipient of the Global Corporate Leadership Award by the World Trade Center Association Committee on Peace and Stability through Trade. Since the early ’90s, he has had several successful international business ventures, including expanding the international trade markets of Nashville, Tennessee and opening the Greater Nashville Trade Center.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in filmmaking from the University of Missouri-Columbia with the class of 1979. He earned a master’s degree from Regent University in marketing communication, TV, and film with the class of 1981. He had a successful career in entertainment that prepared him for the ventures ahead in the Global Market. Thompson taught at Regent, where he was responsible for setting up the film department.

In the early 1980s, Thompson established the largest independent film studio in Los Angeles with more than seventeen sound stages within 1,000,000 square feet. In 1993, he founded Big Picture Media – a diverse media production company – that he operated until 2000, when he started CenTradeX.

Robert Thompson built CenTradeX within ten years as a respected trade intelligence provider to the WTCA, U.S. Government, Foreign Agricultural Service, certain domestic commercial, and logistics affiliations.

In May 2010, UBM Global Trade announced its purchase of CenTradeX assets to compliment PIERS that was launched over 30 years ago by the Journal of Commerce and has become a primary source of U.S. waterborne trade information and a leader in global trade solutions. CenTradeX was chosen for its technology expertise, industry knowledge, and advanced data analytics according to John Day, CEO of UBM Global Trade.

May 1, 2011 Robert Thompson launches World Trade Daily.