Storied Silicon Valley accelerator Plug and Play recently revealed its biggest batch of blockchain startups yet.
As part of its fourth FinTech class, Plug and Play selected eight blockchain startups, and while the number alone is impressive, two things stand out about its new entrants. The first is a renewed focus on the bitcoin blockchain, and the second is the maturity of the companies, which include recognizable names with market-tested products.
But based on conversations with multiple participants, these ambitious founders are looking for more than mentorships.
If all goes according to plan, the startups selected could take advantage of working with Plug and Play's corporate partners (which include Deloitte, Capital One, Credit Suisse and US Bank) to eventually secure valuable partnerships that could take blockchain mainstream.
To help make that happen, Plug and Play said participants will work with a "corporate champion" from each institution who will advise and inform them through their business development.
Vice president of financial technology Scott Robinson told CoinDesk:
"We think of it as creating task forces on-site."
Meet the eight blockchain startups joining its latest class:
A Toronto-based startup launched in June, Nuco was founded by three former members of Deloitte's blockchain team.
Now employing 11 people, the company is working to create a framework of blockchain-enabled infrastructures for both individual enterprises as well as companies looking to engage in consortia efforts with industry peers.
To begin that process, Nuco is first focusing on a customizable solutions designed to make it easier for blockchain companies to track compliance duties to the SEC and other regulators.
Nuco co-founder Kesem Frank told CoinDesk he sees the presence of major financial institutions as a way to bypass the "redundancies" of being introduced to many potential collaborators:
"Plug and Play represents a remarkable growth opportunity; it is a tremendous professional network that considerably streamlines the conversation between startups and established corporations," Frank said.
Tierion is working to help clients verify a wide-range of data on the bitcoin blockchain.
Launched last year, the Hartford, Connecticut-based firm won $5,000 at CoinDesk's Consensus 2016 Hackathon, and it has since raised an additional $1m to expand it services from an initial focus on insurance.
Tierion founder Wayne Vaughan cited free office space "in the heart of Silicon Valley" among the assets provided by the accelerator.
Like other participants, he views the potential networking with banking partners as pivotal to his work.
"Each week, we're meeting with enterprise customers that we've met through Plug And Play."
The Sun Exchange
Originally based in the UK, this startup is working to connect solar energy investors around the world with vetted solar energy projects.
The exchange buys solar panels for business operations in South Africa and leases them to locals who want a green source of energy. To meet its goal, The Sun Exchange accepts bitcoin for cross-border payments.
As part of being accepted to Plug and Play, The Sun Exchange relaunched as a US corporation, The Sun Exchange Inc, which has absorbed the previous parent company in the UK and operational arm in South Africa. Newly hired CFO Larry Temlock has relocated to San Francisco to participate in the program.
Though The Sun Exchange’s founder and CEO, Abraham Cambridge tells CoinDesk he’s looking forward the chance to develop business relations and listen to advice from Plug and Play’s financial partners, he added that he’s most excited about what he has to offer them.
"We want to promote to them the benefits of clean energy investing [to] their internal requirements and tailor our offerings to match their criteria."
The Sun Exchange received its first cash infusion in December of last year when it crowdfunded nearly £16,000 on Indiegogo.
Since then the company was a finalist at the Consensus conference in May, hosted by CoinDesk.
This Los Angeles-based startup is looking to make bitcoin more consumer-friendly by using identity-based solutions.
Earlier this year, Netki launched a blockchain-based certificate to ensure a website is safe to visit, and in July, it announced it had raised $3.5m from a group of investors, including Plug and Play.
According to Netki CEO Justin Newton, the accelerator is more suitable for mature startups that have already released products.
Newton told CoinDesk:
"This is the perfect time for us to spend some time at Plug and Play and gain curated access to their corporate partners. We have already been able to begin some great relationships that we believe will lead to increased and accelerated market traction."
This trade finance startup is building a blockchain-based way to provide letters of credit necessary for small- to medium-sized businesses.
Founded by graduates of MIT, Brown and Northwestern, the team is building a smart-contract based system to let lenders and borrowers negotiate directly with one another.
Once terms are agreed upon the dispersal of the funds would occur automatically. A future version of the platform is described on the company's site as a way to demonstrate creditworthiness and improve the reputation of both traders and lenders.
Another digital identity startup to make the cut is Palo Alto, California-based ShoCard, which uses the bitcoin blockchain to verify identity.
Founded in 2015, ShoCard raised $1.5m in venture capital from AME Cloud Ventures and others shortly after launch.
In May of this year, airline IT company SITA announced that it had partnered with ShoCard to build a proof-of-concept aimed at streamlining how airlines verify passenger identities.
Founded in 2014, Stellar is one of the more established startups accepted in the latest accelerator class.
Based in San Francisco, Stellar is seeking to create a distributed payment network that makes it more financially viable for large banks to serve the under-banked.
As of June, Stellar had multiple proofs-of-concept under development with Barclays South Africa and Deloitte, both of which are aimed at delivering financial services to the unbanked and underbanked in Africa.
Tradle is building a “metaprotocol” on top of bitcoin’s blockchain to create a layer of trust for non-financial applications.
Beginning with know-your-customer tool 'Trust in Motion', the firm is working to provide a core registration starting in the European Union and around the world.
Tradle won the KPMG FinTech Innovation Challenge earlier this year in the blockchain category.
Disclaimer: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has ownership stakes in Netki, ShoCard and Tierion.
Image via Plug and Play