Building Ecosystems


IBM and Maersk have managed to bring 2 big players onboard their Tradelens blockchain application. Tradelens has been around for about a year since the first announcement, but one of the main points of criticism has been that it only involved Maersk and none of the competitors. I have seen quite a lot of people giving IBM crap for this reason, which I believe is unjustified.

“The fact that IBM was able to onboard Maersk’s biggest competitors shows that they’ve managed to make a lot of progress since last year when the platform experienced difficulties attracting new carriers.

TradeLens now has more than 100 organizations signed up. Customs clearance is an area that many in the logistics sector believe is a natural blockchain use case. TradeLens boasts several customs members including the US Customs and Border Protection, Canada Border Services Agency and the Customs Administration of the Netherlands. Last week Saudi Customs announced its first pilot shipment on the platform.” - IBM and Maersk Announced 2 New Partners For Shipping Blockchain

It takes a lot of effort and guts to set up such a new ecosystem and there are various ways to go about it, none of them ideal. The two main flavours are:

  • Getting everybody on board from the start, having many, lengthy discussions on the rules and specifics. Imagine trying to build a new country from scratch and having to decide on every code and regulation with the entire population. This is a route that will take time.
  • Setting up a product with one or a few strategic players in the proposed ecosystem, taking out a lot of the lengthy discussions, and being able to come to market a lot sooner. The hard part here is how do you entice others to join the game you have set up once it is in operation.

Going one way or the other can depend on the preference of the parties involved, or what feels more natural to the industry. Choose your battles, but don’t criticise others because for the choice they have made.