Are you an Import Genius?

I recently had the chance to check out Import Genius, which made the top ten list of the most innovative and exciting start-ups on, and I must say that it is impressive. Billed as a site that provides timely, detailed shipment data for every ocean container that enters the United States, it appears to live up to its promise. In addition, the search interface is fast and the export to CSV allows search results with up to 40,000 rows to be exported to a CSV, which can be downloaded in an automatically generated zip file for faster transmission.

With an ability to search by product, consignee, consignee address, shipper, shipper address, notify name, US port, foreign port, bill of lading, carrier code, and vessel name for any date range, it’s quite powerful for a new offering. Testing it out, I found that Apple Computer Inc. received 42 shipments between June 1, 2008 and August 18, 2008, 30 from Amtran Electronic Co. Ltd. and 12 from Quanta Computer Inc No. 68. The Amtran Electron Co. Ltd shipments were for “LCD Monitor For PC” and the Quanta Computer Inc No. 68 shipments, all on June 1, were for “GENERAL APPLE ACCOUNT PAYABLE BY”. Take a guess as to what those shipments were for. In addition, 37 were from Shanghai and 5 were from Tokyo, 24 went to Long Beach, and the remaining 18 went to LA. The average number of LCD monitors per shipment was 539 CTNS (containers) while the average number of mystery products per shipment was 501 CTN (cartons). The country of origin varied between the Bahamas, Greece, China, Liberia, Singapore, Japan, Liberia, and the Marshall Islands for the monitors while the mystery product was sole sourced from China. Eight different vessels were used: the Hanjin Praha, Concord Bridge, Xin Yan Tai, CSCL Seattle, Dong Hai Bridge, Clifton Bridge, CSCL Hong Kong, and the Long Beach Bridge. Additional information available for export includes the shipper address, consignee address, party to notify, party to notify address, bill of lading, arrival date, weight, container, and other marks and numbers. If I’d been watching carefully, as Import Genius was between mid-March, 2008 and mid-May, 2008, I’d have noticed that Apple Computer Inc. and its logistics partners imported 188 ocean containers of a product type never before declared on its shipping manifests.

As partially highlighted in this Washington Post article, which calls Import Genius The Disruptive Shipping Database, there are numerous uses for Import Genius‘ service, which include:

  • Penetrating your competition’s business strategy
    Analyze your competitor’s import activity, identify their suppliers, and discover new endeavors before it hits the news.
  • Keeping your suppliers honest
    Watch the inbound shipments of your suppliers, identify threats and opportunities, and catch cheating factories who are counterfeiting your goods or stealing your IP in the act!
  • Identify new competitors before they emerge
    Find out who else your suppliers are supplying to – if they are supplying similar products to companies you don’t know, there may be new competitors on the horizon.
  • Identify new suppliers
    Find out who your competitors are using before their new products hit the stores!
  • Find out your leverage with your suppliers
    You can figure out what percentage of US business you represent by tracking all shipments against what percentage of shipments are yours.
  • Find new customers.
    Find out who your competitors are shipping to.
  • Identify new customs brokers, importers of records, and similar third party services.
    All of this information is available in the import records.
  • Make your patent infringement suit bullet-proof.
    Upon discovering a patent violation, use Import Genius to trace the goods back to their source overseas.
  • Perform due diligence on privately held companies in emerging markets
    By examining detailed records of a company’s US exports, you can reduce the risk for investors in markets where available data is scarce.
  • Stock Market Predictions
    A detailed snapshot of a company’s imports can serve as a leading indicator for new product releases, revenues, and key performance indicators.

So check out the company that, according to Freakonomics blogger Justin Wolfers, offers Amazing New Trade Data that may enable bright economists to fine tune our understanding of the dynamics of international trade. It’s certainly worth a few minutes of your time, especially when enterprise access (which permits up to 300 searches per day across the entire trade database) is less than $5,000 per year!