by Anne Szustek Talbot, director of content, BX3 Capital
When it comes to blockchain and cryptocurrency innovation, it’s all about accessibility, convenience, and utility. Or at least that was the common thread among the eight investor pitches at BX3 Capital’s Crypto Investor Summit, held earlier this month at the Delamar Hotel in Greenwich, Connecticut.
The event, the first that BX3 spearheaded since its launch earlier this year, provided a platform for entrepreneurs to present their blockchain-based businesses to potential investors and clients, as well as opportunities to network and connect on all things crypto. The presentations spanned an array of sectors, including legal document generation, film and television production, and renewable energy power grids in emerging markets.
Note: A recording of each BX3 Crypto Investor Summit pitch is also available here,courtesy Pitch Investors Live.
BlockDrop: Getting new crypto funds in legal shape
First on the podium was Jeff Knight, founder and president of BlockDrop, a digital reference tool for law firms looking to establish a cryptocurrency practice, as well as in-house corporate counsel facing these issues in their work.
“Say your hedge fund client wants to set up a crypto fund,” Knight muses in BlockDrop’s informational video. “With BlockDrop, you can say ‘Sure, Bob, we can do that.”
Given that cryptocurrency is shy of a decade old, there is little caselaw for lawyers to reference on the subject. Nonetheless, some key regulatory guidelines have been put in place regarding cryptocurrency, whether it be from the SEC regarding Anti-Money Laundering (AML) or Know Your Client (KYC) rules, or how to classify initial coin offerings (ICOs). BlockDrop seeks to codify this knowledge base into actionable content such as policy templates, practice guides, workflows, and document generation. Users can log in and access content on an as-needed basis, not unlike legal platforms with more conventional content such as Lexis-Nexis or Westlaw.
The service runs on a SaaS annualized monthly subscription model with a one-time set-up fee. In its first month since its initial launch, BlockDrop is already rolling out its services with a major global law firm. (BX3 is also a proud BlockDrop partner.)
Aireos: Peace of Mind in the Palm of Your Hands
Few features on a smartphone are as attention-grabbing as the built-in AMBER Alert notification. With the flip of a switch, an entire metropolitan area can get jolted into a fresh state of attention, complete with all of the pertinent details on a missing child, including description, the possible captor, and the license plate number.
Imagine distilling this product into micro scale — with the target audience being your personal inner circle. With Safewrd, Aireos’s blockchain-based signature product, users can signal to their emergency contacts that they are in danger by saying a pre-programmed code word. On their end, designated contacts will receive an AMBER Alert-style warning sound, complete with video and GPS coordinates of the scene. A drone will then arrive at the scene within three minutes to do recon and provide police with live eagle-eye footage of the incident.
During his presentation, Aireos founder Johnny Richardson Jr.projected that the app would lead to an improvement in response time of as much as 84 percent. In some jurisdictions, Richardson notes, response times can be an hour. Three minutes can be the difference between safety and tragedy.
Richardson is looking for $500,000–$1 million in seed funding for capital, including drones. He sees Aireos reaching the minimum viable product stage in about 30 to 45 days; governmental entities in Chicago and his hometown of Detroit have already shown interest in the technology.
Crowded Cloud: Putting Control of the Film Industry Back into Artists’ Hands
When speaking about his startup company Crowded Cloud, founder Javier Benavente often hinges the conversation around one key phrase: “digital studio democracy.” Much of Hollywood is based on connections, he points out. Many movie market deals are made within well-guarded business circles. Breaking into those cliques requires years of networking at best. Crowded Cloud seeks to break down these barriers, allowing holders of the company’s HAVI token to select and fund the projects of their choosing — these projects being repurposing of existing content to broadcast to a new generation of audiences.
Benavente points out that the Hollywood establishment often has a myopic view of what content will pay off. Take the Marvel franchise as an example: it had a built-in global fanbase with ready-made story lines — and was going for the low price of $25 million. A few powers-that-be, thinking the characters held little value, told the comic book franchise “thanks but no thanks.” Some $17 billion later, Marvel Studios has gotten the last laugh.
Now, imagine the other potential gems collecting dust in a film canister somewhere. Someone could be sitting on a gold mine of content; they just need the funding to bring the content to the latest formats, such as AR, VR, and 3D. Crowded Cloud makes the connections happen and allows token holders to choose and fund the projects deemed to hold the most promise.
“What we’re doing is post-production,” Benavente said during his presentation. “We’re trying to wring value out of old projects.”
Benavente hopes to have the system fully operational in beta format by September next year. In the meantime, Crowded Cloud is holding a presale of its tokens as part of its fundraising.
Pitch Investors Live: Deepening the Shark Tank for Entrepreneurs
A little bit Tinder, a little bit YouTube, little bit Shark Tank: Pitch Investors Liveoffers a global platform for entrepreneurs to connect with investors, while helping new companies get a little digital airtime to boot. Startups looking for exposure, funding, or a little advice — if not all three — can use Pitch Investors Live’s app to broadcast to investors around the world. Investors logging in at home can swipe right or left to vote yea or nay on potential projects, as well as pose questions or deliver live feedback. All of the video pitches are uploaded to YouTube, as well as saved in the app’s library. (Side note: In addition to presenting its own presentation, Pitch Investors Live recorded all of the presentations at the BX3 Crypto Investor Summit.)
