Last year, I decided I was only going to shop small for Christmas, buying from independent and – where possible – sustainable online brands (honey for my dad, gin for my mum and marshmallows for my granny if you must know…). I was not alone – research conducted by Shopify showed that an average of 50 percent of customers surveyed across a range of 10 countries look for independently owned businesses to support. And, although 62 percent of consumers have purchased from traditional marketplaces since the pandemic began, only 55 percent say they will do so regularly in six months’ time – indicating that there is significant growth to come for these independent brands.

As an industry, retail ecommerce has seen rapid growth over the last few years, with sales worldwide growing from $3.4 trillion in 2019 to $4.9 trillion in 2021, and forecast to reach $5.9 trillion in 2024 (source: Shopify future of ecommerce 2022 report). While there is now a maturing infrastructure to support ecommerce brands in selling their products – Shopify (market cap of c.$138 billion) for selling direct to customers and (raised $400 million Series G at a $12.4 billion valuation in November 2021) and Ankostore (raised €250 million Series C at a €1.75 billion valuation in January 2022) for B2B sales to merchants – innovation has been lacking in the less sexy but equally important side: procurement and supply chain.

This needs to change. Supply chain issues became the most talked about issue in the industry during 2021, and continuing COVID-19 restrictions – coupled with staff shortages globally – mean that it is unlikely that these challenges will go away anytime soon. And whilst consumers understand, they still want to receive high quality products that are delivered quickly and on time.

Luckily, we have found the team with the passion and skill to take on this huge problem – Opply. Opply is building an automated supply chain platform and B2B marketplace connecting consumer brands (both online and offline) with suppliers. Starting with the food and beverage industry (think your favourite independent chocolate bar brand or non-alcoholic beer company), the team has built the world’s biggest and highest quality supplier database alongside an automated sourcing and ordering process, meaning that brands save months of time on this previously fragmented process. With all brands orders and suppliers on one platform, Opply will be able to leverage larger purchasing power and dynamic payments.

Before Opply, tackling this issue is no small feat for most small brands, as a lack of supply chain knowledge makes it difficult to find the right suppliers quickly and cheaply. For example, on average, it takes two months to find a supplier and the right contact person, then another two months to align on the product details and order. This becomes especially problematic when you need to replace a supplier who itself is experiencing delays or shortages.

Heading up Opply are co-founders Helen Murphy (CEO) and Martin Postel (CTO). Helen has spent most of her career working with consumer goods brands, with over 10 years experience at P&G and Bain & Co. She also previously founded her own small consumer goods business, and has lived all of these pains first hand. Martin is an expert in applied machine learning and data analysis, with over seven years of experience in supply chains and process optimisation.