In 2013 Luc Jodet first heard of Bitcoin, and dismissed it as uninteresting. Fast forward to 2018 and Luc found himself co-founding Arianee, a company that is quickly becoming one of the most successful businesses in the blockchain world. Today, Arianee helps provide luxury brands with non-fungible tokens, or digital passports certifying the authenticity and ownership of high-value, one-of-a-kind products. We chatted about Luc’s journey to the blockchain world, how the technology works, and the type of projects Arianee hopes to spearhead in the future.
2:34 - Creating digital identities
There are three main reasons to create digital identities for physical products.
“The idea is to create a digital identity for physical products. And we started with products of high value, in particular in the luxury industry. And there's really three reasons you're creating those digital identities. The first one is really it's a proof of authenticity, meaning it's a way to figure out that your product is actually real because it was created by, the passport was generated by the brand. The second one is a proof of property, it's a proof of ownership that is. Because it's really transferrable from one owner to the other. And the third one is really the history of the product. Because every time something happens to your product you can record, you can notarize a new event in the NFT or in the passport of the product. So it's really like a digital passport for your product.”
4:07 - A decentralized CFO
For Luc, the role of CFO is expanded from the classic definition into one that encompasses the realm of decentralized finance.
“Classically the work of the CFO is to manage. Then I'll do the bookkeeping and manage the books, measure treasury, have financing manage some of the, especially in the early startup managed a lot of the regulatory risks and in general deal with the corporate structure and how to manage this...Now we have an additional layer. Because of our blockchain and crypto infrastructure our architecture is that we have to deal with those crypto incentives and the life of a token. So the entire protocol is actually completely decentralized.”
6:41- Educating the world’s brands
Several years ago, much of Arianee’s work was focused on crypto education. Today, executives are actively reaching out.
“It's really like a financial innovation, the entire blockchain and crypto sphere. So a lot of our work is educating the different brands that we work with. And over the last, I mean the first two and a half years we were educating. But there was no craze, or no actual really strong interest...10 days ago when Elon Musk and Tesla announced that he had purchased $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin, all of a sudden I have a lot of corporate executives and directors who I speak with who actually now are actively asking me.”
11:52 - Embracing Ethereum
Bitcoin didn’t interest Luc, but Ethereum got his attention. Why? Because it added the element of a decentralized computer.
“The real thing that got me to change my mind was when Ethereum was introduced in 2015. Because the theme was really the idea of creating more than just a ‘digital gold’ kind of like a store of value. It was actually building a decentralized computer. The idea being that I could actually write some code, push it on Ethereum and it would exist as long as Ethereum keeps on running. And there was no way to censor it. That was to me, fascinating.”
14:53 - The definition of a non-fungible token
When you trade one-dollar bill or even one Bitcoin with a friend, the exchange is equal. But an NFT represents a physical product that’s one-of-a-kind.
“When I take one Bitcoin and another Bitcoin, they're interchangeable. It's the same thing. Or if I take one Ether and another Ether, it doesn't matter if I have this Ether or this Ether. It's always going to be the same. I don't have any preference. It's the same thing as a dollar bill in a way. If you gave me this dollar bill and another dollar bill, it doesn't make a difference. It still has the same utilities, same value. A non-fungible token is the idea that actually one of those tokens is not exchangeable, is not the same as another token. So technically for us, for instance we work with Breitling and create a passport for every one of their watches. Every one of their watches has a serial number. So every one of their digital passports is unique, because it has a different serial number linked to the non-fungible token.”
16:42 - The practical advantages of NFTs
Having a digital passport for your item isn’t just cool. It also allows you to insure or resell your item with ease.
“We really see in the longer-term vision is the idea that a digital identity for every product actually enables an ecosystem of services. So what do I mean by this is the fact that you can prove that you own a real product, so you can prove that you own a Breitling watch for instance, you can then imagine having access to a lot of different services such as one-click insurance. Today, if you need to get insurance on a watch, you actually need to provide two or three documents…It's all paper-based. What we're doing is actually replacing it by a digital identity, a digital record.”
19:05 - Luxury resale is booming
Arianee has been particularly successful because of the rapidly growing luxury resale market.
“The resell market, secondhand market for luxury products is worth about $21 billion per year. And it's booming. It's growing really rapidly. But actually three quarters of it is linked to the watch industry. So reselling your watch is something that is, or your luxury watch, is something that's extremely developed. It's actually the product that in the luxury industry is the most resold. And what we're building here is really something that helps or fortifies that market.”
21:31 - Why blockchain won’t rule the world
Some people say blockchain is the future of everything - but Luc disagrees.
“You hear it sometimes, like ‘everything will be on a blockchain one day.’ I don't think so. And the reason why is because actually blockchains are slower than regular classical databases. And even though it's going to, scalability and all improvements are going to make it a little bit less clunky compared to what they are today, they will always be slower than a regular database...So regular databases will always be necessary.”
23:19 - True proof of ownership
A digital passport is the same as having a physical certificate of authenticity. Although it’s digital, no one but you has the power to delete or remove it.
“When you're on a centralized database, you don't really own the data that you own...There's always an admin that can delete it. When you're on a blockchain, you actually are the owner of the record. The owner of the non-fungible token of our passport is the true owner. Meaning there's no admins that can come in and delete it or change information. So what it brings is really that same level of ownership for a digital record that you have when you have a physical paper-based record.”
29:02 - The future of decentralized finance
Exciting innovations on the horizon will apply blockchain technology to the finance market.
“One of the fastest moving developments in our sector being developed on Ethereum, but also on some other blockchains is what's called decentralized finance, or defi as they like to call it. And and here it's really the idea of recreating a lot of the tools that the regular, or the let's say the old school financial or centralized financial sector actually created...we're starting to experiment with the idea of using our digital passport, as in the product and the underlying product, as a collateral to get a loan.”