Modum was a master thesis which turned into a startup that aims to simplify the process of fulfilling compliancy requirements for businesses. All while ensuring full data integrity at a lower price than the market delivers today.
Name: modum.io AG
Product / Service Offering: Blockchain Enabled and Sensor-Driven Data Integrity in the Supply Chain
Co-founder Interviewed: Marc Degen
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.
I have a computer science background with an Executive MBA in Business Engineering. I have worked mainly in the digital business 10 plus years. Describing my personality always ends somewhere with the statement that I am addicted to changing legacy business models or rules, and I have the will to get it done. This is also how we started modum.io; we were convinced turing-complete blockchains will change the digital structure of the future in many transactional businesses. I started some at the University of Zurich, which ended in a start-up even before the master thesis was written.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
We started working on modum.io in early 2016 and founded the company in July 2016, but the idea was a coincidence. I was exploring use cases together with the University of Zurich. Outside of the financial technology area, the blockchain might have huge impact. The very same day my brother, at that time responsible for the supply chain at Novartis, called me asking about my ideas about potential solutions for the GDP regulation change being in place as of January 1st.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
- Complying with the regulations in pharmaceutical supply chain.
- Having the ability to control the data integrity of what happened where, when, to whom, or what.
- This is essential for the wholesale environment, where our customers are confronted with thousands of orders per day.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
We simplify the fulfillment of the compliancy requirements, while ensuring full data integrity at a lower price than the market delivers today.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was getting attention from big players like DPD, Post, and others. Despite having a good personal network in Switzerland, modum.io AG really kicked off after we won our vertical at the Kickstart Accelerator program which even got featured on Nasdaq.
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
Without the close relationship with the University of Zurich and their support, we would not have gotten this far. And on the other side, this is a fruitful collaboration, because it is quite appealing to tell your students that the last master thesis actually ended up in a start-up which hired some of the students right after they received their masters.
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
It was the first time I actually had to reach out for funding; therefore, it took us quite a while to understand that seed rounds are not a topic for VC’s. This is what angels are for. It sounds so obvious, but we still had plenty of VC talks which more or less ended with “Yeah, interesting – but not now.” This basically just wasted our time during a certain phase of money raising.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
Not besides the obvious hard question: What do I have to do in order to achieve a good product market fit? We tackled this with very early MVP with our first two pilot customers, Schaer Pharma and Voigt. Learning this reality was a painful process.
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
The balance between when the funding round will be in and the need to expand the team. As a matter of fact, do we have to turn down paying customers just because we cannot afford the staff to manage them properly – yet?
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
Ask for advice and money, at any given stage. Waiting for the perfect pitchdeck does not help.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your company?
We are opening a second seed financing in Q2/2017, after we had our successful paid pilots with our core use case of temperature monitoring in the pharmaceutical supply chain. The patent we filed actually covers many other use cases, so we are very open to discuss further applications of our ecosystem to bring back trust and compliancy into the world’s supply chain.
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