Todd Gould, founder and CEO of Loren Data Corp. was with the CEO Views team to share details about the company.
CEO Views: Where did the concept for your business originate? What sparked your interest in this space?
Todd Gould: Back when Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) was first transitioning to the Internet, we saw the coming rapid growth of Internet-based services. The biggest problem for EDI services then and now was how to connect to all the other providers in a fast, affordable, and integrated way. ECGrid° was conceived in 1999 as an API-based VAN of VANs, a global backbone network for EDI.
CEO Views: Can you take us through the journey of Loren Data right from its beginning to the point where it unwaveringly stands today? What milestones have you achieved along the journey?
Todd Gould: In 1987 Loren Data was established as a custom business software development company. Winning a contract in 1992 to provide a global procurement system for the US Air Force, the company was introduced to EDI. Four years later, we delivered World-Wide-EDI TM, the first government certified, web-based interface into the Federal EDI FACNET system.
By 1999, with many external requests for accessing commercial EDI networks, we reacted to the need by developing a global, programmable backbone to EDI. With the launch of ECGrid in 2000 and the rollout of ECGridOS, the first and only web services-based operating system for EDI, ECGrid became firmly established as the gold standard for integrated EDI communications.
For the next two decades, services, features, and functionality have been added to ECGrid and ECGridOS based on market driven need and innovation.
While originally built with a vision for service providers, resellers, and OEM software publishers, ECGrid has established itself as a core next generation platform for EDI hubs seeking deeper integration, better visibility, and a more stable and supported environment for their trading partners.
CEO Views: What type of solutions does the company offer? Can you please explain them in brief?
Todd Gould: Loren Data offers a global backbone for Electronic Data Interchange communications allowing businesses to exchange critical supply chain information using secure, auto mated, and innovative technology. For those unfamiliar with EDI, it is standard for exchanging information between computer systems. Our main platform, ECGrid, is a Value-Added-Network that transports business documents (ex: Purchase Orders, Invoices, Shipment Notifications, etc) in the form of EDI transactions between trading partners.
There are many advanced features and functionalities that differentiate ECGrid and make it the gold standard communications network appreciated by EDI Service Providers, System Integrators, Independent Software Vendors and Direct Customers alike. Among many benefits, users enjoy total control over their documents, end-to-end tracking of all interchanges, and world-class support.
Most recently, we launched ECGrid Simplify, an integrated data transformation service that allows Managed Service Providers to use cloud-based mapping tools to enable their customers’ B2B integrations to their trading partners. Service Providers value the self-management, control, and flexibility of the toolset, making it easier and more efficient to manage their own EDI customers.
CEO Views: How has Loren Data consistently challenged the norms of EDI and B2B eCommerce? How has your company approach evolved over the last few years?
Todd Gould: Historically, EDI has been driven by the 800-pound elephants, with all the trading partners having to either perform or lose their contracts. The big companies driving EDI received all the benefits of automation, while their partners were burdened with significant IT obligations. The partners’ only win was the continuation of their existing contract; it created a one-sided, “win or lose” environment. While hundreds of thousands of companies use EDI, the old model has only truly benefited around 500 companies driving the EDI initiative along with 5-10% of their biggest trading partners.
The opportunity today is that the vast majority of companies of every size can run modern ERP or similar systems, which can easily import and export data in modern formats (e.g., XML, JSON, etc.). This maturity of IT across all levels has opened the opportunity to drive EDI many levels further down the supply chain, and finally, we will see the next set of dominos fall with a cascading effect to benefit all companies.
Automated EDI routing with in-line data transformation levels the playing field. By following the evolution of in-house B2B, Loren Data continues to drive EDI innovation as a true “win-win” for EDI.
CEO Views: What strategies do you employ to stay competitive and relevant in the industry?
Todd Gould: With the agility of ECGrid’s native API web-services architecture, we can rapidly adapt to the ever-changing market needs, whether it be new or legacy data formats, new or old communication protocols, or something unexpected. The flexibility of an AP-based system is naturally positioned for the technology demands of a growing market.
In addition, the features and tools we make available to our Direct Accounts and Partners are continuously reviewed, added, and updated to make sure they are the best in the industry. Our support team includes our implementation and customer service personnel. This ensures continuity from the time of activation, through on-boarding and migration, and on-going. Our API suite of tools is unmatched in the EDI Network world and our customers and partners are taking advantage of the deeper integrations this affords them.
CEO Views: What major technological trends or developments are you observing in the sector? How does your company make use of these technological trends to deliver the best outcome?
Todd Gould: EDI as a technology is mature, but ubiquitous adoption as a business optimization tool at all levels has lagged. Modern enterprise software such as ERP, warehouse management, manufacturing, logistics, etc., can noW all easily import and export data in XML and JSON formats. The perceived problem is that EDI uses old” standards. The reality is that these standards are the proven backbone of global B2B commerce.
