What we can learn from the failure of TradeLens

TradeLens, the blockchain platform developed by IBM and Maersk, has reportedly failed. Once hailed as the ideal network for a distributed ledger, it is now clear that the venture was not commercially viable. The failure of TradeLens does not mean that the idea was a bad one, or that the issues were not valid. It is possible that the organizational structure or execution was sub-optimal. Creating a technology platform that requires critical mass from large, global competitors is difficult without the intervention of a regulator. The digital transformation of a global supply chain across 100+ countries is also extremely difficult. It remains to be seen whether a decentralized protocol or dApp will succeed where TradeLens failed.

So much has developed in the DLT space since the TradeLens project started. The solution was designed based on the tenants of blockchain namely transparency, permanence, and decentralization. However, most platforms are developed or implemented by being central in nature with a few chosen validators, which affects trust and adoption. A DAO model may have encouraged broader participation and adoption from the industry. A careful evaluation of why adoption failed will be a helpful case study when evaluating implementation strategies for blockchain use cases.