Taylor Monks was a student at Nebraska Wesleyan when he met Brett Byman at a campus networking event.
“I never go to these events, but one of my professors said you gotta come and meet this guy,” said Monks, CEO of Omaha-based startup BasicBlock. “At the very last second, I decided to go.”
Byman, who is COO of BasicBlock and a co-founder of health tech startup Nobl Health, was impressed.
“The questions that he was asking were questions I usually get from investors,” Byman said. “I knew there was something special about this guy.”
They got together shortly afterward and a unique dynamic emerged.
“I push the boundaries, and I knew he would be the voice of reason for me,” Monks said. “It’s worked out better than I could have ever imagined.”
Monks invested in Bitcoin and was obsessed by the technology behind it.
“I quit my job seven months ago just to dive into this,” he said. “I knew if I could leverage this technology in an industry Nebraska knows, we could beat the valley.”
Using Blockchain technology, BasicBlock is disrupting supply chain logistics by creating direct, trusted relationships between shippers and trucking companies. The co-founders see the Midwest as an ideal place to start operations.
“Supply chain logistics is what the Midwest is built on,” Monks said. “No matter how hard the valley wants to try, the customers are in our backyard.”
Shippers often work through third-party brokers to connect with trucking companies or owner/operators. This can lead to significant costs and payment delays.
“Third-party brokers are holding payments for months at a time,” Monks said. “With BasicBlock you can get paid in minutes. We can ensure that truckers get paid, which creates trust.”
Figuring out what part of the supply chain to tackle first has been one of the company’s initial challenges.
“Blockchain solves the problem of trust between two parties, and can positively impact so many parts of the supply chain process,” Byman said. “That’s been one of the hardest parts is to narrow focus and figure out where we begin solving problems.”
While blockchain is the central component of BasicBlock’s business model, it’s not the whole solution.
“Blockchain for us is a tool – one of our core tools – and it’s amazingly effective,” Monks said. “But it’s not good for everything. We’re not naive in thinking that it can be applied to everything.”
Establishing the trust relationship requires validating a host of information from trucking companies and owner/operators.
“To be on the platform for a one-time fee, we validate that they’re legit,” Monks said. “It’s almost like a credit score check.”
While BasicBlock is focusing initial efforts in the Midwest, they are bringing a West Coast approach to the venture.
“I’m looking to create a large company that gets acquired,” Monks said. “We’re using the West Coast model to scale fast, move with intention and beat the market there. I care about creating a badass product that can disrupt an industry.”
But the company plans to incorporate Midwest values into the process.
“The West Coast approach is reflective of our very accelerated growth strategy, which is unique in Nebraska,” Byman said. “We are looking at this from a West Coast perspective with a Midwest work ethic.”
Byman says the key to a venture like this is the people involved.
“To be able to pull off a concept like this you need a rock star team,” he said. “Besides us, there’s our CTO Tom Pizzo, and our CIO Edward Weniger.
Monks added that he’s never felt the mesh of collaboration between people like he does now.
“We all bring a nice dynamic,” he said. “We get each other excited.”
BasicBlock plans to start a blog in the near future as a way to generate discussion and communication around blockchain and supply/logistics.
“If we’re going to scale, it’s like a diary for our team,” Monks said. “If somebody‘s interested in blockchain or logistics, we want to talk to them. If we can help in any way, what our strategy looks like, we want to share. We’re an open book.
The CEO’s passion for the venture is clear.
“It comes back to how committed I am to this,” Monks said. “I eat Little Caesar’s, a meal I can warm up three times a day. Ramen, the occasional beer that I’m grateful to have Brett buy me.”
“I’d have it no other way,” he added. “I want this more than anything in the world.”
Rod Armstrong is the Vice President of Fundraising at AIM Institute and a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.