Podcast Transcript – Series TWO, Episode 27
Genevieve leveille, agriledger February 2021
[00:00:00] Genevieve Leveille: [00:00:00] so I grew up where my inability to succeed at something is all destined by me.
[00:00:07] Do believe that the digitalization of information can lead to greater trust,
[00:00:13]you know, what is the hardest don’t hire friends? It can actually ruin relationships
[00:00:18] This is not to me, a technology only. It is a movement.
[00:00:23]wealth is not measured by how much money you have in your bank account. It’s how much happiness you have and how much you have made a difference in the world.
[00:00:32] Dan: [00:00:32] What’s up Unfound Nation Dan Kihanya here. Thanks so much for checking out another episode of Founders Unfound that was Genevieve Leveille. principal founder, and CEO of AgriLedger, a company that is revolutionizing the agricultural value chain using distributed ledger and blockchain technology born in Haiti.
[00:00:50] Genevieve came to the US to go to high school. She was a science major, and the researcher eventually found her way into banking and over to the UK. Genevieve pursued [00:01:00] onto the blockchain world with force a few years ago has been nominated by the financial times to the top 100 Black, Asian Minority Ethnics in UK Technology.
[00:01:09] And was the winner of the Computer Weekly 2020 women in Software. I caught up with Genevieve during her travels here in the U S. She’s now building a company that uses a distributed ledger to redistribute value and really to reallocate margin and wealth across our food supply chain, all with the source, the farmer, at the core.
[00:01:27] Be sure to keep listening for her great story. Our episode is sponsored by Multicultural Mainstream, Re-imagining Humanity and Technology. This is an exciting event hosted by the Columbia Venture Community, Founders Unfound is excited to join this first-ever virtual venture conference on March 5th as a Media Sponsor.
[00:01:44]Registered today and you’ll get access to all of the content breakout sessions with venture capitalists and even a virtual wine tasting. To sign up, go to bit.ly/CVCMM, or look for a link in the show notes. It’s definitely not too late for this event, which is coming up [00:02:00] in about a week. You do not want to miss it.
[00:02:02] Before we continue. Please make sure to subscribe to the podcast we are available anywhere you get your podcasts. Even Youtube. I sell appreciate everyone in Unfound Nation who shows up to listen to the great founders we get on the show. And if you like what you hear, drop us a review on Apple or podchaser.com.
[00:02:19] Now on with the episode,
[00:02:21] stay safe and hope you enjoy.
[00:02:33] Hello, and welcome to Founders Unfound, spotlighting the best startups you don’t know yet. We bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented and underestimated backgrounds. This is episode number 27 in our continuing series on founders of African descent. I’m your host Dan Kihanya.
[00:02:50] Let’s get on it
[00:02:52]Today, we have Genevieve Leveille principal founder, and CEO of AgriLedger, a company that is revolutionizing the agricultural [00:03:00] value chain. Welcome to the show, Genevieve.
[00:03:02] Genevieve Leveille: [00:03:02] Thank you so much for having me looking so much forward to this conversation.
[00:03:07]Dan: [00:03:07] Awesome. Thank you. And I know you’ve been traveling and, you’ve been pretty busy, so thank you again for making the time. So let’s start off with help the listeners to understand what exactly is AgriLedger. What’s it all about?
[00:03:19]Genevieve Leveille: [00:03:19] So AgriLedger is really about using this disruptive of technology to create a new way of working. And bringing value and making sure that value is equitable. When I looked at blockchain technology at the beginning, for me, what really stood out was the fact that you could really democratize access, not so much about money as we do with a BTC or the crypto, but really information.
[00:03:48] And the value of that information could then create the mechanism. To make sure that everyone could partake. And we decided to start it in the food industry, because [00:04:00] really that’s something we all understand. If you don’t eat, you’re not alive. So therefore you understand about being fair when it comes to food.
[00:04:09] Dan: [00:04:09] I love that you’re right. It’s foundational to human existence. But before we dive more into AgriLedger, let’s hear a little bit about you and your background. Where did you come from? Um, your name definitely has a Francophile, heritage aspect to it somehow. So tell us a little bit about
[00:04:24] your background.
[00:04:25] Genevieve Leveille: [00:04:25] So I’m a child of this saline. You know, I was born in Haiti and for those who don’t know, Haiti was the first black nation to gain its independence through force. I was 1796, uh, 1804. They basically had Bonaparte to his knees. So we all know about Bonaparte losing to Russia, but African forefathers really bought. Uh, the armies of France to their knees and really forge their way. And all of that was actually bought out because of [00:05:00] this flip-flop that happened in France, where they were abolishing slavery, and then he decided to change it back and they said, we’re not going to have any of this. And basically kicked their asses out of the country.
[00:05:14] Dan: [00:05:14] Yeah. Haiti, Haiti is an amazing story. And, and so the story goes the experience in Haiti put the kind of fear of God into the antebellum South. And that’s why they sort of cracked down on, you know, any possibilities of revolts in the US.
[00:05:29]Genevieve Leveille: [00:05:29] They needed to be scared because it wasn’t, it wasn’t pretty now one of the little-known facts about Haiti also is that when Haiti did its independence and its decree, everyone in Haiti is considered black. So it doesn’t matter the color of your skin. You’re all equal. So equality and equality, a part of the thing.
[00:05:53] And everyone is seen as a Neg, which is black show whereby Negro can be a negative [00:06:00] connotation in the US it doesn’t really have the same connotation in French. And so when someone of color actually goes to Haiti, they can be called a Blanc, which is a white man, basically, meaning that they are not from there.
