CEO Jim Duffy envisions a system that connects the whole market.
As a tech guy, Jim Duffy spends much of his time on the road explaining technical terms in a way laymen can understand. He has his work cut out for him as CEO of Tracr, De Beers’ blockchain project — especially in the traditionally low-tech diamond industry, which, he notes, is a conglomeration of family-owned businesses.
Duffy’s immediate agenda, beyond developing the platform, is clear: educate the trade and break the many misconceptions about the project, which is now ready to expand.
Tracr is neither just about blockchain nor meant to be solely a De Beers program, Duffy tells Rapaport News. It was “bootstrapped by De Beers because it had to start somewhere,” he explains. “But the idea is to be a platform for the industry, by the industry.”
The mining company launched Tracr in January 2018 — initially calling it the Diamond Blockchain Initiative — to provide a single, tamper-proof digital record for diamonds. De Beers first worked with manufacturers Diacore, Diarough, Rosy Blue, KGK Group and Venus Jewel to register stones, before fellow miner Alrosa and retail heavyweights Signet Jewelers and Chow Tai Fook joined the pilot.
Less than two years later, Duffy is overseeing the rollout of the Tracr Community, which launched in May as an educational resource for businesses getting involved in the program. In the last few months, another 12 unnamed companies have joined, and Duffy hopes to have about 30 entities on board by year’s end.
The industry’s road network
Working with a core group of early adopters, Duffy expects Tracr will gather momentum to become an industry-wide platform that processes millions of carats worth billions of dollars.
But achieving that goal requires the trade to understand what Tracr is — and just as importantly, what it is not. Duffy quickly dismisses the misconception that it gives users access to information about all transactions. “That would break the industry,” he declares. “You see what you would see in a normal transaction. It’s the digital equivalent.”
The data for a given transaction will be available to the parties involved, or upon request — for example, if a lender or insurer requires information about a company’s inventory or invoices. Duffy draws an analogy to a cell phone user. When you download an app, it asks you for permission to access information such as your location or your contacts. With Tracr, a manufacturer, for instance, can allow select data to be visible to a user who is interested in that part of the supply chain.
‘Internet of value’
The program has three goals: to provide a reliable record of a diamond’s origin, to verify if it’s a natural stone, and to make it traceable throughout the pipeline.
Duffy describes Tracr as a “horizontal digital infrastructure,” likening it to a road system that connects things and people in an urban area: Without the roads, it doesn’t work very well. Similarly, he explains, Tracr creates a digital representation of connectivity in the diamond marketplace.