Annika Monari’s company, Artos Systems, is revolutionizing B2B marketplace systems and opening doors for ethical food and drinks brands in eCommerce.
Annika was ranked on the 30 under 30 Forbes Europe list as leading innovators in blockchain technology.
How Playing the Drums led to Entrepreneurship.
Annika was educated at the Washington International School in DC. At fifteen, she loved playing drums in a rock band, but sadly, like most teenage bands, they were not getting any gigs, so Annika designed demo cases and knocked on doors till eventually, she got a break.
They were given a Sunday night slot, far from ideal for kids still at school. On top of that, part of the deal was bringing fifteen people to the show. They ended up with all their parents there to achieve the quota.
Annika played for a couple of years and did the band’s marketing. They sold 900 copies of their CD and made the news, a successful early venture.
When it came to deciding where to study after High School, Annika’s father encouraged her to remain in an English-speaking country, and she chose Imperial College, London. They liked the research she had done for her High School thesis, and she sat for a Masters in Science and Physics, which she completed in 2016.
During her studies, she completed a variety of internships, including one for Goldman Sachs. She also met Alan Vey, who would become her co-founder, and was in the same social circles. Alan was sitting his Masters in AI, and his professor suggested he looked at the Ethereum network and Smart Contracts rather than Bitcoin price predictions. They worked on ICO (initial coin offering) for six months and found his trading knowledge and her entrepreneurial skills to be a great match.
Annika could see there were tremendous opportunities in the blockchain space. People still use economic models she co-designed, such as the Token Curated Registries today. Only a year into her time at Imperial, she co-founded her first company Labthi.ng Ltd with Alan Vey, which was an online incubator facilitating decentralized ideation and innovation. Annika quickly saw it was going to be too difficult to scale this.
Artos Systems Ideation
Annika was convinced the opportunities lay in B2B marketplace systems and the whole concept of centralized lists of companies voted on by others as an economic model. She also saw that “there were many smart developers building in blockchain and other smart business people interested in blockchain but with little understanding of it” and wanted to bring the two together somehow.
From here evolved what Atmos provides today, a unique B2B marketplace system for eCommerce, but it didn’t form fully straight off. Annika felt that when they had initially started in business, they were trying to find a perfect solution and take it to the customer. This approach is, as she openly admits, the wrong way round. We should always focus on the customer and build what they need.
Annika co-founded Artos Systems Ltd and started working on ideas with Colin Richardson, who would become Artos’ chief growth officer. They spent many months together searching for the right customer problem, which they could offer competitive solutions for the B2B systems space. It wasn’t till 2021 that they identified the food and drinks space.
What Artos’ Systems set out to solve:
Small food and drinks brands have traditionally been unable to get a doorway to the big buyers for various reasons. This has resulted in the buyers having all the power and do needing to take any of the risks.
It has also been financially impossible for the smaller companies. Distributors, the intermediaries who mitigate the risks associated with smaller manufacturers on behalf of the big retail buyers, demand 40% fees. When the small companies need finance for their inventories for larger deals, they are charged 30% interest. It makes business completely unviable, rendering small farmers and manufacturers completely unable to enter the market.
Marketing is also an area in which the smaller companies cannot compete. These factors together are estimated to result in $500 billion lost deals every year. Annika and Colin set out to find out how many of those deals they could capture and recover with robust new B2B marketplace systems and solutions.
Initial Challenges for the B2B Marketplace
Annika and Colin had spent such a long time validating the concept that they were still pre-functionality when they launched in April. Yet, immediately, they hit 40% growth week on week. By June, when they were functional, Annika found they had 35 deals going on without knowing anything about the people concerned and 500 users, of which only about 50 had personal relationships with them.
The B2B marketplace systems offering had exceeded all expectations, but Annika took the big decision to call a halt and re-adjust. She was convinced that the only way forward was to be sure of precisely what value they were bringing to that marketplace.
It was clear they were doing something right, but they were not as sure which bits it was. All the team members were given clear objectives, with one group specifically entrusted to get to know the sellers and find out how they could increase value. Another focussed on the buyers to find out if their needs with respect to new product discoveries. They now had a discovery team, a finance team, and the tech behind the B2B marketplace to benefit both sides
Artos Systems today
Another reason for choosing this sector was the founders’ concerns for sustainability, the food chains, and the challenges facing the global food and drinks industry. They now have a clear idea of where all the problems lie that they can help solve.
They make trades simple for ethical food and drink producers, matching them with premium buyers, and mitigate risk through blockchain and advanced analytics. Where needed, they finance deals, and the small companies end up paying perhaps 5-15% instead of the 30% they were previously charged.
A typical case recently was a small seller who was offered a fantastic deal by a big supermarket for $60,000 when their usual average deal was $5k. The order was also needed immediately, which meant a twelve-times increase in inventory. Typically, the seller would have had to go to the bank. But instead, thanks to Artos’s new B2B marketplace systems, it was possible to do things differently.
What Artos has achieved is unique, a blockchain-powered B2B marketplace for the food and drink sector, combining search and transaction facilities that use data to match B2B buyers to new, ethical food and drinks brands. The B2B marketplace systems are simple to use, all online with no complicated paper-based contracts.
They provide an end-to-end service, giving small sellers access to a global shopfront for their products and show how their farms are run, linking them with previously inaccessible premium buyers.
What lies in the future for the B2B marketplace systems and tech?
Annika and Alan also started Aventus Protocol Network in Etherium. Once again, their balance of skills and knowledge was perfect for bringing the blockchain they design to commercialized networks and continuing to grow Artos Systems. Alan, too, was ranked on the 30 under 30 Forbes Europe list.
Meanwhile, Annika wants their B2B marketplace systems to enable the next big brand to skyrocket. She is also aware of how much enterprise tech has developed. Once there were IT departments who decided what people used within a business. Now everyone in business is involved in tech. Slack came in at that point to provide all the people with all the tools they needed.
Now we have fundamental interactions across businesses, whole industries, and supply chains. The more this evolves, the more fluid supply chains will become, which means small companies have a colossal opportunity. Annika sees this not only in the food and drink industry but in other sectors too. Manufacturing is a perfect example, where there are too many middlemen and neither manufacturer nor consumer benefitting. New B2B marketplace systems are a gamechanger.
Also, if you are interested in blockchain, you might enjoy this article about Neha Soni, also recognized for her work in this space.