6 Black Trailblazers In Crypto And Blockchain

6 Black Trailblazers In Crypto And Blockchain

Black Trailblazers In Crypto And Blockchain

Shawn Wilkinson, Storj, @super3

Shawn Wilkinson is the founder and chief strategy officer of Storj — pronounced storage — a cloud storage platform that can’t be censored, monitored, or have downtime. Storj claims to be the first decentralized, end-to-end encrypted cloud storage that uses blockchain technology and cryptography to secure files without a data center.

Storj is a platform, cryptocurrency, and suite of decentralized applications that allow users to store data in a secure and decentralized manner. Decentralized, in that there are no central servers to be compromised. Files are encrypted, shredded into little pieces called “shards”, and stored in a decentralized network of computers around the globe. No one but users have a complete copy of their files, not even in an ecrypted form.

Storj was started as an open-source project in 2014, and launched with a crowdsale at the same time as Ethereum launched. “In fact, I contributed to the Ethereum crowdsale and Vitalik (Vitalik Buterin is a Russian-Canadian programmer who co-founded Ethereum) contributed to Storj,” Wilkinson said in a WeTrust blog interview:

We raised half a million dollars through the token crowdsale, and in 2015 we started Storj Labs Inc, a company built on top of the Storj platform that provides additional support and services. You can think of Storj as being like WordPress.org, and Storj Labs as being like WordPress.com, providing additional services that make it easy for people to use the platform.

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Storj Labs’ subsequent token sale in 2017 exceeded expectations. It reached its $30 million goal in seven days in May, becoming the second largest token sale to-date, the company said in a press release.

The Storj network includes more than 20,000 API users who store data and nearly 19,000 farmers (users who rent out their spare hard drive space and bandwidth), with double digit month-over-month growth. Storj has  partnerships with Microsoft Azure and Heroku to provide developers with a distributed object storage solution that touts effortless encryption, optimal speed and easy implementation.

In development for three years, the Storj product launched commercially this year. It was all open source and all free software. Wilkinson talked about the then-upcoming token sale during a Rice University talk:

“Our focus and push is scaling up the tools that we need to be able to compete with Amazon S3 and Google Cloud and all these large platforms that make billions of dollars, but also using all these next-generation technologies that exist on Ethereum that we just didn’t have before. This token sale really allows us to do that. (It) allows us to propel at a really accelerated pace that you just couldn’t do with any traditional model.”

Arthur Hayes, BitMEX, @BitMEXdotcom

 Arthur Hayes runs BitMEX — the Bitcoin Mercantile Exchange — in Hong Kong.

The co-founder and CEO of the Bitcoin derivatives venue, Hayes earned a degree in economics from the Wharton School of Business, then moved to Hong Kong where he worked as an equity derivatives trader. He was the market-maker for Deutsche Bank and Citibank’s exchange-traded funds (ETF) businesses. He has extensive experience trading equity index futures, forwards, and swaps as well as non-deliverable FX forwards.

BitMEX handles on average $100 million dollars per day in the total value of products traded. The company is wholly owned by HDR Global Trading Limited, a Republic of Seychelles incorporated entity.

BitMEX makes no secret of wanting to earn its customers’ trust. On the BitMEX website, there are multiple warnings that cryptocurrency trading is a buyer-beware proposition. To that end, the platform allows would-be users to test it out. For example, BitMEX says:
At first, our documentation section may seem daunting as derivatives trading has a lot of depth. While it’s easy to get started and make your first trades, there is much to learn.
  • BitMEX is a derivatives exchange that offers leveraged contracts that are bought and sold in Bitcoin.
  • BitMEX only handles Bitcoin. All profit and loss is in Bitcoin, even if you’re buying and selling altcoin contracts. BitMEX does not handle fiat currency.
  • BitMEX allows trading with a high amount of leverage.

Trading on BitMEX may be a new experience for some users given the products offered and product types. To see the main differences between BitMEX and other competitors please click here.

You can sign up with a new account, deposit some testnet Bitcoin and interact with a test market that looks and feels exactly like the real thing.

A lot of people see futures trading and options trading as creating volatility. On the contrary, Hayes says they actually reduce overall volatility in the market. So why should traders trust BitMEX with their Bitcoin?