[00:06:15] So it’s a very interesting conceptualization. So, uh, grew up in Haiti in 1976. , my parents decided that, well, my mother decided because my father passed away while I was young, my mom decided that she would move us to the States because there was a degradation going on of education there.
[00:06:34] And her brothers and sisters had already settled in. The U S my uncle was a two-time Fulbright’s and two Ph.D., one in computer science and the other one in social studies. He was a professor at Howard, and he ended up being a professor also at the University of Southern Florida in Tampa. So came from a very, intense intellectual background, and they taught that this would be the opportunity to [00:07:00] give us the education that would be needed.
[00:07:03] So, Came to the States. Didn’t speak a word of English. How old were you? I was 13. I didn’t speak a word of English. And I remember, I learned how to batch by the attitude, the learning English, listening to country music,
[00:07:18] Dan: [00:07:18] Wait a minute, Country music?
[00:07:21] Genevieve Leveille: [00:07:21] That was like 1976. The best thing around was Dolly at that time. And if nothing else, you know, they really speaks to the word, speak the word out. And so I learned listening to country music, and I remember in high school, I actually came in and because I had actually gone, you know, I was always a precautious child and my parents at the age of three sent me out to school.
[00:07:45] So by the time I got here, I should have been in 11th grade, but the school was like a 13. You’re not going to 11th grade. You need to be in ninth grade. So I was busing from where I was so I basically [00:08:00] spent my high school years as a result, just playing, taking as many classes as possible, and learning.
[00:08:06] And I mean, uh, I took Spanish. I took, um, music. One of the things is my mom also kept us with piano lessons. So I actually have a degree in music theory that I did part-time while I was going to high school. And then eventually graduated 16. And I got accepted to Penn university, university of Pennsylvania.
[00:08:29] But my mom at the time, um, being like, you know, first-generation immigrants said you’re not going to campus because kids who go to campus, the only thing that happened to those girls, they get pregnant or they’re getting drugs. So I said, I can’t go. I’m not applying. And then eventually applied to Queen’s college, spent a couple of years.
[00:08:49] And then, I realized that I was just. Keeping myself down at anybody else. And I moved over to Columbia University where I studied a degree in biochemistry [00:09:00] with a minor in comparative literature.
[00:09:01] Dan: [00:09:01] Wow. Your mind is just I think I have empathy for your mom. Just how do you reign in this, this child of, curiosity and ambition and intellect?
[00:09:13] It must’ve been pretty interesting.
[00:09:15] Genevieve Leveille: [00:09:15] You just let them go. Like, I mean by 15, I was traveling on my own by 16. I got a ticket to go to Paris. I wanted to go to Paris. So I just did whatever I wanted. It’s like my poor husband has the same problem as my mom kind of asks, where are you? Are you okay? But don’t ask where she’s going to go because you don’t know, you really just go for the ride as they say.
[00:09:42] Dan: [00:09:42] Right. That’s great. So tell me, like coming to the U S. As a teenager, this is interesting. And what you explained as a context with how people are viewed as being black and Haiti, was that a, was that a tough transition to come to the United States and realize that there’s a difference.
[00:09:58] And, did you have a lot of [00:10:00] confidence when you came from Haiti, and did that maintain, or were you, were you sort of shocked by all that?
[00:10:05]Genevieve Leveille: [00:10:05] I have maintained my confidence because from. A familial way. So we ended up living in multi-family aspects. So my mom lived with her sister and her children. Very funny stories. And on the same side with my mom’s sister, her daughter’s, in-laws moved in. With them. So we’ve always had very much of a pluralistic kind of family. So, which meant that once you left the street and you got home, you were in a different environment.
[00:10:36] So my sister came to the state when she was two, but she speaks French fluently because once you walked into the house, You walked into another world and you spoke in French and the norms were that, and our friends were our cousins. So you know, you became aware of the black situation, but it didn’t affect you. It was part of what it [00:11:00] was. And you just tried to blend in. We came from a certain level of privilege in Haiti in terms of where we came from. And so I grew up where my boundaries. Uh, my inability to succeed at something is all destined by me. That’s the way I was brought up. So, therefore, I see barriers as things to surmount. So I don’t always say, okay, can I come over the wall, but can I walk along the wall and find the opening to the other side? I’ve never gone to a job interview and felt I didn’t get this because they didn’t like me.
[00:11:36] It’s more, I didn’t get this because I didn’t do the effort that was necessary for them to want me, or I didn’t want this bad enough. And therefore I couldn’t be bothered by it. So I think that’s the fundamental difference. Now, um, having been working within Haiti for a while, I find that spirit that I grew up with is [00:12:00] missing in many.
[00:12:01] And I think that has to do with the last 20 years with the earthquake, with the hurricanes, with the handouts being given so therefore dreaming is no longer a possibility I feel at times. So for me, I’m always dreaming of what next, I don’t always tell it to everybody because I don’t want them to think I’m absolutely crazy, but my mind is.
[00:12:26]Much further. I see things around the corner that other people may not see. And I take the time to actually impart that knowledge to them, or sometimes if I want to take them to that journey, I make them think that they’re the ones who took me to the journey while I was actually leading them down that path.
[00:12:45]Dan: [00:12:45] Hmm, you sound like a great tech CEO. But before we get to that part of your story, tell us a little bit about, your professional journey. So music and biochemistry. And so of course he became a musical [00:13:00] scientist, right?
[00:13:00] Genevieve Leveille: [00:13:00] Uh, actually, kinda. The truth was that at university I got to play with computers from the beginning.
