Anton Trantin aims to create global supply-chain management platform with YORSO
An app launched in 2018 called YORSO is aiming to provide a full supply-chain management platform to help seafood producers, distributors, and foodservice executives to automate marketing, sales, purchases, and logistics.
In an interview with SeafoodSource, YORSO co-founder Anton Trantin talked about fundraising in Silicon Valley and the challenges of finding partners in China and Russia – and how he aims to exploit the opportunities in the East by proving the app works well in Western markets. Trantin was involved in the crypto and blockchain space for two years before getting into the seafood sector. With an academic background in IT and 12 years as software engineer on large-scale Russian projects such as Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport and working for the country’s telecom operator and nuclear agency, Trantin has attracted European, Japanese and U.S. advisors and investors and is seeking to expand rapidly in 2020.
SeafoodSource: What were the biggest challenges you faced in 2019 in developing YORSO?
Trantin: Pivots and team building. We changed a lot. Significantly. Initially, we were a marketplace with a transactional model, but now [YORSO] is a pure B2B SaaS tool with the fish industry focus. It made us restructure the team roles and focus more on process automation efficiency for companies, rather than taking any commissions for sales.
SeafoodSource: What are your main goals for 2020?
Trantin: We have opened several really exciting pilot projects with big names in the E.U. and U.S. so the main goal is to make them happy and build a good case study portfolio on what we do. The other goal is to provide the mass market solution so not only big whales but SMBs [small- and medium-sized businesses] across the globe can grow their sales, internal efficiency, increase food safety, and supply-chain sustainability.
SeafoodSource: How have your revenues progressed since YORSO was founded?
Trantin: It is not a secret. In 2018, we worked on the transactional model and sold in total 4,870 metric tons of fish for more than USD 5 million (EUR 4.5 million), with an average commission of 2.6 percent, which gave us USD 130,000 (EUR 117,000) gross revenue. In 2019, we changed the model completely; As an SaaS company, we made USD 100,000 (EUR 90,000) revenue and still made around USD 60,000 (EUR 54,000) on the transactional model. In 2020, we expect to completely get rid of transaction earnings and grow the subscription model by 250 percent in the case of successful implementation of our pilots and the boarding of about 3000 companies.
SeafoodSource: Another company, Catchatrade, has developed the Hook app, which it claims is the first to build a global community for seafood producers and traders. How are you different?
Trantin: The main difference between YORSO and Catchatrade in what are we trying to bring to the industry today and tomorrow. First of all, we never claim to be “number one” in anything we do. YORSO as an idea was born in 2013 and, even at that time, there were several great competitors on the market. In 2016, there were newcomers while the previous were gone. In 2018 and 2019, I could see the new wave of start-ups and initiatives bringing digital transformation to the global fish and seafood trading and I’m totally happy with this because it helps to build new markets together.
We are both similar in terms of not working with transactional model as a broker, but totally different with the target audience, tools, and global vision. At YORSO, we believe that most of the operations in the seafood industry are process-oriented, while people always claim that fish sector is completely about trust and relationships. YORSO turns process-oriented jobs into people-oriented jobs, while routines are taken away for software. Machines and robots do it better. On the other hand, people can spend more time with the customer and provide a more personalized service.
To be specific, we are building the full supply-chain management platform to help fisheries, producers, distributors, and HoReCa [hotel/restaurant/café] to automate marketing, sales, purchases and logistics while keeping traceability among all distribution chain. YORSO works both with frozen import/export container-based bulk operations and fresh local distribution. The only thing we are not touching today is retail stores and consumer segment [B2C].
SeafoodSource: Are you getting a similar focus in China – the world’s big seafood buying and producing nation – as you are in Silicon Valley?
Trantin:. We have Chinese companies with whom we [have worked with] since 2016 helping to do export into Russia and see a lot of activities from this region. One-and-a-half years ago I had a call with Gfresh [Chinese online seafood marketplace founded in 2014] CEO Anthony Wan trying to see if we could collaborate, but our focus and vision were a little different. To tell the truth, I didn’t find any way to bring competition to them and also didn’t manage to build this partnership. Thus, I decided to focus on the E.U. and U.S. markets and get back to Chinese partnerships afterwards if I managed to grow significantly in a particular region.
SeafoodSource: What is the difference in vision between YORSO and Gfresh?
Trantin: I think the scale and approach [were different]: Gfresh is completely dedicated to fresh fish delivery through building offline infrastructure for local markets, while YORSO is a pure B2B SaaS [software as a service] solution not only for fresh but also import/export of frozen and active cross-border transactions.
SeafoodSource: What kind of product were you helping to ship from China to Russia in 2016 and what was your involvement? Was YORSO functioning then?
