The last year has seen hype around blockchain reach fever pitch. It has moved beyond being seen as merely 'the technology underpinning Bitcoin' and cemented itself as an incredibly disruptive entity in its own right - one with the potential to transform the operating models of entire industries.
This has seen organizations invest heavily in the technology, with CB Insights estimating that corporations have pumped more than $1.2 billion into blockchain since 2012. However, as with any new technology, it is startups doing the most exciting work. We've looked at 50 really worth keeping an eye on. This list is, of course, not exhaustive, and many of these are still in the early stages, but there are already indications of the tremendous changes it could ring.
London-based LiveTree is a blockchain-powered crowdfunding platform for TV and film content. Founded in 2016, LiveTree has this year launched Adept, a decentralized platform that connects creatives and distributors, and enables consumers to fund projects using tokens. LiveTree's Blossom TV platform will enable audiences to back projects in this way: "Users will pledge support in Seed [tokens] for the programming they are most interested in, which will then fund the development of those projects." It claims to have captured over 5% market share of the UK’s entertainment crowdfunding sector and has already attracted a number of high-profile partners, including the British Film Institute’s Future Labs, Film London and Red Rock Entertainment, among others.
Dutch blockchain start-up, GUTS, is tackling the problems of price gouging by ticket touts and ticket fraud by making it impossible to re-sell tickets illegally or at a higher price.
It works by registering ownership of SMART tickets on the blockchain. You use these on your phone, rather than paper tickets. It allows you to resell your ticket, but not for a profit. Its ICO in December raised €6.3 million, and the startup has already sold more than 10,000 tickets for 50 events over the last year. It is projected to sell over 1 million tickets in 2019.
GUTS Tickets CEO and co-founder Maarten Bloemers explains that: "Over 30% of all tickets are resold with mark-ups between 30% and 700% and these inflated prices are an ongoing problem for artists and their fans. We believe in fair ticket prices for all, and the GET token is an important first step towards eliminating the fraudulent side of the secondary ticket market."
Another startup using blockchain in the identity space is SelfKey. They offer users, organizations, and individuals complete control of their identity through a blockchain-based system that stores a user’s data and documents locally on their own devices. This means nobody can access it without permission, while also enabling individuals to instantly provide sensitive documentation for things like citizenship and residency information, company incorporation information, coin exchanges, and so forth.
The SelfKey token (KEY) is used as the means of providing access rights as well as verifying identity. Users, applicable parties, and certifiers will need to stake a certain amount of KEY tokens to enable an identity to be verified. The KEY token can also be used to safely participate in token sales and other ICO events. According to the company, the public portion of the initial coin offering (ICO) in January hit its cap of $5.94 million in minutes. The pre-sale in December easily raised its cap of $15.84 million four days before the scheduled closing date in December
Voatz (pronounced 'votes') is combining biometrics and blockchain tech to revolutionize voting. Built on the HyperLedger framework, the Voatz platform allows citizens to cast their ballots using any smartphone or tablet, using biometric sensors to authenticate the voter is who they claim to be. These votes are then stored on the blockchain to ensure accurate record keeping.
Co-founder and CEO Nimit Sawhney says: "Past attempts at internet based voting have failed or not gone mainstream due to fundamental concerns around security, auditability, and voter anonymity. With Voatz, using biometrics for security and the Blockchain for irrefutability, we are able to tackle all these challenges and significantly streamline the process of voting and identity verification."
The platform is currently in beta release. In January, Voatz raised over $2.2 million in a funding round which saw investment from the likes of Urban Innovation Fund and Oakhouse Partners. The company intends to spend this on expanding its business development team, growing its reach across the US, and accelerating the development of several new product features.
London-based Electron is harnessing blockchain technologies to design more efficient, resilient, and flexible systems for the energy sector. Their vision is to "capitalize on the opportunities presented by the rapid changes in the energy market being driven by decarbonization, decentralization, digitization and democratization. We aim to create innovative, collaborative solutions, based on the blockchain's guarantees of a secure, robust and transparent platform. We will do this at the lowest cost whilst providing the greatest benefit to all market participants."
They have already received investment from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) as well as the UK government. They also received an award last year from the World Economic Forum for their innovative works. They are currently leading a consortium that aims to start testing an 'energy eBay' in the first half of this year that Electron’s Chief Operating Officer, Joanna Hubbard, says will be “a shared marketplace for energy assets to respond to pricing signals.”
Berlin-based REALISTO is a decentralized investing platform looking to shake up the real estate market by providing a platform enabling the crowdfunding of the world’s best real estate opportunities. Real estate investment experts can present unique projects, tokenize them, and offer them as curated investment opportunities. REALISTO’s ICO will accept Ethereum (ETH) and Bitcoin (BTC) contributions in exchange for REA, which can be used to invest in curated Berlin and global projects. Returns are also paid in ETH.
