An exclusive interview with John Monarch, CEO of ShipChain. In addition to his work with ShipChain, John is also the founder and CEO of Direct Outbound, a fulfillment/3PL company. John’s extensive experience in logistics — including with parcel private carriers, postal logistics and freight — has helped him bring new shipping solutions to one of the world’s most important industries. In his comments, he reveals what learning experiences have helped him achieve success and offers invaluable advice for those in the early stages of their own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us about yourself?
I was born in the Chicago area, but moved to South Carolina with my family a while ago. I attended college at Clemson University, where I studied Physics and Computer Science.
Even though I don’t exactly use my degree, I’m very glad I majored in what I did for the challenge and the problem solving it helps me with every day. I’ve always had a bit of an entrepreneurial streak, as well as a strong interest in both the shipping and manufacturing industries.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
My now-partners and I were chatting about blockchain one day. I had been complaining a bit about some difficult shipments from my other company, where I’d had a hard time with tracking and holding the right people accountable.
We very quickly realized the power of blockchain in shipping and how it could upend the entire process. The ability to add a level of accountability, automation and transparency to an industry that is still using pen and paper or spreadsheets is a massive transformation.
How much potential market share can you achieve in next 3 years?
This is such a new market, so it’s hard to gauge how big it will be and what we can capture. However, with the scale we are working at and the high level of interest from the logistics industry, major corporate partners and even from governments, we see ourselves emerging as the preeminent company in this new space.
What was the best book or series that you’ve ever read?
Peter Thiel’s “Zero to One” is fantastic. Most new businesses are in established spaces, but when you’re doing something brand new there’s no real guidance on moving from a concept to the first stages of execution. New technologies and new business models have to be defined by their creators, and Thiel outlines what his process was and how he thought about this.
What is the best and worst purchases you’ve ever made?
Best? Probably my first foray into cryptocurrencies years ago. Not just as a return on investment, but as a learning experience in how they worked. The technology behind them is amazing. As for the worst, probably purchasing a new car. It feels exciting to buy a new car, but the instant and heavy depreciation right when you drive off the lot is just not worth it.
What takes up too much of your time?
While I’m generally pretty good at letting my team do what they’re best at, sometimes I can get pretty nit-picky on details. When I start doing that, I can sink a ton of time into a single project.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students/new startup business owners who want to become entrepreneurs?
All these groups are very similar in that they are in critical formative stages. Students are looking at their entire future, new startup owners are experiencing their first struggles and hopeful soon-to-be entrepreneurs are preparing to take that first big step.
The most important thing for all of them is to not stop learning — both formally and informally. Experience from making mistakes as an entrepreneur is a type of learning that should always be done. Using, applying and expanding on formal classroom learning is important, as well as self-guided research. Never stop expanding your knowledge.
Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
Probably my father, honestly. He was raised in extreme poverty, joined the military, then started running businesses and later had success within a Fortune 500 company.
He definitely didn’t have it easy by any stretch of the imagination, but was able to achieve a lot and become successful despite it. The way a person responds to challenges says more about them than just about anything else.
Tell us about something you are proud of – about your greatest challenge.
I’ll lean back on my time in college — getting a degree in Physics is one of the most rigorous and challenging things I’ve ever done. It challenged the way I thought about problem solving and forced me to entirely revamp my mental approach to it.
The higher level problems get pretty counter intuitive and difficult to identify, so I really had to evaluate the problem much differently than I normally would.
How people should connect with you?
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @realjohnmonarch — I’m pretty responsive on there.
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