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Having been part of the rise and fall of the cryptocurrency frenzy, I’ve come to hate blockchain pitches. After the great crypto crash, startups that want to make quick bucks through ICOs started disguising themselves as problem-solving businesses based on blockchain. What follows are lots of pompous talk, utopian visions and lavish parties but little proof of real-world applications. Any questions about how the backend works will be met with jargon-laden answers that seem intent on creating confusion than providing clarity.
At first glance, the invitation to Tribe Accelerator’s Smart Cities Blockchain program launch doesn’t seem any different from the other empty promises. It didn’t help that I couldn’t get more information out of the public relations agency (not blaming them; they were just following their client’s instruction not to leak information prior to the event). The secrecy didn’t help convince me to attend the event. But with Enterprise Singapore staking its name on the accelerator, I decided to give blockchain a final chance.
The event bore all the hallmarks of a blockchain event. Ornate venue? Check. Cocktails and wine? Check. Suits and ties? Check. T-shirts with company names printed on them? Check. Representatives of Singapore government agencies? That’s new, at least to me.
[pullquote]Key executives of the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS), Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and GovTech were present as well.[/pullquote]
Edwin Chow, Assistant CEO of Enterprise Singapore, was there to deliver the opening address. Key executives of the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS), Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and GovTech were present as well.
Ng Yi Ming, managing partner of Tribe Accelerator, introduced the first batch of ten startups, namely sgCarMart, TADA, WhatsHalal, MightyJaxx, Limestone Network, Digix, Chorus Mobility, TEMCO, Halo and Accrue. Each startup had about two minutes to introduce themselves to the room.
And one hallmark was evidently absent: cryptic talk (some blockchain companies really live up to their crypto reputation, don’t they) about revolutionising the world that’s filled with jargons. That’s refreshing.
[pullquote]No jargons, no question avoidance. Just a simple yet complete explanation with an actual use case that’s already deployed is what convinced me that WhatsHalal isn’t going to ride on the blockchain hype and disappear with investors’ money.[/pullquote]
Feeling more certain that the lineup is not ICOs in disguise, I searched for a company that can make me believe in blockchain again. With a hypothesis that they could be solving a real-world challenge faced by Muslims, I approached Salehin Amat, COO of WhatsHalal.
“Muslims all over the world face the problem of locating Halal-certified food, especially in Muslim-minority countries,” Salehin responded when I asked him what problem his company was solving, “Our app helps Muslims consume food with more confidence.”
Whipping out his phone, he quickly and simply went through the WhatsHalal app and explained their need for blockchain in a tangible manner, “Our blockchain tracks the food production process from farm to fork. After the Halal-certification process, RFIDs will be issued for each batch of ingredients, ensuring the authenticity of each ingredient that reaches the Muslim consumer. The blockchain stores this information, which cannot be tempered. We’re already putting the technology to use in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia.”
No jargons, no question avoidance. Just a simple yet complete explanation with an actual use case that’s already deployed is what convinced me that WhatsHalal isn’t going to ride on the blockchain hype and disappear with investors’ money.
The only time Salehin mentioned about cryptocurrency was just to admit that they have that component, but it doesn’t play a large role other than to make payments overseas simpler.
[pullquote]”… As with all traditional businesses, blockchain startups need to first figure out the revenue model, focus on sustainability and think about how to grow the business before thinking about fund-raising or technology.”[/pullquote]
Curious about how Tribe Accelerator picks its startups, I sat down with Yi Ming to pick his brain.
[pullquote]If blockchain companies can communicate their priorities like WhatsHalal and Tribe Accelerator – simply, to-the-point sans jargon – then maybe mass blockchain adoption would happen sooner.[/pullquote]
“We don’t see blockchain companies in silos; we see them like any other tech companies out in the market. It’s not important for us to know that they are in the blockchain space, but what they are actually solving, how they solve it and why they use a particular technology. As with all traditional businesses, blockchain startups need to first figure out the revenue model, focus on sustainability and think about how to grow the business before thinking about fund-raising or technology.”
With blockchain’s reputation being drag through the mud by cryptocurrencies and rogue companies, it’ll take some time and a lot of education before public confidence can be restored. If blockchain companies can communicate their priorities like WhatsHalal and Tribe Accelerator – simply, to-the-point sans jargon – then maybe mass blockchain adoption would happen sooner.
Quotes are not verbatim and are condensed for clarity.
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