Having already signed up 400 users from around the world, Halifax-based Ocean Executive is planning for the full launch of its online wholesale seafood marketplace in December.
Chief executive Mike Budreski, whose family is steeped in the East Coast fishery, has been developing the product for several years and has been signing up users through an open beta-test. The company in June increased its visibility in the seafood industry by forming an exclusive marketing relationship with Undercurrent News, the seafood industry’s top online publication, which draws upward of 100,000 readers each month. Now Ocean Executive is planning a soft launch in November and a full launch in December, which Budreski has labelled “CyberSeafood Month.”
When it’s launched, the Ocean Executive platform will essentially be a marketplace for people buying and selling bulk orders of seafood. But Budreski wants it to be a foundation for a benchmark index for seafood products and use the index to encourage a more sustainable fishery.
“We essentially match these buyers and sellers,” said Budreski when presenting the company at DemoCamp in Halifax earlier this month. “When you’re trying to wrap your head around what Ocean Executive does, think of us as the eHarmony of the seafood industry.”
Budreski came up with the idea for Ocean Executive when he was working in New York trading commodities like oil and gas, and saw the sophistication of the trading platform. He dreamed of creating something similar for the business he knew best, his family’s business, the seafood industry.
Seafood is a huge global business, but the supply-chain is fragmented and inefficient. What Ocean Executive does is allow sellers to post the inventory they want to sell, with a full description of the stock so the market can assess the quality of the shipment. Buyers can then bid for the produce, and once they agree on a price the deal closes and Ocean Executive gets a cut.
The platform is open to market players around the world, who pay a monthly subscription fee, said Budreski. So, for example, a company in Bangladesh that wants new sales channels could use the platform to expand into the U.S. or Europe, he said.
The open beta-test has been a way to show the proof of concept. “It’s a way to see if there is a need for this in the market,” he said. “And obviously, from the fact that 400 seafood companies from around the world are using it, there is a need for this.”
The company has raised a total of $380,000 in equity financing, including $250,000 from Innovacorp. The company is now raising more money and Budreski is interested in meeting more investors.
Once the marketplace is fully established, Budreski hopes to use the data from the sales to establish indices of seafood prices — something the industry has never had. Seafood buyers now assess the market by phoning around and asking for prices. Budreski intends for each Ocean Executive index to be timely and based on actual prices paid.
One component of the index plan will be to have an index of prices for fish caught through sustainable practises so the market has concrete proof of the premiums paid in the sustainable fishery.
“Eventually, what we also want to do is we want to correlate sustainability with price,” he said. He wants the fishing industry to see concrete evidence of the higher returns they will get if they make the investment to convert to sustainable practises. “Then we want to show people why it’s important to have a sustainable rating.”