If one thing has been made clear during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s that the American healthcare system is not prepared for a pandemic. This revelation was made apparent when PPE (personal protective equipment) resources became scarce right as the pandemic started to intensify. Securing large quantities of PPE equipment at the last minute forced hospitals and other organizations into a frenzy and an “every man for himself” scenario that left buyers susceptible to price gouging, scams, and other fraudulent behavior.
In response, alumnus JT Garwood and two others started PPE.Exchange, “the world's first marketplace to leverage blockchain technology to verify regulatory compliance and track order agreements,” says Garwood. “The PPE.Exchange emphasizes trust and transparency, allowing vetted vendors to connect with verified B2B organizations who need to purchase PPE at fair prices.”
A PPE marketplace fueled by blockchain technology
Blockchain technology is the security backbone of the PPE.Exchange, enabling the platform to combat fraud and maintain the integrity of its marketplace. Vendors are vetted by storing their regulatory documentation on a blockchain to ensure that data hasn’t been manipulated. This technology also allows them to use “smart contracts” where both sides of the transaction have to agree on the terms in order for it to advance to the next stage. The platform went live just last May.
Garwood graduated from the University of San Diego School of Business in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, majoring in international business. Coincidentally, he met PPE.Exchange co-founders, Jake Deichmann and Russell Decker at USD as well. Although Deichmann and Decker did not attend USD, their social and professional circles brought them to campus often, where they crossed paths with Garwood and began a lasting friendship that has now evolved into a business partnership.
“We had all been working with technology in different ways and saw a real opportunity to use tech to support a community in need,” says Garwood. “Plus, coming from USD, I have this changemaker, entrepreneurial mindset. It encouraged me to go into a space where I could make a social impact with our business.”
Building trust in fragile marketplaces
The team has already partnered with state hospital associations, dental associations, pharmacies, as well as restaurant and retail chains, all of which need access to PPE for their staff. Additionally, the PPE.Exchange is proving to fulfill an overlooked gap in supply for smaller hospitals that aren’t able to meet order quantity minimums. It’s already partnered with hospital associations in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Montana to create a complex group order model that it plans to roll out to other similar associations.
“We’re solving some of the trust issues between countries in the PPE market and re-blossoming some of the international business markets between China and the U.S. as well as Vietnam and other manufacturing countries,” says Garwood. “And that’s all been able to happen because of the relationships that we formed through the exchange. If we can provide one mechanism of trust, it really goes a long way for the whole market.”
One thing that Garwood never anticipated was the essential role that his time at the USD School of Business would play in the successful launch of the PPE.Exchange.
To play the game of business, you need an international mindset
“Here I am today, working at a company that has two co-founders that I met through USD as well as multiple business connections and partnerships in China that I met through USD (while studying abroad in Beijing my junior year),” says Garwood. “The USD School of Business prepared me for the business world by surrounding me with an amazing network. And it taught me to think on an international level, especially in a world of manufacturing and supply chain. You have to have an international mindset or you’re out of the game to begin with.”
Based on the vendors and buyers who are already using the marketplace, it’s clear that PPE.Exchange is an early success. Garwood and his team are also using the exchange as a testing ground to see if the world is ready for a blockchain-enabled marketplace that will bring trust to a number of marketplaces infiltrated with too many middlemen and brokers.
Don’t be surprised to see Garwood and his team usher in a new era of secure online purchasing based on blockchain technology — possibly becoming the Amazon of B2B e-commerce.
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