REALISTO Co-CEO, Rouven Rosenbaum, explains, “The inspiration behind REALISTO was to create access to investment opportunities that have so far been fraught with danger and inefficiency for the individual investor. Additionally, it is our goal to provide a stable and reliable platform for real estate experts to capitalize their projects. With REALISTO, you can select what project to invest in, manage your investment on our app, track real-world market value, and then receive proportional returns.”
JoyToken is using smart contracts to build a 'trustless' gambling ecosystem, with blockchain technology providing the means to distribute winnings, determine values, and provide an audit trail of transactions. Developers are rewarded for creating new games with its JoyTokens, helping to create more entrepreneurial opportunities and offsetting the lack of reputation by making all rules and the base infrastructure of the game publicly viewable.
They have recently released an application programming interface (API) alongside a slot game demo to developers in order to showcase their smart contract functionality. The team includes former PokerStars and Bet365 executives. CEO and Co-founder Andrew MacDonald has 20 years of experience in retail and online gaming with major blue-chip companies. He said: “We felt that there was room to grow and that not only could we produce some great games, but we could add another USP using blockchain technology – true transparency. With this technology comes the opportunity to log every single transaction on a smart contract and for each individual player to audit their play should they wish to. This builds an environment where trust in a system isn’t necessary as we would have full disclosure with the player."
Binded helps photographers to protect their intellectual property by creating a permanent record of their copyright. Users register a photo on the platform and it is assigned a permanent, unalterable timestamp which is added to a blockchain. This stamp acts as a “proof of publishing” certificate which protects your photo from being used without your consent.
The company has now raised $1.5m in total funding.
Another startup claiming that it is giving control of the internet back to the people is Thrive, a Blockchain-based Marketplace where publishers and consumers can buy and sell advertising at very low fees. People get paid for data sharing and for reviewing the quality of each website in the ecosystem. They have already partnered with a publisher network with over 220K websites, while public pre-sales for its ICO topped €8 million.
Loci is a platform for intellectual property discovery and mining, registering IP search results, time stamps, unique user IDs, and relevant ‘prior art’ to the blockchain. Patented ideas can then be bought and sold in the global market using LOCIcoins, whether this is for the single entity or as part of an ‘investment pool’ - hopefully to a corporation most capable of developing these inventions.
After three funding rounds, including an ICO in December 2017, the company has raised a total of $11.9 million.
Berlin-based Ascribe enables creators and art collectors to own, securely share, and trace the entire history of a digital work using the blockchain. Its platform generates unique, cryptographic IDs which are a composite of the digital artwork and the artist’s identity, thereby permanently binding the artist and their work. They have raised $2 billion so far in 3 funding rounds.
Trent McConaghy, CTO for Ascribe, ted CoinDesk: "What we realized is we can use copyright law as the basis of what we're doing and have that be really easy to use, and use the blockchain as a way of recording these transactions of registering a copyright, of transferring ownerships, of licensing from person A to B, things like consignment or loaning."
32. Sun Exchange
Sun Exchange is a blockchain-based platform democratizing the green economy by empowering customers to lease solar cells bought on their platform to medium to large solar installations in emerging markets. Solar panels are sold by the single solar cell, slashing the cost of solar plant ownership to below $10.
“Solar power is the most promising technology to achieve a zero-carbon future,” said Abraham Cambridge, serial solar energy entrepreneur and CEO of Sun Exchange. “It’s the fastest growing source of energy, but billions of people don’t own their own roof or have the capital to get it. By breaking down solar panel ownership to a single cell we reduce the cost of going solar by two orders of magnitude and we’re utilizing empty roof space in some of the sunniest cities on the planet, such as Dubai and Johannesburg. To super-charge the process we’ve combined our solar leases with another breakthrough technology – blockchain, namely Bitcoin. Putting the two together empowers anyone to go solar and be part of the global solar energy transformation with just a few taps on a screen.”
The company recently raised $1.6 million in seed funding, which will go towards expanding its business and global capabilities.
TraDove is the first blockchain-based startup to focus on B2B-specific solutions and tokens. They are looking to increase B2B transparency by allowing the sharing of references and endorsements for people, products, and companies. This will replace current tedious and expensive payment methods such as a letter of credits with smart contracts that authenticate, vet, and review buyers and sellers.
TraDove already has more than 250,000 corporate buyers and sellers spread across over 100 countries.