[00:13:08] Like I got to play with the first Macs, because one of the things that Mac did was that they give them away to universities. That’s really how we all, all in love with our Macs because we saw them and we became used to that. So, uh, what I did at university is at one point, I was like, I don’t really want to be in medical school because as an immigrant the idea was, if you’re smart, you’re going to go to med school. How was that? Really not because I was the life of the party. I was the one throwing the parties in the class, you know, like lab 24-hour lab class, Hey, I got the food taken care of. So that meant that I decided that I wanted to have a shift and I actually started working for the university.
[00:13:50] And then I realized that if I had a. Non-scientific background. I was looking at about a 15 to $20,000 differential once I [00:14:00] graduated. So I decided, okay, you know what, make that a minor because you enjoy it and then finish your science degree and come up with a science degree. At that point, I actually did work in healthcare.
[00:14:12] I work with literally laboratory looking at how to efficiently use Microsoft project. 1.0 between the Mac and the PC to look, to get to faster processing. So where a drug would take 10 years. So why was that? Well, it’s because the person who’s doing the first test takes about six weeks to send the results and a paper, while in reality, the results were done in less than a week.
[00:14:41] So we sort of said, okay, so if you put that in a project plan and you got it done in a week, then it goes to the next person and it goes to the next person. And being able to go across PCs was something very interesting.
[00:14:54] And did that with. Um, better elect to meet, uh, looking at getting [00:15:00] the results over for FDA approval. Then a friend got in touch with me that had worked with me at the the literally lab said, Oh, there’s a position. Uh, at Sloan Kettering, you might be interested in that. So I went in and. Unbeknownst to me, the chairman at the time was a Columbia grad, so I was just ushered it in.
[00:15:24] Nice. And, um, it was looking at research in ovarian cancer and also looking at Taxol. And I did six months. The rule was that you were supposed to stay in the same job for two years. I said, hell no, I’m not staying in this job for two years. And I moved to the pathology department where I got to work with this amazing person called Dr. Rose Juan Rezai. And so with that, we got to work on digitization of images. And sending them across the internet in the 1990s.
[00:15:56] So really got to start working with technology [00:16:00] where, you know, I’ll never forget getting to buy the Macs for the department. They were 10 grand at the time. I set up a lab of them and it was great. Uh, so in terms of really pushing and being able to do research, which is one of the things with, even with my work today, I respect the idea of doing business.
[00:16:23] So business is very agile, but I also like to have it the academic side to it because there is a certain mindset on checking. The hypothesis that we don’t have the luxury of doing when we’re doing business. Then with the precursor to Obamacare. And it shifts doctors used to do whatever they wanted and it became all the admins counting the pennies so, because of the counting of the pennies. I kind of said you know what? I can’t deal with this anymore. And decided to jump into banking
[00:16:54] Dan: [00:16:54] To be the one counting the pennies!
[00:16:56] Genevieve Leveille: [00:16:56] Two one counting the pennies. So, but I actually [00:17:00] didn’t the, what happened. It was the first crash. It was a 2002 crash about, that time. And so the job was rescinded and I ended up.
[00:17:09]Working for this organization where I was a consultant MTV networks. So this was the time of YO! MTV and, really the heydays of having TV networks being down on 42nd street and going up. And I actually do believe there’s less like Elena was for me. Cause I had gone to Spain, what the CD, give it to somebody who was a producer and they blew up.
[00:17:33]Cause if not, nobody would have known about these old men.
[00:17:39] And then I decided that actually, I didn’t like the world of entertainment so much. And I started gravitating more again toward finance and ended up at Chase Manhattan Bank and actually got the offer on the day Chemical announced that they were going to be a merging with Chase [00:18:00] and did about four years there, traveling the world, traveling the country, working with fortune 10 customers. And also I got to learn so much, I mean, in terms of, accounting and how global accounting and gap would work.
[00:18:15] And finally in 1999, they sent me to Europe. For a tour where basically we had to help all the clients figure out what to do with the system because that was a Y2K. And I’ll never forget being in France in the middle of somewhere, a suburb of Paris. And instead of working with the client on their PC, they said, Hey, I can’t be bothered.
[00:18:38] We went for lunch and get Kassala and red wine. I was so drunk.
[00:18:47] Yeah, so I had an amazing time. And then finally Chase sent me over to Hewlett Packard. To help them with the divestment of Agilent. I never came back. I realized. I [00:19:00] don’t have to wear shoes, which are clothes. I have no need for a coat. This is relaxed. People were coming in their PJ’s that’s at work…
[00:19:10] Dan: [00:19:10] Right. A little bit of a different culture.
[00:19:13] Genevieve Leveille: [00:19:13] Different culture than the bank. So when they asked me would I want to stay?
[00:19:17] I was like, yeah, but that’s really, you know, With chase started the financial career, but everywhere, it was more about also looking at the challenges and how could we surmount those challenges and also digitization. So with Hewlett Packard, we went from spreadsheet to where we were able to press a button and get the position of the company globally, the cash position,
[00:19:45]Dan: [00:19:45] Which is probably not trivial at the time.
[00:19:48]Genevieve Leveille: [00:19:48] No, and then, my old customer from PepsiCo called me and he said, uh, can I have your resume? I’m like, I don’t have a copy of my resume. I don’t have the time for this. He basically fixed the [00:20:00] resume, sent it back to me, and said, is this okay?
[00:20:03] Dan: [00:20:03] I guess he wanted you.
[00:20:05] Genevieve Leveille: [00:20:05] He wanted me. He had, he had wanted me when I had first met him at Pepsi. And now he was a GE I’ll never forget. I had the meeting with HR, then I said, I’m not coming back.
