Startup Of The Week

Startup Of The Week: Tilkal

French scaleup Tilkal uses blockchain and machine learning to help customers gain control over their supply chains, with the aim of making them more resilient, sustainable, and ethical. Customers include chocolate company Valrhona, global food company Danone and luxury brand Longchamp.

“Most companies know their tier 1 suppliers, it is rare to have a full list of tier 2 suppliers and at level 3 many have no idea,” says Tilkal CEO Matthieu Hug. “Knowing the origin of raw materials builds in resilience because you can’t control what you can’t measure.”

Tilkal works across sectors to help clients collect and aggregate operational, environmental, and social data; prove origin and impact from raw materials to end products; analyze and score risks; demonstrate compliance from origin to shipment and build digital product passports for external or internal use.

“The way we have built the platform companies can map the supply chain and collect data about suppliers and analyze the data to make sure it makes sense, but we also inject a risk analysis algorithm to evaluate data about social conditions and the environment to detect any inconsistencies,” Hug says.

“We don’t certify compliance, but we give our customers the tools and data to allow them to be sure to be compliant,” he says. “With the regulations that are being put in place around the globe companies are being held responsible for what happens on their supply chain and can’t just say ‘I didn’t know’.”

While many of its competitors are sector specific Tilkal supports entire value chains by enabling the traceability of any product or component, says Hug.” To trace a bottle of orange juice end-to-end, it is necessary to have the capability to trace oranges and plastic,” he says. “If you are not able to trace the plastic in the bottle then you can’t do the job.”

Tilkal has experience tracing honey, milk, cocoa, plant-based components, seafood, meat, textiles, clothing, jewelry, shoes, leather, conflict minerals, mica, plastic, manganese, chemicals, cosmetics, industry, aerospace and more.

Depending on the position in the value chain, the goal and meaning of traceability changes, Hug says. “We encompass all of them, from raw materials to consumer, from operations to impact, regardless of the type of aggregation, composition, or accounting.”

Tilkal works with chocolate maker Valrhona to trace the origins of the cocoa it uses from the field to the factory. If the cocoa meets quality requirements the company pays a premium to the cooperatives, which is then passed on to the farmers. Tilkal’s technology speeds up the flow of information, reducing the delay of payment from six months to two months. “This premium represents 25% of the annual revenue of the farmers, so this is life changing,” says Hug. The upside serves as an incentive for the different suppliers to share their data,” he says. “Often the attitude is why share data with big customers? When you accelerate the delivery of revenue by four months and sharing the value you are giving them a reason.”

Tilkal is working with Danone on downstream traceability in the Chinese market, tracking infant formula from the factory to the point of sale, as a way of assuring customers that the product is not contaminated and is a real Danone product,” Hug says.

In the case of Longchamp, Tilkal is tracing  goods from their origin to point of sale.

Competitors include Crystalchain, a French company offering blockchain-based traceability management software for supply chains.

Tilkal is one of 48 deep tech scale ups with the potential to build world-class businesses and solve major global challenges that were selected to join The EIC Scaling Club, a curated community that includes investors, corporate innovators and other industry stakeholders. (The Innovator’s Editor-in-Chief is on advisory board of The EIC Scaling Club, an arm of The European Innovation Council). The chosen companies fit into four market categories: Digital Security & Trust, Next-Gen Computing Smart Mobility and Renewable Energies. They will meet at an ‘Ignition Forum’ event to be held on 9-10 April in Brussels and Leuven, Belgium.

In May 2023 Tilkal joined the EIT Food Rising Food Stars program of the European Commission. In 2022, Tilkal was among a select group of European high-potential SMEs to receive funding from the European Commission’s most competitive European Innovation Council Accelerator. It is a participant in the collaborative European project Sea2See (CL6 2021 FARM2FORK) and in 2019 it received the Concours d’Innovation Numérique (CIN) award from the French Public Bank.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.