Meet the Disruptors: Everledger

9 minute read

22 December 2020

By Peter Springett

Head of Content, Upstart

In our regular series “Meet the Disruptors”, Upstart speaks to innovators and disruptors across various industries who are driving the adoption of emerging technologies.  From machine learning to robotics and blockchain, these are the companies driving rapid change and new business models.

This week it’s the turn of Leanne Kemp, Founder and CEO of Everledger, an independent technology company using a symphony of secure technologies to deliver traceability, provenance, and authenticity in supply chains.

Here’s what Leanne has to share with us. 

Who are you?

I’m Leanne Kemp the Founder and CEO of Everledger, a company that started in 2015. I am the Chief Entrepreneur under the Minister for Innovation here in Australia, so I also hold a government role.  I work with 35,000 entrepreneurs and startups. 

Where are you?

Currently in my home city of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia.

Tell us a little bit more about your company

We currently have around 100 employees. We are five years old and have six different operational centres based in Australia, India, Israel, UK, USA, and mainland China. 

Our customers are in 38 countries and we do everything in a distributed way. We use blockchain technology to enable the traceability of precious objects. 

We started in the diamond industry with traceability of diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires from the source of the mine. We also deal with luxury brands. 

I’m looking forward to what the next generation of concern is in the supply chain and how our business can help address that. For example, when you think about plastics in our rivers and our oceans, people aren’t only asking “where does something come from” but they also want to know, “where does it go when it leaves me?” 

This really helps to enable the next generation of work with traceability. We’re doing that work within a circular economy. 

What problem are you solving?

We decided we wanted to solve the problem of opaque supply chains, so we built a platform of provenance to enable traceability throughout the world. 

“Today consumers have more consciousness around the decisions they want to make. Currently there’s very little data that helps them to support those decisions. ”

— Leanne Kemp, Founder and CEO of Everledger

For the most part, consumers have embedded their trust in brand names - brands that have been hanging on a door in a specific location for hundreds of years. Simultaneously, we have huge industries that create huge impact, and the potential to be good or bad - blood diamonds being a prime example. 

Maybe there’s something that we can do using technology to bring “truth” to the forefront of the decision-making process.

Who are you solving the problem for?

We don’t just work with large corporations and governments. We also work with artisanal producers, for example, very small mining companies in Tanzania or in places like Mozambique. 

We work with those communities to enable what we call “give-back schemes”. As we connect these artisanal producers with larger marketplaces, we’re noticing that a lot of these retailers are now starting to make “impact decisions”. In other words, how do they take what they’re doing and deliver a positive impact back into communities?

A give-back scheme we have running might help educate girls and women in mining and gemology. We use a portion of the profits to invest back into the community to deliver more equitable outcomes. 

The work we’re doing will provide a generational impact for years to come. 

Tell us more about the technologies that you are using

I call our technology “a symphony of technology”

We use a combination of blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning and machine vision to be able to identify a specific object as well as being able to understand the forensic view of an object. 

For example, when we look at a diamond, we’re very fortunate because a diamond happens to be unique by its very nature, just like a snowflake. It has what’s known as a “puff” which is a physical, un-clone-able set of features. We’re able to pinpoint about 40 meta-data points of a diamond and capture that information into the blockchain as its “digital twin”.

Once we then know where diamonds are sold and resold online (in marketplaces like Amazon and eBay) we can also work with insurance companies on fraudulent claims and banks on better financing of the industry.

When I started in 2014, not many people were talking about blockchain. They were talking about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

“We were one of the first companies to decouple the ledger from the currency so that we could say that technology wasn’t just being used to transfer a monetary value but also the value in objects”

— Leanne Kemp, Founder and CEO of Everledger

What are you doing that’s disruptive?

Disruption is a pretty negative word. I would say that the work Everledger does is pioneering and co-evolving. Understanding “impact” is essential.

“We’re bringing a 500-year-old industry into the forefront of technologies today. You might call that disruption? I call it the natural next step to help create a fair-trade system for the world.”

