Have you ever thought about how blockchain could affect the diamond industry? Probably not, right? But now blockchain technology could improve how we track diamonds, from the mine to the jewelry store.

But there’s an issue with diamonds. As with any popular industry, the diamond market isn’t exactly squeaky clean. Some diamonds, known as conflict diamonds, are illegally traded to fund wars abroad. You may not know this due to the high demand for diamonds. Almost 50 percent of the demand for diamonds come from the US — and it isn’t a surprise. After all, it is the go-to jewel of engagements and weddings. And because of its hardiness, diamond is ideal for industrial use.

That said, mining for diamonds can be a violent affair. The 2006 hit Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, introduced the travesties related to diamond mining in Africa to the world’s stage.

Regardless, stakeholders in the diamonds industry rightfully want to stop the trade of conflict diamonds, and blockchain might be the solution.

What Is a Conflict Diamond?

For those who don’t know, a conflict diamond is an uncut diamond that is mined in an armed conflict zone. The diamond is then traded, and the funds are used to finance the fighting. These blood diamonds are usually associated with conflicts in central and western Africa.

According to CNN, about 4 percent of the world’s diamond population came from Sierra Leone during its civil war (1991-2002). And that’s from just one country! In an article by CBS, experts suggested that blood diamonds could make up 15 percent of the diamond trade.

Despite these statistics, there are measures in place that attempt to smother the illegal industry. The primary actor is the Kimberley Process. This certification scheme connects local governments and international organizations to solve the problem. Their solution: Ensure every shipment of diamonds from these areas has certification.

Does It Work?

The Kimberly Process says it does and claims a 99.8 percent success rate.

But with so many intermediaries, and so many steps between mining and selling the diamonds, fraud is still highly probable. Many believe the process could be more effective, including the diamond giant De Beers.

The Diamond Blockchain

The De Beers Group, which owns over 30 percent of the diamond market, has recently announced its intent to pursue blockchain tech. That’s right. One of the industry leaders wants to utilize the blockchain to curb conflict diamonds.

From what we knew about blockchain, it should work. Cataloging diamonds on the blockchain will create transparency. Only a select few will have access to the ledger, in order to ensure that each individual in the process does their job correctly. You no longer need to trust governments, the mines, the shipment team. If the diamond is certified on the blockchain, it’s legit.

De Beers plans to track the diamonds from initial mining to final sale. That way, you can trace every move of the diamonds on the digital ledger.

Their blockchain venture, Tracr, launched in January 2018. Despite being founded by De Beers, the company stresses that it has no access to the data unless it’s shared by the data owner. Using the Kimberly Process as a guide, they’ve invested with diamond offices, producers, graders, retailers, and other stakeholders to make the project a reality.

 

But they aren’t the only ones using blockchain to kill conflict diamonds.

In 2015, Everledger was used to securely track diamonds. It came back in 2017 with a new Diamond Time-Lapse plan (DDLP). This new initiative tracks the whole process, from mining to certification, in real time.

But Everledger isn’t completely unrelated to De Beers, either. This tech was built by Dharmanandan Diamonds, a trust of the DDPL and a sight holder of De Beers. In other words, the creators of Everledger are authorized purchasers of rough diamonds by De Beers.

Is De Beers the Solution?

IBM joined the diamond-tracking trade in April of 2018, partnering with various jewelry firms, and they weren’t alone. In fact, a Canadian NGO, Impact, left the Kimberly Process altogether, citing that the De Beers solution was unsatisfactory.

If this is true, there could be more room for blockchain tech development in the diamond industry.

Summary

Saying conflict diamonds are an issue is an understatement. The funds from these illicitly traded gems are funding violence and terror. Blockchain offers a stunning solution.

So far, we’ve seen industry leaders accept the new tech with open arms, but there’s still room for the technology to grow, and the process can still evolve.

But one thing is certain: These initiatives are making us think about how we can prevent the trade of blood diamonds and pave the way to peace.


This article by Kelsey Ray was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Kelsey Ray Banerjee is a professional content writer and digital marketer specializing in blockchain, forex trading, and sustainability. When not writing, you can find her traveling, reading, or on Twitter.

NEO Global Capital Interview

If you’re reading this, chances are you have experience or are interested in trading or investing in cryptocurrency assets such as NEO Global Capital

Chances are pretty high that a majority of our readers have invested a number anywhere between $100 to $10,000 in a mixture of assets such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, and NEO. There’s also slim minority that has taken a walk on the wild side and invested in ICOs – some getting lucky, the bulk getting burnt.

Your decisions were likely fueled by news and impulse, and since your risk was relatively low, it didn’t take much convincing to place your orders

But what happens when that $100 to $10,000 figure is multiplied by 100x to 1,000x, in some cases 10,000x. And it’s your full-time job. And it’s not your money. The landscape changes a bit.

