Hackers Prepare Antwerp Diamond Industry for Future

07/05/2018 17:03

The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC), together with Junction Innovation this past weekend organized a three-day and two-night hackathon, the first of its kind called Hack4Diamonds. The teams gathered on Friday evening to get hacking, and applied their innovative & tech-oriented methodolgy to the diamond trade with the intention to consider specific issues and eventually arrive at a wokable plan to address it. More than sixty hackers from Europe and the US, along with nearly 30 coaches representing different segments of the diamond trade, analysts, business and IT experts, emerged with eight promising projects they pitched to a jury. At stake: the opportunity, working space and coaching to follow up on their project. The overall winners were a team from Belgium called DiamondStreet 10, which came up with a blockchain tool designed to enhance jewelry retailer transparency with easily definable price expectations for consumers.

Jens Mortier, one of DiamondStreet 10's hackers (trase.be), explained that they initially wanted to address the issue of pricing in the industry by coming up with a way to decentralize price calculations, but they changed their idea during the course of the weekend as they underwent the process of discovery regarding industry mechanics. They came up with a tool to serve retailers as well as consumers by enabling retailers to collect and share their trade data with consumers, giving them the opportunity to estimate for themselves how much diamonds in a shop should cost so they could have greater confidence when approaching a jewelry store. In return, retailers would be able to gather data about consumer preferences, enabling them to better align their inventory. Midstream traders and manufacturers would be able to use relevant data (insight) on what consumers are buying to improve their efficiency in terms of what they are buying, selling and manufacturing. Making use of analytics, the system would encourage stakeholders to share information by giving a transparency score based on the information they share.

Ari Epstein, CEO of AWDC, was very pleased with the results from this maiden Hack4Diamonds. "By implementing new technologies, such as Blockchain, Antwerp intends to secure for the future its leading position in the global diamond trade. We might be the most important diamond trade center in world right now, but the task at hand is to make sure we stay there, and this means proactively searching for solutions to the challenges our trade faces. Thanks to Hack4Diamonds, we have some new ideas to start working on." CEO of Everledger Leanne Kemp, who got her leading blockchain company off the ground by winning just such a hackathon, was one of the coaches. She told us, "There's a lot great talent here, guys that can really code. They just need to get to know the industry, and the industry needs to be open to the fact that some ideas will fail. Most great start-ups have a long list of failures on their resume. It often takes time to hit that sweet spot and really solve a problem." Tali Goldstoff, who runs an independent “Third party” rough and polished diamond valuating company in Antwerp, was impressed with the talent, saying, "There was really a great diversity of good ideas and high-quality teams. Just a great initiative." Meanwhile, independent analyst Edahn Golan said he spent the weekend throwing curveballs at the teams, trying to broaden their approaches and get them to take into account factors they had not considered. "The diamond trade is a complicated game."

Taking home the prize for the Blockchain Challenge was Team Kontich (theledger.be, together with 0smosis and Craftworkz), which came up with a Blockchain solution for tracing a diamond from mine to finger, but also for following financial transactions. Once an invoice is approved by independent authorities, it is freed for financing, after which investors can bid to provide the finance for a competitive fee so the invoice can be paid more quickly. It also follows how and when a stone is transported and polished, with this information stored on an accessible Blockchain so the end consumer has an overview at all times, ensuring the transparency and certainty of the process. Second place overall went to Gem Hive, which proposed an innovative co-working space that brings together different communities - diamond traders, jewelers and designers, start-ups, local organizations and universities - in a single arena to facilitate cross-pollination.