Every day we consume things, and every day things are supplied for us to build, buy, sell and consume.
Where those things come from, how rapidly and efficiently they are supplied is critical. If the logistics supply chain of exports and imports breaks down, products are not completed on time, supermarket shelves are empty until the next delivery, oil doesn’t arrive at refineries and then go on to power stations to be used for power generation…you get the picture.
Yet the supply chain is constantly bedeviled by bottlenecks and delays.
This is because the 3 elements involved are subject to variables that can often slip out of their ability to manage at multiple points in the chain.
Liquidity squeezes result in goods not being shipped or sitting on ships or at the docks, there can be paperwork issues, capital controls rules can change at various international locations in the chain as can interest rates.
My father had a small commodities import/export business for bauxite, marble and granite – from the Middle East to the West. Judging by the amount of shouting that used to come from his office and the numerous delays at points in the chain that he used to suffer this is not an optimal situation; I used to hear it when I was waiting for a lift home from school as a boy.
Eximchain is designed to ease those bottlenecks between the different agents who interact within the pool via smart contracts and correctly aligned incentives.
The potential is huge here, and the project addresses a REAL need – on a potentially global basis.
The project was launched earlier this year by a very talented team and seems to be progressing extremely well, so we had a conference call with Hope Liu, the CEO to get an idea of progress and how things were coming along.
Hope Liu has years of actually working in the import/export sector with UBS from a financial perspective prior to Eximchain and blockchain, so she has an intimate knowledge of the issues facing the industry from years of ground-level experience in actually working with small to medium companies that deal with these problems on a daily basis – much as my father did.
Eximchain started its story in the confines of MIT, which has historically been one of the leading tech schools in the United States. Before her foray into MIT however, Hope had the aforementioned several years of experience working in the banking sector – years that she mentioned gave her increasing doubts about the current inefficiencies of the banking system.
At MIT, Hope would begin the Eximchain project – initially with a team of just a handful of individuals, it would grow to be far bigger than originally envisioned. Eximchain got so big, that Hope began skipping class, running independent study with professors in Media Lab, and using her student loans to build up the project – now that’s dedicated!
She told us about how Eximchain slowly began taking over more and more of her time at MIT – one funny anecdote we discussed was the difference between talking about blockchain back then versus today. A few years ago, absolutely no one would bat an eye at someone coming to them with this weird blockchain idea – during that time, she had taken the task of sending out 500 cold e-mails to possible clients and third parties who may have benefited from blockchain technology.
She got back a single e-mail. Ouch!
Things are a lot different today for Hope and Eximchain of course – the project has gone on to lead a successful token sale, and they regularly get talent from some of the top technology companies today entering the Eximchain team.
Naturally, a project of this scale is going to require world class talent – after all, not just anyone is going to trust a team of young starry eyed individuals unless they are truly bringing something revolutionary to the table. Hope told us all about the different kinds engagements she had with both students and professors during her stay at MIT. One such story was how the to-be Eximchain CTO was building his own blockchain products before the industry had really even taken off. She also spoke of her fateful meeting with Can Kisagun, who mentored her as they worked together on Eximchain.
Can’s name may be familiar with some of you intrepid researchers as the Co-founder of the Enigma project – another MIT based blockchain initiative based on data utility.
One of the things we discussed during our chat was the value proposition that blockchain actually provides to individuals, companies, and users as opposed to the common pitch that we hear every day. The basic pitch goes like this:
Blockchain is a revolutionary technology. With the ledger, it is possible to store immutable information which can then be retrieved by any party and verified by any other individual. Isn’t that cool?
Which is mainly the exactly wrong way to go about advertising your solution. After her many cold e-mails and years of trial and error, Hope told us about her own pitch. It sounds a little bit like this:
With our product, your costs will lower, your efficiency will rise, and you won’t need to worry about hackers. Isn’t that cool?
Essentially, the new mantra that Hope espouses is to sell value, not blockchain.
It’s an interesting takeaway and one that may sounds obvious to those with business experience – sadly it is nowhere to be seen in the crypto world.
Eximchain knows exactly how to offer their solutions to other companies and pitch themselves well. Remember – blockchain is great! The less we know about it, the better.
We asked her some detailed questions re progress against the Roadmap for Eximchain, since significant milestones are about to be hit, and also asked about some more possible strategic options and issues in light of how global supply chains and trade in general are changing – especially in Eurasia.
This stage has now been passed and they are rapidly progressing towards mainnet launch.
Our first question was regarding the PMSA (Purchase Money Security Agreement) – a mechanism whereby financiers can obtain full visibility of the whole supply chain and thus mitigate risk.
Since actions with the supply chain can now be seen by the financier, this eliminates significant amounts of paperwork and risk, improves credit assessment processes and rates and releases liquidity much more rapidly.
This reduces deposit amounts and fees as well as paperwork, and enables liquidity to free up bottlenecks much more efficiently and rapidly. This is a vital component of the roadmap and, as far as can be determined, this will be implemented via SC.
The information we got was that an escrow option is being explored for this (when all PMSA conditions are fulfilled) and to be built next year.
Mainnet progress was obviously the next topic of interest, and we asked Hope how things were progressing.
The good news is that mainnet is on track to be delivered by Q3 this year and they are working very hard to keep it there (looking good). The work right now for the team mainly consists of blocking and scaling as well as completing all the testing scenarios for the successful launch of a fully-functional and robust platform as per this stage of the roadmap.
Security is a major component of this project, as a basic element and even more so for compliance since business and financial disclosure compliance has to be built in for adoption in multiple countries and at multiple levels, therefore our question re progress in this area was a pretty straightforward one.
