The importance of speed — You need to be able to learn, fail, ideate, design, and deliver quickly because the world moves fast. The winners are the ones who deliver quickly, so speed is critical in any startup.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewingYonathan Lapchik.
Yonathan Lapchik is CEO of SUKU, a blockchain-powered supply-chain-as-service ecosystem that provides brands and retailers with the transparency they need to meet the demands of a growing base of conscious consumers. Yonathan brings more than 16 years of experience helping Fortune 500 clients with digital transformations, M&A, tech strategy, and product implementation to SUKU. Before joining SUKU, Yonathan held the role of Product Lead for Deloitte’s US Blockchain Lab, focusing on leading the development of blockchain-based prototypes and enterprise solutions.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I am an engineer by education and spent the first eight years of my career working in technology. I came to the United States to get my MBA. In the first year, through one of my friends, I was invited to a finance class where I learned about Bitcoin and blockchain. Like many people who catch the blockchain bug, I became obsessed and decided to do something with my passion. At the end of my MBA in 2014, I joined Deloitte Blockchain and spent four years working there as a product lead. Joining SUKU as CEO was a perfect fit, as it combines my drive to make a positive impact with my passion for blockchain technology.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
On the SUKU team, we spent 3 years developing a supply chain transparency solution for brands and retailers and imagining all the possible use cases for different industry verticals as well as brand and customer needs. Fast forward to this past year, and we were able to pitch our blockchain-powered tracking and tracing platform as a COVID-19 testing kit and PPE tracking solution to the white house. We customized our infrastructure for the COVID-19 case with our partners in 2 weeks. To be able to deliver a real-world solution and leverage our technology, expertise, and team to help at the height of the pandemic was incredibly rewarding.
Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
We recently released SUKU DeFi to help the unbanked and others disenfranchised from traditional financial systems to gain access to key financial services that they don’t have access to today, like microlending.
How do you think this might change the world?
1.7 billion people currently don’t have a bank account, hindering them from getting loans, having a savings account, making investments, and accessing other financial services that would help them to better support themselves, their families, and their livelihoods. By making such financial services available in a way that is approachable and user-friendly via a simple SMS-based protocol, anyone regardless of their internet connectivity can use these services to ask for and receive microloans.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Decentralized Finance, or DeFi, is a big buzzword right now, but all too often the people who need access to financial services the most are not able to participate because of a lack of technical knowledge or internet connection. We are changing that with our SUKU DeFi product that is designed for small suppliers, such as farmers and local craftsmen. When a supplier provides data on their stage of the product’s journey, they gain access to DeFi services like microlending, through the SUKU DeFi protocol. All of the communication and transacting is done via SMS, so that whether the supplier has an internet connection or not does not hinder their ability to participate.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
While I was at Deloitte, we would have endless brainstorming sessions where we would iterate ideas on how blockchain could help with the problems our clients were facing. The general consensus at the time was that the financial services industry would be most profoundly transformed by blockchain, but we started to realize that finance would be one of the slowest to adapt because of regulatory constraints. What I recognized in working with brands and retailers is that almost every company wants to do something about traceability in order to meet the growing consumer demands for verification of product authenticity. Blockchain is the perfect solution to this need.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
Ease-of-use is essential for blockchain adoption. This is why we built TextMeCrypto, which will make sending, receiving, and swapping any ERC20 token as easy as sending a text via SMS or WhatsApp. TextMeCrypto is currently live on the Kovan testnet with plans to be released on mainnet in Q1 2021. This is also why we have prioritized an easy-to-use interface for suppliers to add data to our traceability platform. We have developed one of the most engaging experiences for customers as well. All a purchaser needs to do when buying a product from a SUKU partner is to scan a code, and they will have visibility into the full product supply chain in video and text format.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
We are working with many well-known brands and retailers to get the word out about how they can benefit from supply chain transparency. Some brands we work with include the third largest retail chain in Latin America Cenconsud, Fortune 500 company and the largest NFC manufacturer in the world Avery Dennison, and CGI leader Dreamview.
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?
I learned so much from one of my professors, Dr. Campbell Harvey, at Duke. He is a pioneer in blockchain academia and taught me so much about technology. He is now an advisor of SUKU and has contributed many valuable insights to our initiatives.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As a blockchain-powered, supply chain transparency solution for brands and retailers, we are doing our part to further the consumer-driven shift to values-based purchasing decision-making. Customers increasingly care about things like sustainability, ethical product sourcing, health, and authenticity. We help brands meet these growing consumer demands by giving them the tools they need to give their customers visibility into their products’ journeys. With verifiability enabled by blockchain technology, brands can prove authenticity, sustainability, ethical sourcing, etc.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Stay focused — There will be many distractions and it’s easy to lose focus on what your goal is.
- Be able to say “no” to opportunities that take you away from your focus, even if the request comes from a stakeholder.
- Always try to help someone without expecting anything in return — Make introductions and help when you see the opportunity. This is so important for building relationships in business (and life in general).
- Always deliver when you commit to something — We’re very strict about that at SUKU, and we try to inspire that attitude in everyone on the team. If there is something we want to be recognized for, it’s our ability to execute.
- The importance of speed — You need to be able to learn, fail, ideate, design, and deliver quickly because the world moves fast. The winners are the ones who deliver quickly, so speed is critical in any startup.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂
We’re doing our part with SUKU DeFi to expand access to financial services to those who need it, and I hope to see this movement of decentralized finance continue to grow so that having a bank account isn’t a prerequisite to participating in the global digital economy.
I also believe that the more transparency in product supply chains, the better. This is how customers keep brands accountable and make values-based purchasing decisions that drive change towards more sustainable, ethical, and health-conscious sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Everything happens for a reason” — This is a great mantra to keep in mind when anything bad or good happens. This message helped me learn not to force things. The reasons for why something happened generally become clear with time.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
SUKU aims to make commerce more transparent and efficient with blockchain-powered supply-chain solutions. By leveraging the traceability enabled by blockchain, SUKU provides brands and retailers with the transparency they need to meet the demands of a growing base of conscious customers that helps them increase sales. To incentivize the participation of small suppliers, SUKU rewards participants with tokens that grant the holder access to key financial services, such as microloans, that are not otherwise available to them. The SUKU team consists of a group of successful entrepreneurs and corporate leaders with a background in supply chain and blockchain from Deloitte’s Blockchain Lab. SUKU is developed by its parent company Citizens Reserve, Inc. headquartered in Los Gatos, California.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.