Cryptocurrency funds have a unique task ahead of them that involves navigating through a noisy and clamorous environment to get access to high-quality deal flows and investment targets. The stakes are much higher and reputation starts to matter.

CoinCentral connected with the team behind one of the world’s leading blockchain investment firms, NEO Global Capital, at their inaugural Boston meetup. The event featured heavy hitting figures from organizations such as Arrington XRP Capital, Pantera Capital, Block72, and, of course, NEO Global Capital.

The NEO Global Capital Fund I has a high-octane diverse portfolio of blockchain projects such as OntologyBluzelleZilliqa, Trinity, Mainframe, and Top.

The following interview provides some serious insights into the mechanics behind running an international blockchain fund, especially in the bear market that is 2018, from NGC Founding Partner Roger Lim.

Enjoy!


Can you tell us a bit more about what gives you a sense of a good investment opportunity? What specific traits are you looking for in the team, in the idea, in the technology?

NGC’s founding team has been involved in the blockchain industry since its early days, so we are fortunate to have worked alongside some of the early adopters of the technology. With time comes a better understanding of what industries are most in need of a digital overhaul, as well as where decentralized technologies will have the greatest impact, so our experience has certainly played to our advantage.

As such, we’ve developed a strong sense of which sectors will benefit most from blockchain; what stands out in terms of a projects founding team; and whether an idea is innovative and disruptive versus one that is similar to something that already exists and can really only offer incremental improvement.

That being said, NEO Global Capital has a well-rounded portfolio of investments, and we hope to continue supporting a variety of industries, including identity solutions; gaming; online content streaming; the financial services industry (i.e. banking, financing, payments, and exchanges); and so on.

We will also continue to invest in public chains, as well as privacy and security projects because we see them as strong examples of addressing a specific problem. Overall, it’s important to look at how competitive the market is for whatever that project is trying to solve.

Perhaps most importantly, we place a heavy emphasis on the strength of the team at the heart of a project: Does this project have strong leadership? What is their experience? Do they have high success rates from previous projects? A strong team is often the best indicator of whether or a not a project will succeed.

Could you tell us a bit about the fund’s relationship with NEO?

Our affiliation with NEO is a strategic one that allows NGC to fulfill its position as a leading investment firm. While NEO Global Capital is a fully independent entity, we are long-term believers in NEO and have created a dedicated fund aimed at fostering the growth of the NEO Smart Economy ecosystem. Through strategic capital deployment, project incubation, and utilizing all of our available resources, we believe that we can help accelerate the growth of the overall crypto market.

The NGC Fund I seems to be a newer fund compared to the NEO Eco Fund. Can you explain what are the differences between the two funds, in terms of objectives and potential investment targets?

The NGC Fund I is our for-profit fund, where we invest in the most promising and innovative projects related to blockchain. Our wider interest is in advancing the industry, so we invest in projects that have strong use cases and can help drive the mainstream adoption of blockchain.

Our second fund is the NEO Eco Fund and our goal here is to promote the growth of the NEO Smart Economy ecosystem. In alignment with our belief in NEO, we occasionally invest in projects that would specifically benefit from NEO’s infrastructure.

Overall, the goal of both funds is to help startups create lasting competitive advantages in an industry that’s become very crowded, very quickly.

NEO Global Capital

What kinds of short-term targets and goals do you typically agree with a startup firm once you have decided to invest? How do you go about agreeing on these targets?

Goals, objectives, and targets differ depending on the type of projects we are supporting. If it’s a public chain, for example, we would work with the project to identify gaps in the technical team, the roadmap, and milestones in advance of the mainnet launch. We are generous with our time for each of our investees; we want them to succeed, and if they wish to tap on the experience of any of our partners or reach out to our network, they have the full backing and support of the firm.

It tends to be typical that venture funds require a founding team to have a longer-term target that the company should be sold within a set period of time. Is it any different with NGC? What kind of timeframe do you work to for long term goals, and how do you define long term goals?

In general, token investments achieve liquidity a lot faster on exchanges than equity investments (months rather than years). Nevertheless, at NEO Global Capital we want all our investees to succeed whether we make a token or equity investment. We still hold tokens of many of our investments and we continue to work with them and expect them to continue their growth, development and to achieve the key business objectives over the coming years.

Are there any advantages to operating a cryptocurrency fund in a bear market?

In a way, bitcoin’s dramatic rise last year has solidified the blockchain industry: there is now an interest in blockchain and cryptocurrency that did not exist previously. As we move away from the crypto mania that ensued, the benefit of operating our crypto fund in a bear market is that most projects now come with good intentions.

