Biz Needs, Technology Are In Balance at GoCargo

SAN MATEO (01/28/2000) - GoCargo.com CTO Jim Galley still remembers the thrill of seeing the first bids come in the day the online shipping exchange launched its trading site. By 9:30 a.m. on that November day, he was already seeing requests for bids to ship large amounts of cargo -- much bigger than anything he had anticipated so early in the game.

The numbers were so big that Galley had trouble believing they were real. The first day, GoCargo.com logged orders to fill more than 1,000 trailer equivalent units, or 20-foot shipping containers.

Galley believes that success proved GoCargo had created a site that spoke intuitively to those in the shipping business, even if they hadn't done online trading before. And that meant he had picked the right technology for his business.

"In larger companies, roles can be cleanly defined," he says. "In start-ups, you do everything. My role is to be able to balance the business and the technical."

Galley had to achieve that balance right off the bat in choosing an operating platform for the business-to-business trading site. After spending a year planning the business end, Galley had just two and a half months to launch GoCargo.com. He wound up picking Moai Technology's LiveExchange 3.0 as the Web platform, but not without a lot of thought.

"There was another alternative we were looking at that had really good technical capabilities for the future, that would set us apart in things we wanted to deal with," says Galley, who declined to name the product.

But the other platform wasn't going to be fully tested and ready in time for GoCargo.com's November 1999 launch. The business deadline won the day.

"It was too green," Galley says of the alternative. "You had to say, 'Jeez, that looks like the best technical solution, but it's not going to work at this time.' "At GoCargo.com -- unlike a basic auction site where buyers may only care about finding the lowest bid -- exporters need to be able to judge bids to ship cargo on a series of complex factors, including the cargo handlers' reliability, ocean freight charges, and terminal handling charges. GoCargo .com's bidding system takes these into account.

"[Moai] has allowed us to extend every facet of doing an auction, to customize it for our particular needs," Galley says.

Once again driven by business deadlines, Galley chose to outsource the modification process to Context Integration, a Web solutions integrator focused on mission-critical business applications.

"Time to market was critical," Galley says. "We decided to outsource to get things out as quickly as possible."

Galley doesn't come from a shipping background. Before GoCargo he worked seven years as executive director of Ziff Davis' PC Labs -- an experience which helps him choose technology that works for his company.

"I was exposed to always the next best thing, and I saw how technology moved forward," he says. "The challenge is being able to implement it."

For the moment, keeping the balance between his role as technical manager and business manager is the key challenge Galley faces these days.

"If you end up moving one above the other, you end up losing the balance, and you go out of whack," he says. "Either you create a technical masterpiece that doesn't serve the business needs, or you create something that is technically impossible, so you can't use it.

"Technology will change, but business laws remain inviolate."

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