Podcast Part 1: Building Supply Chain Tech with Ami Daniel

In this episode, Ami Daniel, Co-Founder and CEO of Windward, joins Host Brian Glick, CEO of Chain.io, to discuss his journey from Naval Officer to Founder and the lessons learned building Windward. Tune in now!

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Brian Glick of Chain.io and Ami Daniel of Windward

Building Supply Chain Tech

In this episode, Ami Daniel, Co-Founder and CEO of Windward, joins Host Brian Glick, CEO of Chain.io, to discuss:

  • His journey from Naval Officer to Founder
  • Entrepreneurship, purpose, and resilience in turbulent times
  • Building company culture and learning from failures
  • Taking Windward public and lessons learned

Ami is the co-Founder and CEO of Windward, a maritime data and analytics company bringing visibility to the maritime domain.

Tune in:


Episode Transcript

Brian Glick  00:04

Welcome to supply chain connections. I'm Brian Glick, founder and CEO of Chain io. Today we are going to have a conversation with Ami Daniel, who is the founder and CEO of Windward. He is also a former naval officer. And we had so much fun chatting that we're going to split this one into two episodes. So this is part one. But we are going to hear all about what it's like to run a publicly traded company. We're going to talk about his journey and the culture of learning that he's trying to create within his company. Really, really, really cool stuff. So hope you enjoy the episode and come back for Episode Two.

Brian Glick  00:56

Welcome to the show.

Ami Daniel  00:57

Thank you, it's great to be here.

Brian Glick  00:59

Tell me a little bit about yourself and why you ended up with Winward. My

Ami Daniel  01:07

My name is Ami, I'm 39. I'm married to ID, we have two kids 10 and eight. I've learned by the way that very few people introduce themselves first with their children in mind, I actually think that your family is what defines you as a person that makes sense to you, not just your professional expertise. How'd I get here? Well, I wanted to be the best at something. I started getting sued in class, somebody thought I was gifted, they were obviously wrong. And I wanted to be the best at something and people were better at it than math or physics. So I ended up volunteering a lot. During the 10th grade, I think I volunteered for about 1200 hours. So when I was in high school, I ended up building this Jewish ultra orthodox community center in my hometown, and won multiple awards. Then I joined the Navy. And then I built another NGO, this is how I hit my wife, hey, do you want to build an NGO together? Sounds good. Anybody have a beer. And they served the Navy for a while and my ship got hit by miss out. And I just loved the ocean. And they felt this is something which was then looked pretty nifty to me doesn't look initially to me anymore. I can be the best at and could contribute to the world. So I think it's about focus and excellence plus purpose, if that makes sense. So

Brian Glick  02:19

I want to dig on something there. As a fellow founder, being a founder can have a hell of an impact on family life. Yep, good and bad. Yep. How does that work in your head?

Ami Daniel  02:32

I don't think being a founder is your choice. He thinks about your family's choice. So the way I look at life, I look at it as a partnership between you and your partner. And I think we try to take all decisions together. And we're going on the same path together. And on the same journey together. And being a founder is part of it, with its upsides and downsides. And hopefully they're both, I could say the same in everything we do, which is how to raise kids or a bunch of the things we've been doing here in Israel since the war started on October 7, you know, my wife and I built multiple national projects together, still are. So the long and short of it is I think it's about partnership and trust. And if you can hold these two things, then I think it makes sense. And if you can't Don't even try,

Brian Glick  03:15

That's very reasonable. So you guys have been pretty successful as a company. Sometimes it's hard for us as founders, we see all the problems and we see all the words of course you know, you're doing something right. We're here, right? Yeah, we're here. What's the journey been to that? What's it felt like?

