Skip to content Skip to footer

Creating an e-commerce system for everyone

TEN YEARS AGO, many people expected the e-commerce revolution to change the way that humans bought and sold things.

Except it didn’t. Not at first. There were some early adopters, but the average person on the street was still hesitant. What if you ordered something … and it didn’t arrive? Or the wrong thing was delivered? Or it was out of stock? Or delayed? Or got lost?

Today, everything has changed. Many people are happy to order things on line, and clicking to summon goods, even lunch, has become commonplace. And, usually, the right thing arrives in the right place at the right moment.

E-commerce: now it works. Image: Rupixen/ Unsplash

What happened? How did things improve so much? It took a lot of effort from a lot of different people – including a young entrepreneur named Vincent Poon.


Five years ago, Australia-born Shenzhen resident Vince Poon decided to work out what e-commerce needed to make it work. He went to the “operational end” of the businesses, and what he discovered astounded him.

People kept the key information that made their businesses work in a huge range of formats, from excel sheets to pieces of paper. “One firm had someone writing things down by hand on bits of paper and then typing it into a computer where it would be printed by an old dot-matrix printer,” he said. “And then they collected the printouts by hand and a man would drive them to head office. They didn’t even use email!”

He found one company still using printouts — and on a dot-matrix printer, no less. Image: Steve Rhode/ Flickr

Another issue was that different firms had very different needs.

  • Single-product companies (think of firms like Dyson’s vacuum cleaner operation) said the key was getting their items to customers.
  • Firms which sold literally a million different items (think of companies like Shein or Amazon) said the key was storing things and locating them at high speed.
  • Firms which sold perishable items (think of firms selling vitamins) said the key was tracking expiry dates and Product Lot numbers.
  • Firms which sold low value items needed little security while those which sold pricey goods (think of Louis Vuitton handbags) said the key was high security.


Fortunately, Poon had a business and tech background, and realized that sufficiently advanced software and automation, with a customizable focus, could solve all these problems. Ultimately they had to build a centralized hub that could take data from all these areas and give control to the people steering the operation.

Poon and his partners created Zhenhub, a software system that took data from all parts of any system – from warehouse staff to transport people to customer representatives to couriers – and allowed them to communicate with each other. The name was inspired by the fact that they were located in Shenzhen when they came up with the idea. As the key location in “the world’s factory”, it was the right place to be.

Investor Vincent Woo, left, with Vince Poon. Image: Fridayeveryday

He picked up support from people such as Vincent Woo, a hedge fund manager turned investor, and Sheldon Li, from the family behind Morning Express, a major Hong Kong logistics company.

The rest, as they say, is history. Zhenhub’s services were soon picked up by firms needing help, and has been in growth mode ever since.


E-commerce systems are not yet perfect, but they work perfectly well in the vast majority of cases, allowing the general public to learn to trust them.

While Zhenhub is not the only software logistics firm filling the space sometimes known as “centralized administration products”, it has quickly grown from nowhere to winning major business awards and becoming a respected player.

Supply chain issues now make headlines. Image: Bailey Mahon

Poon, who now lives in Hong Kong with his wife and two children, believes that the firm’s key advantage over its rivals is its ability to deal with people at the operational end.

In most companies, the data ends up in the finance department, he notes. “So even though they may claim to have ‘real time’ monitoring systems, the data might actually be from the finance department’s once-a-month update,” he said.

In contrast, Zhenhub keeps in touch with actual data from the operational end and so is genuinely up-to-the-moment.


Poon was born in Australia from Hong Kong parents, but studied finance and law in Australia and the United States before returning to Asia. Entrepreneurial by nature, he worked in numerous ventures, including introducing of Aussie-style farmers’ markets to Hong Kong, before settling into his current venture.

To most people, the area of business known as the “supply side chain” was not something they thought about.

But the drama of recent years, with shutdowns at Shanghai and Yantian ports, and of the Suez Canal, has meant that supply chains have been making headlines.

“A few years ago, people bought 95% of what they needed from retail stores,” Vincent Poon said. “Today, 30 to 40% of what people buy is through e-commerce.”

The revolution has been a long time coming, but with people like Poon on the job, it’s finally happening.

Image at the top shows trucks in Shenzhen and was taken by Jay Huang/ Unsplash

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to know the latest updates

[yikes-mailchimp form="1"]