Antwerp Is Hosting First Ever Diamond Hackathon: The What and Why Explained

19/04/2018 12:14

The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) will host the world’s first Hack4Diamonds event, from Friday, May 4 to Sunday, May 6, in collaboration with Junction - an organization that facilitates innovation hackathons - at the Antwerp Expo, the home of CARAT+ 2018. What is it? It aims to generate innovative ideas and tackle contemporary challenges in the diamond industry by bringing together young innovators, students and start-ups with expertise in computer science, marketing, business management expertise, blockchain, artificial intelligence and more in an immersive three-day event. Why is Antwerp hosting one? Because on a global scale, with the transformation to a new economy that rewards innovation, creativity, customization and flexibility, Antwerp wants to fulfil its role as an industry leader by actively promoting innovation in the diamond industry in all its facets. Setting up initiatives that can boost innovation in the industry is crucial to confirming Antwerp’s cutting edge as world diamond capital. This, at least, is the 'official' explanation of the event.

But as AWDC's Head of Public Relations and Communications Karen Rentmeesters explains to JCK's Rob Bates, Hack4Diamonds will be a little different from a typical hackathon (a “gathering of nerds” who spend three days locked in a room working on computer code, fueled by fast food and energy drinks) in that the food will be healthy, there will be comfortable places to relax, and instead of devising apps, the attendees will put their brains together to solve the problems of the diamond industry. Further, “It is not focused exclusively on technology. We also encourage our innovators to consider how to market technological solutions, and in this respect invites people who focus on marketing,” says Rentmeesters. “Another term one might use is ‘Innovation Track.’ You bring people together who are part of an industry.” In this instance, however, the event is by no means limited to diamond experts, as coaches - a select group of 30 diamond professionals and industry innovators - will be on hand to get participants up to speed on the issues prevalent in the industry. Together they will form startup-style teams around selected ideas and work towards a working business model, which they will present to a jury.

Rentmeesters believes the greater the variety of participants, the more fruitful and creative the discussions will be: the hope is that the cross-pollination between the industry and the tech sector will spark something that will work to the benefit of both. Practically, participants may either join a team or simply participate in the discussions about three broadly defined challenges, where they will be guided by leading questions: 

  • How to change a challenge into an opportunity? This will address, for instance, how the natural diamond industry can further establish and differentiate itself from competing products, such as laboratory-grown diamonds, and reach new customers; what it can learn from other industries, and how to apply outside insights to the diamond industry in its B2B and B2C strategies? 
  • There’s a new kid on the blockchain: Imagine we have a blockchain system that can not only trace the provenance of a stone, but can also trace diamond transactions. If used by a critical mass of companies, spanning the whole value chain of the diamond industry, it would create a vast source of new data on invoices, stones and transactions. What kind of third parties, from inside or outside the diamond industry, would be interested in obtaining access to this data? What kind of applications could be built to create value, based on this data?
  • Trade of tomorrow: as traditional roles and processes in among the various elements in the diamond pipeline (miner, trader, manufacturer, retailer) have eroded and a new business paradigm has emerged in terms of innovation, customer engagement and transparency in response to the demands of a new generation, how can the diamond industry and its stakeholders reinvent themselves to assure future success?

“The idea is to come out of the hackathon with a little more than a basic idea,” Rentmeesters told JCK. “You should have a concept, perhaps even the beginnings of a business plan which you can then kick-start in the weeks and months that follow. The goal is to come up with something tangible.” There is also a competitive aspect, as AWDC will give out prizes for the best industry “hack.” Among the awards are 3,000 euros (approximately $3,700) cash. “The broader goal is to start a movement,” Rentmeesters says. “We want to start a regular innovation track in this industry.” The project(s) judged most promising and feasible can then be “incubated” for a certain period where they receive extra resources (dedicated work time from relevant experts from related AWDC departments), with the intention of developing them into tangible projects or real solutions.

Click here for more information about Antwerp's Hack4Diamonds weekend.