Trade Compass

The traditional question of where to buy and where to build is played out daily, with new twists, of course, in Internet application development. Often what not to build is a most critical project decision.

For example, Trade Compass was founded in December 1994 to provide Web-based information to the global trading community. The Washington, D.C.-based firm, said George Atkinson, vice president of business development, integrates various E-commerce applications along with sophisticated data mining apps. Early on, said Atkinson, Trade Compass made the decision to buy rather than build the commerce server portion of its system. Thus, the company chose to partner with Sterling Commerce Inc., Columbus, Ohio. Trade Compass uses Sterling’s Gentran:Server as part of its Caravan application. Caravan features electronic filing for documents such as purchase orders, cargo booking requests, invoices, letters of credit, shippers’ export declarations, manifests and cargo tracking requests.

"We sell to companies doing cross-border trade," said Atkinson. "So it is a multisector community. It includes traders and vertical marketers. These could be attorneys, steamship companies, most are geared heavily toward manufacturers that import and export." Atkinson’s target customers used to have to exchange data through a value-added network. "Now the Web enables small companies to exchange flat files that are translated into EDI message formats," Atkinson said. The large companies get the data in the format they want, meanwhile, via the Web-based service, the small companies can "ramp up to do business without a lot of unnecessary expense."

"We went to Sterling with our [communication server] need and they provided the underlying solution," said Atkinson. His application’s "value add" lies in its larger integration of logistics and international trade databases and proprietary application software.