By Helmuth Fuchs
Moneycab: You want to reduce trading risks by building blockchain based applications for issuing smart contracts like the letter of credit or bill of lading. What parts of the solution are unique or patented?
Wassilios Lytras: We see a lot of companies using the blockchain for various businesses, processes and tasks. We are using the blockchain only for what it was designed for – to ensure that digital ownership can be guaranteed. In order to achieve this we are developing our own blockchain-technology which fits the use-cases better than the established ones.
«You could compare what we are doing to replacing air-mail (which takes a couple of days at best) with e-mail (which reaches the recipient almost instantly).» Wassilios Lytras, Co-Founder Gatechain
This guarantees that security as well as performance are not compromised. Our knowledge of the industries we are focussing on combined with deep blockchain expertise give us a competitive edge.
How much time and costs can you save in average using your solution instead of the existing way with several banks and intermediaries involved?
“You can’t buy time” – which is precisely what we give our customers back. Gatechain-transactions are executed almost instantaneously. You could compare what we are doing to replacing air-mail (which takes a couple of days at best) with e-mail (which reaches the recipient almost instantly).
Of course this really depends on the level of automation between the partners as the fastest information transport is stalled if it requires a person to copy-paste data from one system to another. We provide our customers the tools to adopt bleeding-edge technology and to cut costs by drastically reducing workflow overhead.
Currently banks are assessing the risks involved, like the solvency and credibility of the trading partners. Who will do that in your solution?
Lenders will continue doing their due diligence but there is a vast majority of importers and exporters who repeatedly do business with each other and already are working with an open-tab system to settle their obligations. Banks will continue to play an important role when partners have not yet established this bilateral trust but even banks are struggling with slow, error-prone, paper-based processes and could benefit from a solution which is entirely digital by design.
Which are the primary market segments and partners, which is your going to market model?
We want to offer our customers an entire ecosystem built around the digital handling of trade document which will allow them to become more agile and efficient. In order to achieve this we will require importers, exporters, lenders as well as carriers to connect to our blockchain-based solution. To reach this target we are launching a series of Proof of Concepts which will prove that our approach is better suited and cheaper than the established one.
«The foundation of our application is production ready and we are currently testing and improving the solution on a weekly basis.»
You successfully competed for a slot in the Kickstart Accelerator. How far are you in building the first version of your application and what are the next major steps in your business plan?
The foundation of our application is production ready and we are currently testing and improving the solution on a weekly basis. We have multiple PoC’s in the pipeline, but we do require more partners willing to explore the technology with us.
«The response has been incredible and we hope to sign more PoC’s through the partner network of Kickstart Accelerator.»
Exposure to the industry and to the established processes and workflows are pivotal to our success as the willingness of our partners to adopt this new technology is the key to success. We hope that we will be able to, launch our MVP (minimum viable product) in the very near future.
What exactly do you want to achieve within the 11 weeks at the Kickstart Accelerator?
We have already reached some of our goals in terms of problem validation, creating awareness and interest with partners. The response has been incredible and we hope to sign more PoC’s through the partner network of Kickstart Accelerator. We also hope that we will have the opportunity to present our case to future investors.
How much of the solution is developed in Switzerland and where will you grow your business in the future?
Every line of code is being written in Switzerland. As our business is focused on international trade, we have focussed on global business from day one. Switzerland does provide us with a stable political environment and fewer obstacles for international trade than other countries.
Which are the biggest obstacles you have to overcome to make Gatechain an international success?
Leveraging the network of banks, carriers and trading partners. In order to be successful we need all three on board. Resistance to old fashioned processes and lack of communication and partnerships amongst the parties is another area we need to work on hard.
Who are the biggest shareholders of the company, do you already have investors on board?
Today, we are self-financed by the founders. A part of our Kickstart Accelerator agenda focuses on finding investors who share our vision and are ready to join us financially on our journey to success
«Switzerland does provide us with a stable political environment and fewer obstacles for international trade than other countries.»
Which are the biggest competitors you are facing?
Paper coupled with resistance to change are the main factors slowing down the process . On a blockchain-tech-company level we do have one or two competitors – but none of them has a strategy which covers the information-supply-chain end to end as we do. In addition, the team behind Gatechain has substantial knowledge of the industry with each member having more than 20 years of practical experience in shipping, trade and logistics.
Which development do you think will have the biggest influence in your industry in the coming years?
We are persuaded that our system will open the trade finance-related market to more lenders than just banks. We also believe that consolidations in the shipping and logistics industry will benefit from our solutions and products.
What is your favorite exit scenario with Gatechain?
Our top priority is to build a world-class company that is growing and increasingly profitable over time. With that we will have infinite options. At some point in time, one of those options might be an acquisition or IPO exit. We are still at the beginning of this journey but believe in ourselves and Gatechain to become a leader in our business.
At the end of the interview you are granted two wishes: Which are they?
That is a difficult question. We would like to have the opportunity to show that even a small, country like Switzerland has ideas and entrepreneurs that can have an impact to businesses on a global scale. Also – World peace would be something we would not completely be opposed to.
Wassilios Lytras – Co-Founder Gatechain
Started his career in freight forwarding and shipping in 1987 and shaped and witnessed the digital transformation in that industry since then. Acquired a MBA from SUNY Albany and held management positions in SME as well as global enterprises such as Maersk. Experience in the implementation of ERP systems (SAP & Microsoft Dynamics AX). Founded his first successful company in 1999 with one of the co-founders of Gatechain. https://ch.linkedin.com/in/wassilios-lytras-6515a7
Gatechain has developed solutions for trade finance on a decentralised network which allows to seamlessly connect all participants in the trade ecosystem. Our blockchain based solutions allow to significantly reduce processing time and costs while improving cash-flow in trade. www.gatechain.com
Kickstart is the most ambitious Swiss startup program to date. Never before has Switzerland or Europe had a multi-corporate and equity-free accelerator program welcoming over 60 founders from around the world. Backed by academia, corporates and the local startup ecosystem, it aims to put Switzerland on the map by bringing some of the most promising early-stage startups from different fields to Switzerland for 11 weeks.
The Kickstart Accelerator is operated by Impact Hub Zurich, which is part of the largest network of entrepreneurship and innovation centers across the globe. Kickstart was founded in 2015 and is an initiative in cooperation with DigitalZurich2025, a cross-industry initiative which aims at making Switzerland a leading digital innovation hub in Europe. Kickstart Accelerator