[00:20:16] They wanted a face-to-face as I’m not coming back to the 31st of December to New York, they said, fine. Just come up to Connecticut. Had the interview by the fifth. I had an offer.
[00:20:26] Dan: [00:20:26] Wow. Well, I want to hear more about that, but we’re going to take a short break and we’ll be right back with Genevieve from AgriLedger.
[00:20:33] Hey Unfound Nation. I’m so excited to tell you about a great event coming up on March 5th and 6th. It’s called Multicultural Mainstream: Re-imagining Humanity and Technology. It’s hosted by the Columbia Venture Community and it’s their first ever virtual venture conference. The two-day conference focuses on three main themes: World of Venture, Micro-economy, and Global Community. Friend of the podcast venture capitalist William Crowder will [00:21:00] be keynoting. Founders Unfound is proud to participate as a media sponsor Registered today, and you’ll get access to ALL the content, a virtual wine tasting, and breakout sessions with venture capitalists. To sign up, look for a link in this episode’s show notes or go to bit.ly/CVCMM. That’s B I T dot L Y forward-slash Charlie, Victor, Charlie, Mike, Mike. Don’t hesitate – you don’t want to miss it.
[00:21:29] So we’re back with Genevieve. And so we were just talking about your interesting circuitous journey of a career and you’re about to tell us about the the next offer you have, but I definitely want to get to like how you get to the UK. Cause this, feels like a huge jump, not just physically, but just how does someone end up in the UK?
[00:21:50]Genevieve Leveille: [00:21:50] So my colleague from Hewlett Packard actually called me in 2008. I had just started working at GE and I went to [00:22:00] London and I met him, he had a conversation with me and he called me and he said, how would you like to apply for this role at Barclays? So that was 2008 in 2008, they paid over $12,000 to fly me. Business-class to London.
[00:22:15] Uh, they had this thing that you had to go through, this, , questionnaire and information for part of the interview was like a smart interview. And I did the whole thing. I had an offer on the table. And then suddenly they said, well, uh, can you hold on by August offer was gone by September the world, as we knew it had absolutely crashed. So that was my first opportunity to London and I didn’t make it. And I was crushed, but I also had told people I was going to London and now he was like, okay, I’m not going to London. And it’s like, what are you telling the truth? You are going to London because he had a job or whatever.
[00:22:58]And then [00:23:00] 2010, actually if my friend calls and says I’ve left Barclays. And he said, when I’m ready, I’m taking the job that you had done, you were supposed to do at Barclays.
[00:23:09] I’m warning you I’m bringing it with me. And then he called me and actually to the day in June 2010, I received the offer to join RBS. And I landed there on the 11th of September, 2010.
[00:23:27] Dan: [00:23:27] And RBS is Royal Bank of Scotland?
[00:23:30]Genevieve Leveille: [00:23:30] The Royal Bank of Scotland. Now, what happened was that the shocker for me was that I had been working for a global organization being GE. And I ended up walking into a British bank because RBS by then because of the whole 2008 had divested itself of many of the international and what they had as international branches were more country branches, not really [00:24:00] interrelated.
[00:24:00] It wasn’t. Uh, seamless. So, but it was still great because the project I came in to do was the implementation of a replacement of the core banking system. . So at that point, ended up running a project which had over 500 people involved in, really looking to deliver. And I actually just talked to one of my program directors, uh, yesterday, or is it this morning? I think I was talking to her about joining forces again, cause we did great together.
[00:24:32]Dan: [00:24:32] There’s a lot of common, um, connections of people that are relocating back into your life. I was going to say,
[00:24:38] Genevieve Leveille: [00:24:38] Yeah, very much so. , I think that those who have worked with me and, uh, haven’t done what they needed to do. Don’t like to work with me. Because I, I’m probably not too kind to, ineptitude, but those that I had the opportunity to work with and we’ve worked well together.
[00:24:59] [00:25:00] But where I also learned a lot through the bank was going through the process of the stakeholder management and convincing people and taking the same story and spinning it. For each person wants to hear a different thing, but it’s the same story, but with a different angle for each of them.
[00:25:19] Dan: [00:25:19] Let’s talk about like, how did the idea for AgriLedger come about and where’s the origin, from your experience?
[00:25:26]Genevieve Leveille: [00:25:26] So in 2015, I started a new job with Identrust, and Identrust is the premier provider of identities for the US government. They also run the back’s network in the UK by providing a fully qualified digital signature. They were the startup, when that digital identity came in. So she asked me to go to South Africa and I walked into a meeting where you had Corda at the time. With no more than seven, they were just starting.
[00:25:56] That was May 2015 Stellar the bank. [00:26:00] And also this concept was looking at how could you use this new technology called blockchain technology to empower young girls? But it wasn’t really about the empowerment of the young girls in South Africa. Only. It was about using them as influencers also to be able to bring digital transformation digitization to their family. So if a girl could actually buy through a wallet, some music that same banking wallet could be used by the employees of her mother’s sabin to receive their paycheck. Should then you started moving to a cashless society. And for me, that was pivotal because I realized that you were starting to create a system of trust with interaction, obviously, of humans, because I don’t believe that you can do it just with the individual only, but because various copies of that information resided in many places, You then didn’t have to worry so much [00:27:00] about what had happened in proving it.
[00:27:02] And a lot of the time we spend is bringing in intermediaries with the sole purpose of actually bridging the trust rather than providing a service. So through that, I started really looking at the technology. And it was a great summer because I got to meet so many people in London.