JOLYY is an online beauty booking platform upgraded using blockchain technology that is disrupting the existing market for online beauty booking. Salon managers can take appointments and receive instant online payments, as well as engage with vendors and order beauty products. Clients can compare a variety of salons and providers, make appointments easily, and pay via tokens or fiat money. Customers are also rewarded in JOY tokens when they refer friends, recommend and comment on salons, professionals and products, and add new salons, helping to grow and maintain the ecosystem.
UK-startup Elliptic is building a blockchain forensics tool to identify and track illicit bitcoin activity. Founded in October 2013 by Adam Joyce, James Smith and Tom Robinson, it has so far raised a total of $7 million.
And its applications don't stop at Bitcoin. CEO and co-founder James Smith notes that, “Bitcoin is one of several areas we may end up deploying this technology. What it really is is you build up a view of a network. You look at the different entities in a network — that’s a graph of entities — and we’re able to identify patterns within that. Quite complex patterns that connect together different entities in ways that might not be immediately obvious. And that’s what allows us to identify things like money laundering or people trying to obfuscate where their funds are flowing for other reasons.”
Bloom is an end-to-end protocol for identity attestation, risk assessment, and credit scoring that is designed to help individuals lacking access to credit or the credit score it affords with access to traditional banking mechanisms. Bloom allows both traditional and digital currency lenders to serve billions of people who currently cannot obtain a bank account or credit score.
“Bloom brings credit scoring to the blockchain,” Bloom Co-Founder Daniel Maren said in an interview with the author. “Bloom’s mission is to build a robust global credit infrastructure [that] reduces fees, increases accessibility to credit, and makes credit scoring fair.”
e-Chat is a multi-task, decentralized mobile app messenger that allows users to do everything from in-app, single-click cryptocurrency payments to conference calls with as many as ten people. Being built on blockchain technology means it offers 100% privacy from institutions and governments for all interactions.
The developers assert that within six months the application will reach 1,000,000 installments and 100,000,000 messages each day.
New York-based Shopin is a universal shopping app that uses blockchain to deliver a hyper-personalized shopping experience on retail websites. They create a universal shopper profile for every customer. This information is shared by Shopin and can be mined by retailers for special offers and targeted ads, however, it is still entirely controlled by the customer.
Shopin won the 2017 CoinAgenda Global blockchain startup competition and has raised $4.6 million to date from Deep Fork Capital, Outbound Ventures, as well as angel investors from Google, ZocDoc and others.
Swiss-based tech firm DECENT is an open-source, Blockchain-driven content distribution platform that allows artists to efficiently distribute virtually any form of content while retaining a far greater chunk of the proceeds.
DECENT has already been courted by a number of content providers and its ICO in 2015 raised 5,881 bitcoin, which at the time was worth around $4.2 million.
The company explained: “Writers lose over 30-75% of their profits when publishing with Amazon and musicians lose around 30% when they sell a track on iTunes. [Blockchain] could free up a huge chunk of spending in the global media and content distribution industry; the current level of spending is estimated to grow from $1.7 trillion in 2016 to over $2 trillion in 2019.”
Ripe is working to combine blockchain with IoT to track produce through the food supply chain, enabling food producers, shippers, and processors to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively.
The company maintains a shared ledger fed by data from specialized scanners and sensors located through the food ecosystem, forming an immutable record of food items. Founder Raja Ramachandran wrote on Forbes that, "It can capture live growing conditions, transport data and even capture the chemistry make up of produce to determine flavor profiles and ultimately taste." Ripe recently carried out a pilot to determine flavor profiles and quality of tomatoes on Ward’s Berry Farm, a 180-acre farm southwest of Boston, which it will expand if successful.
Founded in 2016, RecordsKeeper aims to replace the cloud storage technologies like Dropbox or Google Drive. It is a Blockchain-based document story solution powered by high-end Encryption & Blockchain, allowing you create verifiable & immutable records of any types of data which are not possible in traditional technologies like MySQL and Oracle.
BigchainDB is attempting to do for databases what Bitcoin's blockchain did for ledgers, enabling both developers and enterprise to deploy blockchain proof-of-concepts, platforms, and applications using the scalable blockchain database it has developed. This database is capable of one million writes per second throughput, storing petabytes of data and sub-second latency.
Bruce Pon, Founder/CEO BigchainDB and ascribe.io, said: "BigchainDB was built on top of an enterprise-grade distributed DB, from which BigchainDB inherits high throughput, high capacity, a full-featured NoSQL query language, efficient querying, and permissioning. Nodes can be added to increase throughput and capacity."
To date, it has raised a total of $5.4 million in two rounds from five investors, with the most recent raising $3.37m.
