AiThority Interview With Victor Kushch, CTO and Co-Founder at Fairmarkit
Please tell us about the role you handle and how you arrived at Fairmarkit.
I am the CTO and co-founder of Fairmarkit, a company that is transforming procurement and supply chain management for enterprises. I was born and grew up in Belarus, eastern Europe but relocated to the United States in 2013. Being entrepreneurial, I founded my first company that was provided cloud application development and also built an ecommerce platform that affiliated Amazon, Ebay, and Shopify. That experience gave me a great understanding of the US B2B market and the insight that procurement was falling short across every vertical market, and was in desperate need for a change. Frequent conversations about this procurement issue turned into a quest to fix the problem, and introduce a better way for enterprises to make purchases. We started small (back in 2017) and with hard work we built this company into what it is today: a Series B company with 50 customers (and growing), 70 employees (also growing!) and suppliers around the world.
What is Fairmarkit and how does it fit into a modern CIO’s enterprise technology stack?
Simply put, Fairmarkit makes it easier for enterprises to purchase the supplies and services they need. Specifically, we help enterprises with what’s called “tail spend” purchases – things like engine parts, office supplies, and laptops. These types of purchases make up 80% of an enterprise’s spend by volume, and yet to-date, are either managed by legacy technology (like SAP or Oracle) or completely neglected. There was no effective way to track purchases that equate to billions of dollars.
We started Fairmarkit with the belief that a true, modern enterprise software platform for procurement and supply chain management with high attention to automation would appeal to customers desperate for change. One thing that makes us especially unique is our use of artificial intelligence to make purchases smarter and more informed over time (an important competitive advantage), while also providing important macro insights into the global economy. Fairmarkit is a Vendor Recommendation Engine powered by a rich and expanding data set and proprietary ML software.
Instead of replacing legacy procurement products, our AI-based software allows us to build onto legacy programs and automate the process without starting things from scratch. Companies simply put in whatever good or service they’re hoping to procure, and we find the vendors that work best for the request. The bid process is then handled automatically by sending out requests and gathering pricing info all in one place.
The entire Fairmarkit application is made with a heavy focus on the user experience for all participants of the process: requester, sourcers, and vendors.
Security and data management is another big aspect of our product. By obtaining the best industry practices for data management and protection, we provide secure and sustainable service for our customers.
How much have Intelligent Procurement solutions and platforms evolved in the last 2-3 years?
Over the past couple of years, we have continued to improve our analytics and machine learning capabilities. We have embraced automation like never before and understand the incredible power it can bring to the procurement process, particularly the manual and mundane steps in the process. This is Fairmarkit’s sweet spot and where we have tremendous success. We continue to improve our Vendor Recommendation Engine, which pulls data from millions of purchase orders, 2 million vendors, and informs the future purchasing decisions of every Fairmarkit customer.
Our engineers continue to put forth a solution able to achieve immediate ROI from improved procurement processes even amidst an otherwise uncertain economic climate. We plan to keep this momentum going by expanding our already stellar engineering lineup.
Tell us how you impressed your investors? How do you intend to utilize the new funding for customers and employees?
Many things factored into our successful conversations with investors, but one thing that stands out is our ability to show a clear problem with the procurement process that is ready for immediate improvement. In an era when Fortune 500 companies have embraced machine learning to make sure that every business decision they make informs every future decision, purchasing remains a clear outlier.
Another big aspect is the team of professionals behind the wheel. There are hundreds of considerations you need to factor in when building an enterprise-ready software. Our team’s experience spans a variety of areas from cloud architecture to high performance application design. Investors were confident that our team had the right experience to tackle this problem, and moreover, the happiness of our customers really spoke for itself.
With this new funding we will continue to refine our platform and are planning to hire additional engineers to our already solid team of professionals. Our engineering team has already developed a proprietary data processing tool allowing us to streamline integrations both in the cloud and on premise. We have also fully automated the RFQ process for B2B transactions and brought forth a sustainable accurate content model from several purchasing avenues. We are expanding our horizons with multi language support both on the UI and recommendation sides to make each region source agnostic. Lastly, we are sourcing iron pipes in Texas to build a new office from scratch without hiring a sourcing agency in China.
Tell us more about your remote IT procurement tools and how use AI Machine Learning/RPA applications to bolster its performance.
Companies making massive purchases have been hindered by inefficiency and lack of data in the past. We’ve created a proper framework that allows us to collect all metadata around the buyer and vendor behavior. With regards to remote teams, this data can be leveraged to provide visibility into remote workforces, making it easier to monitor remote purchasing.