[00:27:19] This was when Bitcoin blockchain was just way at the beginning. And a lot of people were not involved and I have never been a libertarian. And being a banker, I’m also very much of a risk-averse person in some ways, but I do believe that the digitalization of information can lead to greater trust, and also, therefore, a greater output. There was a hackathon and I decided I would bring in my team with me. And the idea was that I had looked around and I said, really trying to explain this technology. And if I didn’t want to make it all about money, I needed to make sure that I was looking at an ecosystem [00:28:00] where it was mulling.
[00:28:01] Not only because of the inequities of the individuals producing, but even for us as an individual when we buy food, if we don’t know what food has been, if we don’t know if the food has had the right temperature, we can actually die from it. So food poisoning actually is responsible for quite a few, mostly when you’re talking in the developing economies is responsible for a lot of lost lives.
[00:28:29] So if we start unpacking this it’s inequality in terms of the value chain, That’s why I don’t really talk about the supply chain. The supply chain is one thing, but it is more the value, which is transferred from person to person and being a banker. I was actually thinking about it very much from the escrow aspect So…
[00:28:53] This is my product. It is my property. I put it in your care, which means I [00:29:00] escrow it to you to get it for point a to point B. And for that, you get paid for doing it. And for me for a long time, actually, I couldn’t understand. I got that piece. But I was like, kind of, well, there’s something missing because if I get it all the way to the end and the customer’s happy.
[00:29:19] Yeah. We had the data play. We have all of those, but how do I assure that the farmer or the producer the reason I use producer because that can even be an artist, how do they assure to be able to show provenance that it had belonged to them? And so in 2018, they was a call-out.
[00:29:39] From the world bank for a project in Haiti. So it was the government of Haiti that would have sponsored a project, a DEI project. And there, they had the answer, which was don’t use, give me a traceability system, but give me a payment system also.
[00:29:55] Dan: [00:29:55] Maybe unpack that a little bit. What do you mean by that?
[00:29:57] Genevieve Leveille: [00:29:57] If let’s say you’re the [00:30:00] producer and you’re entrusting it to me. You need to have trust that I’m going to come back and pay you the money. Once it comes in, you also need to trust that the amount that I said I receive is what I really received. Let me help you in terms of unpacking it in terms of numbers, of what we saw in Haiti.
[00:30:18] The best price on the Haitian market is 14 cents a kg for the mango. That was what was in the summer, that same mango, sold for $2.50 a kg in the US however, as a smallholder farmer, I do not have the capacity or the ability to get it to the US. And I don’t have the quantity. So the project is about allowing for a minimal quantity to be put together to where you get enough of a pallet and ship it to the US, which means that as a result, the farmer now is getting about $1.86 a kg. And that’s, after [00:31:00] all the payments are done the payments to the broker, the payment for transportation, any service providers, which are providing the services. And when they saw that they realized that there was also an opportunity to have the first commercial export of avocado.
[00:31:16] Dan: [00:31:16] From Haiti? Wow. Okay.
[00:31:17] Genevieve Leveille: [00:31:17] Yes. And so what it does is that. It starts with the farmer calling in, he can send an SMS. Uh, voice SMS or whichever one to say what he’s got have it unpacked by the system. He gets a message telling him where, when somebody is going to come to pick it up where he’s supposed to meet them. It’s counted.
[00:31:36] What is also the fundamental difference is that he doesn’t sell it to the next person. He entrusts it to the person that person is responsible for the transportation for any kind of transformation being packaging. Uh, that person who’s responsible for getting any sort of paperwork done to get it both exported and [00:32:00] imported.
[00:32:01] And when it gets to the US the broker sells it to a buyer. Now what happens is that right now, one of the pieces that I want to fix is that the buyer pays the broker so you can have, the buyer would have 45 days, the broker receives it and he could put a 30 days before he pays up.
[00:32:20] Obviously you want him to pay as soon as possible, but then there’s also the fees that he might have to do because he’s got to do the accounting. So ideally what we want to do is you use open banking. To where, when the money’s received into some sort of centralized account by the bank, the bank then says, okay, blockchain, I’ve received the money.
[00:32:40] And then the blockchain tells it. Okay. Yes. So this money, you send this amount in-country and you send that amount back to Haiti. The bank in Haiti receives the payment. And as soon as they received the payment, then they get a file telling them who wants to be paid, how, you know, this person gets this amount.
[00:32:59] This is the [00:33:00] wire, this is cash this is mobile payment. So really the farmer has the ability. To decide which way he wants to be paid. And he does that at the time of dropping the goods. So what you’re doing is that you’re sharing and you’re giving him transparency. So if he or she ever wanted to, they can see what actually costs and.
[00:33:22] We can also see if the differential as to where the loss is happening, where is there much more costs than should be equal? And one of the terms that I’ve actually picked up lately from someone called Dave Birch is called translucent. So instead of looking at transparency is translucency. So transparency can be to where from a regulatory aspect, somebody can go deep and dig in.
[00:33:47] If there is a complaint or there’s a belief, there’s something, but in terms of everyone via the chain, you have the translucency as to what has occurred so that you can trust [00:34:00] that you are getting the real price. So, you know, how much was it on the market? And as a result, you can see all the calculations as to what finally goes into the farmers, a wallet.
[00:34:12] Dan: [00:34:12] I like that. That’s brilliant, actually. Translucent. I like that.
[00:34:15]We will take another short break and be right back with Genevieve. Leveille from AgriLedger.
