First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Pierre Thys: It has really been an experience to be alive during this pandemic. We have been blessed to remain healthy. Our business has surprisingly benefited from this pandemic.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Exporta Technologies.
Pierre Thys: I come from a family that had always worked in textiles; in particular, my parents started a sock factory when I was a child. I grew up in factories and always admired manufacturing products and commercializing them. After high school, I went to college in the U.S. I became an engineer and worked for consumer product manufacturing in consulting companies.
After college, I went to Harvard where I met my classmate Rob Monaco with whom I decided to scale a sock company that had been working on to sell products on e-commerce: Pierre Henry Socks. Rob and I figured out that there is a vast network of factories in Latin America that have no way of connecting with the U.S.; thus, we created Exporta. A company that is now building the largest marketplace connecting buyers in North America and suppliers in Latin America.
How does Exporta Technologies innovate?
Pierre Thys: Exporta innovates by clearly identifying problems that suppliers in Latin America have, and problems that buyers in the U.S. have. We are a customer-centric company, meaning our marketplace is not just a software interface that people browse for products. We work to customize matching experiences between our buyers and our suppliers. In order to provide a better option for product sourcing, we constantly have to look at both buyers and suppliers needs.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Pierre Thys: Surprisingly, Exporta has been able to benefit from the pandemic. One of the key tectonic shifts that are happening in the world is China becoming a bigger service economy. As the wages continue to increase in China, manufacturing prices have continued to rise. As a result, many manufacturers are moving away from China to South East Asia and other emerging market geographies such as U.S. Latin America. In particular, Latin America is in a very advantageous position given COVID-19 pandemic impacts. The U.S. began a decoupling process away from China, and they are looking for near shore solutions such as Latin America.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Pierre Thys: As many companies experienced the start of the Pandemic, we had to tighten our belt and maintain our organization locally as we explored Exporta wholesale business. We have been able to build our network of suppliers in Latin America and buyers in the U.S. We were also able to get more confidence in our business’s longevity. The lessons learned are the importance of nimbleness; we were able to quickly iterate and pivot away into a model that worked.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Exporta Technologies in the future?
Pierre Thys: Well, like all ventures, there are good days and not so good days. My routine and habits help me manage the days that come with stress or anxiety. I like to keep schedules and dynamics that give me different perspectives on my work and personal life. By working from home, I have allocated different spaces to do what I like or what is related to managing the company. My time is divided into reading, studying, and acquiring valuable knowledge for entrepreneurship and my team. Exercising is also an important aspect of my day because it allows me to separate my mind from work, and from time to time, I go out with my family and friends to have fun and enjoy life.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Pierre Thys: My competitors are the marketplaces that seek to connect buyers with suppliers. However, so far, we are confident that we have an aerial value that no one has so far, which is to focus our efforts in Latin America through education towards electronic commerce from this region to the world.
Your final thoughts?
Pierre Thys: If you are looking for a viable alternative to sourcing products from Asia, look to Latin America. Look to Exporta Wholesale.
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