Johan Axelson understands that business is a relay race, but instead of a baton being exchanged by runners sprinting around a track, information about resources, production capacity, cash flow, purchase orders and delivery is now exchanged at the speed of light by database systems. If, in that process, the baton is dropped, the entire supply chain of production and delivery is disrupted and the impact can reverberate around the world.
This process is handled, to a large extent, by Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) management software which was introduced to the manufacturing community in the 1980s to integrate business processes, using common databases maintained by a database management system. In this space, SAP, Oracle and now Microsoft are major players, but a growing up-and-comer, gaining ever increasing market share, is Infor.
Now add to that equation the rise of the online retailing industry, what is referred to as eCommerce and eFullfillment, which is expected to reach $780 billion in the U.S. this year, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Making that eCommerce and eFullfillment connection smooth, so that customers have an Amazon-like experience in B2B as well as B2C eCommerce transactions, is the niche Johan Axelson’s LeanSwift is making.
The Future’s Cloudy
Today, ERPs are located not in banks of computers, but in the cloud. This enables organizations to access applications almost anywhere on the planet, enjoying immediate entrance into supply chain processes. Axelson’s company is a cloud-ERP implementer. Strategically focusing on Infor’s M3 solution, they offer not only integration with cloud- ERP, they also bring their expertise in integrating Magento eCommerce solutions with Infor M3. Magento enjoys nearly a 30 percent market share worldwide in the eCommerce space and was at one time a part of eBay.
Launched just five years ago, LeanSwift’s vision was to represent the primary components of M3 on a “windowpane.” They adapt the M3 platform to the unique needs of the client and are able to then link Magento to Infor’s ERP. “Most companies that have Infor M3 have to hire a programmer to custom build their integration with Magento. LeanSwift has a proprietary product that links these platforms seamlessly, in a time frame measured in days versus months,” Axelson explained.
Their products, which work as well in large organizations as in small ones, are able to utilize LeanSwift’s application with ease. This has enabled the company to take manufacturers, retailers and distributors from the U.S., Asia/Pacific, Europe and Australia, to a new level. “It is a B2B solution, with a user experience similar to B2C, giving customers a simple interface to do business with vendors,” Axelson said.
Diving Into the Digital Deep End
The first thing you notice about Axelson, after his characteristic enthusiasm, is his distinguishing Swedish accent. This Cocoa Beach-based tech entrepreneur grew up in Sweden’s countryside, in a location so remote that he had a five-mile drive to the nearest gas station. Though he attributes his entrepreneurial inclinations to his father, it wasn’t until he was in college that technology began to pique his interest.
“In Sweden you have to choose the business or professional sector you want to prepare for when you begin your college experience. I was an exchange student in Ohio for a year. When I returned, I knew I wanted to go to college and applied to study economics with a focus on the Russian and German economy, but I wasn’t accepted. Instead, they notified me that I had been accepted for a bachelor of science in a systems analysis program. I thought, ‘I didn’t apply for that.’ I had no idea what it was,” Axelson said smiling.
He soon learned it concerned computer software, so Axelson headed off to the university. “Also, in Sweden you have to do an internship as a part of your educational experience. My internship was with a company that was later bought by Infor. Infor has acquired a whole suite of companies and this was one of them. I was working as a programmer and became so caught up in the work that I joined the company, developing software. Then I moved from R&D to consulting services, where I was actually working with companies in implementing the products. It was a great learning process, though there were times when I thought about being a bus driver.”
From Scandinavia to the Sunshine State
As Axelson became more familiar with the Infor platform he began to develop expertise integrating their platform with a company’s need. After living for a time in the U.S., he and his wife, with their two young children, moved back to Sweden to be close to family and to immerse the children in their native culture.
“I launched a business in 2001 to integrate companies with ERPs. After a while my partner and I wanted to go in different directions, so I left. Then, in 2011, I woke up one morning and looked at my wife and said, ‘Don’t you want to move somewhere warmer?” Axelson recalls as he looks out the upper story window of his office, which enjoys a panoramic view of Cocoa Beach — the Banana River Lagoon on one side and the ocean on the other.
“I knew some guys in Sydney, who suggested I start something in the U.S. They introduced me to a guy who was doing consulting work on integration here, so we started LeanSwift in August 2011.” Today LeanSwift has 45 employees spread around the world; developers and programmers on multiple continents, not to mention time zones, along with sales and product integrators across the globe.
“At first we were focused on custom integration of companies with Info M3, but we realized that it was difficult to learn and tedious to use. We created products which simplified and improved the user experience.
“Then we had requests for eCommerce solutions. We developed a product using a popular existing platform, simply and conveniently integrating it with their ERP, which was Magento. We realized there was a burgeoning market for it, especially in the B2B space. At the same time, we realized product development is an expensive process, so we opened an office in India. Today we have about 25 personnel on the software development side and a little over 20 involved in customer interface.”
Axelson sees the most potential for his company in providing a mobile based user interface. “Millennials who work at companies using Infor M3 started asking, ‘Why can’t I do all this on my mobile device?’ so that orders can be entered and changes can be made on production lines or in the field. This is in their digital DNA, so why train them in some complex system when it could be simplified to something intuitive? You can mobilize for order fulfillment and inventory control. We built a mobile app that allows for all of this and a myriad of other functions.”
Axelson likes the idea of leveraging what others have to create his own. As he put it, “Alibaba has no warehouses, Uber has no cars, Airbnb has no hotel rooms.” It is a solution that moves LeanSwift from just providing integration services to the introduction of a key product that can make any company “Lean” and “Swift.”