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Meet The Disruptors: Jehan Luth Of Banyan On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jehan Luth.

Jehan Luth is the founder of Banyan, a fintech infrastructure company whose mission is to harness the power of item-level receipt data to empower retailers and consumers. Jehan’s broad background includes degrees in Computer Science, Public Health Epidemiology, and Privacy Law, which led him down a path of constantly identifying challenges and ways to solve them by applying high-quality data insights. Jehan cares deeply about people, the world, and breaking down barriers while taking the road less traveled.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Being an immigrant from India and moving all around the world, I came to the U.S. over a decade ago, so I have a unique appreciation for being here and I am humbled to have such incredible access to technology, people, infrastructure, and capital to tackle some audacious goals.

In addition, I have a unique journey, which is not what anyone would consider “traditional.” My educational and professional journey has been anything but linear. I have always followed my passion to work toward determining my mission and purpose in life and to fulfill that mission. My professional and educational journey continues to lead me down a path to answer the question, “How can we use data to keep people safe and healthy?”

My educational background is different. The way I look at it, all educational programs are teaching rules or how to be creative. For example, I have a degree in law and law is all about teaching rules. Whereas, my culinary degree taught me how to be creative and combine different elements to create something truly unique. In addition, I have degrees in Computer Science and Public Health Epidemiology. In general, the world is not black and white. That grey area in the middle is where we learn and explore. And my “ping-ponging” between incredible technical and creative learnings helped me appreciate both sides and learn how to live in the grey area and innovate. For example at Banyan, we designed and created an innovative solution that adheres to specific, necessary rules and systems, but the solution is truly inventive and fills a need for both retailers and consumers.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

At the core, I want to solve the complicated problems facing our world. What I learned is that solving some of the most complicated problems requires data, people to make sense of the data, and established processes.

Through my past experiences, I identified a glaring gap in verifiable receipt data. This experience motivated me to find a solution, which led to my latest venture, Banyan. The problem we are solving is that consumers do not have digitally available item-level receipt data. Today, you get a paper receipt. Digital access to that data has the potential to solve problems for all of us — and we are providing that access.

Here is an example of a real-life situation and how Banyan can help. Consider an individual who is aging and has a caretaker — an adult child or otherwise — who is responsible for helping manage their finances. The aging individual has some dementia but can still function independently. The individual goes to the grocery store every other day. And for whatever reason, they buy the same product over and over again resulting in a surplus of the product and a deficiency in funds. Using Banyan’s technology, the caretaker can view item-level information and understand this spending habit and help make a change. This is a pretty specific scenario, but it explains the value in the data that can be found below the surface.

In short, Banyan is a fintech infrastructure company that enables fintechs and banks to deliver incredibly personalized experiences to customers. With item-level data, consumers can be aware of product recalls, evaluate spending habits, and overall, make changes that can positively affect their well-being.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This may not be the funniest per se — maybe it’s kind of crazy — but it is something I learned along the way that I think could be helpful for others. Coming from a diverse background of experience, I had a different perspective and would often ask questions that surprised others. For example, early on, I met with a large retailer to discuss a few ideas and at one point I said, “Why don’t you just give us your data?” Maybe that wasn’t the best way to approach the retailer, but I was a little naive. And sometimes being naive leads to optimism and audacity that having too much experience or being denied too many times can squash. I want to hold onto a little bit of that naivety.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I had many mentors throughout my journey. So many of them have offered advice and various perspectives that helped shape my personal work and leadership style. Honestly, I think my best mentors are a part of my trusted network, which offers honest, open feedback that really helps me refine my vision and make intentional decisions.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

In the technology space, we often follow the principle of “move fast, and break things.” That approach results in some of the game-changing products and services we all know and love. But, there are times when the disruptors don’t always see the bigger picture and don’t always consider who is impacted by the innovations, who is losing their job or being dislocated. This is why we really tried to build a company that balances the commercial aspects of our technology with the potential benefit for the broader society. In the future, our technology will empower initiatives such as cancer trials and use item-level details to provide insights about how people are shopping to help improve their nutrition and enhance how they live.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

One of the best pieces of advice I received was the rule of thirds. Essentially, the concept is to spend each third of your day on one of the following — spending time with people that know more so you can continue learning, spending time with those who share a similar mindset and are on the same page, and spending time mentoring others who are seeking advice and direction, which helps me live with purpose. This is a rule I like to live by and so far, it has proven to be helpful and offer balance.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I previously mentioned how our technology will be used in the future to help improve health and well-being. And we are just getting started with the scope Banyan’s infrastructure can cover. Today, most of the data flowing through our system is from retailers. However, now we are moving into a broader class of merchants including restaurants and other sectors. Beyond that, we see a huge range of transactions, ranging from services to experiences, flowing through our network. We are also focused on the U.S. for now, but the rest of the world is out there and we know we can make a greater impact when we enter into those markets.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I enjoy reading and I will often read and then reread a book that makes a difference in how I think or work. One of my favorite books is “The Power of Habit,” which I read multiple times and keep on my bookshelf. In business, wins are most often a result of building habits that thrive on focus and consistency.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of the most influential life lesson quotes is “You don’t get what you don’t ask for.” It’s the idea that if you never ask, you will never receive. I believe that when there is something you want or need, you can waste time hoping it shows up, or you can go ask for it. Generally, the latter is the best way to go and it has not failed me thus far.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I’d recommend trying the one-third rule I shared. It’s a unique way to strike a healthy balance in life, which seems to work for me. I encourage you to give it a try!

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn, Twitter

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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