Ami Daniel  03:31

First of all, it feels like a lifetime. No company is 12 years old, to be 13. When we started, I knew nothing about building a company like absolutely nothing. I had no clue about, you know, building a product or AI or engineering. You know, I was a Navy officer. My co-founder also was a Navy officer, you know, I studied law, then exactly your first choice. I guess my mother was happy, though, for a while. That's gonna count. You know, for Jewish mom. I didn't end up being a lawyer. She told me Listen, you need to do something safe, go be a lawyer. I want to be a lawyer or a doctor. That's it. That's your two choices, or the two options, the two options, either lawyer or a doctor. Otherwise, you're a failure. He's talking about six months later. Anyway, So when we built the company, I think on one hand way ahead of our time. On the other hand, I think it's a question of perspective. I think we're right in time, I think, how do you judge a decision with the perspective of time and patience? I think so we circled around looking for a need. I think our vision was to bring visibility to the oceans. I know in supply chain visibility means one thing but that's not what we meant. We didn't mean knowing where containers are. We meant knowing what's the impact of what's happening in the oceans of the world. And we try to reciprocate that or translate that into business applications, products, values to customers. And we landed in the beginning on governments and illegal fishing because we weren't Navy officers. That's what we knew. You know, it's much easier to do something you're really good at, like Navy stuff. I was young, and I didn't understand a lot of things. We failed to do a lot of things. So I'm sure you only succeed in everything you do and everything you touch, because that's used all the time. But me, I don't succeed all the time. So we failed in building an oil flow product, which I think companies like capturing vertex are doing a great job and well done to them. We had a great business plan, but we couldn't execute on it. Life's tough. Then we went into marine insurance, we still have about 15 marine insurance customers, but such a huge market. But that led us to sanctions compliance and working with tankers, and, you know, oil majors and which is great product now, which led us also building stuff for supply chain, which you think now we're consolidating into a vision and actually think that once we've IPO the company in the UK, we can talk about it, then I think we're building the vision for the next 10 years, which I'm super excited about. Because I think you'd have no right to exist if you don't have a vision as a founder. You're just another guy selling stuff. I don't know if that makes sense.

Brian Glick  05:56

It does. So I have a question about maybe for my benefit, but like, how do you give the people on your team who are not founders? Sure, the courage to fail like that? We signed up for it, right? But employee 10 Didn't? Yep.

Ami Daniel  06:13

So first of all, I gotta say, I was really bad at it once.

Brian Glick  06:20

Because the best lessons are from the people, you have to learn it.

Ami Daniel  06:22

I can tell you why they sucked at it, because like I came from the Navy, like seven years in the Navy and the Navy, the organizational culture is a captain, oh, captain, my captain, right? There's a captain that he calls the shots. He's the guy who knows the most, he's been the most at sea. You know, he's did all the roles, yada, yada, yada. He sees everything first. So that was the culture I came from, which in hindsight was stupid. And I think I took another stab at it. I think post IPO, I really kind of look at every single thing I do every single interaction, how I speak, how I write, how I interact, how I work, great customers, how I run the company, every single thing is, for me, it was kind of a gateway to the next level, which hopefully is, I think, pending? Well. And we've built a process, which I'd like to share with everybody, because I think it's a really good tip that I wish somebody told me. So we've built a process focused on learning. So the number one element in organizational psychology to answer your question is called psychological safety. Psychological safety is the ability for somebody to feel comfortable to fail, and say, Oh, my God, I failed, I suck. And we're doing it top down for management. First of all, I'm making everybody, right? What did I learn everywhere? And say, what did I learn? And I said, Oh, well, I made that mistake. So that's the first thing. The second thing is we build the process looking at every one of our business lines, which is a hands on process, I run personally, which I think everybody should adopt, I think it's great process that looks, everybody's who's involved in every business line looks at every couple of weeks for an hour and a half, 90 minutes, super intense, top of the funnel, sales, right, top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, bottom of the funnel, product development, product marketing, digital marketing, customer success, Business Development alliances, maybe I forgot something, it actually was from last week and momentum, that's a 10 action 10 items. And everybody pre-writes everything and talks only about what they learned, not about what succeeded, what failed, we assume everybody has read everything. And you get like two minutes for each guy to say, oh, you know, on top of the formula, I learned that I should target these and these people and these these emails, work and so forth. And same in product, everything else. And I think that is leading the culture intensively over the last year. Who is learning, learning, learning learning equals I can make mistakes, because if I make mistakes, I will get better and ahead, I get oh my God, what did you learn? Thank you for sharing. Does that make sense?

Brian Glick  08:46

It makes perfect sense. I mean, we're big subscribers here started with a DevOps team, but it kind of expands to using the blameless post mortem framework, which is where when things go wrong, you know, you basically say, how did the company fail? Sure. Right? Not how an individual fails for the same thing, so you can learn from it. So you create that space? So I'm gonna write that down in the book. Yeah, that's a really cool thing. You know, maybe we can find some links for the show notes. But it came out of the development environment of saying, Okay, if we talk about who failed, people are not willing to share. If we talk about how did the company fail the person, you know, the example I was uses, you have a big red button on the wall at the data center, and nobody's supposed to press the big red button, and somebody leans on the wall and hits the big red button and the whole data center shut down. This literally happened to be in my career. This is not a made up story.

