For Shep Hickey, it was busyness, not business, that caused him to realize there had to be a better way.
As Hickey was coming up in the steel industry, working in various roles in the supply chain, he was frustrated by the inordinate amount of time he spent gathering information.
“Procedurally, in the practice of buying and selling material, I was working off of email, fax machine and phone. I was constantly going out because of inventory volatility – one day it’s $5 a foot, next day it’s $10 a foot – getting quotes for the same stuff over and over. You spend more time preparing to get numbers and gathering information than you do the actual activity of negotiating the number or buying and selling.
“It was all busyness.”
Now, he’s able to do something about it.
Hickey has founded Bryzos, a digital marketplace for metals buying and selling. The company launched in August. The site allows for the sale and purchase of both prime and surplus material.
Through mid-October, the company had added 63 distributors, approximately halfway to its six-month target of 125 to 150 companies.
Like others in the field, Bryzos is not trying to reinvent the wheel. “The traditional method of buying and selling is a good one. It’s tested. It works. “But we have an insane amount of technology now. How can we marry these up? How can we take the hassle out of it.”
The idea actually occurred to Hickey early in his career. But he didn’t have the knowledge to pursue it, so he shelved the idea for several years.
Now, it’s out of mothballs, going from concept to concrete system.
While building the site with the help of Bryzos’ internal development team, Hickey’s primary concerns were transparency and ease of use. “It couldn’t be an insanely complicated interface, which looks cool but no one knows how to use it.
“And we wanted to be straightforward on the economics of it. You can’t bury your fees on Page 50 of the terms and conditions. That’s not how I wanted to approach it; so, it’s on our home page,” he says.
The Bryzos site breaks down into two main channels, one for buyers and one for sellers.
Buyers can manually enter or upload an RFQ, which gets sent to a matching engine, routing the RFQ to the right people. Sellers can then offer a quote.
From there, the transaction proceeds just as it would in the traditional marketplace. A buyer can get the various offers, which can meet the existing RFQ or differ on certain aspects, and weigh the merit of each quote. In each case, both sides can agree to a deal, reject or counter. Each of the negotiations archives in the system.
Sellers can also list material they have that they would like to make available on the marketplace.
Hickey says Bryzos has a few special features that enhance the buying and selling experience. It starts with credit.
Through financial partner Fundbox, Bryzos is able to offer near-immediate credit for qualified buyers. With just a little information, buyers can get up to $100,000 credit, which can be extended higher with additional financial information disclosed.
“Bryzos now supports free net 60 payment terms to buyers who check out using Fundbox. This is huge.” Hickey says.
Sellers are pain on the ship-date plus 35 days.
According to Hickey, one area of the traditional sales process Bryzos improves upon is when a transaction is disputed for one reason or another.
For example, if a buyer receives material that is damaged, the company can challenge the transaction through Bryzos’ RCDC (Reconciliations, Change orders, Disputes and Cancellations) feature. An unsatisfied customer can create an RCDC, at which point the sale is not completed until both sides are satisfied. Until then, the payment is put on hold.
“Traditionally, you can have a situation where someone has both the money and the material. That’s very out of balance. In this situation, no one party has both the material and the money. It neutralizes the transactional risk.”
The Bryzos system will also handle all sales tax and exemptions. Rather than creating a separate account for every company someone does business with, it can be done once with Bryzos and the information is centralized and the appropriate taxes applied to every transaction.
Signing up for the system is free, Hickey notes. “There are no costs, no monthly fees. We’re the last to get paid in a transaction. It has to work for you, and if it works for you, it works for us.”
Though the company is looking to build slowly, the site was designed to handle significant growth. “We have load-tested the platform at 10,000 concurrent users without issue,” he says. “We did not test beyond that volume because I do not believe that, at any given time, we will eclipse that value in the near term.”
As it ramps up, the company is welcoming feedback from users. Bryzos designers have already added/refined certain functionality and design since its launch, and will continue to do so.
Users are welcome to submit ideas for personal preference. The team evaluates the concept, and if it concludes the feature would benefit all users, a prototype is designed and sent to the original user for evaluation. “Thus far we have implemented these refinements in about a two-week period,” he says.
Bryzos currently has a small team at work in its St. Louis office, split between sales and development teams. Hickey expects to grow further as activity on the site increases.
“I don’t want to stack the office with employees and sink the ship. We want to grow with the demands of the business.”