Interview by Molly O'Brien, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Advance 

In May 2015, Leanne Kemp founded her startup company Everledger, a global enterprise that uses the best of emerging technology including blockchain, smart contracts and machine vision to track the provenance of high-value assets, asserting supply chain transparency for the mitigation of risk and fraud for banks, insurers and open marketplaces. Everledger started off with tracking diamonds on the blockchain.

To date, Everledger has encrypted the provenance of 1.8 million diamonds on the blockchain. The company uses more than 40 metadata points to establish a diamond’s unique thumbprint, before being encrypted. Once encrypted, the information is immutable and hence protected on the blockchain, all the while chronicling its lifetime journey. 

Advance recently caught up with Leanne, who explained the idea behind Everledger, why there's such a big demand for a service such as this, and what advice she would impart to young entrepreneurs.

How long have you been in Europe?

I arrived in London in July of 2013, but didn’t establish Everledger until April 2015.

What is the idea behind Everledger?

I wanted to build a global, leading organisation that digitally tracks and protects diamonds throughout their lifetime journey. Everledger collects an asset’s defining characteristics, history and ownership to create a permanent record on the blockchain. This digital thumbprint can then be used by various stakeholders across a supply chain pipeline to form provenance and verify its authenticity. Everledger has built innovative solutions in markets where provenance matters and where transparency is key to ensuring ethical trade.

How did you get into the diamond industry, and was there quite a demand for a service like this?

The diamond industry is extremely large, and I’ve always believed that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. 15 million diamonds are mined every year with a retail net worth of $80 billion. There is a big problem with trading synthetic diamonds and diamond substitutions, and I knew we could make a difference to this issue.

What has surprised you the most during the almost three years you have been in operation?

The ability to function on extreme lack of sleep!

Is Everledger different to the other startups you’ve founded?

In some ways. Some of my other companies have been successful and then I’ve exited them; I’ve been able to sell holdings and executed that relatively well. Everledger is different in the way that it’s creating a global footprint from day one. It’s definitely the most challenging, working with emerging technology and building a brand-new internet stack.

How would you describe the startup culture in London?

Everledger isn’t just London-based, we have four operational centers around the globe; Singapore, London, New York, and about to open an Indian office in January 2018.

London is a strategic place for us to be based, it being the epicenter of the financial services, insurance and banking industries; it’s important we have close access to those. So, a London-based office was a very naturally occurring decision.

You seem to be quite a serial entrepreneur. What makes a successful startup?

Companies that are focused on revenue are usually always successful. It also helps if it’s the right time for that particular startup and that the culture remains purposed and focused.

What’s the first thing you do after getting a really, really good idea for a startup?

Build it! I am an engineer by trade, and I like to take my time to build and test products to ensure they’re successful and can generate revenue. I thought of the idea for Everledger in early 2015, but it took me about 6 months to convince myself to build it; it doesn’t always happen straight away.

What has been the most challenging aspect of starting Everledger?

The kaleidoscope of understanding the terminology of the industry that we’re in, as we’re very early in the space, and then educating the rest of the world about what we’re doing. We are the custodians of some new technology. And seriously – not getting enough sleep. Five hours per night is not enough!

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?

  • Spend the time to understand what problem you’re trying to solve
  • Invest in people,
  • Seek mentors that will add value to your business
  • Work extremely closely with customers.