“No. 1, I know how a proper excchge should operate,” Hayes said in a 2014 interview in We Use Coins. “I’ve traded on the biggest futures and options exchanges in the world. I’ve studied emerging policies and I know what the best practices are to make sure that we, as an exchange, can fulfill our obligations to our traders. No. 2. Transparency: we’re very transparent about how we calculate profit and loss, how we handle customer deposits, and if anything changes, we’ll be very transparent about alerting customers. I think that’s one of the biggest issues in the current marketplace — not that people are stealing money. It’s that when things happen, they’re silent. Only after a couple of days or hours after the fact do they come out and try to explain what happened. We’re going to try and get in front of that.”

Mike De’Shazer, ProofSuite, @proofsuite

Mike De’Shazer is a founding member of Proof Suite, a service that’s working to tokenize real-world assets such as real estate, businesses, and almost any asset that people can prove legal ownership of.

The company is based in Estonia and operates mainly in Korea.

Proof Suite plans to open a token sale on Nov. 1 at 10 p.m. Korea time, following a successful pre-sale that kicked off in August and raised approximately $1.7 million.

De’Shazer has 12 years of software development and corporate management experience. He has independently built more than 30 apps, serving about 2.5 million users. He has worked with large corporations and startups in roles from business to application development, and often in between.

The Proof Dashboard allows anyone, anywhere, to tokenize their own assets in minutes and sell fractions of them on the blockchain, according to TheBlockchain.com. More than 2,000 assets have been tokenized on the Proof dashboard and approximately 200 of them are being traded on third-party decentralized exchanges. The Proof platform offers tools like a Legal Agreement Generator, to make the process smoother, more dependable and trustworthy:

By tokenizing assets and selling them fractionally on the blockchain, we free up their value to be used productively and give people more control over their assets,” said De’Shazer in an interview on Block Tribune. “Essentially, we’re using the trustless nature of the blockchain to hand over the role of banks and regulators to the crowd. The results will be new opportunities, greater financial sovereignty, and greater financial efficiency.”

Proof also has a tool called an “Assurance Market Protocol (AMP)” that will decentralize the dashboard and make it resistant to censorship attempts. It includes a prediction marketplace to insure and assess the risk of tokenized assets.

“The prediction marketplace is exciting,” De’Shazer said, “because it creates a self-regulatory environment for investors’ protection. People with expertise in a particular asset are incentivized to stake for it or against it, based on the potential for financial rewards. It’s the first truly honest system for risk assessment.”

Proof lets people trade and store its own Crypto Fiat, which pegs ether to USD or euros in an ether reserve wallet. This is the first pure blockchain solution for fiat-pegged ether, according to Block Tribune.

Aram J. Barnett, Alluminate, @AramBarnett

Aram J. Barnett is the CEO of Alluminate, a cryptocurrency market data, blockchain services, and investment company that aims to give accredited investors, hedge funds, and pension fund manager portfolios safe exposure to cryptocurrency markets.

At age 20, Barnett is one of the first black entrepreneurs to lead his own crypto hedge fund. The Washington D.C.-based crypto fund will soon close its first fund with $25 million, International Business Times reported:

Barnett started tinkering with cryptocurrency when he was just 14 years old. “I’ve always been the youngest person in the room, this young, scruffy black guy talking about blockchain,” Barnett told IBT. “I can count the amount of African-Americans in this space. We all know each other. And there are even less women.”

In addition to experience in cryptocurrencies and blockchain, Barnett has a background in startup management. He has developed companies in finance, business management, and software development with two successful exits, according to his LinkedIn account.

Alluminate is a relatively new hybrid fund, combining various aspects of venture capital similar to ConsenSys Ventures in New York, IBT reported. What Barnett’s team lacks in years and college degrees, it makes up for with experienced advisors. These include Ari Paul, co-founder of BlockTower Capital, and former NASDAQ Vice Chairman David Wield.

Traditional hedge funds have a huge diversity problem. Combined, minorities and women control less than 1 percent of the industry’s assets, according to a recent study by the Bella Research Group and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Minorities own around 8 percent of American hedge funds while women own just 4.3 percent.

Thanks to skyrocketing bitcoin prices and a broader cryptocurrency boom, a flurry of crypto hedge funds are starting that specialize in blockchain-based digital assets. The new funds could bring much-needed diversity to this lucrative fintech sector.

