Imagine you run an auto parts business, with a goal of being a one-stop-shop for anything and everything car related.

The problem is, managing your supply chain is anything but easy. Thousands of products need to be sourced from a variety of vendors, each likely having a unique process for how they want you to place and pay for orders. Some use legacy Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) systems, while others operate via PDFs and endless emails. You spend an inordinate amount of time neck deep in paperwork instead of focusing on your customer.

Zack Kanter, Founder & CEO

Zack Kanter, Founder & CEO

This complicated supply chain scenario is where Zack Kanter found himself with his previous company, Proforged. Founded in 2010, the startup developed and distributed high-performance auto parts, manufacturing the products with international partners and selling through various retailers. Sitting in the middle of the supply chain meant he had to deal with unstandardized processes both in receiving and sending orders.

“I started off small, but as the company scaled, the number of vendors, retailers, and logistics providers we worked with increased dramatically. I quickly realized that effectively managing new and existing integrations was close to impossible.”

It’s like a reverse application of Metcalfe’s Law, where instead of each new node in a network adding exponential value, it adds exponentially more work.

Which brings us to Kanter’s new startup, Stedi. The now 3-year-old company has raised $21 million to build one of the last missing pieces of global infrastructure: a commercial trading network to automate the trillions of dollars in B2B transactions exchanged by every company on Earth.

Stedi provides organizations with the ability to quickly connect and transact with trading partners without having to go through painful point-to-point implementations; it does this by providing a completely self-service ‘digital mailbox’ that organizations can use to exchange 300+ different commercial transaction types in standardized formats.

The startup has an ambitious goal: help businesses save countless hours of menial tasks by processing every B2B transaction on the planet. To do this, Kanter knew Stedi would have to offload menial tasks of its own – which is why they chosen to build with a fully-serverless AWS architecture from day one.

“Stedi helps businesses offload and automate as much of the B2B transaction process as possible, and we’ve been able to find similar benefits by leveraging a serverless-first approach for our architecture. Our goal internally is zero touch operations with no knobs to turn or buttons to press. Using AWS’s offerings, we’ve built a system that is designed to scale ad infinitum with minimal toil.”

Their work with AWS goes beyond just serverless infrastructure, too. The startup has adopted AWS-native developer tooling – like AWS CDK and Amplify – to help iterate quickly and deploy frequently, as Stedi engineer Tyler van Hensbergen puts it.

“CDK has been a gamechanger for us. It has drastically improved our feedback cycle and reduced the time it takes to go from brand-new to fully-deployed infrastructure. We’ve really enjoyed using Amplify on the frontend—libraries for things like Auth cut out most of the AWS learning curve for our team.

Doing frontend deployment and hosting with Amplify Console has been awesome. The ability to create ephemeral staging environments for UI fixes, as opposed to having one big blocking staging environment, has been huge in helping us speed up our integrations. We’re able to spin up a new branch, get previews for it, test it in the UI, then merge the smaller commits into master frequently—and we had it all set up in less than a day.”

So how does this all work within Stedi’s system for facilitating global trade?

Commercial transactions arrive from trading partners in one of over 300 different transaction models – either via an AWS API Gateway-backed public API, AWS Amplify-driven TypeScript webapp, or AWS Transfer for SFTP endpoint. Amazon Cognito manages authentication to DynamoDB and S3-backed frontend microservices, which in turn post events to Amazon EventBridge. AWS Step Functions finish out transaction flows by parceling events out to backend services responsible for everything from document parsing to triggering external webhooks.

Stedi Architecture Diagram

Click to enlarge

Looking ahead, Stedi is focused on rolling out its 100% self-service product that will enable anyone to sign up and start passing transactions through its system. As Kanter puts it, “This next step of launching a self-service platform will enable us to onboard anyone who wants to join. We’re just getting started.”