[00:34:20] Hey Unfound Nation. I’m so excited to tell you about a great event coming up on March 5th and 6th. It’s called Multicultural Mainstream: Re-imagining Humanity and Technology. It’s hosted by the Columbia Venture Community and it’s their first ever virtual venture conference. The two-day conference focuses on three main themes: World of Venture, Micro-economy, and Global Community. Friend of the podcast venture capitalist William Crowder will be keynoting. Founders Unfound is proud to participate as a media sponsor Registered today, and you’ll get access to ALL the content, a virtual wine tasting, and breakout sessions with venture capitalists. To sign up, look for a link in [00:35:00] this episode’s show notes or go to bit.ly/CVCMM. That’s B I T dot L Y forward-slash Charlie, Victor, Charlie, Mike, Mike. Don’t hesitate – you don’t want to miss it.
[00:35:16] So tell me, is there a way to connect the ledger and the digital aspects with the physical goods? How is traceability happening that way?
[00:35:25]Genevieve Leveille: [00:35:25] So what’s happening is that when the farmer brings in, he’s a known entity he’s registered, he actually signs a contract at the time saying I’ve given you 600 pieces of mangoes. I give you the right to carry it. I give this broker, your broker, the ability to sell it for me. And I give the bank the okay to distribute and I give the platform the okay to pass my data to those who need it. When the goods go through, they go through the process. You know, we’re doing fruits right now, but you can imagine, we look at the [00:36:00] value chain of what are the important things to denote quality and quantity.
[00:36:05] How do you measure then they go to the process of processing. Like, so one of the things that I don’t know if you realize if you ever have a mango outside of the U S. It probably tastes very different than what it tastes in the U S reason is that USAD requires for the mangoes to go into a batch of 45 degree boiling water for over an hour in order to kill any bugs that might be in there.
[00:36:34] Well, your mango is boil and then it’s cooled down and it’s frozen until, you know, in sort of frozen reality until you receive it. That’s why the taste sometimes can be very different than what you get in India or anything anywhere else.
[00:36:50] Dan: [00:36:50] Yeah. I’ve had mangoes in lots of places I’ve had in Kenya and India, even in Thailand, they’re all, they’re all different.
[00:36:57] Genevieve Leveille: [00:36:57] Have you had the Haitian mango yet?
[00:37:00] [00:36:59] Dan: [00:36:59] Not, that I know of.
[00:37:01] Genevieve Leveille: [00:37:01] Uh, you would know Madame Francis is, there’s actually one brand in Haiti. And when they talk about the different, they, they list them. They go the Madame Francis. And so basically when, as part of the packaging, Each mango received a QR code, and that QR code has information about where it came from and what has happened up to the time that the QR code is.
[00:37:27] And then following it through now the box and the pallet is going to have information, which is then writing additional data in. So when it’s, sold should the supermarket feel confident enough? Your supermarket would be able to tell you of what you’re paying, how much is going toward the farmer, how much is going toward transportation, and all of those things.
[00:37:53] And I think that also things that we haven’t explored into doing is we can even give the carbon [00:38:00] footprint because we know where it came from. We know how it’s travel. We know the quantity which travels with it. But you are through that QR code, getting a window straight into the farmer that has actually grown this mango and a tree.
[00:38:16] And you can see the geolocation where they’re from, and in reality, in terms of fraud, I think that. Trying to unpeel a whole bunch of mangoes, little stickers is not something anybody wants to really do.
[00:38:30] So, I don’t know what people know about blockchain, but you can have, so the Bitcoin Ethereum, or what we call permissionless, but those are about the transfer of value. This is information, and this is information which can be privacy. And this is really about enterprise so an organization who is going to want to participate, may not want certain information as to the pricing that they are charging the quantity that they’re doing to be out there in the open. So [00:39:00] we use anonymization to then be able to bring that back to where even though the data writing is permission-based, the data reading is not permission-based.
[00:39:13] So you and I would actually be able to go to and explore. And see how many pickups have been in the region. Uh, how much loss has there been in terms of the mango or the avocado, and which then brings in the secondary, how do you then take the stuff, which is not good enough for the market?
[00:39:32] But start doing things like avocado oil and soaps and those kinds of things, which are very much in demand. So it’s really about creating that entrepreneurship. I don’t see myself doing it, but I see encouraging the community to then look at different ways to use rather than just throwing it out.
[00:39:52]Dan: [00:39:52] Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I mean, essentially you’re creating a platform of accountability, which is amazing because if you think about the arc of [00:40:00] agriculture, like a hundred years ago, I kind of knew where stuff was from because it was, you know, I could walk the walk there, right. And I could ask them like, what’s going on with this. Right? But, you know, in our global food system which is built around, you know, being able to manufacture and optimize profits, that accountability is lost. So I love that. So tell me though, there’s a lot, a lot of players in this. How does the business model work?
[00:40:25]Genevieve Leveille: [00:40:25] The Haiti, software that we did is open source. But a long time. I really couldn’t get my head around the open-source. The reality is open source is very much like building a car. When you bought a car from me, you still need to put gas.
[00:40:41] You still need to have somebody drive it. You still need to have maintenance, should there is an opportunity for us to actually have a business model where we’re providing software as a service because we also have it very highly secure because if you can think about it, this has information about people [00:41:00] as information about finances.
[00:41:01] And my nightmare is when people start knowing about this existence and try to attack the network to get access to it. And that was part of the reason why I decided I was not going to build my own blockchain from scratch. You basically use somebody else’s as a base. And a company like Corda working with banks and governments makes them much more aware of security holes, which means I then do not have to worry about the base.
[00:41:34] I just have to worry about my own security will holes that I create in there. So in terms of the revenue model that I see are things like implementation. We’re going to have to sit down with you and find out what is it that you need. And there might be some modifications that we need to do to your business model.