Ami Daniel  09:40

Okay. And so were you guys leaning in

Brian Glick  09:43

to clean up a bit, there will be people listening who were in that room

Ami Daniel  09:48

in the Navy, they would have killed him. So it happened to me once, you know in an operation where one of the officers was learning to be like, you know, to for some training, and he ended up shutting all the electricity down? Right rather than a ship in the middle of the sea. So that was not the blameless post mortem framework. It was like, Let's kill him framework, I think it makes a big difference,

Brian Glick  10:09

right? So the lesson is if you get that person in the room, you get everybody in the room and you say, why did you screw up? You're gonna be a defensive person, if you say, what did we do that put you in the position, nice to fail. And in the case of that situation there were two things. One should have been a cover on the button up to that person's job did not require them to be in that room. And we didn't establish the right procedures to prevent that person who didn't know what they were doing from because it was like a facilities person, but not a data center person. So those were the learnings we took out of having a safe space to talk about it. Nice. One of the big risks to make an awkward segue here that you guys have taken is going up,

Ami Daniel  10:50

I lived a Segway I live to lift the Segway Well,

Brian Glick  10:53

there you go. It was going public, though. So kind of like talk me through the why there and how it changed the company. Yeah.

Ami Daniel  11:01

So first of all, I like to say to all the listeners, there are many ways to skin a cat. And I don't think there's one way to build a company. And I think oftentimes when you raise money from VCs, they tell you, there's only one way to build a company. I actually disagree with that. I think I'm living proof that there isn't one way to build a company. There's no one way, one type of investors, one type of product, one type of culture, there's many ways to get to the same point. And when we looked at it, one by one was a couple. Two and a half years ago, we saw like, we had a bunch of proposals from private equity. Everybody was discounting our future, they were like, Yeah, growing this, how do we know you succeed? By the way, we didn't get any crazy valuations. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I think, actually, I think it's a good thing. Because I know companies who raised 500 million and are selling less than 10 million and like 50 people, and I was like, what you're gonna do now you need to recapitalize on a cap table. But anyway, so we had a bunch of options for private equities, and VCs for term sheets, but a lot of them wanted, like 30% 40%, how do we get close to control? How do we tell you what to do? And I didn't share my vision or our vision and didn't get the business, then this dude just showed up and said, a bunch of cool public and I said, okay, in the US were too small and said, though, there are other options. So the more I looked at it, I think there are a few very, very good benefits. I think, number one, we raise cash on good terms. Number two, you retain control as a founding team. So you don't get private equity to own 50% or 40%. The business tell you, what do you have for lunch? What do you have for dinner? Like? Why is that so expensive? Can you turn around and fire somebody and have a less expensive dinner? Right? So that's number two. Number three, we thought and I still think it's better for the brand. So customers evidently feel much better to sign five to seven year contracts with us, which I've never seen in my life. They're not like, Oh, yes, 12 month contracts are like, Okay, how about 60 days, 60 months? Cool. So I think it's good for the brand for the customers, because they don't really know that they really care about all the rest, they just want to know you're there. You're sustainable. I think it also, there's financial benefits, which you get some liquidity for employees and investors, you get common shares, not preferred shares, I think there's that also benefit some employees, obviously, potentially. So I think these are the straightforward benefits. But I think, you know, you shouldn't just think about this, if you put something in the light, it becomes like, brighter, clearer should be saying about this. So you get to more scrutiny as a CEO of a public company. It's annoying in the beginning, but actually, if you have to defend over and over again, everything you do, and you look at parameters like margin, you know, I've never looked really at margin before we went public and sorry to say him to apologize for every bit of expense, every dollar you spend on everything, everything, tell me everything, right. So you need to be very thoughtful because you're in the limelight. And I think it makes you a better CEO. We also retain the very good board. We have a great chairman, Lord John Browne was CEO of BP. So he's my mentor. I'm really, really privileged to have him. Because you get a level of coaching understanding you don't get otherwise. I think it's just a matter of how you look at it. I look at going public as step number one, previously, where he said number zero and every step number one, there are 99 steps to go, which I think is the right way to think about it. I don't think about how oh my god I've done by giving me a jack under the age of EDI. I don't really want Jack, I think I think it would have made a difference. Does that make sense?

Brian Glick  14:18

It does.

Ami Daniel  14:18

But it's a risk. Yeah.

Brian Glick  14:20

Well, how does it affect your willingness to take risks? Right, knowing that, again, like we talked a little bit about failure, but like, you know, the potential for failure is much more transparent. Right. So

Ami Daniel  14:31

100% First of all, I think it took me a while to know how to run the public, like part of the public markets, right? I don't run the public markets, obviously. But how to do that, how to communicate how the forecasts work. I think it took me like a year to get through that. I think it adds limitations. You know, money costs about a million bucks a year to be public in the UK. I think you get more limitations on spend, I think and burn although I would argue that also private companies Got a lot of, you know, burn regarding burn right now?

