Applications are now open for Q1 2020 Techstars mentorship-driven accelerators. These program spanning North America, Europe, and the Middle East are looking for the best entrepreneurs to join their 2020 programs. where they’ll experience 13 weeks of growth and business acceleration through hands-on mentorship, investment and access to the techstars worldwide network.
Accelerators accepting applications as of today include:
- Alchemist Blockchain Techstars Accelerator (NYC) – Apply Now
- Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars London (London) – Apply Now
- BSH Future Home Accelerator Powered by Techstars (Munich) – Apply Now
- Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator powered by Techstars (Atlanta) – Apply Now
- Techstars Anywhere Accelerator (virtual) – Apply Now
- Techstars Bangalore Accelerator (Bangalore) – Apply Now
- Techstars Berlin Accelerator (Berlin) – Apply Now
- Techstars Boston Accelerator (Boston) – Apply Now
- Techstars Boulder Accelerator (Boulder) – Apply Now
- Techstars Chicago Accelerator (Chicago) – Apply Now
- Techstars Hub71 Accelerator (Abu Dhabi) – Apply Now
- Techstars Lisbon in partnership with Semapa Next (Lisbon) – Apply Now
- Techstars Seattle Accelerator (Seattle) – Apply Now
- Techstars Smart Mobility Accelerator (Turin) – Apply Now
- Techstars Toronto Accelerator (Toronto) – Apply Now
In every Techstars accelerator, founders spend three months working with other founders, mentors, corporate partners, and investors to drive their companies towards rapid growth and success. Join the nearly 2,000 startups that have raised over $7 Billion in funding, boast a collective market cap of $22 Billion, and have accelerated their businesses through a Techstars accelerator over the past 12 years.
Think your startup is a good fit? Connect with us to learn more about Techstars accelerator programs and how you can join our worldwide network of more than 10,000 mentors, partners, investors and founders to accelerator your startup, or apply now.
By Matej Michalko, Founder and CEO of DECENT
We at DECENT are investing in educating communities about the different ways that blockchain can be leveraged to make the world a better place. For example, in 2018, we worked with Techstars to bring a Techstars Startup Weekend Decentralize to Boulder. At this 54-hour event, participants pitched ideas for how to put blockchain to use, from improving infrastructure to bringing more equity into the insurance industry. However, one area we didn’t see discussed was how blockchain can restore trust in charities.
We all want to #GiveFirst and know that what we give is going to the right place, and blockchain can make this happen.
Charities Misuse Funds, Donors Become Mistrustful
In 2010, people gave half a billion dollars to the Red Cross to support victims after a terrible earthquake in Haiti. The Red Cross claimed to provide homes for more than 130,000 people with these funds, but in 2015, Propublica and NPR reported that most of that money did not go toward helping Haitians after this disaster, and only six permanent homes had been built. Also in 2015, the New York Times reported that four cancer charities—known collectively as the Reynolds Cancer Charities—took donations of nearly $200 million intended to support cancer patients and used these funds primarily for personal expenses.
These shameful examples left the public suspicious of charities. Trust in Charities 2018, a report from the Charity Commission for England and Wales, found an average level of trust in charities at 5.5 out of 10, with 45% of respondents self-reporting that their trust in charities has decreased—a dramatic increase of 12% compared to 2016.
Security, Transparency, Reliability
Blockchain can add much-needed security, transparency, and reliability into processes where those elements are important, like charitable giving. Here’s how:
1. Eliminate Corruption
All transactions on blockchain are available to public audit. This allows for donations to be tracked transparently, granting the donors direct information on when, how, and who handles their contributions. Users can put their trust in the fact that transactions are executed precisely as the protocol commands, removing the need for a third party. Changes to public blockchains are publicly viewable by all parties, which creates transparency, and transactions are immutable, meaning they cannot be altered or deleted. Donors want to see where the money goes and how it is used, and with blockchain, they can do exactly that.
2. Diminish Unnecessary Costs
Third-party intermediaries often eat into donations in the form of transaction fees or fees for payments. Blockchain can help charities avoid intermediaries and aggregators, and keep more money for the intended use. This can maximize the impact of the funds raised, and incentivize donors to continue supporting good causes with confidence.
