From child labor to pollution to disingenuous marketing, two Oregon-based entrepreneurs are setting out to fix some of the biggest issues with the modern-day supply chain. Their proposition is a new system that incentivizes brands, suppliers and consumers to make good decisions. And they are relying on blockchain technology to make it happen. I caught up with Jeff Gaus and Steve Brown to learn more.
Back in 2017, Gaus took a hiatus from the corporate world after spending more than 15 years with Portland-based Prolifiq Software.
“I stepped down as CEO and decided to go on a walkabout,” said Gaus.
From health care to housing professionals, Gaus said he listened to stories that pointed to one common pain point: a lack of supply chain transparency.
As a result, Gaus ventured into the world of blockchain, a technology that creates secure, decentralized and transparent digital ledgers for transactions at every single point in the supply chain, from hiring labor to warehousing materials to delivering finished goods.
In 2018, Gaus created the Oregon Enterprise Blockchain Venture Studio , a startup incubator geared at “making Oregon a center of excellence for blockchain technologies.” TAO was an early collaborator in this effort. Through his work with OEBVS, Gaus helped create the first for-credit Business Blockchain Graduate Certificate at Portland State University. He also began dreaming up the idea for his very own blockchain start-up: The Provenance Chain Network (PCN).
Co-founded in August of 2019 with friend and former Intel chief evangelist, Steve Brown, the PCN aims to give consumers full visibility into a product’s lifespan.
“Think of it this way: LinkedIn is a digital twin for a human being’s professional life,” said Gaus. “The Provenance Chain Network is going to be a digital twin for a product’s life.”
It’s a big goal but that is what attracted the two entrepreneurs, said Brown.
The two are slowly working with their team to lay the infrastructure to bring this new transparent supply chain to fruition.
“We aren’t trying to build a new supply chain entirely. We are trying to create something everyone can plug into with their existing systems,” said Brown. “Experts project that there will be 100 trillion sensors installed in the world by 2030. We want to tap into those sensors to gather data about the supply chain and make it available to brands, suppliers and consumers alike.”
For example, these sensors could track product journeys by scanning QR codes in warehouses or monitoring the temperature of food inside delivery trucks. As more smart cameras appear in manufacturing plants it can ensure workers are producing product according to contract or monitor for child labor. Ultimately, consumers will be able to use an app to understand everything they want to know about a product, and make more informed buying decisions.
The duo are starting with the food and beverage industry since regulation require tracking. They already have several partners in Oregon including A to Z Wineworks, The Oregon Wine Council, Tillamook County Creamery Association, Crater Lake Cola, Yoshida Group, and Country Natural Beef.
They plan to target additional industries soon including consumer packaged goods and housing. “This is a multi-decade moon shot with measured steps,” said Gaus.
This is part of a regular guest column written by the Technology Association of Oregon in the Portland Business Journal.