This week we bring you a Founder Feature interview with Jessi Baker, CEO and Founder of Provenance. Powered by mobile, blockchain, and open data, Provenance empowers brands to increase trust, using technology for greater supply chain transparency.
Tell us about your background and how you got into crypto
JB: I come from a background in consumer brands supply chains (and manufacturing engineering), but worked for most of my career on the design and development of digital products for consumer brands. I founded Provenance whilst doing a PhD in Computer Science at UCL in London. I started looking at bitcoin in 2012 when a friend of mine explained the potential of it to me. Blockchain tech became a core component of my PhD from 2013, as I saw it’s immense potential in product supply chains and in brand building. A friend of mine was heavily involved in building Ethereum and joining that community early on cemented my love for blockchain technology.
Tell us about Provenance and the problem that you’re solving
JB: Provenance is using tech to power the transparency movement — helping consumer goods brands to bring the supply chain and impact behind their products to shoppers. We exist to enable more conscious, fair, and positive impact consumption through opening information in a trustworthy, actionable way.
From tracking the sustainability claims of fish or putting a new trust in food retail with the Co-op, to creating an end-to-end look at fashion for Martina Jaarlgard or proving fair pay with Fairfood, we’ve been using blockchain and other tech solutions for real-world supply chain issues
Increasingly people want assurance that the things they’re purchasing have not caused harm to the environment and societies from which they originated, and we help businesses prove and communicate that. Our software platform enables businesses to connect content, data & third party evidence from their supply chain in one place. We use the blockchain to store key proofs related to businesses and products, and track batches through their entire journey.
What aspect of blockchain technology excites you most?
JB: I think blockchain technology is still very nascent. It’s amazing the progress and interest that’s happened over the past 7 years I’ve been involved, but we still have a long way to go to realise the vision of a truly inclusive system to enable shared value. I am personally very excited by some of the newer developments for example Token Curated Registries (the potential to enable credible lists using market dynamics has so many interesting applications) and Zero Knowledge Proofs (essential for privacy on public chains, needed for many business use cases).
What companies or individuals inspire you?
JB: I’m constantly inspired by the pioneering work done by those in the Ethereum and related communities — building systems and services that could revolutionise how we interact with the web in the future. Dr Jutta Steiner, CEO of Parity, is a leader, Parity are building so many of the essential components for the technology to flourish.
Alicia Navarro, one of my advisors, constantly provides me with essential guidance to help me navigate the startup mega hike — she founded Skimlinks and built it to a multimillion turnover software service, connecting commerce — yet she is still incredibly humble.
I’m inspired by all the great brands we work with at Provenance — companies trying to do business differently and compete on their true stories and genuine impact — they are the businesses of the future.
What makes your team or work culture special or unusual?
JB: Provenance is driven by our collective passion as a team that we want to see a future where products come with trustworthy and accessible information about their origin and impact. A future where customers are empowered to make decisions based on their values rather than just price and graphic design. We’re all here for different reasons, coming from very different backgrounds — some care about eliminating single use plastic, others ending climate change, others care about buying local and from small businesses — but share a vision of what the future should look like: It’s transparent, so we can act on those values.
“…many businesses may never want to join a public network — but just like the Internet, ultimately an open, inclusive system will benefit society the most.”
What are you reading, listening to, or thinking about these days?
JB: It’s summer, so time for easy reads, I’m currently reading Explaining Capitalism to my Daughter, by Yannis Varoufakis. I’m thinking a lot about how we can encourage businesses to make bold commitments to meet with challenges of climate change — and track actual progress in a trustworthy way to ensure they meet those commitments. Long term accountability is a tough challenge.
Tell us about your morning routine or a ritual that energizes you
JB: I do yoga. Drink tea. I try to ensure I have a clear brief or understanding of the problem to solve before I work on anything and know clearly what success looks like.
How do you see this technology being used in 10 years?
JB: Digital technology must enable us as citizens, not secretly monetise or exploit us as consumers (or, worse, unknowing ‘products’). It must honour and protect our human rights. We have seen the beginning of some of the problems with technology not designed in this way, including unaccountable centralised power, non-democratic governance and information asymmetry. We believe we must strive for: Decentralised, open, interoperable, privacy-preserving, accessible, secure and sustainable systems. I hope in 10 years time blockchain tech is helping to power an internet where users can own their data, and your apps don’t spy on and steal from you.
What we’re trying to do is make the consumer goods industries more transparent, traceable and ultimately have a more positive impact. Traditional systems for doing that have held all the data in a centralised way, however we have a vision that as blockchain technology matures it can enable a system for doing this securely that is fully open and decentralised — a method for handling data that is controlled by everyone and is a public utility rather than governed by a central authority. There’s still a lot to build to achieve that vision and ultimately many businesses may never want to join a public network — but just like the Internet, ultimately an open, inclusive system will benefit society the most.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned since starting your company?
JB: That, if you have a valid problem you are solving, it’s all about persistence. Provenance is helping build an entirely new future for commerce and brands, it’s a long journey to make every $ we spend match our principles and values as humans, when today the reality is so far from that and we are blind to it. Nana korobi, ya oki.
Want to learn more about the great work being done by Provenance? Follow them on Twitter at @Provenancehq and check out their website for the latest news on supply chain transparency, product traceability, and the quest for conscious consumption, empowered by technology.
Looking to go full-time crypto? Provenance and 100+ DCG companies are actively hiring. You can search open roles at jobs.dcg.co