Thursday , January 21 2021

Launch HN: Convictional (YC W19) – Supplier Network for Retailers, Hacker News

Hey HN,

We’re Roger and Chris, co-founders of Convictional ( Convictional makes it possible for online retailers to find, onboard, and integrate with third-party suppliers. We do this by connecting them to a network of suppliers that manage the inventory and ship those products directly to the end consumer on their behalf.

The idea behind Convictional started when Roger worked at GNC, a large natural health products retailer, at the age of 17. One of the biggest challenges was onboarding. As a retailer, you either buy inventory or ship from third parties (“drop shipping”). They decided to expand their catalog by selling some products that were shipped directly by the supplier. To do this, GNC required both sides to implement EDI (an old school, pre-internet data format for exchanging information between business systems) or manually exchange flat files for things like inventory, orders, and product information. We only got a fraction of the total vendors we wanted to onboarded because of this.

A few years later, we met while working together at Shopify on B2B. There, we saw that the challenge of onboarding third-party brands still existed for retailers, and people were experiencing the same pain trying to use EDI to get it done. Online retailers also didn’t know how to find third-party brands to work with or struggled to dropship with existing partners.

Convictional’s product is an app and API that syncs product information, inventory, orders, fulfillments, and payouts between online retailers and all of their suppliers. We do this by integrating with the systems used on both sides through an API or pre-built connectors to ecommerce platforms like Shopify. We later added a way to find suppliers after online retailers told us that they also wanted to access a network of connected third-party brands.

We’re using a generalized data model in the middle with a bunch of mapping, transformation and transmission steps on each side. Similar to what EDI does but much easier to set up. The goal is to turn what today requires a 6 month IT project into an email invite and an app install. It’s an industry that has existed since the 60 s, and it’s probably the last major software industry that touches commerce but has not meaningfully been updated.

To do this we developed our own queueing system in Go that can map events from buyers and sellers, transform them from the source format into the destination format, validate and apply a bunch of domain-specific business logic to make sure what crosses the bounds of buyers and sellers actually makes sense, and then send those into another queue that passes it to their partner. We basically have to control the state of three systems for each transaction. Before us, it could take up to 24 hours to know whether that loop succeeded or not but we’re able to do it within a few seconds. There are a lot of real life things that enables, but mostly it enables a good experience for the buyer’s ultimate consumers and less inventory for both sides.

Our belief is that online retailers will be less inclined to take on inventory. That’s why we started by building the tooling necessary to automate dropship. Over time, we’ll launch tools that can enable more forms of B2B trade in a way where regardless of IT skills, both sides can have systems doing their purchasing and selling for them. Today large companies enjoy significant advantages through this integrated approach, and soon every buyer and seller can too.

Brands and suppliers can join our seller network for free. If you make or sell physical products on an ecommerce platform, consider joining. For online retailers, we charge a flat monthly fee and a percentage of GMV, depending on volume and which work gets outsourced to us.

If you have questions, we’ll be here to answer them. We’d love any feedback, ideas, and / or EDI horror stories that you may have as well. Thank you!

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