I had the pleasure of interviewing Cyrus Taghehchian, Co-Founder and CEO of Spl.yt, an ecommerce protocol to save buyers, sellers, and marketplaces time and money and to incentivize participants to transact fairly and securely.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
A serial entrepreneur at heart, I have developed my own coaching and consulting programs as a certified co-active and agile coach, helping c-level and executives improve their organizations’ product management processes, development practices, and team culture at companies such as Intel, Bank of America, PayPal, and more.
I’m driven by exploring ways to challenge the status quo led by those in power who resist change and new ideas that benefit business and social interests. My career has been defined by my ability to launch successful innovative projects in the face of skepticism towards my outside-the-box approaches. I love using my experience in tech, management consulting, finance, coaching, and startups to empower projects and people to achieve their goals.
I think many people relate to my frustration through times where people in charge dismissed innovative ideas. I remember at an early job we had a 30-day testing cycle for new features to go from code to production. I had an idea to streamline the process by automating the testing cycle so it was shorter and less error-prone. My manager was reluctant, telling me the old way was how it had always been done and anything a young employee suggested couldn’t be better. I started a skunkworks project around my idea anyway, and its success caused the testing cycle to drop by more than two-thirds. Everyone enjoyed the process and the framework started to get adopted throughout the department. But despite our success, my manager privately reprimanded me while publicly taking all of the credit for my idea and our team’s independent efforts. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the department (including myself) left within a year after he continued imposing his power to stifle innovation and protect his own interests. That experience has always inspired my work towards breaking crippling mindsets, as I believe everyone can embody the magic to produce groundbreaking results and propel society forward.
I’ve recently worked as an Agile Coach to help Fortune 500 organizations like Charles Schwab, Kelly Blue Book, and PayPal successfully re-invent their hierarchical mindsets to promote internal innovation and thrive in an era of accelerating technological competition. I see the blockchain space as a natural next step to continue my path of empowering people within organizations so they can build exciting ideas on a large scale. Decentralization means rethinking the legacy structure of power brokers who resist new ideas or people in favor of furthering their own interests, so I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experiences to help people understand it’s not about the blockchain technology itself. It’s about the people and how we use the tech to build for a better future.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I’m fascinated how some online network connections can unexpectedly fall into place, and crypto conferences provide more opportunity for these meaningful relationships than any other industry I’ve been involved in. For example, during last year’s “BlockCon” in Santa Monica, I recognized a speaker and blockchain expert, Ismail Malik, as a LinkedIn connection I’d never met in real life. Ismail was visiting from London so I knew this was my only chance to talk to him in person. I slid past security to the VIP section where speakers mingled after their presentations, startling him as I yelled “Ismail!” as if we were old friends. We instantly hit it off and he wanted to discuss Spl.yt further, but had to meet with some other colleagues first. I didn’t see him for the rest of the event, and was kicking myself that I missed the chance to collaborate. But while leaving the event that night, Ismail returned the favor when he startled me by popping out from behind a building and yelled “Hey, Cyrus! Ready to go grab that drink?”
Ismail tagged along for karaoke with friends from the MyCrypto, Ethereum Foundation, Oaken Innovations, and Venable LLP teams. His financial strategy experience and British perspective on how to leverage blockchain to benefit society resonated with the group, and he felt really at home during his travel. At the end of the night, he told us that the LA Blockchain scene is one of the most lively and welcoming that he’s ever witnessed around the world. Since then, Ismail has not only become a great friend but also an advisor for Spl.yt.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The Spl.yt Core Foundation stands out because it is a non-profit organization moving towards fully decentralized and autonomous governance. This means the Spl.yt ecosystem will be securely and collectively managed by users similarly to Bitcoin and Ethereum without any centralized corporation controlling the entire system. We believe that blockchain and crypto-assets are capable of fully eliminating the need for intermediaries rather than simply replacing them with lower-cost centralized versions. Our entire project reflects this vision. Our team actively participates in and contributes to decentralized governance research and discussions among the crypto-community, which we incorporate into our systems. Our achievements thus far are a credit to our team’s advantage of collectively possessing a wide range of skill sets and experience in blockchain, high tech, consulting, e-commerce, law, tax accounting, and marketing. We will continue to leverage our team’s and the community’s talents and ideas to enable Spl.yt’s wide range of features to compete with legacy players.
Our priorities are clear: to innovate and build, test, and then test again. While Spl.yt’s development has been in process for over a year, our patient growth has afforded us the opportunity to observe other projects in the space. Some of them are very exciting and we believe they can do great things for society, but others have chosen to do things that don’t align with our core values and may be missing the opportunity to fully leverage the full potential of this new technology. We are confident that we can build upon the industry’s best practices to give the community the best quality system possible.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
I am involved with several exciting startups, including the Benson Tech App — an application that automates your contact lists and communications across multiple platforms so you can more easily keep touch with people you care about — and Noble Pour — bow tie and other fashionable accessories for wine bottles to give as gifts or add some personality to your own bottle.
But naturally I am most excited about Spl.yt. Spl.yt is an open-sourced blockchain protocol for a more secure, transparent, and cost-effective e-commerce system. We are decentralizing the e-commerce stack by connecting the world’s inventory to the blockchain and automating multiple points of an online transaction. This will benefit buyers and sellers with lower costs by removing the need of middlemen who take out a cut of every transaction. We believe in building tools and awareness to empower people to take control of their e-commerce data and experience.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
The role of managers and executives is evolving with the new and popular Agile, Lean, and “Teal” organization paradigms. I highly recommend any executive to embrace their role as a “coach” that mentors their organization in valuing autonomy, safety, and purpose.