In addition, charities will no longer need to depend on institutions like banks or various government agencies that may apply shady practices while handling the donated funds.
3. Turn One-Time Donors into Repeat Donors
The online fundraising platform Charity Checkout published a 2018 report on The Future of Online Giving, and found that nearly 90% of donors would rather donate through a charity’s website than a third-party fundraising platform. The report also found that “almost half of those donating directly via a charity’s website agreed or strongly agreed that they would be more likely to give again; this is compared to just 19 percent of donors saying they would give again after using third-party fundraising platforms.”
When charities use blockchain technology and accept donations on their own websites, they’re meeting donor preferences—and increasing repeat donations.
4. No Geographic Limitations and Real-Time Transfers
Blockchain works on an entirely decentralized basis. This means that it poses no geographic limitations for donors or charities, making cross-border payments seamless and much less expensive. Contrast this with traditional systems, like banks, which require any transferred funds to go through a single SWIFT network. A peer-to-peer-enabled system, like blockchain, can make it easy for charities to break down borders, allowing blockchain-created cryptocurrencies to be utilized from any country around the world.
Donations also take place in real time, with some of the more technologically mature blockchains being able to process upwards of thousands of transactions per second, eliminating atrocious waiting periods. This makes giving much more appealing for people who want to see their funds being received and used right away.
Re-establishing Trust Through Transparency
These are all important benefits. But the most important element for re-establishing public trust in charities is the transparency of blockchain.
For charities, this means that donations can be released quickly and transparently to those in need. Charitable donations can be tracked within the public ledger, making it visible for anyone to see exactly how the funds are distributed. Ultimately, this protects both the donor and the charitable institution accepting the donations from manipulated transaction records and any possible sanctions.
By utilizing cryptography and nodes which are distributed and decentralized, blockchain can ensure that these transactions are secured and immutable. By following protocols which intrinsically govern blockchain, known as smart contracts, donors are left with a sense of assurance between the trusted parties (i.e., the charity and donors). In their essence, smart contracts are fundamentally blockchain-enabled security protocols that ensure that a contract is fulfilled as per agreement. This can ensure that such contracts don’t get breached.
The New Kid On The Block
Blockchain is still the new kid on the block, often compared to the Internet in 1995, but it offers benefits that are hard to dismiss. The technology has experienced significant growth over just the past few years. Some charities are already taking advantage of these benefits to do good in the world, such as Alice, Humanity Token, AidCoin, and many more.
The number of blockchain charity projects is growing, and this is good for everyone: good for donors, good for people in need, and good for the charities that want to lend a helping hand. We look forward to seeing where else blockchain will solve problems and gain wide public adoption.
After all, the internet in 1995 may not have been too impressive—but the people and companies that saw its potential went on to change the world.
There is no shortage of hype when it comes to the blockchain industry and the promises of what decentralization can deliver to the world. We’ve seen huge inflows of funding going in and out of ICOs, the world’s first decentralized digital currency hitting all-time highs and lows, and the emerging idea of smart contracts radically changing our notion of the future. As with any disruptive technology, there are challenges—and opportunities.
There are a number of hurdles for blockchain technology to overcome before it becomes mainstream, including scaling, UI/UX, cost efficiencies, regulatory uncertainty, security, token economics, and the industry is still seeking its killer use cases that deliver a 10x improvement on what was there before.
At Techstars, we’ve spent the past nine months searching the globe for founders who are passionate about building a more open internet and financial system, and are working day and night to tackle these blockchain challenges head on.
Today, I’m excited to announce the inaugural class of the Alchemist Blockchain Techstars Accelerator. With applicants from over 45 countries, we selected 10 that stood out, from cities like Indianapolis, Prague, Cape Town, Toronto, New Orleans, and more. After countless hours in interviews, meetings, and discussions, these entrepreneurs proved to us why their startups are the ones that will shape the future.
Our one and only goal is to support and grow these 10 companies. Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, and we’re able to do that thanks to strong global partners and mentors who help make this happen. I would like to thank our mentors, global network partners, and alumni for their generous support. And a special thanks to the team at Alchemist for their true commitment to the success of our partnership and these companies.
