Blockchain is arguably one of the most powerful technologies introduced in the last decade, but it’s usually only mentioned as an aside in discussions about cryptocurrencies. As cryptocurrencies lost their charm, blockchain technology stood the test of time. We are now increasingly seeing blockchain technology, or decentralisation, becoming a facet of every industry.
Can it be used to remove weakness from the supply chain and manage load carriers? Dutch startup RTI Blockchain is transforming blockchain into the world’s leading solution to manage load carriers.
RTI means Returnable Transport Items
RTI Blockchain’s journey isn’t the most unusual in the startup world, but it is a profound example of how problem solving leads to the start of important companies. Milou Klooster, one of the founders of RTI Blockchain, got the idea for her startup while working as a fifth generation stewardess in her family-owned business selling smoked fish to retail and foodservice companies.
In this business, the customer (retailer) decides which type of crate or pallet you use to deliver your goods. And on the other hand, if you don’t have your suppliers under control there is also a jumble of returnable packaging floating towards you, which also requires a proper registration if you don’t want to end up in endless discussions and lose any money.
Frequently, these are reusable packaging or returnable transport items (RTI) which are not owned by the producer but by the contractor [pooler] owning and leasing the assets.“Most often this is a short- or long term contract combined with a trip fee,” she says.
The challenge, Klooster explains, is that poolers have their own rules, regulations and web portals where you have to declare your movements. Then there are also open pool assets like Euro pallet, where you have to set your own agreements with supply chain partners. For a family business like Klooster’s, the immediate challenge is to keep track of these returnable assets in an overview with actionable insights.
So, Klooster went to work. She created an animation video explaining what RTI Blockchain should become. While building her team, she read a blogpost by Yves du Bois, a serial entrepreneur with 15 years of experience in load carrier management.
“When Milou told me about RTI Blockchain I got enthusiastic immediately and it was clearly a logical step in my career,” says Du Bois.
They connected during the “validation lab” programme of YES!Delft and started exploring how blockchain techniques could support problem solving in the load carrier market. With Blocklab (100 per cent owned by the port of Rotterdam), they found that the technique would indeed be a perfect fit for load carrier management.
The story of how RTI Blockchain came to be is a perfect example of how the solutions to most problems are right in front of us but require the attention of a leader like Milou Klooster and an entrepreneur like Yves du Bois to bring them to life.
Proof of Concept
Once they identified blockchain as a fit for load carrier management, they began working on their first proof of concept. “While developing our proof of concept, we were making ourselves investor ready,” says Klooster. “We pitched several times to former entrepreneurs and current investors we knew. One of them got really excited and we asked him and his companion to invest in RTI Blockchain and they did.”
Klooster, Du Bois and the team at RTI Blockchain are currently preparing for their series A round. This proof of concept, however, did not come without its fair share of hurdles. The most obvious one for Klooster being the hard decision to quit her family business and start her own.
On the professional front, she cites finding organisations who are first movers as a challenge. “If they [early adopters] become ambassadors, they will motivate and support their supply chain to join RTI Blockchain as well. Like with any other disruptive innovation, some have to be those early adopters. The next challenge is to generate an automatic sales system so everyone could sell RTI Blockchain to each company worldwide using any type of load carrier,” she says.
Like Klooster, Du Bois also had to make the hard decision of leaving his consultancy business behind to work on RTI Blockchain. “Of course there is this never ending struggle in balance between business and private. Yet to get things done you need a kind of focus and dedication to bring it to the next level,” he says.
Techleap.nl’s Rise is learning with peers
RTI Blockchain is one of the nine Dutch scaleups to join batch #8 of Techleap.nl’s Rise programme this year. Klooster says they joined this programme to “learn from each other in a trusted environment.”
As a serious tech player, RTI Blockchain does not shy away from different growth challenges faced by the scaleup. To overcome these hurdles, Techleap.nl has a number of experienced entrepreneurs committed to the community as well as many scaling experts to help by sharing their knowledge.
“As we are always open and eager to learn more each day, the rise programme fits our growth path on a personal and professional level,” Klooster adds.
Du Bois says the Rise programme is a commercial tailwind for RTI Blockchain. With the scaleup in the process of raising Series A round, the Rise programme could not have come at a better time. “[The Rise programme] secures some proof points in our journey as a company,” says Du Bois.
He likens the Rise programme to a guided power tour through one’s own organisation and says discussing the challenges in breakouts worked perfectly for him. For Du Bois, the way Techleap.nl plans meetings and the outcomes of the meetings within the organisation was a revelation and helped distinguish between the challenges. He says the Rise programme is a perfect situation to learn and define your action or mitigation.
“As a young company, we sometimes stumbled upon roadblocks while getting in touch with the right people. We now get more easily in touch with relevant people via or because of [Techleap.nl’s] Rise programme,” Du Bois summarises.
RTI management done right with blockchain
At the heart of RTI Blockchain is the knowledge that RTI management control is not easy and that there is a technology available that can simplify life for every supply chain company. Now that RTI Blockchain has done that with its proof of concept, it wants to set the industry standard in the grocery sector, focussing mainly on fast moving consumer goods.
Klooster says they are also focussing on quickly adopting other industries. “Our goal is to reach 10 trillion movements across different industries in 2025. By becoming the industry standard, we will be able to facilitate cross-chain payment of load carriers and have fully replaced electronic data interchange by using our API’s regarding load-carriers,” adds Klooster.
Adding on to this, Yves also envisions RTI Blockchain becoming an example in college. It is imperative to say that a large portion of this success can also be owed to how meticulous the founders have been with their team building exercise.
“We let the team grow based on our warm contacts and therefore could ensure there is a culture fit within the team. In terms of scaling up we also hired an experienced CTO. By doing this we could build our own hybrid (development) team,” says Du Bois.
In the end, it all comes down to focus and Klooster argues every entrepreneur starting their own venture should have “full focus on their business” and always be “open to learn more and gain new information each day.”