Startup Spotlight: Circulor
The team at the ATI Boeing Accelerator recently spoke to Veera Johnson, CCO and Co-founder of Circulor, about the work she and the team are doing to improve traceability in the supply chain.
Explain your product in one sentence
Circulor provides a traceability solution for tracking the provenance of raw materials in the supply chain. This is used to demonstrate responsible sourcing, track carbon production and identify fraud, providing organisations the data required to gain much-needed visibility into their supply chain.
Tell us about the problem you’re solving in aerospace
We have taken our learnings from the automotive sector — for example, the tracking of cobalt used in the production of electric vehicle batteries, and of the dynamic attribution of carbon emissions — and have applied them to the aerospace sector.
The tracing of conflict minerals, or materials that change state as they are going through the production process, are two direct applications. The other is the traceability of parts during the production process, making sure that the parts are coming from legitimate, contracted suppliers and that they are going through the right technical processes to meet the quality standards required in aerospace. This is what we have been scoping out with GKN Aerospace and Boeing: parts traceability.
In terms of getting other industries to take notice, businesses need to take more responsibility to understand what’s in their supply chain and have that visibility.
What other industries are you currently working in? How can we educate more sectors on the importance of traceability in the supply chain?
We started in the automotive sector to be able to prove that we can handle complex supply chains and that we could track the material as it changes state. We’re currently in discussion with a number of organisations about tracing other materials including, for example, palm oil, cotton or other conflict minerals.
In terms of getting other industries to take notice, businesses need to take more responsibility to understand what’s in their supply chain and have that visibility. Secondly, empowering themselves to make decisions at the board level, to be able to demonstrate to their shareholders, investors, and consumers that they are sourcing responsibly.
What is the key challenge you need to solve to move forward as a business?
For Circulor, the sales cycle is quite long. Getting organisations to understand how they can deploy the solution in a sensible and efficient way is the single biggest challenge. It’s important for us to have conversations with their procurement team, IT team, compliance and audit functions to get into a position where we can move forward.
The other issue is that people get confused with blockchain technology; there is a lack of understanding of what it is and how it works. It’s often confused with bitcoin and cryptocurrency and Circulor is so far away from that. We started out by using blockchain terminology but stopped because few people understood its use cases. We quickly realised that to deliver an enterprise-level solution, we needed to be able to talk to our customers about scalability, security, transparency, and trust.
Tell us the story of how your team came together
My co-founder Doug and I worked together as colleagues initially and then became good friends. We’ve known each other for 20 years now! We started out as management consultants and later went our separate ways, but we still always talked about technology as a transformative solution to business problems.
My first startup experience was when I started ProcServe in 2005, a specialist eCommerce solution provider that was successfully sold to Basware in 2015. It was after this, when I was in retirement, that Doug approached me about potential ways in which we could work together and collaborate. I wanted to use my knowledge of building an e-commerce business and my understanding of commercial models to build a new platform.
Circulor was incorporated in 2017, and for the first 18 months, we spent time challenging what a technology platform could do using blockchain and identifying the core components. After speaking with research organisations and standard-setting bodies, we got things off the ground and started recruitment. A lot of our hiring has been done through personal relationships. Some of the team members we have on board were involved in my previous business.
What’s been the greatest learning from your startup journey so far?
Be stubborn and just keep going. The startup journey is hard and it takes a lot of powerful energy reserves. It’s also about your ecosystem and the people around you: family, friends, partners, children. It’s important to keep them part of your journey because it’s hard to be single-minded and focused.
Be stubborn and just keep going. The startup journey is hard and it takes a lot of powerful energy and reserve.
How was your mentoring experience on the ATI Boeing Accelerator? What were some of your biggest highlights of the programme?
The biggest highlight is the introduction into direct, potential clients and our conversations within GKN Aerospace and Boeing. We’ve also gained new insights around how to consider investment options. There have been some great sessions that reminded us what good teams look like and on that note, there are many activities happening around the programme like Team Socials and ongoing cohort support after the 12 week programme finishes.
It’s been great to introduce some of our personal contacts to the accelerator to benefit the wider ecosystem. I have not seen a programme in the last 4–5 years that is quite like this and we want to show our contacts, particularly in the government, that this is what good looks like.
Follow Circulor on Twitter to keep up to date with their latest developments in sustainability for supply chain.
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For more information about the programme, please contact the ATI Boeing Accelerator team:
Gabi Matic — firstname.lastname@example.org | linkedin.com/in/gabrielamatic
Wil Benton — email@example.com | linkedin.com/in/fatkidonfire
Ksenia Kurileva — firstname.lastname@example.org | linkedin.com/in/kseniakurileva