Rajat Jain has been in the steel industry over a decade, building business solutions. He used to be in sales. “Customers would send faxes on my phone number,” Jain says of the antiquated way steel is still sold in the manufacturing industry. “Because that was frustrating, I spent time in San Francisco to learn the startup way of selling — and ended up creating a marketplace for steel.” Eoxs was born. Jain describes it as being like Airbnb with a 2-sided marketplace matching seller and buyer. But the target? Steel distributors. Eoxs is based in California, but its first warehouse in Detroit already has 100,000 square feet of space with $20 million in inventory. Doesn’t sound like a lot for the gigantic manufacturing industry? This marketplace was created in 3 weeks.
How? Eoxs was developed quickly in a tech incubator in Silicon Valley, based on the idea that leveraging AI to reduce repetitive tasks would make the sales team’s job more efficient. The product is flat hot and cold rolled steel, which is used in air ducting, auto bodies, tubing, fencing, refrigeration, steel studs, metal roofs, and steel doors. Eoxs is backed by Mucker Capital, and aims to change how the industry does business.
“There’s a generational gap in steel,” Jain explains. “You can buy toilet paper on Amazon, but if you want to buy steel, you still have to pick up a phone. Eoxs created a marketplace that is not only online but lists products on suppliers’ own websites, so buyers can purchase directly from their suppliers without finding new distributor channels. It just doesn’t work by phone anymore.
Why should the industry change? Jain says steel mills are already looking for services like this. “There’s no 22-year-old guy working in San Francisco in steel,” Jain says. Most tech companies out of Silicon Valley come out of ideas born from need seen in the Valley, so areas like manufacturing get missed. That leaves big gaps in the market for anyone innovating in more traditional industries that get overlooked by disrupting entrepreneurs. “There will always be a need for improvement in industries,” Jain says, “but the game is who is going to find the product market fit?”
“Steel is actually the backbone of any economy,” Jain explains of his interest in continuing in this industry that is often playing in the background to manufacturing. Many economies rely on steel for construction supplies, manufacturing materials, and other elements of a supply chain. It’s what gave The Rust Belt its original manufacturing moniker: The Steel Belt. As startups innovate new ways of conducting business and we eventually emerge from the coronavirus pandemic with some infrastructure and lifestyle habits permanently changed, we’re curious to see how companies like Eoxs shift the landscape on how the traditional industries of the Midwest are run.
If you are running a startup involved in changing how businesses interact or conduct business during the COVID-19 pandemic, we would love to hear from you. Please contact the editor with your story.