Aurus are aiming to bridge the gap between the traditional gold market and the crypto economy of the future. Aurus utilize a gold-backed cryptocurrency accessible to both individuals and organizations for trade and use. One AurusGOLD (AWG) coin represents one gram of 99.99% LBMA (London Bullion Market Association) approved gold and tokens are redeemable at any time through the Asset Reconstruction Smart Contract.
The aim is to make gold more liquid and decentralized, essentially bringing it into the digital age. On the site, CEO and Co-Founder of Aurus, Stefan Gergely states that "because it’s a cryptocurrency, one can trade 0.00001 AWG or $0.0004 worth of gold. This is how we’re making gold more liquid."
44. Elemential Labs
Elemential are a Mumbai-based startup set to fully launch later in 2018 who are invested in developing decentralized systems and blockchain developer tools. They are currently working with strategic partners to establish blockchain technology in the Indian market. They have so far been involved in building products used for trade finance applications, payment systems, compliance solutions, and more. Recently, Elemential provided the technology for a know-your-customer data trail involving blockchain in India's biggest stock exchange.
45. Smart Valor
Smart Valor are a blockchain startup founded in February 2017 by Olga Feldmeier with an initial investment round of £1.5 million. Based in the Swiss Crypto Valley, Smart Valor promise to reinvent private banking by providing a platform for investors, assets issuers and facilitators to exchange values globally. This way, they aim to build bridges between traditional and crypto finance.
In a press release, Feldmeier stated, "For a long time, a diverse investment space with assets kept in a stable and reputable jurisdiction, reasonably well-shielded from political or inflationary uncertainties—this used to be the exclusive privilege of the very rich and powerful. Today, the technology and regulatory transformation gives us the opportunity to change this."
Telcoin is focused on disrupting the international remittance market currently dominated by large companies such as Money Gram. They want to use cryptocurrency and telecoms to provide very cheap transfers to empower the 'little people', taking back power from big companies. They also plan to use their currency to utilize roaming spending, international aid and online payments in general. With their partnership with mobile operators, they are in the position to reach a huge wealth of potential customers.
Singapore-based Otonomos's platform empowers entrepreneurs to incorporate their businesses on a digital distributed ledger. Its online service allows users to form, fund, and govern their companies on the blockchain simply by opening a digital share wallet on it.
Former CEO Han Verstraete told FinTech website Let’s Talk Payments that: "We increasingly see that the underlying Bitcoin protocol could become a ledger for broader financial assets. Cash was the blockchain’s first application. Traditionally, it’s held either in banks or under people’s mattresses so to say, and Bitcoin made cash digital. Commodities especially gold is next: by linking digital tokens to a physical bar of gold or any other commodity, its ownership can be irreversibly documented hence it can be exchanged peer-to-peer. But if you look around for broader financial assets, more than 80% of the world’s financial value is held in a legal container called the limited company. So we are bringing company shares on the blockchain."
Hong Kong-based Crowdwiz's platform offers fully decentralized, investments powered by the wisdom of the crowd. It is structured around cutting out the intermediary and allowing investors to deal directly with other investors with access to funding, bids, and prices that might otherwise be blocked by a middle man. In an interview with Coinspeaker, the developers claimed that the "CrowdWiz fund allows the crowd, not fund managers, banks or middlemen with conflicting interests, to decide on how the general fund is spent." To date, they have raised $6,677,182.
Founder Slavena Savcheva stated that "there is a big problem in the investment world today, in which fund managers overcharge for fees and sometimes withhold certain information from clients. CrowdWiz will change all this – giving the smart crowd, not a biased third party, the power to ultimately decide how their money is invested."
First conceived in June 2017, CoinLION is the world's first cryptocurrency exchange with built-in portfolio management. "Managing cryptocurrencies and digital assets is a complicated and confusing process,” said Joshua DeWitt, CEO and Co-Founder at CoinLion, speaking to Global Newswire. “We are building a powerful trading platform that makes managing digital assets easy and efficient. CoinLion contains a unique portfolio management tool and public profile system that rewards users for sharing portfolios, strategies, and information relating to the management of digital assets."
Based in Palo Alto, ShoCard uses blockchain technology to verify identity. ShoCard co-founder Jeff Weitzman told TechCrunch: ‘We’ve created a digital identity card that is as easy to use as a driver’s license but it’s so secure that a bank can rely on it. We’re using public and private keys, data hashing, multi-factor authentication.’
Founded in 2015, ShoCard raised $1.5m in venture capital shortly after launch and in May last year struck up its first major partnership with airline IT company SITA, joining forces to build a proof-of-concept for a technology streamlining the way airlines verify passenger identities.