Tell us about your career and what led you to found Everledger
Leanne Kemp: I began working in the software industry in 1996 where I found myself working in RFID technology at the silicon chip and inlay level, this technology now underpins smart card technology. If you walk in a store and tap your card and go, that technology is embedded and works seamlessly.
Before Everledger I was working on a number of industries, whether it be cold supply chains like tracking salmon from Tasmania to Tokyo, tagging kangaroos, or even ear tags on cows, which I ran for a better part of 10 years in Australia.
In the mid-90s, I was introduced to technology in whitepapers that weren’t dissimilar to Blockchain technology, when it was later initiated by Satoshi Nakamoto.
When I first read Satoshi Nakamoto’s whitepaper in 2008/2009, it was very clear to me that we could use this technology not only as a cryptocurrency but how we can decouple currency from ledgers.
Being able to answer the question of the provenance surrounding valuable and conflicted items motivated me to pursue the idea of tracing items with the help of blockchain in combination with other innovative technologies.
Everledger was then founded in 2015 in London dedicated to doing just that, bringing transparency to supply chains.
How does your does Everledger innovate?
Leanne Kemp: We set out on a mission to answer that simple question for people all over the world so that when someone walks into a store and asks, “where does that diamond come from?”, we can answer it.
Now this is becoming reality, you can walk down Fifth Avenue in New York and into a jewellery store, ask the question “where does that diamond come from?”, and the store can proudly show the origin of that diamond.
Our technology can be repurposed to track and bring transparency to many supply chains across various industries.
After the initial success in the diamond industry, we moved into coloured gemstones which include emeralds, rubies, and sapphires, and then into wine and other luxury goods.
As the number of batteries in use is steadily rising, I imagine that the questions about the supply chain of lithium-ion batteries will become even more important. Think about the increase in electric vehicles or solar panels on houses around the world and even our mobile phones and computers. They contain rare earths and materials that are sourced from places all around the world, for example, in the DR of Congo. However, most people have no clue about the origin of the materials.
What challenges have you faced and what lessons have you learned?
Leanne Kemp: Some of our greatest challenges are our greatest strength.
One challenge is time zones and our ability to be able to work effectively across the world without exhaustion from the team. We’ve been able to operate across a 24/7 paradigm. There are also challenges in terms of our diversity, both culturally and even across the team with lots of different languages, but again, it’s one of our biggest strengths.
I don’t see these as impossible challenges, and we’ve tried to perfect the art of those operations. We see ourselves co-evolving an industry that has been 5 years in the making and we know that we have to be nimble and agile like a little speed boat that can manoeuvre through those tectonic plates that ships have struggled to get through for years. We’re starting to see the fracturing of industries and we’re starting to get to the front of it.
If we had this conversation six months ago, it wouldn’t be against the backdrop of COVID-19, which is a very different set of challenges to lead in, particularly as we are concerned not just for the challenges that we’re already facing with global supply chains but now we have to do that on the backdrop of digital enablement, concern for our people and our health, both mental and physical.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect Everledger’s business operations?
Leanne Kemp: In any crisis, our team is looking towards authentic and transparent leadership. We have shown empathy and understand that people react to situations like this in different ways. We have supported our teams, focusing on the things within our control.
First and foremost, keeping our teams safe and healthy is of paramount importance. As is safeguarding the health of anyone who may interact with our organisation. We have policies tailored to the needs of our regional operations, based on their size, geographic location, government advice and other factors.
As ever, our remote-first approach is extremely helpful to ensure business continuity in the most extreme situations, with minimal impact to operations. All Everledger offices are closed globally and all staff are now working from home. We are now a 100% remote workforce and take comfort in knowing that all staff members are where they need to be and are safe. Everledger continues to pursue our mission with as much ambition and normality as possible.
What do you focus on moving forward?
Leanne Kemp: Several large trends are developing around the globe and one is the rebalancing of our consumption.
Natural mining, for example, is finite. In Australia, there are no more diamonds to be mined and we will see the closure of many mines around the globe soon. That question about how long we can sustain production and consumerism at this rate is on the mind of many.
We’ve been working on a construct around Circular Economy that looks at the reuse, recycle, and repurpose of items in supply chains around the world.
The question for us now is “How do we transform from natural mining to urban mining”?
For example, a mobile phone is made from several rare metals & minerals including a lithium-ion battery. We want to focus on the reuse, recycle and repurpose of those rare materials to foster a more sustainable life cycle of products. That’s the Circular Economy initiative.
We’re not just asking the question “where does it come from” but also “where does it go after me?”. It’s not good enough that we’re leaving these items in the bin or the bottom of the socks drawer, these are precious resources that the earth can no longer give to us for the next two, three or ten decades. We have to do something about our landfills as we have extraordinary value that just lies in our waste. How do we transform that waste to value, how do we transform from supply chains to value chains, and how do we switch from natural mining to urban mining?
There was no such thing as a platform for provenance in the world when we began. There are big enterprise companies like SAP and Unilever and huge marketplaces like eBay, Amazon, and Alibaba. But none of them have anything to do with product provenance providing no transparency.
Where does Everledger sit? We sit as the trust layer of supply chains beneath these marketplaces to know not only where items come but also answering the question where does it go after it leaves me.
Our purpose is to contribute to greater transparency, trust, sustainability as well as amazing customer experiences in marketplaces where provenance matters most. We have started with jewellery, apparel, wine and e-waste, and we see opportunities to solidify our presence in these industries while adding more.
What is Everledger’s competitive advantage/strategy?
Leanne Kemp: The Everledger platform is the first to create secure and permanent digital records of an item’s origin, characteristics and ownership across its lifetime, benefiting those industries and companies that face strict requirements to evidence the provenance and traceability of their products.
Blockchain technology allows data to be recorded securely and unalterably as an asset (such as a diamond, an artwork, a bottle of fine wine) moves along the supply chain. By converging this record with other technologies such as AI and IoT, we can create a unique digital identity for the asset and make it available to all stakeholders in the value chain.
Our solutions are built on not only advanced technology but also a deep knowledge of industries. We work together with partners to increase their value – more responsibly, more sustainably and more efficiently.
The resulting lift in transparency, confidence and trust lays the foundation for whole industries to advance. Everledger is working with clients across the globe and we are led by a team of experienced individuals with deep technology and industry expertise.
The Everledger platform enables buyers and sellers of high-value assets to trade with confidence. Our enterprise-grade blockchain platform provides a secure record of an asset’s origin and journey by surfacing the asset’s lifetime story. The Everledger platform is both secure and scalable. It helps our partners bring integrity to their processes and information.
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