This article begins a series of articles that chronicle my (Robert Thompson) personal and professional journey into the International Trade arena as well as the background of WorldTradeDaily.com.
I’ve always been fascinated by the world of Trade. When I was a college student, I remember culling through the latest Almanac lists detailing country import & export figures just for fun during Christmas break, while everyone else was engaged in familial celebration.
I was also a student of the scriptures “back in the day”. The epic stories describing the historic rise and fall of this or that world power intrigued me. Many times I noticed aspects of trade would be mentioned. Typically, the prosperity of a particular kingdom was founded upon its ability to acquire and sell goods to other kingdoms. The wealth of the government, transportation providers and merchants were contingent upon successful trading.
It was a circuitous route that led me into the Trade profession. Propelled by an idealist’s vision to “impact the world”, I got a B.F.A. in Cinematography and an M.A. in Marketing Communications. Being somewhat of a rouge genius, I pursued the life of an entrepreneur early on. Amidst the litter of a handful of discarded business start-ups, I pioneered what became the largest independent motion-picture studio in Los Angeles.
For reasons I shall leave unmentioned, I abandoned this $25 million dollar enterprise to seek my fortunes elsewhere; first as the founder/director of a small offshore emerging market investment fund during the birth of the Chinese stock markets in the early 90’s. It was the Wild, Wild East of burgeoning capitalism. I visited many of the initial 26 companies listed on the Shenzhen or Shanghai stock exchanges. “To get rich is glorious!” was creed du jour.
Thereafter, I diligently studied Chinese and got involved in several import – export opportunities. I recall my first import: an entire container packed with 36 8K Diesel generators, which I distributed during the Y2K fiasco. Scarier than a possible Y2K disaster was wiring $36,000 to folks in Hubei that I had never met in person… then anxiously waiting 6 weeks to see if my generators would actually arrive. It was also intriguing that even a tiny U.S. start-up (like me) could negotiate an exclusive distribution deal with a billion-dollar Chinese multi-national corporation.
I’ve also always been a technologist. My first job, as a 10 year old earning 50 cents an hour, was as a keypunch verifier for my mother’s data processing business in Dallas, Texas. As the Internet became a viable medium of exposition, communication and commerce, I sought ways to set up my particular fruit stand along the information highway. In the late 90’s a handful of other “rogues” and myself conducted some rather interesting (and wildly successful) experiments in the “new” area of SEO and Internet marketing. In one particular venture, we grossed $800,000 within about 10 months.
My reoccurring need for start-up capital led me to a veteran real-estate investor/philosopher in Nashville. Our interests aligned within the arena of International Trade information and technology. Subsequently, we created the company Trade Made Easy in the Spring of 2000, which endeavored to offer a missing “value added” component to readily available, inexpensive but obtuse trade statistics and reports. Four years of development resulted in a revolutionary way to put together and deliver trade data.