ebdex was formed on 25th Nov 2004 with the idea of disrupting the EIPP market dominated by Accountis and OB10. To be fair, OB10 and Accountis had very low market penetration then (and same is true now). But they were the best examples an ambitious startup could look upon. Causeway’s Tradex and Burns e-Commerce’s Bex were ignored due to various reasons. Number of other models were studied including Ariba, Xign, Harbour Payments, Esker, etc.
At the time, the idea was to develop a product that harnessed the best of Accountis and OB10. The key ingredient taken from OB10 was the hub based architecture. From Accountis, it was the purchase-to-pay and supply-to-cash documents with built-in BACStel-IP payment engine. Accountis was really helpful in guiding us to understand how to build the ebdex Document Exchange. And they did not even know they were helping us.
But fundamental to all this is Mr. Mark Morahan of Morahan UK Ltd (plus Morahan International, etc). I bought in to Mark’s vision of the electronic document exchange concept whilst completing my Executive MBA at Manchester Business School. Mark’s vision was to develop an exchange (he called this MI Document Network) that was simple to use and understand. The idea was to charge both parties of a transaction (supplier and buyer) 25p with no set-up fees or annual maintenance fees. Quite the opposite to Accountis and OB10, not to mention the rest of the market! However, whilst it sounds great on paper, delivery was quite a different story. And this remains the fundamental problem with the concept of e-invoicing to date!
Having studied the incumbents’ models, ebdex looked at ways to innovate and therefore differentiate from the rest with the idea of achieving a sustainable competitive advantage over time. I believe we found a way, which I have not yet seen in any of the products in the market today. Unfortunately, just like Morahan UK Ltd, the company I outsourced to developed ebdex Document Exchange, Affno, could not deliver the technology! Whilst nothing good can be said about Suren and his Affno, various software associations in Sri Lanka continue to promote their works by granting them prestigious awards! How ironical is that?
At the end of 2006, it was the crunch time for ebdex. Do I accept £250,000 debt finance and continue to burn cash hoping Affno will eventually deliver or cut the losses and walk away? At the end, I took the wise decision and accepted that its time to stop beating a dead horse.
In 2007, I attempted to turnaround ebdex into a niche consultancy, but found this extremely difficult due to the past finances of ebdex. What I should have done was to terminate ebdex at the end of 2006 and create a new entity to exploit advisory opportunities. I was emotionally attached to the ebdex brand – with the hope that one day, I will be able to rebuild ebdex document exchange. Letting go was hard. But recently, someone has forced me to make this decision. So it is time to say good bye to ebdex. In the short term, ebdex will remain as a dormant company.
Looking back, I learnt a tremendous amount from ebdex, especially to do with outsourcing. It’s time to let go…Goodbye ebdex…