Without further ado, here are the Alchemist Blockchain Techstars Accelerator 2019 companies:
Alkemi offers a community-based liquidity solution in the form of a crypto savings account to address the significant crypto-market price inefficiencies amidst fragmented centralized exchange markets.
Founders: Ryan Breen & Aristotle Andrulakis | Toronto, Canada | https://alkemi.network/
AnyLedger allows companies to easily build IoT-Blockchain applications by offering them infrastructure as a service.
Founder: Lorenzo Pieri | Berlin, Germany | http://anyledger.io/
Autom(8) is the world’s first decentralized Function as a Service (FaaS) marketplace.
Founders: Gregg Altschul, Samuel Strauch & Will McLeod | New York, NY | http://autom8.network/
Blockade Games specializes in integrating blockchain and alternate reality components into puzzles and games to create experiences that transcend the digital world.
Founders: Marguerite deCourcelle, Benjamin Heidorn & Diego Rodriguez | Indianapolis, IN | http://blockade.games/
Embleema empowers patients with rare and chronic diseases to accelerate medicine by sharing their health data.
Founder: Robert Chu, Alexis Normand & Nicolas Schmidt | Metuchen, NJ | https://www.embleema.com/
Gilded provides essential accounting tools for crypto businesses—everything from bookkeeping to invoicing, payments, financial reports, tax compliance, and security.
Founders: Gil Hildebrand & Ken Gaulter | New Orleans, LA | https://gilded.finance/
Paperchain helps media companies unlock and accelerate media revenue by turning daily streaming & consumption data into tradable assets, and connecting them to a global investment marketplace.
Founders: Daniel Dewar, Rahul Rumalla, & Dave Tomaselli | Staten Island, NY | https://paperchain.io/
Paperstreet connects retail investors with alternative investment opportunities typically reserved for VCs and institutions.
Founders: Matt deCourcelle, Carter Lathrop, David Younts, & Alex Ratner | Indianapolis, IN | https://paperstreet.vc/
Trixta is building the most efficient way to develop great software for decentralized organizations.
Founders: Mark Levitt & Roger Norton | Phoenix, AZ | http://trixta.com/
Veracity Protocol is the ultimate bridge between physical things & the digital world. We allow anyone to guarantee the identity, authenticity and condition of physical items using our new AoT standard and infrastructure.
Founders: Roman Komarek, Jakub Krcmar, & Kamil Behun | Prague, Czech Republic | https://www.veracityprotocol.org/
Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, and Alchemist, a global blockchain advisory group, are partnering to bring a new mentorship-driven accelerator program to New York City: Alchemist Blockchain Techstars Accelerator. Yossi Hasson of Techstars and Steven Nerayoff of Alchemist will lead the program along with other mentors and experts from both companies.
The dedicated blockchain accelerator program will focus on blockchain infrastructure and protocol development, cryptocurrencies, security, and distributed applications in finance, IoT, education, real estate, retail, insurance, energy, health and wellness, and more. The accelerator program will address challenges that blockchain founders face when trying to build and scale their blockchain business as well as give them access to expert mentors.
Alchemist Blockchain Techstars Accelerator will help founders gain access to expertise in the nascent – yet rapidly growing – cryptocurrency and blockchain industry, helping them do more faster. Selected companies will not only benefit from resources across Techstars and Alchemist’s ecosystems, but will also have the opportunity to work closely with leading market players in the blockchain industry.
Techstars has long been investing in blockchain technology, with more than a dozen successful companies already in its portfolio. The move to launch a dedicated blockchain accelerator in New York City acknowledges the specific challenges that blockchain founders face when trying to build and scale their blockchain business. These challenges include: complex regulatory environments, rapidly changing technology landscapes, token design, community building, and difficulties attracting talent. Alchemist Blockchain Techstars Accelerator aims to help founders address these challenges by creating a program that gives them access to Techstars’ and Alchemist’s worldwide mentors.
Applications for the Alchemist Blockchain Techstars Accelerator will open on July 23, 2018 and the program will start in February 2019. For entrepreneurs interested in applying to Techstars Blockchain Accelerator, join our Telegram Group and please check out the application toolkit.
