The Founders Series: Jerry Vuong, Cenports

As part of Cenports’ mission to support up-and-coming eCommerce brands, we’re putting a spotlight on the founders looking to drive the industry forward. In this post, we talk with Cenports co-founder and Head of Operations Jerry Vuong.

What was your motivation for starting Cenports?

Both (co-founder) Derrick Chen and I have been in the eCommerce industry for a long time, but when we started out, the industry wasn’t mature; it was ahead of its time. Our first try at building an eCommerce business was kind of fly by night and wasn’t put together that well; then we both worked at an eCommerce company that wasn’t ours. We’ve learned from our mistakes and have built a more strategic team, with the departments and skills we think we need to succeed.

With COVID-19 forcing more and more people to shop online, the eCommerce industry is really taking off – obviously we didn’t have that in mind when we started the business, but we’re well positioned to catch the wave and help all kinds of companies access a growing market.

How would you describe the culture you’re building at Cenports?

We’re trying to build more of a startup environment and not a traditional fulfillment/warehouse environment where it’s all about what the boss says. Our employees are part of a team, part of a company. They have a say. We’re about building camaraderie and making everyone feel like they’re really a part of the business.

As far as the business itself, we’re really trying to build an ecosystem that allows anyone with good products to plug in and start selling quickly.

In 10 years, what do you want Cenports to become?

Bigger than Alibaba. We want our ecosystem to be so powerful and easy to use that our partners can essentially onboard themselves onto our platform without friction and start selling. On the retailer side, we’re building a model where partners can log into their accounts to see what new products are available to put on their site. 

The ultimate goal is less manual work, more automation and self-serve. If we can provide that kind of platform, we can scale almost endlessly. That’s the dream.

What would you like customers to know about your products?

There are lots of companies out there providing parts of what we offer – bits and pieces. But nobody else provides the entire ecosystem, from the manufacturer all the way to the customer’s door. It’s end-to-end if you want us to connect all the dots, or you can go a la carte for exactly what you need. 

Ultimately, what I always tell customers is that the only way for us to grow is for them to grow. No company is too small for us; it’s the growth that matters. If our customers succeed, we all win. 

The vast majority of overseas manufacturers don’t have access to major U.S. retailers. We can connect them with a huge retail audience by opening doors they could never open on their own. And we can get them up and running in a month.

How do you see your industry evolving over the next 5 years?

You can see it happening in real time right now. With COVID-19, more and more people are going online to make purchases. In the U.S. millions of people have made their first online purchases in 2020. With some brick-and-mortar stores unfortunately going out of business and buying behavior changing as people get more comfortable shopping online, we’ll see a much more even split between online and offline purchases.

What’s your biggest source of inspiration?

Right now it’s just to get this thing going and get momentum. What drives me is that I’ve been in the entrepreneurial space for 10 years, and this is the most rewarding experience to date and the furthest we’ve taken a company. I get up every day with a drive to make sure that our baby goes from a crawl to a walk, then a run. 

In terms of helping customers, my inspiration is providing great end-to-end service that makes it easier for everyone to get started or scale in eCommerce. It’s creating sales opportunities without heavy start-up costs for entrepreneurs with good products. It’s making eCommerce more democratic and giving everyone a chance to grow and find success and letting the highest-quality products win out.

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