Using both structured and unstructured data, our Recommendation Engine can efficiently identify the pool of relevant suppliers, stack rank vendors, and help purchases get done. The system learns with every sourcing event iteration, and combined with external data, can determine the right Search DB and vendor for current and future service ML models.
From the beginning, our engineers have been dedicated to arming companies with the right tools and mountains of data. We are proud to say that we can help fulfill the promise of tackling massive purchasing problems the right way.
Which industries have benefited the most from your Digital Transformation and IT Procurement solutions?
We work with a large number of industries including Oil and Gas, Chemicals/Manufacturing, Pharma and Telecommunications to name a few. The large swath of industries our customers hail from demonstrates that better procurement is extremely important (and in demand) among most industries. We honestly believe the sky’s the limit and we look forward to expanding our already impressive customer list in 2021.
What is your objective in 2021, with regard to delivering better IT-focused Customer Experience?
We plan to continue delivering on our original mission to provide an engine that optimizes for procurement cost and ROI and makes the process more efficient from a human perspective as well. We are trying to establish a more broad look to better understand the entire procurement space by ingesting all relevant data and providing advanced analytics. That way we can put proper tools in place to resolve procurement and sourcing bottlenecks, optimize team performance, and provide exceptional visibility for the financial and procurement officers.
We believe in pushing to find new ways to build on the massive amounts of customer and prospect data and include both platform generated as well as outsourced information.
Where do you see Fairmarkit in the next 2-3 years? Any new markets you are targeting next year or sooner?
Everything starts with data. All sourcing and procurement data should be housed under one roof with a data model able to plug and play across workflows. We don’t believe in halting business in order to do business, so we see Fairmarkit as a solution that allows for enterprises to meld the legacy procurement processes with a forward thinking platform that allows for business to go uninterrupted throughout the rollout.
Another priority is vendor portal expansion with a goal of growth in experimentation. We believe there is room for an all encompassing procurement solution that can provide a consumer grade user experience for buyers and vendors at all spend tiers.
We are planning to expand on workflow automation, smart rules and approvals. Every repeatable task should be captured and addressed. The entire procurement process needs to be captured, classified, labeled, segregated by buckets and automated. People who are driving the process should focus on larger objectives like contract negotiation or large procurement events.
Hear it from the pro: What kind of skills and talent are you most keenly following and hiring for your company?
I would say don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, I would encourage you to fail, because failing at something is better than not trying at all. Actually, the biggest lessons are learned mostly when you fail. A lot of companies gloss over the unglamorous aspects of the job, using flashy perks to distract recruits from the grind of building a company—that’s not us. We believe in relentless people that work hard and shoot for the stars. At Fairmarkit, we believe the rising tide lifts all other ships and it is important to seek out people that are willing to fail in order to find ways to succeed. I look for talented people who are willing to step out of their comfort zone. We want to compile a gritty team whose unique backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives inform their work and encourage them to pursue new challenges.
Any advice for young IT professionals struggling through the COVID-19 recession –
It is a good time to review yourself. The COVID situation is giving all of us an opportunity to rethink our habits, working routines and day-to-day processes. Use the time that would be spent commuting to learn new skills. Whether it is taking on a new technology stack or mindfulness practice, dive into something new. The main point is to change your status quo and turn the tough situation into something that works for you.
Also, I know that a lot of people who are struggling through isolation. I would suggest forcing yourself to attend remote hangouts and brainstorm by way of other communication. Treat this complicated time as an exciting challenge when you can invent something that can change the way we communicate!
Any specific advice you have for fellow C-Suite Execs?
My advice would be to invest in your team. The more time you are spending with your reports, the more they adopt your way of doing things, your approach to problem solving and performing. At the same time, you also learn from them so everyone benefits. Nothing is more exciting than solving a challenging job side-by-side and learning on the spot from the best. Such investment is particularly rewarding as you start to see the team performing without needing your constant input.
Thank you, Victor! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
As CTO and co-founder of Fairmarkit, Victor is focused on using the best data, analytics, and tech talent to revolutionize the way organizations buy the things they need.
Victor was previously CEO and CTO of KU64 Inc, a digital agency focused on agile development of Python/Django web applications and holds an engineering degree from Mogilev State University of Technology in Belarus.
Fairmarkit is the intelligent sourcing platform that empowers organizations to more efficiently purchase the goods and services they need.
By equipping procurement and supply-chain teams with automation and data, Fairmarkit promotes competitive bidding while reducing manual work within existing processes. Leveraged across a number of industries by innovative procurement departments, such as Univision, ServiceNow, and the MBTA, Fairmarkit aims to revolutionize the way organizations make purchases.