In addition, the team will include Maja Vujinovic, a blockchain pioneer, investor and former CIO of Emerging Tech at GE Digital, and Gary Rubinoff, a seasoned venture capitalist nurturing emerging companies into category leaders for the past 25 years.
Blockchains are changing the foundation of the global economy, and everyone is freaking out.
Opinionated tribes are invoking civil wars and “forking” into new tribes. Multiple heated battles are happening simultaneously (mostly on social media) while only a few people on the outside understand what’s going on.
Even the terminology being thrown around is confusing; there’s been a rapid evolution of new technology that has resulted in a lack of lingo consensus. What is an ICO vs. a token sale vs. a TGE? Are coins, tokens, and cryptocurrencies the same thing? What exactly is a “protocol”, “DAO”, “dApp”, etc…
Still, a growing number of people are realizing that there is a way to transfer assets to each other securely, reliably, publicly, irreversibly, and globally — without the need for a central authority.
Marketplace corporations that profit from buyer/seller transactions (like Uber, AirBnB, eBay, Amazon, etc…) are paying especially close attention.
We’ve entered a world where “trust” is moving toward distributed networks of machines that no one person, group, corporation, or government owns. These networks have rock-solid data integrity, zero downtime, and financial incentives for anyone who participates.
The implications of this are enormous.
How we do business with currency, credit, contracts, real estate, computing, communications, fundraising, and pretty much anything else you can think of is changing.
It’s happening right now, and it’s happening fast.
What is a blockchain?
Simply put, a blockchain is a very long list of transactions stored on a network of computers (i.e. a distributed ledger).
As an illustration, imagine writing on a piece of paper that resulted in thousands of other pieces of paper around the world magically showing what you wrote. A blockchain is like that.
What is special about this distributed ledger is:
- It can smartly establish consensus of state (i.e. the transactions) even if huge swaths of computers on the network go down.
- The transactions are organized as a list of timestamped line items in the ledger inside blocks of data.
- Cryptography ensures that past transactions cannot be deleted or modified.
- Everyone can see the history of every transaction since the beginning of the chain’s creation.
- People are financially incentivized to spin up computers in the network, which secures the network’s ongoing existence.
Thus, math secures a blockchain’s past, and money secures a blockchain’s future.
What are protocols?
Most of us are used to entrusting a bank to maintain a proper ledger and ensure money is not “double spent.” But with blockchains, that trust is in the network of computers and their cryptographically secure protocol (i.e. the software that governs rules, operations, and communication between network nodes).
As an example, the Internet today runs on a relatively “thin” layer of protocols such as TCP/IP, SMTP, HTTP, and HTTPS. These protocols establish rules for computers across a network to follow in order to communicate effectively.
On top of these protocols, a relatively “fat” layer of applications like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.. have been built to interface between data and people. With this setup, centralized organizations own all the data and users are required to create new accounts and enter credit card info (and other sensitive data) in multiple places. This is annoying, especially when our identity and payment info gets hacked.
Blockchains are also operated and accessed via protocols, but the critical difference is that instead of a few “thin” protocols, a huge number of niche protocols are being built (i.e. “fat protocols”) that will support the next generation of applications. This setup allows users to “own” their data, and it allows developers to leverage a multitude of protocols and blockchains that will enable more powerful, secure, and inexpensive solutions for everything from payments and banking, to healthcare and telecommunications.
How can people transfer assets to each other on a blockchain?
Functionally, to create a transaction, applications like a “wallet” are used to create a “public address” (derived from a “public key”) on the network, which indicates identity. An associated “private key” — which is kept hidden from the network — grants ownership.
Importantly, each transaction sent into the blockchain must:
- be sent to a public address
- be “signed” by a private key
- include a transaction fee to be collected by the computers powering the network (or just “burned”, depending on how the blockchain is setup).
This process keeps the ledger growing in size indefinitely, and properly signals to the operators of the machines (i.e. “miners”) that transactions are worth processing. Without a sufficient fee sent with a transaction, miners won’t bother processing it (this helps prevent spam and denial-of-service attacks).
