Basket CEO Neil Kataria: “Bringing price transparency to the grocery market can play a crucial role in tackling a major element of the world’s hunger problem”

Bringing price transparency to the grocery market will help increase affordability. If we can make food more affordable, especially for those who find it difficult to make ends meet, we’ll be playing a crucial role in tackling a major element of the world’s hunger problem. I had the pleasure to interview Neil Kataria. Niel is the […]

Bringing price transparency to the grocery market will help increase affordability. If we can make food more affordable, especially for those who find it difficult to make ends meet, we’ll be playing a crucial role in tackling a major element of the world’s hunger problem.

I had the pleasure to interview Neil Kataria. Niel is the co-founder and CEO of Basket. A graduate of University of North Carolina, Neil is highly analytical and never gives up until a problem is solved. Prior to building Basket, Neil founded newBrandAnalytics, a social analytics company, which he led through its acquisition by Sprinklr in 2015. During his time with the organization, Neil built newBrand into the premier analytical platform for consumer operational and loyalty insights for some of the world’s biggest companies.Neil has devoted most of his life to creating internet & software businesses that solve big problems for consumers as well as small and large businesses. As an angel investor, Neil has also invested in a number of companies with likeminded objectives. He has served on panels at Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research, the Michael Milken Global Institute and many others sharing how technology platforms, powered by data, can be utilized to serve customers and brands alike.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?

The first company I founded following college focused on enabling product traceability and transparency within the consumer food industry. I believed that people had a right to know exactly what they’re eating or drinking based on what labels say. This was also my first foray into big data analytics.

Basket started following the birth of my second child. Like many families in this country, we were spending a ton on grocery and baby products, too much. One day I ordered from Amazon and was shocked to find that my 24 items came to over $300. I spent the next 12 hours (much to my wife’s chagrin) comparing that receipt to 10 local stores and found that I could be saving 40%…if I had the right data. Basket was founded with the intent to give consumers the power to make the most financially sound decisions when it comes to purchasing groceries and other household staples…without spending 12 hours to do the research.

Our first lesson? Big business is resistive to disruption. Centralized grocery entities didn’t want to share their data because transparency was ultimately a huge threat to their way of life. It would encourage more competition and give food producers a window into their margins. As a solution, we enlisted the crowd to contribute this information to build the first ever database of prices on the ledger for everyone to access.

Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

Right now, we’re building an open source developer community consisting of 500–1000 people. We’ve created our own incentive program for developers to consistently be able to access our code and make our machine learning and AI model smarter. This model will lead to corporate decentralization on a mass scale, eliminating needs for massive corporate campuses like Apple, Facebook and Google have invested in.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mom and dad were the first investors in every venture that I have started. I am extremely lucky to have them, and they helped provide a stable financial and emotional foundation to help me achieve my dreams.

It’s also important to mention my mentor, Jeff Webber, who also happens to be one of our lead investors. He’s helped me grasp how the business side of things really works and has provided salient advice in several times of need, including when we found ourselves tempted to buy another company.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

The best part about the blockchain industry is that it is decentralized, and innovation can happen quickly. That said, there is not one governing body that could implement “improvements” for the whole industry so achieving consensus is a real challenge, but a good reminder of why what we are building is so special.

  1. The Bad Actors Have Been Flushed Out — A lot of the scams that happened last year have been identified and those bad actors are now known. This allows real projects and companies to enter the space and bring real solutions.
  2. Previous “Traditional” Startups are moving to blockchain — As the power of blockchain becomes better understood, companies who had previously built on more traditional tech stacks are elevating their infrastructure to the blockchain revolution.
  3. The Movement is Global — It is truly incredible how many companies within the space are cheering for and supporting one another. The rising tide is certainly carrying all ships.
  4. Fortune 100 Companies are Showing Off Case Studies — ABInBev and Accenture debuted their blockchain pilot program at the World Crypto Con in Las Vegas in October. Those two massive legacy companies are bragging about the power of blockchain and helping bring validity to the space. They certainly won’t be the last.
  5. Blockchain is Coming for your Pocket — I believe that there will be a few “home screen apps” on everyone’s phones by this time next year that leverage blockchain and cryptocurrencies. The beauty is, many everyday smartphone users will not know that is the case, they will just be benefiting from the tech.

What are the 5 things that worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

  • Scams — Like any innovation in big business, there are those out there just to make a quick buck and many doing so fraudulently.
  • A Big Business Blockade — We already see a ton of lobbying on behalf of big business, aiming to prevent and delay the widespread adoption of blockchain simply to protect their businesses. Many big businesses are purchasing startup blockchain entities to take them off the market as well.
  • Regulation — Governments are working hard to regulate blockchain quickly, and they haven’t even taken the opportunity to understand it, and its potential. Which is a shame because one of blockchain’s core promises is a promise of self-regulation and government intervention really shouldn’t be necessary at all.
  • Adoption by the Masses — This is another case where education comes into play because people are afraid of what they don’t understand. If there isn’t a more concerted effort to get “the masses” to understand blockchain, we’ll have a technology with great potential that is seriously underutilized.
  • Cryptocurrency Confusion — utility vs. security; local vs. global — it is all confusing to consumers and developers — if you have a different coin for everything, how can it be managed?

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

Our data is driven on the ground by our scanners who go store to store, ensuring that our prices are as up to date as possible. These team members have the ability to work on their own schedules, which is really helpful to those with complex living situations. One of our scanners has a special needs child, who really needs constant attention when he is not at school. Using the money that she earned collecting data for Basket, she was able to buy a special needs van for her son, earning this incremental income on her own schedule, a schedule that does not allow for traditional means of employment. Additionally, our platform is all about helping people get the essentials for the lowest price possible. For families on a stretched budget, this can make all the difference between feeding just the kids, or managing to feed everyone.

As you know, there are not a lot of people of color in the tech sector. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other men and women of color in the tech space to thrive?

There is no reason you can’t break into the industry and be a leader, and once you’re there, don’t use color as a crutch if you want to be treated equally.

Can you advise what is needed to engage more men and women of color into the blockchain industry?

It’s not about men or women of color. It about getting anyone who is interested to engage in the industry, as it is an industry that is inherently not about skin color, race, sex, etc, because it is based on decentralization. The birth of blockchain is happening now and there are very few preconceived notions and biases. If you’re a person of color, or not, that is interested in growing this industry, the time to jump in the pool is now!

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

‘“Years and glasses of wine; these things must not be counted.” ― Anthony Capella, The Food of Love

I am a firm believer in meritocracy — you cannot just slap a label on someone, put them in a box and judge them based on that.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Bringing price transparency to the grocery market will help increase affordability. If we can make food more affordable, especially for those who find it difficult to make ends meet, we’ll be playing a crucial role in tackling a major element of the world’s hunger problem.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

· Instagram: @basketsavings

· Facebook: @basketsavings

· Twitter: @basketsavings

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