The End of an Era: Kurt Cavano Steps Down After 20 Years Pioneering Supply Chain Software
Before there was “Fintech” or “cloud,” there was TradeCard: an idea brought to life by Kurt Cavano to digitize global trade. This month marks the end of Kurt’s 20 year “experiment” that started with the World Trade Centers Association and a few sharp colleagues from American Management Systems and a few senior bankers from Bank of America, as he steps down from his executive leadership role at Infor. Their idea was simple – deliver safe and secure b2b international trade transactions over the internet. Following a merger with GT Nexus, Cavano’s cloud-based fintech creation sold to Infor for $675 million in 2015, becoming the Infor GT Nexus Commerce Network.
Technology Ahead of its Time
Kurt led the founding of one of the earliest fintech companies that went on to revolutionize how companies execute the financial supply chain. TradeCard started out focusing on eliminating Letters of Credit on a cloud platform that enabled buyers, suppliers and finance providers to connect and collaborate within a single network. From 1999 to 2013, the company grew to more than 1,000 employees and tens of thousands of customers in over 70 countries, before merging with GT Nexus. The merged company took the GT Nexus name and grew to be the largest pure-play software-as-a-service supply chain company in the world. Today, there are more than 60,000 companies on the network, managing over $1 trillion in shipments and facilitating $50 billion in payments annually.
Along the way, Kurt became an active leader, evangelist and visionary in the supply chain community. He was recognized by World Trade Magazine as one of the top 50 most influential people in global trade. He took on roles serving on the boards of the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) and the Americas Apparel Producers Network (AAPN).
Prior to founding TradeCard in 1999, Kurt was a Vice President at American Management Systems, an international business and information technology consulting firm. It was here, at AMS, that the early seeds of global trade innovation were planted. He managed the Corporate Banking Practice of the AMS Finance Industry Group and worked with more than 20 global banks in a dozen countries. But the interest in all things geeky began much earlier, as he co-authored one of the early educational games on the Apple IIe. Kurt attended Pennsylvania State University, earning a BS in Bioscience, followed by an MBA in Computer Applications from New York University. (In 2006 he was named as an Alumni Fellow of the Penn State.)
The Next Big Idea?
“There are so many opportunities out there today,” he said recently. “But after 20 years of hard work, I need a break. Once I rest and recharge, I can think about the next big thing. I figure I will have the energy for one more run. Technology is changing so fast and creating so much disruption, I’m sure I won’t be able to resist ping in again.”
Kurt serves as an advisor to XRC Labs, an innovation accelerator based at New York’s Parsons School of Design, that is creating the next generation of disruptors in the retail and consumer goods sectors. He coaches several startups from XRC.
“XRC Labs keeps me sharp. I’m seeing the newest ideas and inventions, and seeing firsthand how technology is driving innovation,” he explained. “Meeting with young entrepreneurs takes me back in time to recollect the challenges we faced starting out. But it also keeps the wheels turning on new ideas and possibilities.”
In addition to coaching startups from XRC, Kurt works with a startup in Sri Lanka that serves as an ecommerce platform for selling products hand loomed in remote villages of this island nation. Kurt continues to serve on the boards of the AAFA and AAPN.
Before departing, Kurt sat down to record a podcast for Supply Chain Radio. He reflected on supply chain innovation over the last 20 years and offered a glimpse into what the future may hold. Click here to listen in.