What happens if I lose my private keys or they get stolen?
Then unfortunately you are out of luck. By design there is no central authority to call and help you get it back. This is why various offline solutions for storing and securing private keys have become popular recently.
(As an amusing aside: while promising to disintermediate institutions like banks, ironically a growing number of people in the crypto world are storing some or all of their private keys within safe deposit boxes… in banks.)
What can blockchains do?
Blockchains have utility to disintermediate central authorities & disrupt corporations that silo data and hoard profit. With new protocols for things like payments, file storage, computing, lending, identity, reputation, etc… a boom in marketplace innovation is already happening:
- Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ripple, etc… record financial transactions (threatening traditional “fiat” currencies).
- Filecoin, Storj, Siacoin, etc… enable file storage (threatening cloud storage providers).
- Steem, Golos, Leeroy, etc… pay people to make & discover social media content (threatening Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc… ).
- And so on…
Of course, these are just examples of blockchains in each market. There are plenty of other currencies, file storage protocols, and social media platforms rising up as well (not to mention every other market vertical!).
Can blockchains be more complex than this?
Yes, they can. As an example, blockchains like Ethereum can store transactions that contain executable code. This means it is now possible to write a computer program on a decentralized network to move assets around based on pre-defined contract conditions.
In other words, anyone can now do things like make a will that distributes money over defined time intervals, create their own digital token to represent something (like an asset, part of an asset, or a club membership), or write a series of rules to govern a company (or even a whole country!).
Overall, my friend Conrad (@lisperati) recently wrote to me the following important observation:
“One of the things that makes blockchains different from databases (and makes ethereum different from a “computer”) is that blockchains are essentially nothing more than protocols: Anybody could write their own piece of software, connect it to the ethereum network, and it would process transactions exactly like ethereum, as long as the ethereum protocol is followed. Blockchains are a sort of ‘protocolization’ of computer software.”
What are coins?
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ripple, etc.. that are recorded in transactions on blockchains indicating only a change in a numerical value (e.g. “X sends 1.34 to Y”) are “coins.”
What are tokens?
While it’s common to hear the word “coin” and “token” used interchangeably, the terms are importantly different. A coin is a relatively simple type of token, whereas a token can be — and often is — much more sophisticated than a coin.
Tokens are a complicated subject because not all of them are the same. The various types have different names being used currently, but — categorically:
- Asset tokens represent ownership of an asset (e.g. a company, a venture capital fund, an expensive piece of art, etc…). An example is BCAP, which represents ownership in Blockchain Capital’s third fund.
- Usage tokens (aka “Use”, “Protocol”, “Intrinsic”, or “Native” tokens) are used as transaction fees to write to a blockchain. Bitcoin is the most common example here.
- Work tokens give owners permission to contribute, govern, and/or “do work” on a blockchain. An example would be Maker (MKR), which gives owners the ability to govern an organization that manages the stability of an underlying coin (DAI).
- Hybrid tokens have properties of two or more of the above. Filecoin, for example, will be both a usage token (you need it to use the system), and a work token (you need to own some in order to provide file storage).
And to clarify some other potentially confusing terms regarding tokens and coins:
- ERC20 tokens can be any token (most commonly created on Ethereum) that adheres to the ERC20 token standard of how to access information, transfer assets, and fire off events. This makes it easier for developers to create applications such as wallets that work with a variety of tokens.
- App coin (or “appcoin”) is older term for a token used to fund a project. When you read articles from more than 6–12 months ago, you’ll often see this term. When you come across this term, just think “token.”
- Alt coin (or “altcoin”) is an appcoin that powers it’s own blockchain. Any coin that does so besides Bitcoin (e.g. Ethereum) is, by definition, an altcoin.
- Meta coin (or “metacoin”, or “colored coin” when using bitcoin) is a token that is built on top of a blockchain that already has an underlying coin. Nowadays, people just use the term token, which can be confusing when project owners generate and sell tokens in a self-described “Initial Coin Offering.”
- And a Cryptocurrency, by the way, is any token recorded on a blockchain that is traded on a market as money.