Brian Glick  15:04

No, sir. I run one of them. Yes, yeah, no, we have adjusted our burn by 75% this year. Oh,

Ami Daniel  15:09

Wow, big deal. So yeah, those who are pushing hard for profitability. And I obviously expect a very, you know, good news, I think we're just going in the right direction. But theoretically, if I were private, I would have less a million dollars to spend, and nobody would have known if I would, you know, lose $2 million for as long as it makes sense. So I think it reduces your flexibility. It does allow you to make acquisitions more easily if you want to, but you know, there's a number at the end of the day, and everybody looks at the number and say, today, you're successful. There was a great Jeff Bezos quote, which I loved. So after we went public, the stock went up to like, 228 on public and I fell to 50 or 55. And it was this week, right? So Jeff Bezos said, don't feel you're 30% smarter if your stock goes up, 30%. Because when it goes down, 30% You wouldn't want to feel 30% more stupid, right? So I think if you play especially as a founder, CEO, if you play the long game, you know, you're gonna deliver, everything's gonna be fine. As long as you think about it, as I'm building a business, I'm not building an exit, I'm not building a liquidation event, I'm building a big business, that's going to make an impact on the world and be, you know, infinitely successful forever.

Brian Glick  16:21

If I was going to dry, a really obscenely large generalization here, then this gets to something we talked about in our prep, sure that there are founders who have a fantasy for them, or the mission is to found the company. And it doesn't matter what the company does, because the IPO is the goal, right? Or the JAG is a goal. And then there are founders who are, you know, whether the mission is altruistic or the mission is just a problem that they saw in the world where something they just think is a great idea. They want to see that thing happen. And I think there's a really big distinction in how you run your business. And as things get harder, and money gets more expensive. Those of us, you know, I'll stake this position, but like those of us who are doing this, because it's either we don't have a choice, or because we want to, versus like, we wouldn't care if we were just selling T shirts, if it made us the same return on investment. I think we're the ones that are lasting through these downtimes. And because it doesn't matter as much to us. It's not as okay, my valuations down this year, who gives a shit? I'm still building my vision, right? Yea

Ami Daniel  17:30

First of all, I want to say, especially in light of what's been happening in Israel for the last 52 days, I think I'm tremendously privileged to be having this conversation with you today. And I don't think I take it for granted. There are people who you know, lost their lives or lost their loved ones, and they will never come back. So I don't really think of myself as a guy who cares about money, I have to say, Saturday, nobody likes to live a poor life. But I don't do anything for money. I would never give up my values for money. No matter how much money you offer me, I will never, ever do anything to anyone you believe in, never, you can say I'm stupid, by the way. And that's okay. I walked away from multiple opportunities where I can make much more money. And I know people who are much richer than I am. And then they made different moral decisions. And I wrote that on LinkedIn a couple days ago, I think always live a life you'll be proud to tell your kids about. So I think, for me, it's absolutely about the purpose and the vision, I think, of accelerating global trade. I think it's a very unstable time in the world today, I think the world is becoming even more unstable, and will become more unstable. So I think stability, and trade. And reducing friction is something that makes a big difference. I think understanding supply chains for illegal fishing, and running efficient supply chains, allows people to actually get the stuff in time. Because I remember the fact that there wasn't any toilet paper, if you look at what's happening with Russia, and the price cap on oil, which we're obviously deeply involved in, because our customers do due diligence with our products. I hate that it makes a difference. So I think if you do something that makes a difference in the world, you're more resilient to what's happening with the valuation going up or down. Because you have a Northern Star. I know a very bobbing entrepreneur that calls me once a couple of days and says, You know what, don't be discouraged by selling this much money. And I always tell him this, and I don't think it's the right approach. Like maybe that's an outcome, but I can be the reason for going through the journey.

Brian Glick  19:27

So we try to keep these things down to bite sized bits for everybody's commute. We've been having so much fun on this episode, though, that we're going to keep it going with another one. So hope everybody joins us for Episode Two. As always make sure that you're checking out our blog, and I think there's some links that will get into the show notes based on the first half of this conversation. And you want to come back to the second half where we'll be talking a lot about generative AI and some realistic views on where that fits as well as the capital markets and just some really, really interesting stuff. I'm so excited for you to join us on Episode Two

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written on December 20, 2023
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