[00:41:51] Dan: [00:41:51] When you say you…
[00:41:52] Genevieve Leveille: [00:41:52] means the customer and my ideal customer is really an organization such as a [00:42:00] government or an IGO or a company with a conscience. The company, which says that as a farmer or as a producer, I’m going to empower you to capture information about what you do. And if I buy all of a hundred percent of your goods.
[00:42:19] I get that a hundred percent of that data in assurance, but if I buy 30%, the rest of it. That data is also available to others. So that, because this is one of the problems in track and trace sometimes in that it’s only tracing, what’s going to the big company is not tracing what is going everywhere else.
[00:42:38] And it’s more a mechanism for the subjugation of the farmer rather than supporting. This is a tool. It’s almost as though you’re giving a mini-computer to a farmer, giving them access to the world and saying, yeah, my goods are very good. Do you want them? And I’m going to prove to you [00:43:00] that they have gone through the right chain of custody, the right processes.
[00:43:04] And therefore you pay me. I think the other piece of that, that you’re going to get is that if you can get to quality and people are paid properly for quality, then you have less growing in waste. So a lot of farmers in order to be able to game-ify the system and make enough money have to really overproduce in order to make money. So this will allow them to make something of quality, get paid accordingly, and only grow their output based on demand rather than the base on. This I need to do in order to make enough money to survive.
[00:43:41] Dan: [00:43:41] It’s great. I mean, it’s almost liberating, right? It’s this idea of which is very much your personality is self-determination right. And not being reliant on this downstream. That’s not only is it not translucent. It’s decidedly opaque. It’s designed for you to not know that, you know, [00:44:00] basically somebody making a thousand times more money on your product, that down the road somewhere.
[00:44:05]Genevieve Leveille: [00:44:05] They make 3000 times.
[00:44:07] Dan: [00:44:07] 3000! Oh my gosh. Yeah. So it’s a brilliant platform. Where do you see it going? Like what’s the future? Like if you think to the future and AgriLedger is a huge success, what does that look like?
[00:44:17]Genevieve Leveille: [00:44:17] So I am actually in talks with, an organization about how we modify the model for a Western world. So one of the big things that’s coming up is this whole need of having, what do we call regenerative agriculture. So those of us who have seen the David Attenborough movie on Netflix. We’ll see how he’s talking about the depletion of the carbon and the green gas. And his whole premise is that this is really due to the industrialization of agriculture and, , how much of the Earth really was hurting by overgrowing.
[00:44:54] And also the fundamentals are that we are also wasting a lot. So we need to go [00:45:00] back to that sort of regenerative agricultural practice. And I think that you will see that movement quite a bit, given what’s happened with COVID. I think that we’re going to see more of the homegrown back again. Emerging economies are interested in sending their goods to the developing economies to get the scales. And I would say it’s different. Let’s say if you look at Africa because Africa has now the African free trade agreements, which allows it to be able to trade within Africa without having to send it first outside. And also this whole idea of currency, you know, like I’m buying from Nigeria and I’m sending it to Kenya, but I’m actually not going into Kenyan Schilling. I’m actually going to the dollar in order to go there. But one of the things that people are not cognizant of is that the world over doesn’t matter if it is. Spain Ireland, India, Africa, Haiti. The farmer is [00:46:00] not feeling as though he’s getting a fair share before the pandemic. I remember being in the Netherlands and not being able to go through because the farmers had taken over downtown with their tractors and in protest, and they were doing the same thing in Spain and they were doing the same thing in Dublin.
[00:46:17] In reality. I don’t know that it’s been well thought out in that, trying to implement it right now during this time of strife. You know we don’t talk about it, but there has been a lot of lost around, agriculture outputs. Because people, you know, maybe in the West, we didn’t see it because you are big tractors, but if you are in a place like India or Africa, where you’re expecting workers to come in and they’re not able to move because of the fear of COVID. England had that people from Poland refuse to come back to actually work, to feel because they didn’t want to get sick. You then have [00:47:00] a very different output, in terms of the agricultural show.
[00:47:04]Dan: [00:47:04] Well, I was going to say, I mean, we’re pushing the envelope on time. So one of the things I wanted to ask about switch gears a little bit is on, uh, fundraising. Like how have you funded, this entity and have you gone down the road of trying to raise external money?
[00:47:18]Genevieve Leveille: [00:47:18] Uh, you know, like every day I wake up and I wonder if my decision was the right one. Actually, a lot of it was my own money. So I came from banking and I was considered a digital transformation expert, so I could pull in 1500 pounds. So two, two grand a day, very easily. So I had that.
[00:47:39] And then I also did quite a bit of consulting, which brought in some cash, which I could pour into the business. When it came time to do the implementation. So I crashed the team instead of doing what was necessary, which was to start moving. They just sat there and kind of [00:48:00] wondered what do we do?
[00:48:01] So when that happened, I basically said, okay, you know what? I had two choices. I can either go looking for money or I can become project manager, product manager, relationship manager. All of the above and then take the money that came in from being paid for the implementation, the revenue, and funding it through that.
[00:48:22] So I, sort of like also at a point where I’ve created something. Where I don’t really feel like giving away the business. Just to get somebody, because I think that had, I had an investment in the last year and a half, it would have been a very different story. If I took my investor or the person who’s writing the checks hat, I would have said, just walk away because Haiti went into complete geopolitical down in September of 2019. I went in August left in August 2019, September [00:49:00] 23rd country went into lockdown. Didn’t unlock until the end of January 20 20, February, we did the beta and then I was thinking, okay, I need to get to Haiti and COVID hit.
