One of the most important lessons I have learned from speaking with successful entrepreneurs is the role that technology plays in the success of a growing B2B company. Large, well-established companies fear new technologies because they represent risk. They are costly to implement. They disrupt existing business processes and revenue models. Employees tend to resist them. And they are unproven—at least compared to decades of business as usual.
This gives smaller companies a foothold. They can leverage new technologies to become more efficient and then sell their services to larger companies at a rate that saves their customers time and money. And in the end, the smartest entrepreneurs discover a way to sell the technology itself to a wide range of customers.
When Evren Ozkaya launched his consulting firm, Supply Chain Wizard, in 2014, he was providing such a service to larger customers. The year before, then-President Obama signed into law the Drug Quality and Security Act. As a result of this legislation, pharmaceutical companies selling in the U.S. had 10 years to develop sophisticated “track and trace” systems to monitor every prescription medication down to the dose from the production of individual ingredients on through prescribing to a patient.
Evren was Supply Chain Wizard’s secret weapon. He had a Ph.D. in supply chain management and had implemented a track-and-trace program for pharmaceutical giant Sandoz.
“That was really the initial push towards our growth and a lot of demand,” he explains. “Everybody needed to do this, and there were only a few people who knew how to.” And Evren was one of them. The business quickly took off, eventually landing on the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies two years in a row.
That phenomenal growth, however, created a challenge: keeping up with the demand. Sure, the company could increase headcount—reaching 50 employees and multiple offices around the world in five years—but that wasn’t enough. So, Evren invested in software development to create solutions that would make his team as efficient as possible. “Software became an important part of what we did in the early days because we had things that we needed to do repetitively,” he says. “We designed small-scale software solutions to help ourselves be more efficient.” By leveraging this software, the company could complete a three-month strategic planning project in a fraction of the time and effort.
“I call it a ‘consulting plus’ model,” Evren says of the process. “You have your consulting, but then this tool really helps you do it faster and more effectively. It helps you structure your thought leadership into a series of process steps, guided by the software. That way, you can always follow a high-quality process over and over again.” That was followed by an online portal designed to onboard suppliers into their clients’ new systems by the hundreds—a process that would have been costly and time-consuming to handle manually. Next came an online interactive database to navigate through all the regulations. “Instead of burning through consulting hours for the answer to a client question, this enabled the client to get the answers by themselves at a fraction of the cost, which was a win-win for clients and for us, as it meant more business, more effectively delivered.”
Clients were so happy with these solutions that they were willing to pay for them beyond the cost of Supply Chain Wizard’s consulting fees. And many even asked the company to develop custom applications. By 2019, 20 percent of the company’s revenues came from software sales.
It was at that point that Evren participated in the Birthing of Giants Fellowship Week at MIT. Supply Chain Wizard was at a critical juncture. The 2023 deadline for compliance was quickly approaching, and with it, the end of the company’s primary source of revenue. Evren already knew that the future of the company was in software sales, but taking software from a one-off or internal use case to an enterprise-grade solution on the open market was a costly prospect. There would be huge outlays not only in research and development, but also in building out an entirely new marketing and sales structure. Which of the 10 or so products in development would pay off such an investment? And could the company convince enterprise customers to overcome their reluctance around new technologies?
Here’s where Supply Chain Wizard’s previous success in the pharmaceutical industry paid off. The company had gained a reputation as a trusted partner, capable not only of providing strategic planning, but also putting those plans into action. When Evren and his team eventually settled on a factory automation system as their primary product, the response was enthusiastic.
By 2022, Supply Chain Wizard was able to complete its pivot into software sales with a new entity, SCW.AI, serving manufacturing companies of all sizes with its Digital Factory platform. What’s more, as a tech company, Supply Chain Wizard has a valuation multiples higher than it did as a consultancy, so Evren could seek outside investment without sacrificing his majority equity.
Could your expertise provide the foundation for a money-making enterprise capable of fueling a moonshot like Evren’s? I think it can—if you leverage technology to solve problems for companies bigger than your own.
Lewis Schiff runs the Birthing of Giants Fellowship Program, a one-week guided strategic planning process that’s attended by the owners of the fastest-growing companies in the world. He also runs Moonshots & Moneymakers: The Oxford Innovation Conference for American Entrepreneurs.
Want the inside scoop on how Evren Ozkaya and other entrepreneurs built their companies from moneymakers to moonshots? Sign up for Birthing of Giant’s free monthly video series, How I Did It.