This means you should inspire people to take action by tapping into their internal drivers. Get to know your team and what makes them feel fulfilled and satisfied when they go home. Always be available. Understand the skills that they want to learn and grow so you can provide them with the opportunities and resources to do so. Teach team members to become self-accountable by setting goals and building frameworks so they can learn and retrospect. Challenge them to think differently when they hit a roadblock instead of giving them the answers. Help them define what success means for them, both personally and professionally. Enable psychological safety in the workplace by creating an inclusive environment and increasing awareness of the value of diversity. Empower your team by increasing autonomy, celebrating mastery, and encouraging conversations to begin with purpose. I believe Spl.yt’s strength is in its synergy between core team members and massive base of volunteer collaborative contributors, so finding ways to keep the passion alive between these two parties will help any decentralized project survive and thrive as this new industry emerges.
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?
My Co-Founder; Jason Civalleri. Jason introduced me to blockchain (beyond Bitcoin) the first time we met. He invited my girlfriend and I over for game night, and we ended up ditching the games to instead talk blockchain and decentralized applications for hours. It was our aligned passion to evolve society from that night that inspired us to create Spl.yt. Jason has been a joy to work with and his philosophical expertise on how blockchain intersects with law and society is invaluable for a team navigating the Wild West climate of crypto startups. His knowledge of the ecosystem is profound, and allows us to constantly incorporate the most-cutting edge concepts and partners to ensure Spl.yt’s success. We complement each other’s perspectives and respect one another, and I believe this synergy is the foundation for the safe and teal organization we hope to build. Further, we both understand the power of when our team-members have autonomy, are driven by purpose, and are free to fully express themselves. For this I am very grateful.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My philosophy in life has three essential tenants: focus on impacting people’s lives, share your wealth, and be kind. I’m fortunate to have enjoyed a successful career to this point, and always look for ways to share my success with others. This led me to take Co-Active management coaching classes to better my skills and tools to empower people. During my training, I learned how to use the GROW theoretical model: Goals, Reality, Opportunities and When. This framework makes it easy for people to incrementally move towards their goals while building their self-awareness and confidence. I actively coach and mentor students, scrum masters and startup founders using the GROW model, helping them realize their potential and achieve their dreams. My younger sister recently needed help navigating the college application process. I coached her to explore her desires and priorities, co-creating a plan she was comfortable to follow. She recently got accepted to her top choices and was very happy and grateful. I decided to share my story on College Confidential, an online resource for students, hoping to positively impact student’s college journey. It turned out that my thread touched the hearts of many aspiring students, who were disappointed that they did not get into their first choice schools. I received feedback saying that my story gave them faith, courage, and confidence that they can succeed regardless of what school they got accepted to. It is fulfilling to see others smile and become the best version of themselves.
Can you share the top five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line?
Customer Satisfaction — Different perspectives, cultural backgrounds, and mindsets enable companies to account for any group or person’s needs. Every design should begin with the user in mind, and users have a diverse set of perspectives in the modern era. So cultivating a diverse team maximizes companies’ ability to meet their customers’ needs and thrive in these evolving times. Our advisor Taylor Monahan is widely recognized for using this mentality to build the popular MyCrypto wallet interface, and we appreciate her input to Spl.yt as we try to accomplish the same.
Promote Innovation — When I train an organization on adopting Agile and Scrum, we delegate product feature decision-making to the engineering team. This decentralized problem-solving method yielded experimental and cutting-edge ideas, as well as enabling the team to learn from each individual’s unique experiences and perspectives on how to solve the tasks at hand. Product managers should act as a mentor and facilitate the free exchange of ideas, critical feedback, and collaboration between each individual. While this method alone produces undeniable results, building a team with diverse backgrounds maximizes the chance of successful innovative products by bringing more perspectives to the table.
Recruiting Top Talent — Our team at Spl.yt is comprised of thought leaders from a wide range of industries, locations, and cultural backgrounds. We recognize the value of each person’s perspective towards what we are trying to create. We recently welcomed Alex, a Japanese-descended CPA formerly at Price Waterhouse Cooper, to our team. Alex’s multicultural upbringing combined with his technical skills has brought valuable insight and perspective towards building something that benefit a wide range of people and businesses around the globe.
Employee Turnover — Diverse teams bring different experiences and thought processes, which force each member to critically examine their own positions. Each team member has the opportunity to improve and expand their skills by absorbing others’ talents through osmosis. Dan Pink explains that feeling yourself grow through this organic “mastery” is an intrinsic motivator that keeps team members happy and confident, and (importantly) less likely to leave.
Partnerships and Collaboration — A company that prioritizes diversity and inclusion has a natural edge in working with talent pools and consumer groups because the modern business environment values inclusive organizations. Outsiders look at diverse teams as more relatable — especially when the outsider is from a diverse background themselves — as they more accurately reflect the melting pot world they experience every day. This becomes even more pronounced when finding partnership opportunities since a team’s individual networks will likely include distinct opportunities for connections reflecting their diverse backgrounds.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“You’re not a drop in the ocean — you’re an entire ocean in a drop” -Rumi
The power to create better worlds is inside of each of us and the fact we are alive in this present universe means that we can make anything happen at anytime. Carpe Diem!
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, because his company’s values are very similar to ours at Spl.yt. Both companies are moving towards the decentralized organizational power that is a safer and more enjoyable work environment in the e-commerce vertical. Plus, I bet he would love to help customers buy their next pair of sneakers using the blockchain? Let’s make it happen Tony!
Originally published at medium.com