[00:49:11] So we just had to do everything over the phone. The team is in India, me in London, and just basically persevering through that. The next phase is really looking at How many requests I’m getting for partnerships. Also, I’ve found that I’m wary of people coming in and saying they want to give me money. Cause I’m like, what do you want for that money? , so it is, a challenge but I do realize that in order to be able to grow. I need to have the capital. And so I’m reconciling myself to that and trying to see, instead if I can get the cash to what are more CSR funds. So people are coming in with a long-term view because even impact investors… the complexity [00:50:00] of what I do loses them.
[00:50:01] I don’t know why we look at technology and we think that technology should be simple and that. It should be a simple delivery. And therefore, what that has meant is that now I’m getting the attention of major companies who are coming to me and say, could you come and play with us? Because they realized that I have the complexity, but they also don’t want to have to do that themselves.
[00:50:26] Dan: [00:50:26] Well, that can be a big value in the marketplace. Right? If you take some things that are complicated and complex and don’t simplify it, but you shield people from that complexity and make it easier for them. So that makes a lot of sense. So one of the questions we’d like to ask folks is the advice question, right?
[00:50:43] So if you could go back to. pre-AgriLedger. Whatever point you want to say, and this version of you would give advice to that version of you about being an entrepreneur. What would you tell her? What kind of advice would you have?
[00:50:58]Genevieve Leveille: [00:50:58] Oh, if you [00:51:00] know, what is the hardest don’t hire friends? It can actually ruin relationships because of the demands, I don’t think anybody is ready for the demands of a startup, the rollercoaster that you go through. I am hoping there are some fundings coming in, but it’s a hope and a prayer. And you have to continue to soldier on whatever. And I don’t know that I would have said don’t do it to myself. I’m very happy because I’m much more fulfilled. I did make a lot of changes when I was in corporate.
[00:51:34] I made things happen, but what it did was that it made my bosses or my companies richer. It didn’t enrich people’s lives. And what I see is with this, this is not to me, a technology only. It is a movement. It is a new way of thinking. It’s really change management on how we behave in society. And we bring in [00:52:00] this level of fairness and happiness. To everyone and provide opportunities to all.
[00:52:07]Dan: [00:52:07] I love that. I’ve talked about this with some people on my team and some of the folks that I mentor customers love to back a movement. And, especially if it’s like, you know, your participation in this, by buying our products and services is really a validation of us wanting to change things.
[00:52:25] Genevieve Leveille: [00:52:25] And this is why, you know, like now that we have something, cause it’s the other problem that a lot of time people talk and they ain’t got nothing. Like, I can’t tell you how many companies out there have claimed to have had blockchain solutions. And all it is is a database. It’s easy.
[00:52:44] You get a database going first and then eventually you bring the blockchain and that’s the tough part. We decided to do the whole tough parts in one go. And so for me, I also believe that I could talk about the idea, [00:53:00] but having it now, where it’s landed, makes it a different conversation. And it’s a position of power and I can show something and now we can really start the movement and, you know, look to bring it to Africa.
[00:53:16] And so that’s why I say movement more than. You know, someone, took me to task for it by saying that I wasn’t looking to be rich from this because, to me, wealth is not measured by how much money you have in your bank account. It’s how much happiness you have and how much you have made a difference in the world.
[00:53:35] And that’s what I want to do is make a difference in the world. So that’s my wealth. Whatever comes in will be being able to reinvest it and make sure that everyone can participate. It’s not to say that it’s going to be for free because it’s got to feed everybody else also, but it is about providing an opportunity for everyone to be [00:54:00] an entrepreneur and to be the master of their own destiny.
[00:54:03]Dan: [00:54:03] I hear the passion in your voice and, you know, to be honest, it’s the economics… you’re building a business, right? So there is economics, but the businesses that ended up being great are the ones that have a larger mission. So to that end, how can our audience be helpful with your mission? We always like to leave a call to action. Is there, ways that we can be helpful in some way?
[00:54:23] Genevieve Leveille: [00:54:23] Uh, for sure. I think it’s awareness. I think that we’re about to go into the next phase, which is to really look at creating the awareness and creating the access and making it to where, you know, show.
[00:54:38] I’m very happy to talk to people about where we think we can put it in and implement it. And it’s really in a movement is not about one individual. It’s about the community. So it’s really building that community so that we can really do the work altogether and not only assuring [00:55:00] ourselves helped, but also assuring the next generation that they will be able to inherit a world, which is not disseminated and that they will also be able to thrive.
[00:55:12] Dan: [00:55:12] And, uh, other URLs or social handles that you want to share?
[00:55:16] Genevieve Leveille: [00:55:16] All of them are @AgriLedger.
[00:55:22] Dan: [00:55:22] Easy. That’s very easy. , well this has been so great, Genevieve. I, I really appreciate you taking the time. It was a great conversation and went way longer than I thought it would, but that’s all good.
[00:55:32] Genevieve Leveille: [00:55:32] Thank you so much. It was such a pleasure to get to really talk about this and really come up with those thoughts and it’s been really uplifting.
[00:55:41] Dan: [00:55:42] We’d like to thank our guest Genevieve Leveille and our sponsor, the Columbia Venture Community.
[00:55:47] This podcast was produced by me, Dan Kihanya.
[00:55:50] Our music was arranged by Michael Kihanya.
[00:55:52] Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or simply go to founders unfound.com/listento. That’s listen [00:56:00] T-O. And follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn @foundersunfound.
[00:56:04] Thanks so much for tuning in.
[00:56:06]I am Dan Kihanya and
[00:56:08] you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.
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