What is Mickey?
Mickey is a commoditech company that brings physical commodity trading online and allows suppliers and traders around the world to transact openly. Mickey has built a digital platform that modernizes the complete commodity transaction -- from sourcing and shipping to invoicing and payments -- providing a marketplace that's fast and easy for global buyers to purchase, track, and acquire the commodities they need.
The current industry landscape
In 2020, the U.S. imported $2.4 trillion in consumer goods, while only exporting $1.4 trillion. That created a $915.8 billion deficit and is the highest goods deficit on record. This is the core reason behind Mickey’s innovation and it’s already working. Recognizing the disparities between the US and other countries, founders Alex Rabens and Jesse Solomon launched Mickey, a commodities technology company that is modernizing the way products are sourced and exported out of the United States while opening up new markets for small to midsize (SME) raw material suppliers.
But the founders of Mickey, Alex and Jesse, didn’t just start out with this idea of helping to bring more raw material supplies to all corners of the world.
The founders both came from the entertainment industry where they held executive positions at one of the largest entertainment agencies in the world, William Morris Entertainment (WME). During their time with WME they had a chance meeting with J Michael Evans, President of Alibaba. It was this encounter that inspired them to pursue a dream of launching a new business that helped push them towards building Mickey.
The team left their corporate jobs and set out to build a technology platform that would become the reverse Alibaba – bringing raw materials from the US to the global buyers who create products that America imports – all in order to reduce the US’ trade deficit and fight the global trade crisis. While Alibaba is an international B2B marketplace focused predominantly on manufactured products from Asian suppliers, Mickey is quickly becoming an international B2B marketplace focused primarily on raw materials and supplies coming from North America – making it easier for global buyers to source from small and medium sized suppliers that typically don’t have the resources to market to the world stage.
The growth of the company
After completing an accelerator program, Alex and Jesse launched Mickey, to replace the traditional antiquated processes the trading industry currently uses with state-of-the art technology that simplifies the process for traders, customers, and suppliers of hard goods.
With an initial focus on forest products like logs and lumber, the company is helping to rebalance trade disparities across the globe, while also revolutionizing an industry mired in antiquated processes. When COVID hit, it became clear to the company’s founders that a remarkable imbalance in trade exists with shipping containers coming into the US full and then leaving empty.
Rabens quips, “We thought we were subversive when we started … by not needing our traders to come into an office. Meanwhile, post-COVID the entire ecosystem had to figure out a way to go remote while continuing to provide the trading tools and logistics services to which customers were accustomed.”
Since its launch in 2019, Mickey shipped 1,512 TEUs (a unit of cargo capacity aka twenty-foot equivalent unit) including more than 21,000 logs totalling over 20,000 kilograms – in containers that would have returned to their port of origin empty.
Today, Mickey has also expanded its offerings to include energy products – with an initial launch of natural gas. In 2021, Mickey’s platform began allowing domestic natural gas buyers to source supplies from small-to-medium-sized producers in the US – and the company manages all aspects of the trade including, hedging, logistics, distribution, and risk management.
There is no other company that has taken on a project of this magnitude. With commodities trading, there’s a lot of risk involved especially when working with global buyers. Whether it’s the costs involved in trade deals with both domestic and foreign partners, or ensuring that supplies shipped overseas arrive without incident, it’s not an industry that comes to the top of mind for most startup founders.
But the rewards of helping to ease the current trade issues and help more American businesses sell their products to the world is unparalleled.
But as with most startups, it’s not always an easy course to navigate. The pandemic caused some headaches for this industry – which we certainly felt and had to deal with. While the height of the pandemic was a relatively calm period for Mickey, the current global shipping and logistics industries are wreaking havoc on the company’s bottomline. Mainly due to the huge price fluctuation in commodities, especially forest products—one of their core verticals, as well as a soaring increase in shipping prices due to the explosion of e-commerce in the West. As with most trading companies, Mickey is not immune to the current supply chain issues that affect many parts of the American business landscape since they deal directly with the shipping vessels, carriers, truckers, and so many more involved in logistics.
The Mickey team
Since it was founded, Mickey has experienced significant growth in a very short amount of time. The company has raised more than $10 million USD from investors in its initial seed round – which is enabling the platform to become the first commoditech startup that provides both buyer and seller a fully transparent view of the marketplace – with each side increasing bandwidth while accessing new resources. The company is backed by world-class technology investors including Lerer Hippeau, LightBank, Correlation Ventures, Riverpark Funds, WndrCo, UpHonest Capital, and Interplay.
Today Mickey has a remote workforce team of 20+ experts that come from a wide range of industries including commodities trading, shipping and logistics, finance and accounting, supply chain, marketing, and more. Having experts from a breadth of industries is what makes the company so successful. And while the brand may not exude the traditional image of a startup (i.e. 20-somethings wearing hoodies), it has been important to bring the best and brightest talent – from all walks of life and experiences – on-board to ensure the company grows and scales in the right direction.
“I always wanted our company to be a little more free-form; to sway from the sterile organizational structures that drove me crazy back in corporate life,” noted Rabens. “The truth is that building a foundation is imperative in an industry like ours, and any opportunity to improvise can only happen on top of that solid substructure.”
Rabens also notes that it’s important for startups to have policies, procedures, and even some hierarchies in place as they’re meant to alleviate and mitigate risks as well as give guidance when needed.
As Mickey continues to build a platform that removes the antiquated barriers for many SME suppliers and global buyers, it plans to bring more commodities into its marketplace. These may include other wood products, agriculture, metals, or more. As US suppliers look for easier ways to sell their materials, Mickey will be the go-to platform easing many of the trading pain points felt in the market today.
Check them out: https://www.mickeytrading.com/
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