Catchatrade app “democratizing” global seafood trade
Based in Singapore with developers in Poland and with support from the state seafood promotion body in Ireland, Catchatrade Ltd. is led by CEO and founder Stephen O’Sullivan. The Catchatrade app, now in its beta version, is intended to make life easier for seafood traders, while also bringing more capital into the aquaculture sector and even functioning as a social platform for the seafood community to meet up, according to O’Sullivan. Now functioning in 30 languages, the app is intended to rectify what O’Sullivan said in an interview with SeafoodSource is an absence of price-discovery capacities in the global seafood market.
SeafoodSource: What is your main revenue model? Will you be taking a commission on transactions?
O’Sullivan: We are not a broker model. We have no plans to take commissions or intermediate the trade. We will start with a “freemium” model to build a community. We plan to have a few revenue streams but the main ones will come from services offered to the users direct from us or third parties, such as in areas around trade finance. It’s not a broker model, so although we plan to facilitate trades eventually, that’s not an immediate focus.
SeafoodSource: There are now several seafood trading apps in existence. What do you believe is your advantage in the marketplace?
O’Sullivan: Other apps aren’t focused on seafood specifically and lack the industry discovery and pricing insight options we will offer. I’ve spent the last 15 years in Asia and am currently based here, but Catchatrade is building a global community platform. Asia is a very important region for the industry, but [the app is] not a region or species-specific platform. We have interest from industry players and experts from the U.S.A., Scandinavia, South America, New Zealand, and have signed a number of MoUs with Asian and non-Asian partners in the past few weeks. [Besides] the multi-lingual language capability and global reach, [the app is] empowering users through partner search and price discovery and will deliver a host of value-added trading services. It’s a social approach with verified users with verified offerings will deliver a more trustful community experience.
Catchatrade is working with great partners to help us develop our ecosystem. Alex Medana and Florian Spiegl of FinFabrik bring decades of experience in capital markets and financial trading technology. Also, IBM’s global blockchain team in New York is working with us on one of our proof of concepts here in Asia.
Trading and market development is my background and so I understand where the pain points in international seafood trade are and what can give a competitive advantage to users. Catchatrade is delivering trading tools and finance solutions for these seafood traders. With my industry know-how and community connections, we can combine these into a solution that really helps to open up the industry to more efficient trade. Moving the product faster and more cost-effectively has always been an issue. Also, Catchatrade is creating a destination not just for traders but for all stakeholders in the industry to communicate on a secure platform that respects privacy and promotes community. Anyone from the seafood community is welcome to come aboard and use the social tools to find partners or to source knowledge.
SeafoodSource: What's the nature of the MoUs you signed?
O’Sullivan: At this point, I am not allowed to disclose what’s in the MoUs without the other parties’ consent, but, generally, the MoUs are around technology development and data share. These are parties that are known to me for a while and we want to work together. We signed the MoU's to show potential investors there is a relationship and “traction” for future business opportunities.
SeafoodSource: Is your ultimate vision that a seafood buyer or vendor will be able to communicate and trade globally on your app?
O’Sullivan: Anyone can use it. The vision is to democratize the trade – democratize access to information, tech, and finance that helps those community members that are good actors to compete in the market. I hope the Chinese seafood community will use it, [and also] Filipinos, Indians, Vietnamese, Thais, Japanese, Koreans, Malaysians, and Indonesians also use it. The current version has 30 languages including, all major Asian languages, and we will continue to add to that.
We also see the benefit for other stakeholders to come aboard: Feed suppliers, broodstock and hatchery businesses, logistics providers, processors, veterinary and animal health, insurance, trade finance, universities, R&D, media, as well as national seafood authorities – all stakeholders in the wider seafood sector who want to get better connected and develop their industry knowledge and networks.
SeafoodSource: Given China’s huge online retailing scene, what do you think you can do better than Chinese e-tailers such as Tmall or JD.com?
O’Sullivan: Tmall and JD.com are general online retailers. We are an industry-specific B2B destination focused on building a healthy secure community and to serve the community with very specific products and services that add value to our community members.
SeafoodSource: Price discovery has long been a big issue in the seafood market. How does your app change that?
O’Sullivan: Price discovery is important for everyone in the industry. It’s what helps you to compete in the market and one way or another directly impacts your bottom-line. It’s even more important in commodity trade. Pricing is neither efficient nor timely right now. We are working on a solution to give better price discovery to our community. Our thinking is a more connected community is a more competitive community. Real-time price information can help better decision-making.
SeafoodSource: What is the particular interest of BIM [Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Ireland’s state seafood promotion board] in helping you develop and promote your app?
O’Sullivan: BIM is looking to maintain Ireland's competitive advantage in seafood, so fostering innovation and building relationships with innovators help move the dial in the right direction. They have been keeping tabs on our progress over the past few months and I know there is a desire to support seafood start-ups – particularly those with innovative technology that can not only help Irish companies, but also with tech that can be leveraged or commercialized beyond Ireland. The level of innovation in seafood globally is accelerating and will continue for the coming decades. Capitalizing on this wave of innovation and opportunity will require smart and talented people committed to the industry. Supporting and attracting new talent into the industry is a must and BIM knows that.
SeafoodSource: How did you get involved in the Hatch accelerator and what was that experience like?
O’Sullivan: It was through pitching to a venture capital fund based in Europe that we learned about Hatch, which, being a seafood accelerator, is part of the venture capital ecosystem that invests in start-ups. They select a small cohort of companies every year committed to this industry and “accelerate” their progress over a three-month period.
Hatch has a rigorous screening and selection process before finally selecting the annual cohort. As part of the process, some of the teams were asked to participate in an intensive two-week workshop in Dublin. We put a lot of hard yards in during those two weeks that were sufficient to qualify us for the 2019 accelerator program.
They provide mentoring and coaching, industry experts, and connections for an equity stake in our business. The objective is to refine our team and products for a better chance of commercial success – in short, to de-risk us for the next round of investment or investors looking to come in and take a stake in us. But ultimately, [the objective is] to get us ready for the next round of investment.
SeafoodSource: Hatch has Irish roots … Is there a big start-up scene in the Irish sector?
O’Sullivan: Aquaculture start-ups and innovation in Ireland have been around since the early days of salmon farming, but safe to say, it’s in its infancy in Ireland compared to our neighbors in Scotland and Scandinavia. Wayne Murphy, one of the Hatch co-founders and partners, is very committed to supporting a drive for more start-ups and innovation in aquaculture in Ireland. There are two other Irish companies along with Catchatrade that were selected to join the 2019 cohort, UniViv and Impact 9, both coming with solutions to transform and massively disrupt aquaculture. I would think it highly unusual to have so many Irish companies in one small cohort of 13 companies but it just goes to underscore the talent we have in such a small country.
SeafoodSource: What did you learn from your trips with Hatch to Bergen, Norway, and to Singapore?
O’Sullivan: It’s been an unexpected gift of the program to share the journey with my compatriots. Start-ups and especially start-ups in aquaculture are not for the faint-hearted. The Hatch experience has helped me to build on my existing industry knowledge and fill in supply-chain knowledge-gaps like in genetics and feed, for example. I’ve learned the importance of cooperation and collaboration in this industry, whether it’s data exchange or off-take agreements. I’ve also learned the importance of having a good team with aligned interests and experienced advisors to support you and the importance of being yourself, being authentic, and the importance of team and family support. You are under a microscope from your first investor for 12 to 16 hours a day for three months. There’s no hiding or pretending. Just be yourself and try your best.
Photo courtesy of Stephen O’Sullivan/Catchatrade