What Beyco is all about
An interview with Isabel van Bemmelen, Managing Director at Progreso Foundation
Beyco is an online trading platform based on blockchain technology that connects coffee sellers and buyers internationally. But what’s the story behind this platform? We thought that the best way to answer this and other questions was talking to Isabel van Bemmelen, the Managing Director at Progreso Foundation, and the one who started it all.
What is the story behind Beyco?
Beyco was officially launched by Progreso in September 2018. For Isabel, “building the platform was a digital extension of Progreso’s driving mission: connecting producer organisations to the market and offering them financial services.” For the past twenty years, Progreso has been working with producer organisations to secure their financial independence and connect them to international buyers, reaching more than 300,000 producers and 100 organisations in different countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
“When I was working as a social lender, every time I visited a producer organisation to understand their credit needs, discuss their application and make financial projections, they would always have some coffee in the office for me to cup with them. Many would send me samples of their coffee to take to coffee events or send to potential buyers,” Isabel explained. “At a certain point, buyers also started to contact me directly to ask about interesting producer organisations they could buy from. I noticed that by making those connections, producer organisations were able to sell their coffee, access their credit lines and grow.”
The platform perpetuates the work that Progreso has been doing for many years in different producing countries. “After about 4 or 5 years of connecting producer organisations with potential buyers, I realised it would be a lot more efficient if those sellers and buyers would find each other independently,” she said. “And at Progreso I was able to start with Beyco; to develop a platform where only verified parties can sign up and connect with each other.”
How does Beyco work?
On Beyco, coffee producer organisations can offer their coffee online. Traders and roasters can request for samples, negotiate the price and other contract conditions. When both parties agree, a smart contract is created on the blockchain, generating a digital track record of the transaction.
“It is very important to convey that a platform will never replace existing relationships. However, it can be a starting point to initiate a new relationship more confidently or record an existing one,” Isabel highlighted. “By offering a digital track record, both sellers and buyers can visualise relationships and increase their trustworthiness for new business collaborations as well.
On Beyco, once the smart contract has been signed, parties can decide whether they want to share their contract publicly, allowing anyone on the website to view the detailed information of the trade on the Beyco world map. Isabel explained, “this is absolutely voluntary. If users want to keep their contract confidential, all the information will be kept private and nothing will be shared.”
What is the future of Beyco?
Talking about the platform, Isabel explained, “I also wanted a platform where producer organisations could ask for finance, because a pre-financed contract is more likely to be successfully delivered on time.” At the moment, producer organisations registered on Beyco can use the platform to send a loan request to the Progreso Foundation. Progreso can either support the producer organisation to apply for a loan with another social lender or, in case the organisation is too small to attract a financial institution, it can pre-finance the producer organisation as an initial support.
When producer organisations have a digital track record on the platform, they can demonstrate their ability to pay, which potentially increases the interest of other social lenders to provide financial support to producer organisations. However, Isabel explained further, “we are in discussion with social lenders that could get connected directly to the platform.” In this way, we could combine access to markets with access to finance.
“Our vision is to also include services providers, for cupping, executing, shipping and supporting any logistics management. Also, we are working on an app that connects the individual producers to Beyco as well. If we could provide producers with their own personal track record, they could get access to credit through their organisations in the future as well.
Beyco has been developed to create an efficient, transparent and safe coffee trading system. Today, “we continue to build on Beyco and improve its functionalities, one step at the time,” Isabel said. “Of course, this process cannot happen all at once. It’s important for us to first understand the challenges and needs of both the users and the market and see how we can best align Beyco for future developments.”
On the platform, there are already more than 250 coffee buyers and sellers registered. Are you a coffee seller or buyer? Beyco is free for you to use. Register here and start connecting today!