Our Epiphany. Why We Started TrustExchange.

The idea for starting TrustExchange came when one of my customers (from another company) went out of business. We rarely lost customers but when when it happened it was usually due to death (bankruptcy, shut the doors) or marriage (merger or acquisition). When companies die, it’s my experience that it’s a very painful process and a little check on the company stability goes a long way. This particular incident stood out in my mind because we had taken all of the typical precautions: checked their DnB, researched their business information, built personal relationships with the executives and interacted with them frequently.

Their failing wasn’t an event but a process where their loss of business stability extended over several months, and like the famous frog in the hot water, we ended up getting burnt in the end. A $25K burning! So here is the story:

We first met CompanyX (name changed to protect the guilty) just as they had begun getting traction. They were located in Silicon Valley, had signed several marquis customers, attracted some impressive investors, moved into a nice new office and from all accounts were pretty good citizens.

During the initial phases of the sales process, they were very diligent and asked all of the right questions about our product. The management team at CompanyX was pretty impressive. Degrees from the best schools, experience at tech stalwarts and a strong handle on their market and prospects. It was a tough sales process but in the end we were victorious and awarded the deal and promptly started contract negotiations and closing process. In the end, we negotiated a $10K startup fee and $5K per month recurring fee to use our product.

Prior to granting access of our product to customers we did a few things to check a company’s stability: Dun and Bradstreet check and we asked to see their financial statements. CompanyX, like most small privately held companies, refused to disclose their financials. It was a tough call since we had limited insight into the company stability but we had a quota to meet and they had a check for $10k, so we signed the deal!

Everything seemed fine for the first six months, they paid their bills on time and were happy with the product. Then we noticed they were 10 days late. When we called to check they apologized and said they would send it out promptly…except they didn’t. Then they went 30, 60 and 90 days late yet stayed in communication with us, told us they were fund raising and would be able to pay us soon so we didn’t turn them off. Our CFO checked their credit again and all seemed fine. After the fourth month, they stopped responding to emails or taking our calls.

Finally after the fifth month, we sent someone to their office and to our horror discovered an empty office. No people, no furniture nothing but a shell. We shut them off that day.

When I called some of my CEO peers, they had the same experience and were left holding the bag too.

Key Learnings:

1. Company stability is a process and not an event.

2. Credit report data is less than adequate.

3. Bad stuff happens to good people.

4. I could have stopped the bleeding if I had discussed with my vendor peers earlier!

5. I need to monitor company stability vs. just spot checking

Company Stability is a process and not an event. So…we started TrustExchange to help businesses monitor their risk and exchange key information to increase trust in each other. If you're interested and want to learn more about how we're doing this, CONTACT US.