Lincoln-based BasicBlock continues expansion and evolution

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In a recent Facebook post, Taylor Monks, the CEO of BasicBlock, revealed that the company had received angel investment from world-famous angel investor, Jason Calacanis.

This investment comes on the heels of BasicBlock receiving a Lincoln Launch grant. These fundings and the inherent support are signals of the significant growth and evolution of BasicBlock since its emergence last summer.

BasicBlock has transitioned its business model from one premised on blockchain technology for transportation to a world-class effort to transform the trucking industry – particularly the mechanism by which companies and drivers communicate information with each other.  This transformation of BasicBlock was premised on what Monks described as “being so wrong in the beginning.”

While the company expects to use blockchain technology in the future, the industry is not yet ready to accept blockchain. However, Monks’ description of being wrong is more than just technology readiness, he described multiple times where the key was simply getting in the field and really listening to customer problems and building towards specific solutions.

BasicBlock helps fleet owners and truck drivers submit information via simple mobile tools.  The free app allows truck drivers to scan and organize documents – focusing on inexpensive transportation (via WIFI rather than cellular) and ease of use in the field. This product allows truck drivers at drop-off to submit confirmation, tie it to internal organization information such as trip numbers, provide confirmation receipt, and tie in expenses and cost information.  This creates significant efficiency improvement for all parties involved.

Monks described his process of customer discovery and the way that it transformed his company.  Specifically, he detailed the hundreds of interviews and conversations with truckers and trucking managers regarding the challenges associated with the business. Monks and his team discovered that their assumptions were simply wrong. However, once it realigned with its customers, the company was able to “nail it.”

Monks described efforts that many would identify with Steve Blank’s or Eric Ries’ “lean” methodologies. In short, the premise of lean methodology is to ask many customers about their needs, isolate the specific ones, and build against those while constantly testing wireframes and other tools with customers.  This allows the company, as in the case of BasicBlock, to build only what the customer needs – not through guesswork but by constantly keeping customers in the know and the forefront of the development process.

This meant that BasicBlock was able to build its application in under 90 days.  As Monks said, “this would not have been possible without a ‘badass’ development team Yuri, Vignesh Krish, Alex, and obviously Doc”.   According to Monks, “They dropped everything and worked constantly, night and day, to build an enterprise application in under ninety days.”

Beyond just the effort to build an incredible application, Monks and his teammate, Brett Byman (formerly of Nobl) were able to continue constant business development and customer discovery.  This allowed the company to sign up more than a thousand users for their launch in April.

All of this caught the eye of many in Silicon Valley.  Calacanis was introduced to BasicBlock through a special program called the Draper University Pre-Accelerator that invited BasicBlock to participate.  This program is a five-week residential accelerator in the heart of Silicon Valley. It specifically targets blockchain companies along with space and robotics, artificial intelligence, and longevity and immortality.

The five-week program has helped numerous companies emerge into successful ventures. BasicBlock participated in the five-week program during the first quarter while learning from excellent instructors and connecting with world-class mentors and advisors.  This caused Byman to suggest a good summary of the attraction of the program and the accelerator to BasicBlock. “BasicBlock is a Silicon Valley-style company with Midwest work ethic and values.” This made the program an excellent fit for both parties.

Beyond just the accelerator program, Monks and his team have built incredible networks leveraging both programs like Launch Lincoln and the Draper University programs.  They have also leveraged social media.

This aggressiveness and willingness to reach out helped them to meet Jason Calcanis.   Jason Calacanis is the author of Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups – Timeless Advice from an Angel Investor Who Turned $100,000 to $100,000,000.   He is also the co-founder of Weblogs which was ultimately sold to AOL in 2005.  Calacanis is famous for his investments in Uber, Evernote, Robinhood, and tumblr.

Monks is riding the wave of his entrepreneurship endeavors and continues to be excited about Basic Block. “I dropped out of college and was living in my mom’s basement and on Doc’s couch. Seeing the excitement in others, particularly our customers, is incredible.”

To find out more about BasicBlock, check out their website at www.basicblock.io.