This is not to say we have completely eliminated bad actors, but there were certainly more projects and players that emerged in the market at its peak when there was a greater opportunity for quick wins. Likewise, the current market allows investors to spend time researching, understanding a new technology or problem a project may solve — in a bull market, investors may act from a fear of missing out.

In addition to good valuations, the current market has produced stronger projects with experienced leadership teams, compelling use cases, and cutting-edge tech. We believe that the competitiveness of the market has not decreased in any way.

What separates a high-quality investment fund from a low-quality one?

A high-quality investment fund is one that makes educated and thoughtful investment decisions. One thing we are very proud of at NEO Global Capital is that our founding team comes from a varied background of crypto investment, traditional financial markets, emerging technologies, and mergers and acquisitions.

We would say that the best investment funds are those that are able to marry their crypto-specific knowledge with experience from more traditional verticals, thereby taking a more well-rounded and considered approach to investment.

A major component for any investor in the ICO space is access to deal flow. What gives NEO Global Capital an advantage here? Do you have any advice for smaller retail investors?

A strong reputation for helping projects post-investment is important and also entices more founders and entrepreneurs to want to work with us. We not only work closely with, but we welcome other funds to work with us to share deals, insights, and expertise. We strongly believe in collaboration and that a variety among blockchain investors (geographical expertise, background, and networks) brings diverse experience and immense benefits to a project.

As for retail investors, As Warren Buffet once said, “never invest in something you don’t understand” so definitely do your research, understand what you are investing in; and diversification is important. Cryptos are highly volatile and therefore risky, weigh up the risks before diving in.

Looking out on the wider market which is becoming very crowded. From the ICOs that have been completed so far in 2018, which ones stand out to you as being unique or otherwise interesting opportunities?

We think all the projects we have invested in have innovative teams and unique solutions to today’s problems within the industry. Ontology, for example, provides a solution to digital identity; Certik solves security problems in blockchain with formal verification; Hadron helps enterprises like NASA outsource their computation tasks with a large user and device population so that these tasks are done efficiently and timely. All hugely ambitious projects making immense progress and we look forward to supporting them in the future.

How does the NEO Global Capital team reach an agreement over which projects to invest in, or not?

While there are no hard and fast rules, a strong product, an effective business plan, and an ambitious, goal-orientated founding team would certainly be the cornerstone of what we consider a promising venture. Each of NEO Global Capital’s partners understands that investors are interested in seeing and investing in projects that are both unique and impactful, so we are often in agreement when it comes to whether to invest or not.

In your view, what is the outlook for the overall price of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies over the next 12 months? What are the crunch points that may end up turning the markets in one direction or another?

If I had to hazard a guess – I would say bitcoin could see new highs over the next 12-18 months. As regulations, standards, and infrastructure become more mature, I expect the market to react positively.

What would be your single best piece advice for any founders of an ICO or blockchain startup?

As the blockchain space becomes increasingly noisy, a recommendation we always make to founders and entrepreneurs is to consider whether or not they really need blockchain. Focus on the problem you are trying to solve and decide if blockchain is truly the solution.

What is the outlook for NEO Global Capital as we move to the end of 2018 and beyond?

Our primary interest lies in advancing the industry of blockchain towards mainstream adoption, so as we move towards the end of 2018, we will continue to strive towards that goal by investing in the most innovative projects; sponsoring higher education initiatives; and facilitating conversation between industry leaders and business professionals that will address what the industry needs, where exactly the market stands, and what steps can be taken in the New Year to advance the industry as a whole.

In line with this, we’ve recently invested in several key blockchain-focused initiatives in higher education: most recently at Berkeley and the National University of Singapore. We also held our inaugural meetup in Boston to discuss project funding and development, best investment practices, and emerging industry trends. We plan to do more of this as we wrap up the year, and hopefully into 2019.


This article by Alex Moskov was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Alex Moskov is the Editor-in-Chief of CoinCentral. Alex also advises blockchain startups, enterprise organizations, and ICOs on content strategy, marketing, and business development. He also regrets not buying more Bitcoin back in 2012, just like you.

When we think about industries set for disruption by blockchain, construction probably isn’t top of the list. After all, the traditional image of a building site seems far removed from crypto, coding, and hackathons. But there are potentially enormous benefits for putting blockchain and construction together.

This article will round up some of the possible use cases for blockchain in the construction industry.

Blockchain and Construction Supply Chains

A bad workman blames his tools, right? Maybe that’s a bit harsh, though. After all, the construction industry is dependent on the availability of quality supplies and tools, at the right time and in the right place. Given that the sector is highly fragmented with many different players, big and small, supply chains are a big deal.

Tools for Building

Purchase orders, delivery notes, and invoices are often still paper-based. Firms frequently don’t know if the supplies they need are in stock when they start a project, which leads to delays and incurs costs.

