The concept of the supply chain has been around since the early 20th century, centered around the creation of the assembly line. Supply chains are being used every day to bring us the products we know and love including our phones, our cars, our clothes, and beyond. With the current pandemic upon us, supply chains are more important than ever and with PPE in high demand, the struggle is real. The insomniac I am, especially lately, I have been thinking about the supply chain issue as it relates to the current Covid crisis and decided now was time the to catch up with my long time friend and supply chain enthusiast, Brian Aoaeh. Enter Brian and REFASHIOND Ventures.
REFASHIOND Ventures is a NYC-based, early-stage supply chain technology venture firm that is being built to invest in startups refashioning global supply chains. Brian is also the co-founder of The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation, a network of grassroots driven communities of people who are obsessively enthusiastic about supply chain, innovation, and technology. The community has more than 2,000 members in its New York City chapter, and more than 3,000 members globally.
Brian has been a long time supply chain fan and prior to co-founding REFASHIOND, Brian gained 10 years of experience in investment research and management. He spent 8 of those years building an early-stage venture firm, KEC Ventures, from scratch. The firm grew to $98M of assets under management distributed across 2 funds, and 51 investments, with a team of 9 people.
Listen in and read below as Brian and I discuss supply chain discuss the current challenges with supply chain and what you can do to get involved.
How/why did you get into your space?
Quite by accident, in 2008, when a single family office hired me towards the end of the year to start building an investing team and implementing a direct investing strategy. I was the second employee at the family office, and the first person to start building the investing team. We decided to establish an early-stage venture fund in late 2010. I started developing my investment thesis on supply chains around mid 2015.
What role do you play in the tech ecosystem and why is that role important?
My partner, Lisa, and I are raising a fund to invest in startups creating innovations to refashion global supply chains. We are also building a community that champions such startups, and such innovations – from startups, established businesses, or even from governments and non-profits. As to “Why supply chain?” I grew up in West Africa- specifically in Ghana and Nigeria. I think seeing how broken supply chains affect society is what drives me. There’s nothing more consequential I could be working on.
How has technology impacted your industry and why is this important?
Supply chains around the world are amazing. Yet, there are many aspects of how they function which depend on outdated technology. I believe that given the advancements in technology since 2001, or even 2010, that there’s a lot of room for improvement – in both the developed and the developing world. Society thrives when supply chains function effectively and efficiently. That’s why it matters. We are all witness to that fact with the outbreak of COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus.
What do you believe is the most exciting tech trend for 2020 (as it relates to your industry)?
If I had to pick one, I would say it has to be “Data & Predictive Analytics” or what some people would refer to as Artificial Intelligence. Supply chain problems boil to giant optimization problems, and being able to make good decisions under conditions of extreme uncertainty, with incomplete data is critical.
Who is a person that inspires you in the space and why?
I’d have to say my co-founder, Lisa. That’s why we decided to team up to build The New York Supply Chain Meetup, and then subsequently to start the process of raising capital for REFASHIOND Ventures. She’s just about as obsessively enthusiastic about supply chains, innovation, and technology as I am.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into your space?
Just do it. There’s no shortage of problems to solve in supply chain. “The world is a supply chain.” What more can I say?