Are all protocols created with an associated token?
No. To make you even more confused (or enlightened), protocols can be created with or without an associated token.
An example is what’s going on over at Augur:
“Augur combines the magic of prediction markets with the power of a decentralized network to create a stunningly accurate forecasting tool — and the chance for real money trading profits”
You should read more about Augur via their white paper, but for our purposes here, it’s important to know that they run their network with a protocol token (REP), which is a work token that allows owners to report on the outcomes of events that the market is attempting to predict. REP itself is a token with a tradable market value.
In addition, Augur leverages another, separate protocol (which you can also read about in their white paper) to handle the token transactions between buyers and sellers. This protocol, by design, is not associated with a token.
Thus, protocols and tokens are extremely open-ended and flexible.
What is an Initial Coin Offering (ICO)?
This buzzword — though catchy since it sounds like Initial Public Offering (IPO) — is a misnomer. Most “ICOs” these days are more accurately described as Token Sales or “Token Generating Events” (TGEs).
Practically, token sales are fundraising events that can happen (1) before a company launches, (2) while a product is being built, or (3) after a product has been in the market for awhile. Most token sales these days are done via ERC20 tokens on top of Ethereum.
A big list of past and upcoming token sales can be found here.
Soon we’ll see token sales be the default fundraising mechanism for new and existing companies. This will offer investors a more liquid asset (i.e. the ability to quickly buy things with the tokens or sell them). And, in addition to the capital they raised, founders retain the liquidity of the tokens they kept. This essentially results in a double-fundraising event!
This is an extremely powerful change to the status quo.
What are dApps?
Having discussed blockchains, protocols, and tokens, the final layer to the tech stack in the crypto-universe are consumer-facing platforms and applications. The term “dApp” refers to a “decentralized application”, which — long story short — means it’s built on top of one or more decentralized blockchains, protocols, and tokens.
A huge list of 645+ dApps can be found at https://dapps.ethercasts.com
What are Smart Contracts?
Made popular by the folks behind Ethereum, Smart Contracts (SCs) are executable code contained within transactions on a blockchain that execute predefined rules based on a set of conditions (i.e. “contracts”). SCs, therefore, are transaction protocols by definition; they move assets between parties reliably based on programmed instructions.
Indeed, new protocols in the form of smart contracts written to the Ethereum blockchain are created often. Examples are SCs baked into tokens that define the who, what, where, and when between token purchasers and generators. Many token sales these days are an agreement to deliver a token that has not yet been created (e.g. Filecoin’s recent token sale); the associated SC is programmed to distribute the new tokens appropriately once they become available.
What are DAOs?
DAOs are “Decentralized Autonomous Organizations” that are governed by Smart Contracts. DAOs should not be confused with “The DAO”, which did a token sale in May 2016 to raise ~$150m, of which ~$50m was hacked and stolen a few weeks later. This resulted in the shutdown of the organization and a fork of the Ethereum community after leaders decided to rollback the code and give the money back to the victims.
An example of an active DAO today is Maker, which — as mentioned above — grants MKR token holders the right to govern an underlying currency (DAI). The job of MKR token holders is to minimize the price volatility DAI against the IMF’s reserve asset, SDR. You can learn more about MKR and DAI in depth by reading their white paper here.
Big picture, the future of DAOs could be in autonomous organizations like, for example, a global fleet of self-driving cars using programmed rules to operate. Instead of being owned by a central authority, they could own themselves and use profits to add to their fleet, drive themselves to repair shops and pay for services, etc…
So yes, Uber & Lyft, be prepared for disruption by one or more robotic, AI-driven DAOs.
Author’s note: thanks in advance for any/all feedback, corrections, and comments to this article. Overall, it’s an amazing time ponder new protocols and solve interesting problems with decentralized infrastructure. Subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll let you know when I write more about blockchains, protocols, token sales, startups, and the occasional underlying science of health & fitness topics. Special thanks to Andrew, Dave, Mike, Tony, JC, Shay, and Conrad for reviewing this article and providing feedback! And last but not least, remember to comment below, and/or share this primer article with a friend if you’ve found it helpful. Thanks!
This was originally published here.