— Leanne Kemp, Founder and CEO of Everledger

How different do you think your industry will look in five years’ time?

I think you’ll be able to walk into any retail outlet and ask the question, “where does it come from?” 

You’ll be able to know the story of the diamond, its origin, as well as its impact on both the lives and trade it touched.

I also believe the sustainability impact of an object, especially clothing, is going to be embedded within the history of that item. You won’t just understand the physical composition of an item but also what was “consumed” in creating it.

Finally, I think that we’ll be making better and more informed decisions about what we do with items that are no longer needed. Consumers will be far more empowered to make decisions about where an object goes. There’ll be entirely new platforms created to facilitate a peer-to-peer exchange with no middleman involved. 

Technologies such as blockchain will enable the next generation of such platforms and what’s known as the “rise of the Web 3.0 brands”. Products will be able to speak their own truth, enabling consumers to decide where an object is going in its next life and not just this life. This will create a distributed - rather than centralised - environment. 

What is it about the Everledger system that couldn't be done in a database?

Blockchain technology is distributed by its very nature so it provides a way to ensure that the data is held securely and is also agreed upon in its consensus. There are many participants to the chain that will enable a consensus methodology to ensure the data that’s stored or uploaded is cross-checked and embedded under an agreeable truth called a “federated consensus”

Blockchain technology has come a long way in the last five years and started to enable paths of maturity. We now have the availability for each of those large participants on-chain to have their own sets of infrastructures to be able to connect to those networks.

“We’ll start to see the “network of networks” being created which is really the next generation of the internet. ”

— Leanne Kemp, Founder and CEO of Everledger

We’re moving from what we once knew as the worldwide web to the worldwide ledger. Everledger happens to be one of the first companies to be helping along that pathway. 

Has the hype and mania around cryptocurrencies and blockchain helped or hindered  in the past 3+ years?

I don’t directly correlate the work that I’m doing in the diamond industry, supply chain traceability, and circular economy with anything that’s in the cryptocurrency space. In fact, we’re not a cryptocurrency company. 

That question has very little relevance to the work that we’re doing. We decoupled the ledger from the currency, and we made very deliberate decisions about not being involved in any hype. There are other companies that started at the same time as us who entertained doing an ICO (initial coin offering). There are also companies now looking at Distributed Finance. But at Everledger we’ve made very deliberate decisions about what and how we’re going about our work and we’ve decided we’re not necessarily riding the hype curve.

Instead, we’re enabling something that’s critically important, and for us is the next generation of how trade should occur.  

Tech skills in blockchain are said to be in huge demand. How much blockchain knowledge is needed to integrate an existing enterprise system to take advantage of Everledger?

When we started in 2014, there was no such thing as blockchain engineers. The ones that were around were people like Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum. 

The components of blockchain already resided in existing skill sets of people that had practiced in the ICT sector for many decades. Cryptography is a prime example. Database engineering and enterprise deployment are two further examples. 

I would say that you don’t need to have blockchain engineering expertise to do implementations of blockchain. 

Have you had any experiences where Everledger was used as proof in court? Any attempts by governments to regulate for or against the use of Everledger/blockchain?

No, we’ve not seen any legal precedents set whatsoever. I’m not sure there have been any companies in the world that called upon investigation or some kind of documentation but that’s not surprising. It took a very long time for the courts to allow a digital signature to be recognised as a legal stamping. 

At some point in time that call-up will occur, but it hasn’t occurred just yet for us.

Data stored in Everledger is only as good as the people and systems generating the data. How does Everledger deal with audits? 

Firstly, we have the application of technologies such as machine vision that will compliment the opinion of a gemologist. We also have physical, separated, independent auditors that audit the supply chains. There’s a mix between the enablement of man and machine to give integrity to that data. 

We also ensure that the connection of those machines is by way of secure tunnelling,  so we have averted the risk of “man in the middle” attacks, of people hacking not just the technology but the bridge between how the two technologies talk together. 

You can find out more about Everledger HERE.

Interested in discovering what the future might look like for your industry? 
Then get in touch NOW and we’ll help prepare your teams for action.


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