Niran Babalola, ConsenSys, @ConsenSys

Niran Babalola is the product engineer for ConsenSys, a venture production studio building decentralized applications and developer and end-user tools for blockchain ecosystems, primarily focused on Ethereum.
Components built by ConsenSys enable new services and business models to be built on the blockchain.
Babalola says in his ConsenSys bio that he writes software and designs products to make people more powerful:
After spending years building journalism products to help people understand their world better, he dove into the payments industry to help people pay with their phones and stumbled across Bitcoin in the process. He helped build Augur and Gnosis, and is excited to find new ways to bring the power of an executable historical record to everyone.
 At ConsenSys, Babalola works on crowdfunding and digital asset products, including Benefactory, a platform that tokenizes economic movements on the blockchain. He has contributed to several decentralized software projects, including WeiFundGnosis, and Augur.

An Austin native, Babalola is an activist for inclusion. He has been heavily involved in CodeNEXT, Austin’s ongoing effort to revise the city’s Land Development Code.

In March 2017, Babalola was part of an Austin Tech Alliance panel and he made the case that CodeNEXT’s opportunities extend far beyond affordability:

“People are blaming the tech industry for the problems we’re seeing with affordability, as if having people who are coming in and creating things is something we should stop —that we should have less jobs, that our economy has won so much that we’re tired of winning. Instead, what we need to decide to do is have inclusive neighborhoods, (so that) who lives in a neighborhood is defined by what kind of people choose to live there … That’s the kind of Austin we can be. All we have to do is choose it, get involved, and demand it — because that’s the Austin we deserve.”

Chrissa McFarlane, Patientory, @ChrissaTanelia

Based in Atlanta, Chrissa McFarlane is one of the few Black female founders in technology. In May, she raised more than $7 million in about three days in a crowd sale for her cybersecurity healthcare tech platform, Patientory. Now McFarlane inspires others to take the leap and start their own companies.

The $7.2 million raised came from 1,728 individual contributors.

As a result of Patientory’s crowd sale, McFarlane has already seen the fruits of her labor. She has attracted more potential funding — this time from institutional venture capital and investors that can help her scale her project, McFarlane told Moguldom.com.

Patientory secures patient health data through private infrastructure on the Ethereum blockchain. It services hospital systems and health care organizations, however the technology is also empowering patients to take a more active role in their care by giving them secure access to their health information, McFarlane said.

McFarlane spoke at 500 Startups Unity & Inclusion Summit Atlanta about the importance of diversity in tech, and what this means for minorities and other underrepresented groups that are trying to establish businesses and help grow their communities.

“I really think it’s important for more females and minority groups to start building their companies which impact the communities that they live in,” she said. “That’s what I expect to do on a more global level with Patientory — to be able to inspire other female entrepreneurs to take that leap and start their companies.”

Patientory is putting electronic medical records on an Ethereum-based blockchain for better security, acquiring funding and partnerships to help promote its concept. By the time it launches, Patientory wants to give patients, healthcare payers and healthcare workers an easy way to settle accounts.

“The healthcare system is fragmented,” McFarlane said. Patientory “really brings together the industry as a collective toward reducing costs and improving not only the U.S. healthcare infrastructure but the global healthcare ecosystem.”

Since its crowdsale, Patientory has focused on integrating with other networks to help build a decentralized ecosystem for healthcare participants. One of the most significant developments for Patientory came in late August when it announced a partnership with the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger initiative, Bitcoin Magazine reported:

Hyperledger follows the Linux Foundation’s model of building reference platforms for commonly-used technologies. What it did for Linux, it hopes to do for the blockchain. Just as there are multiple Linux distributions, the project will spawn a family of blockchain frameworks using code from a single reference platform, making it easier for the frameworks to interoperate with each other.

One of Patientory’s goals is to integrate processes in the healthcare system.

“If we’re going to use the blockchain to really be the foundational layer for that interoperability, then the chains have to interact with each other and provide the same functionality,” McFarlane said.

Patientory is also making partnership toward payments integration. Blockchain-based digital cash network Dash has partnered with blockchain web services company BlockCypher to offer a grant program for organizations integrating their services. Patientory announced its participation in that program in August.

“Dash is purely digital cash, so we’re able to spearhead and accelerate the usage of digital currency for transactions in the health industry,” McFarlane said.

McFarlane is the chairwoman of a blockchain working group and is active on the conference circuit, educating the market about “how everything works in this space.”

The company is hoping to launch its beta version by the end of 2017, according to Bitcoin Magazine. It’s focusing on proving its concept, scaling the platform and fostering adoption.