Shark Tank regular Kevin Harrington is a regular on the Pitch Investors Live Channel, which helps bolster the network’s branding and audience development. Said the company during its pitch during the BX3 Crypto Investor Summit, “if we can get to about a hundred pitches a day, we will become one of the world’s most sought-after tech companies.”
PeaCounts: Paying It Forward to the Gig Economy
According to a recent survey cited by NPR, roughly one in five workers in the US is a contract or freelance worker. Within a decade, freelancers are on track to become the workforce majority, reports another recent survey. In gig employee-heavy New York City, local government has passed regulation enforcing timely freelancer payment. Considering the increasingly nomadic nature of our labor force and any subsequent legal requirements, payment systems will need to adapt to keep pace.
Enter PeaCounts, a blockchain-based payroll processing company tailored to the burgeoning gig economy. Says PeaCounts founder and CEO Crystal Stranger, “We want to be the back end for companies such as ADP and Paychex.”
People employed by companies using the PeaCounts platform log into the system at the start of their shift. The app’s built in geolocation function tracks users’ movements. Stranger, who runs four Airbnb properties, uses vacation rental maintenance as an example. “You can keep track of what the housekeepers and construction workers and pool cleaners are doing what they said they’re doing,” she notes. The system confirms that workers get compensated for the work performed without having to deal with messy time sheets and other freelance/contractor-related paperwork.
PeaCounts operates on its signature PEA token, which is forked off Bitcoin and is delivered via smart contract architecture.
Monarch Token: Making Online Currency Online Payment
Cryptocurrency has been around for roughly a decade now. Keeping this fact in mind, cryptowallet startup MonarchToken asks a fundamental question: What’s keeping Walmart — or pretty much any other household name retailer, for that matter — from accepting crypto?
Monarch co-founder and CEO Sneh Bhatt and Dylan Ander, chief marketing officer, have a few ideas on this front — and some that even the most ardent of cryptocurrency supporters will begrudgingly admit:
· It’s volatile: Given its vast price fluctuations within hours, never mind the months that a given item might be available for sale, it can well-nigh be impossible to keep prices current with exchange rates.
· Because of that fluctuating value, merchants can’t effectively charge recurring payments.
· There is no plug-in for online merchants.
· For all of those reasons and more, cryptocurrency presents e-commerce customers with a horrible user experience.
Enter Monarch to the rescue. The company’s attested mission is to enable all businesses to accept seamlessly and easily crypto as a form of payment, supporting the top content management systems in use, such as WordPress, Wix, Joomla, and Shopify. Eventually, the company envisions what Bhatt dubbed during his pitch a “financial kingdom”: the ability to conduct one’s online errands in crypto — with the Monarch wallet as the linchpin.
The platform’s cryptowallet allows for ready conversion from a customer’s crypto account to fiat for the merchant, an intuitive user interface and patent pending, a decentralized blockchain-based payment system. Moreover, Monarch gives the opportunity for users to choose a cryptowallet name that they actually stand a chance of remembering.
“How many people here remember their Ethereum address?” Sneh asked the BX3 Crypto Investor Summit crowd. Touché.
Monarch’s cryptowallet offers an integrated exchange, hot wallet and cold wallet all-in-one, which the founders suggest is better practice than leaving crypto on exchanges.
Given that Monarch’s utility is not unlike that of conventional fiat-to-fiat foreign exchange, it makes sense that it borrows another page from the conventional forex trading sector: Its security token is backed by silver, a precious metal that in general is less volatile than its currency-backing counterpart gold. Monarch seeks to raise $50 million in a dual-token structure, with 50 percent of revenues going back to security token holders.
Alternative Resource Group: Harnessing the wind, delivering energy
The final pitch of the BX3 Crypto Investor Summit energized potential investors on several levels.
Alternative Resource Group (ARG) seeks to launch and develop blockchain-based renewable energy power grids to communities in emerging markets, offering not just the long-term savings inherent with clean energy from an economic externality perspective but also, more simply, lower-cost kilowatt hours to users.
“To transport fuel halfway around the world and burn it somewhere else is a huge waste,” Michael Lumbley, development director at ARG, noted during his pitch. Conventional power grids’ infrastructure often falls short in providing steady electricity to some areas in developing economies. Power lines can only stretch so far, after all. Renewable energy, on the other hand, offers flexibility in where power stations and grids can be established. Sun and wind tend to transcend human-constructed boundaries.
Yet beyond providing power to all people, ARG offers the prospect of more green beyond green energy itself. ARG’s crypto token makes it possible for everyday retail investors to be able to make these projects happen. In general, clean energy is an investment class reserved for investment banks and other large-scale institutional investors such as pension funds. Via the company’s AR3 token, individuals can invest in the development and implementation of ARG’s energy projects, including its greenfield investments in Puerto Rico and in Mexico, near its border with Texas.
“Energy investment, including clean energy, is an asset class that’s understood by traditional finance, especially in Asian markets,” Lumbley notes. “But for developments in India and Africa, investors want something solid and stable, with a 20 percent return on investment.”
In this way, energy tokenization offers, as Lumbley says, “opportunity for people of every class.”