These aren’t even the worst consequences. UK government contract Carillion collapsed at the start of 2018, affecting the jobs of around 43,000 people as a result. Sources pointed to its poor supply chain management as being a critical factor in the collapse, through lousy credit management and a lack of visibility over projects and required supplies.

The blockchain is already proving its ability to transform supply chains, in one instance through the partnership between Walmart and IBM. Using blockchain to manage construction supply chains could create a single source of truth regarding the availability and provenance of construction supplies, as well as tracking payments.

The industry is taking notice of this use case for blockchain and construction. Recent announcements have now confirmed that Probuild, one of Australia’s largest building firms, has partnered with US blockchain construction innovator Brickschain for managing its global supply chain. The announcement confirms that “Probuild has the vision that Blockchain, IoT and Big Data can revolutionize the construction supply chain.”

The Brickchain Homepage

Blockchain and Construction Project Management

Construction projects rely on various parties to work together to complete a building based on pre-defined specifications. Each party expects payment based on work done. Therefore, the peer-to-peer connectivity of blockchain, combined with smart contract functionality, brings excellent opportunities to streamline construction project management.

One study into the potential of blockchain in construction project management found that “[o]n the construction site blockchain can improve the reliability and trustworthiness of construction logbooks, works performed and material quantities recorded.”

Industry publication Construction Manager (they don’t mess around with fluffy, ambiguous names in this business) also reported on the development of two prototype applications combining blockchain and construction.

TraderTransferTrust is a payment system built on blockchain that triggers payment only on the completion of work done. Physical proof of work, if you will. ConstructCoin is another project from the same development team. It aims to create a marketplace of information about the construction industry.

Reduce Litigation

The Construction Blockchain Consortium (CBC) is an industry group set up by its members to investigate the potential for how blockchain and construction could play together. While the above use cases are transformational, the CBC outlines some cultural shifts that may occur in the industry as a result of using blockchain.

The building industry has become highly litigious. The CBC highlights how using blockchain to foster a culture of collaboration and ownership could help to reduce incidences of parties suing one another for shoddy work or delays in project completion. Further, the consortium believes that a less litigious environment “should encourage a less ‘defensive’ approach to decision making and thereby encourage innovation.”

Digitized Land Acquisition and Building Rights

In their paper about the future of smart cities, McKinsey points to the current bureaucracy involved in land acquisition and building rights as a barrier to agile construction. The paper goes on to explain how digitized solutions will speed up the process of obtaining land and building approvals.

Blockchain-based land registries provide a vast improvement over today’s paper-laden processes. Blockchain allows for speedier approvals with no loss of paperwork or waiting for multi-party signatures on physical documents.

Additionally, in countries, land disputes are all too common. A permanent, unalterable record of ownership has distinct advantages in proving ownership. India is among the countries that have been trialing the use of blockchain in land registrations.

Building Inspections

Most buildings are subject to inspections at some point or another. Structures used by the public need checks to ensure adherence to safety standards. Building surveys often feature in sales of real estate, as they reveal any structural faults that may impact the valuation.

These inspections are often conducted in a fragmented way. An inspector or surveyor may have limited or no visibility of records from previous checks. This makes the process heavily dependent on the specific inspector, and errors or oversights may happen.

Building Inspection

Blockchain offers the opportunity for a piece of real estate to come with its own permanent record of past inspections. Blockchain data is immune to tampering by any party who may have an interest in ensuring structure passes muster. Similarly, blockchain could also record any structural or maintenance work undertaken on the property over its life cycle.

More Agile Planning

Currently, there is a lengthy process to procure public funds for investment in infrastructure. Governments must justify the need to spend taxpayer funds on a particular initiative. This means that new infrastructure investment can take months or even years to come to fruition.

As we move towards the smart cities of the future, increased connectivity and availability of information could significantly speed approvals for new infrastructure investment. For example, a government body may quickly build a case showing increased traffic flows in a particular area, using sensor data from a blockchain. This enables faster construction investment in road improvements, traffic calming measures or other means.

Hong Kong

Final Word

Blockchain and construction may seem unlikely partners at first. However, like so many other sectors, construction depends on trust-based interactions with other parties along with solid record keeping. Therefore, assuming the industry can adapt, blockchain could provide significant value to the builders of the future.


This article by Sarah Rothrie was previously published on Coincentral.com

About the Author:

Sarah ran away from a corporate job so she could travel the world. After doing that, she found herself a much-loved new career as a freelance blockchain technology writer. She is now a full-time digital nomad, who travels the world while working on her laptop. In addition to writing and researching, she also runs her own websites – find out more at sarahrothrie.com. You can usually locate her somewhere near the food.

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