Portfolio Spotlight: UnitySCM
Building the Supply Chain Data Cloud
“ UnitySCM fundamentally changes how supply chain data is consumed. We simplify data collection from the entire supply chain and organize it in a way that’s intuitive for business users. “
You’ve likely heard references to the global supply chain crisis on the news, online, or through firsthand experience trying to buy something or remodel a home over the past two years. You’ve also probably heard many conflicting theories about how long it will take for the market to stabilize after the pandemic’s effects, which are still pervasive.
We are excited to spotlight our portfolio company UnitySCM, which is helping tackle this problem at scale. The company helps manufacturers improve operational efficiency with end-to-end visibility into their supply chain, identifying disruptions early and responding to them more effectively with automated workflows. UpWest was part of UnitySCM’s first round in 2021, though our relationship with the founders goes back over a decade.
We sat down for a chat with Amir Taichman, UnitySCM’s Co-Founder and CEO, to talk about his experience building his second startup.
Can you tell us about your background and how did the idea of UnitySCM come to life?
I spent 11 years working on product and engineering in the Israeli Intelligence Corps unit 8200. Afterward, I have held product positions at a few companies, among them Elementum where I learned about the supply chain industry.
I saw firsthand the large size of the market and the operating inefficiencies: how companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on software; yet, their logistic managers worked out of traditional spreadsheets. The reality for many of these companies is that they are really good at bringing products to market and distributing them, but they lack the technology piece of it. A big realization for me was that the main challenge isn’t actually the application, but data flaws: a pattern of highly siloed systems. I also realized that there’s something missing in the way people work with information and supply chain, going through very mechanical procedures to process the data. The new generation of people in the workforce don’t want to take a job that makes them do the same copy-paste tasks every day. They want automation and instant access to information.
I first met my co-founder Barak Cohen in 2011 through the UpWest founders network, and we kept in touch ever since. Not only is he a talented engineer, but he had previously started, recruited, and managed an Israeli site for an American company before — and there was no doubt in my mind about what he’s capable of.
And so, in 2020 we founded UnitySCM to improve supply chain data infrastructure. UnitySCM fundamentally changes how data is consumed. We simplify data collection from the entire supply chain and organize it in a way that’s intuitive for business users.
How did you acquire your first customer?
We first tried approaching friends and family for help with this, but quickly realized we had no relevant contacts in the supply chain business. My wife used her Stanford GSB network to connect us with clients, which generated a variety of conversations. One of them was a mid-size company that manufactures, imports and sells equipment into the construction industry. Meeting with the VP in charge of inventory planning helped us understand the dynamics of supply chain and technology for our targeted customers, and it solidified our understanding that there’s a tangible pain that we can nail down and solve for them. We acquired our first customer not by trying to sell them, but by trying to understand what their needs are.
Were there any mistakes you made in the beginning?
Yes. We tried to solve too many customer problems at once. We traveled down the rabbit hole of all the things we “could” fix rather than focus on a small set of solutions. It was a poor go-to-market strategy that made it impossible to scale.
At the end of the day, the long list of problems proved our model and all the value we could create, but it also led us down a path we wanted to avoid: targeting F1000 customers instead of the midsize enterprises we wanted to help. In hindsight, we should have restricted our product solutions earlier. A narrow focus shortens the sales cycle by minimizing discovery and works better with defining the target customer. It’s hard to say “no” to potential sales pipeline, but every time we said “no” to something, we came out better on the other side.
What did you end up focusing on?
For us, it’s Inbound inventory visibility. Many brands, especially in the past 10 years, don’t do their own manufacturing. Unilever doesn’t make ice cream, Apple doesn’t make iPhones; they subcontract their production. While they already have shipment tracking technology, they lack data infrastructure. UnitySCM provides supply chain managers with this crucial data visibility and automation, which include what’s in the shipments; when shipments will be available; how much on-hand inventory is available, and when inventory will run out. The value of data grows exponentially, so as UnitySCM collects more data, we solve more customer problems.
What could UnitySCM have done to help companies that were impacted by the Suez Canal supply chain crisis?
We could have helped these impacted companies to deal with it much better by helping them decide how to navigate and address the resulting disruptions. Empowering them with UnitySCM’s real-time visibility would have allowed them to make better decisions with respect to inventory management, communication with customers, etc., as well as dramatically optimize their strategy and contain costs.
While UnitySCM’s R&D team sits in Israel, you chose to establish the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. Tell us about why you made that strategic decision so early into the company’s journey.
We always knew we were going to go after the US market. I think that it’s crucial to be near your customers and partners. Each country has unique business practices that require personalized attention. From our experience, what you learn about Israeli customers has very little applicability to American customers, mainly on the go-to-market side. While they have similar problems that the product solves in similar ways, the entire customer engagement process — from the way you reach them, how you sell to them, what they want to see along the way, how they want to meet you to how much they’re willing to pay — has nothing in common. If someone knows they’re selling to the US market, they need to get there as quickly as possible.