The update is that all the required security hardening is being implemented and tested as part of the mainnet pre-launch build and testing suite as planned by the Eximchain team.
They can’t really share specific details just yet obviously, but a successful and timely launch is strongly influenced by ALL security hardening options being fully tested and implemented as part of the mainnet launch as part of a robust and live platform.
Governance – Quadratic voting
This is a truly superb governance choice on the part of Eximchain, whose first push was as a blockchain governance mechanism mentioned by Vitalik a while back. Sadly, not too many projects have chosen to embrace it as fully as Eximchain has – something which we find disappointing since it is an excellent governance structure.
This is progressing and being hardened with a view to integration as an ongoing component of the mainnet. The Eximchain team would like to release more details on this, but they are kind of tied up with the mainnet launch and testing work at this time. They plan to release the Quadratic Voting UI/visual design in the next one month or two. Last week, Vitalik praised the implementation of Quadratic Voting by Eximchain through his twitter and there have been discussions and debate raised on this new way to govern blockchain since then.
Further information can be found on page 7 of the whitepaper detailing how it is being incorporated within the platform. They’re also hosting a Quadratic Voting Illustration bounty program in their community. What we know for sure is that we’ll hear more about this new terminology this year.
External Variables and Testing
Our next question was regarding external variables. These are things like capital controls, interest rates, inspection reports/regulations and changes etc. which are external to the logistics/shipping chain but still have a bearing on the efficiency of the chain itself. We asked if the testing would incorporate testing for changes in one or more of these – which would provide an effective measure of efficiency in real life.
Eximchain stated that this is planned for Q1 2019. this is due to the fact that this is community-driven and complete customer datasets are needed for effective testing, so a sufficient number of customers need to be onboarded for mainnet in order to provide a large enough dataset to enable effective testing.
This is a fair and valid point and an excellent response.
Release 2.0 plans and progress
There will be a new front-end for the platform coming in Q4, maybe even before the mainnet hopefully, but this is not guaranteed. This will be accompanied by a PR release and marketing push of course.
As outlined earlier, the focus for now is VERY much on testing and launch of mainnet, but release 2.0 is very much in mind going forward and the team intend to move towards that immediately after launch.
1st SDK release progress
SDKs are a crucial component of the platform, and the first release is being worked on now.
The release of the first SDK is on track as per the roadmap. This will be a generic plug-and-play for the dApp.
It will be made more broadly available next year for developers who are interested in solving real world supply chain problems . This year Eximchain already kicked off their Global Hackathon Tour in South Korea, Singapore and US. Next year they plan to host virtual hackathon for much longer period with SDKs for developers to take time and build real world applications. This is also dependent on mainnet onboarding, since the team will some real data to test and deploy it properly.
Interoperability may be something that’s on your mind – if it hasn’t been a thought of yours, you absolutely need to start thinking about this. Interoperability is going to be a necessary step – it will table stakes for any crypto project looking to gain any kind of exposure and use in the future.
The reasons for this are obvious – by taking advantage of the capabilities of other chains, your own solution is strengthened. This was one of the questions we asked Hope, who told us a lot about their interoperability plans.
They have close relations with Matt Spoke from the AION team, as well as having a deep connection with Wanchain. Now personally, these two projects are very closely tied with ICON – which for me, is the Korean trifecta of blockchain; products that are Korea’s answer to Ethereum and China’s NEO.
A close relationship with this alliance would mean very big things for Eximchain when it comes to clients. And boy does Eximchain have clients!
Clients and Expansion plans
Hope told us about their expansion plans and they were definitely impressive – they have a 12-month action plan to establish business with third parties in five locations around the world.
Namely Singapore, Indonesia, China, the United States, and Korea. We initially had some worries about western market penetration, as it seemed that Eximchain was more of an asia-based project. Hope was happy to divulge that 80% of Eximchain’s current clientelle is actually US based, giving them a strong foothold in the region for future expansion.
We also took the time to ask about One Belt One Road – for those who don’t know what that is, it is essentially an initiative to increase commerce and ease of trade through the entire Eurasian region (a $1 trillion+ project).
While Europe is not initially on Eximchain’s hit list, Hope mentioned that they are absolutely considering One Belt One Road when it comes to their own internal plans for the future. They are already hard at work building the required relationships and setting up infrastructure with Russian and Chinese strategic partners, giving them leverage with future deals in the region.
Permissioned vs Permissionless
One of the things that we wanted to double check was the question of permissioned vs. permissionless solutions. Keep in mind that Eximchain is a fork of Ethereum, with built in permission that allows for privacy and a few other key features that is only possible with their Quorum implementation.
While some might initially be taken aback by the permissioned nature of this solution, it totally makes sense in context – you simply don’t want other parties to know exactly how much you’re transacting and when as a supply chain company. Privacy is of the utmost importance, and the decision was made to keep things less than fully transparent.
Eximchain is much more than meets the eye when it comes to their offering – the blockchain component is definitely there, and it means that the team will have a much better offering than competitors when it comes to negotiations – more importantly however, was Hope’s laser focus on acquiring additional partners, presenting to interested parties, and building a long list of allies and relationships with which to leverage in the future.
Even as we finished up our conversation Hope told us she had to hurry off to get into another conference with some supply chain big shots, which showed a degree of dedication not displayed by many a CEO.
We have big expectations of Eximchain and are absolutely fans – we hope to see big things from the team in the years and months to come.
We don’t actually hold any bags of this and they are sorely missed, so this is based purely on the quality of the project and the team and their leadership.
This is something that addresses a REAL need in a truly superb and innovative manner. Onwards EXIMchain!