Trantin: YORSO was doing “full turnkey services” those days: looking for buyers, doing logistics, custom clearance, full document preparation and responsibility for the deal. From 2016 to 2018 we imported mostly saury and scomber in volumes of 700 to 4,000 tons per year.
SeafoodSource: Is Russia a good place for your firm in terms of getting investors and technological know-how?
Trantin: It is a tough question. On the one hand our law is not mature enough to build a venture business and we have a significant lack of early-stage venture capital. Also, there are a lot of rumors appearing in the media about the ecosystem and atmosphere in this region which are not always true. On the other hand, we have really talented and educated engineers and quite developed fish and seafood industry with global ambitions and presence.
Historically, it was just easier for us to start YORSO in the place of our location. Right now, we are finalizing the small round in Russia and will have the Japanese private investor on board – yes, into a Russian company! We also have formed strong advisory board with people from Silicon Valley, Spain, and the Netherlands and for these people it is not important the IP location but the team execution and value we give to the market and our clients.
However, in 2019 I moved with my family to the E.U. and got E.U. residency, and in 2020, the HQ will be moved here as well. I don’t have any “toxic” investors on board now and 90 percent of the company is still owned by the initial founders, so in my case the CAP table is totally attractive to global investors, with whom we communicate from time to time and we will raise money once I’m ready.
SeafoodSource: Have you sought investors or partners in China?
Trantin: In 2017, we made a try with one of the biggest Chinese accelerators to enter this market, but after a set of interviews, we all agreed that maybe it was not the right time. I’m always open to new opportunities and even had some meetings in Silicon Valley in May with Chinese funds but decided to return to this question after E.U. and U.S. market explorations … Better to stay focused and not spread the energy everywhere.
SeafoodSource: Why did the Chinese accelerators think now wasn't the right time? Was it not the right time for the Chinese market or not the right time in YORSO's progression?
Trantin: China as a market is pretty developed and ready. The reason was in YORSO at the time. We couldn’t propose anything to outcompete Gfresh on the market for fresh and for import/export of frozen the system was not quite ready yet. I truly believe that if we try [again] these days we have quite a great chance to enter the market, given our current product maturity level and market understanding and successful case studies.
SeafoodSource: What were your biggest achievements in 2019?
Trantin: There are a bunch of them and I’d definitely say 2019 was a big revolution for YORSO. We built a great team and strong advisory board from the U.S. and E.U. with deep market expertise and networking. These people spend quite a lot of time with us to see the team execution and be sure that their names will not lose reputation among their colleagues.
For now, I can publicly mention only Willem Appeldorn [ex-MD of Trident Seafood Europe and business development in Nissui]; Chris McReynolds [ex-president of FIS Japan and former executive in Aker BioMarine and American Seafoods] and Pree Kolari [a mentor from 500Startups program and former executive in Microsoft, Motorola, eBay], Ljiljana Rudez [experienced saleswoman who worked for Dat Shaub, Emborg, Panatrade, Frime, and Agrodalma].
We found big names from both U.S. and E.U. fish industry who believe in what we do and become ready for the pilots to be the first in the digital space to be able to gain more in the new growing market. We graduated as a top-seven team during 500Startups and Sberbank acceleration program. We won all start-up competition pitches during the year and the greatest of course is the nomination as TOP Ocean and Seafood innovator by Fish 2.0 initiative
For the first time, we are very close to launch our system in production with the big fresh fish market clients whereas before we worked only with frozen fish companies.
SeafoodSource: The China-Russia seafood trade is full of traders and online commerce. China is Russia’s neighbor so do you expect this market to grow? What is your competitive advantage or unique strength given that?
Trantin: Today, YORSO has almost completely stopped operations in [the] Russian market, since we didn’t find companies open to new digital innovations and transformations and the internal market structure in fact is not good for the project we are building. Nevertheless, we keep an eye and almost all the industry knows us. I think once any changes arrive in people's minds, our “survival” experience, product maturity, as well as E.U. and U.S. case studies will be our best selling-points.
SeafoodSource: There are reasons why many seafood sales are non-traceable – it’s an intentional way to hide seafood caught via illegal fishing. Is that something Yorso can help fix?
Trantin: I’d say [we can help] not only this, but also several United Nations SDGs [sustainable development goals]. If we succeed to build the full supply chain management platform and involve key SeaBOS members to work with us, the traceability will become inevitable.
SeafoodSource: When do you expect to be profitable?
Trantin: The fact is that we reached the break-even already in 2019 but decided that we need to go faster and beyond. We involved small investment rounds to be able to launch new pilots and we expect to be profitable from January 2021 if we just focus on where we are now. However, we are keeping in mind to engage a Series A funding to scale faster. In this case, the break-even point will be moved to 2022.
Photo courtesy of Anton Trantin