Over the decades there have been many attempts to reinvent and replace traditional EDl standards such as X12 and EDIFACT. But like our electricity standards in our outlets is many decades old, we don’t change the bulk standard because it works! What we do is create transformers to get the electricity from 120V AC (US) or 220V AC (World) to various DC voltages and into common adapters such as USB-C to run all our modern electrical devices. We didn’t replace what works, we transformed it to what is currently needed.
Note that when Jeff Bezos decided to make Amazon the biggest retailer in the world, he chose to implement X12 EDI and not reinvent the wheel. He took what the number one retailer in the world (Wal-Mart) was using, and simply did EDI bigger and better than anyone else. By setting up common transformations, traditional, proven, and reliable EDI can be adopted by everyone rapidly as the standard for B2B automation in every direction.
First and foremost, do what you love. Be passionate. Think big and look to leave a legacy so that those after you have something better to work with than there is today.
CEO Views: Currently, innovation has become more of a need. How does your company foster a culture of innovation?
Todd Gould: Innovation at its heart is changing what folks think and how they behave in a given context in a way where the return on a change is clearly seen by those changing their actions. At Loren Data, we have an endless curiosity to listen and learn what the market thinks, what the market aspires to accomplish in their business and how those goals and aspirations can improve their supply chain. Every member of the Loren Data team is encouraged to share insights from any interaction with market participants, So we have a holistic view of what is emerging, as well as what is and isn’t working.
Loren Data does not just measure our interactions quantitatively, but we seek an understanding of what those metrics mean with consistent outreach to learn why we win or lose deals, why someone might not be entirely satisfied with a support interaction or product feature. We engage with these stakeholders personally and have discussions to create the knowledge base and empathy to extend our products and improve our processes for our customers and their trading partners. buyers and users of our products, we integrate these same Once the team has a foundational understanding of the folks into our design process and delivery efforts to rapidly get feedback and iterate on our products in a way which allows our customers and users to embrace change and truly adopt new behaviours and beliefs about how B2B eCommerce can be done differently with little risk. For Loren Data, the technology is a means to achieving change, but not the only way we innovate.
Processes, pricing, and packaging can be even more innovative than technology at times when you fully understand what is holding market participants back from doing something different and new.
CEO Views: What challenges did you overcome while meeting your users’ demands in consideration of the dynamic market trends?
Todd Gould: For many years, we had the best technology coupled with phenomenal customer support, yet the greater EDI market wasn’t aware of our existence. Most of our challenges revolved around access outside of the technical team in prospect and cus tomer organisations. Ultimately the market evolved and business leaders needed to not just understand the business but also the menu of technology options like ours, to remain relevant and gain a competitive advantage in global markets.
Our initial focus was to build tools for service providers and soft ware vendors who could easily see the benefit of working with a platform provider. After success working with independent software vendors and the increasing efforts for our team to simplify the technology for businesses, we have built a platform of services, ECGrid, which is easy to implement, support, and operate. We have built tools for self-service which don’t require deep technology skills to create a branded or white-labelled experience which extends beyond the supply chain team and into the business with retail buyers, finance teams and support groups.
Our technology was always superior, but we now present it better to the market and to prospects. In addition, we increased our visibility online, at trade shows and conferen ces and expanded other marketing efforts. The Loren Data and ECGrid names are becoming increasingly popular and synonymous with reliability, performance, and innovation.
CEO Views: How would you characterize the working culture at your company? What does it take to build a great team?
Todd Gould: As a 100% remote organization since 2003, the best way we have learned to establish the right working environment is to build respect for our peers in all roles and departments from day one of onboarding. Each new member is immersed first in what it means to do EDI and the impact it has on the global economy. If each employee understands the roles they have and the roles others perform, we become more than just faces on zoom boxes, but people we rely on for our personal success as well. With wel understood roles and strong personal relationships, we can have trust in our peers and open communication which is critical to continuously improving our organization.
CEO Views: What are the future projects we can expect or envision in the field? What type of future vision do you have for your company?
Todd Gould: We have just rolled out ECGrid Simplify, a cloud-based, integrated data transformation service that turns the concept of how service providers sell and customers consume EDI and related data services. Simplify is not a “managed service” but a platform for resellers, service providers, and in- house EDI shops to manage their own services.
Through ECGrid Simplify, users find a natural integration between legacy EDI formats and modern interfaces such as JSON and XML and whatever comes next.
CEO Views: What are your thoughts and advice for budding entre preneurs and emerging business leaders?
Todd Gould: First and foremost, do what you love. Be passionate. Think big and look leave a legacy so that those after you have something better to work with than there is today. Then take the
advice my mentor, Herb Gleicke, gave me back in the 80s: Don’t give up! No matter what, don’t give up. Successful businesses were never built by quitters.