Virtual or cryptocurrencies have been dominating the FinTech world and making serious waves across the broader financial sector as well. Blockchain technology has taken that disruption even further to industries as diverse as agriculture, healthcare, accounting, law and beyond. Although a big chunk of the actual investment goes into ICOs, there is an entire ecosystem of startups which actually enable and enrich the use of virtual currencies. These companies offer products and services which either enhance the experience of crypto users or enlarge the real world applicability of these technologies.
The startups on this list are working on creating things as varied as a cryptocurrency based peer-to-peer lending platform to a decentralized internet platform and everything in between. Many of them also focus on making the world of virtual currencies more accessible to the millions of new users who are choosing to become a part of it. From trading platforms to digital wallets and from decentralized storage to decentralized shopping, this is the world of the cryptocurrency startups.
OpenBazaar is a peer to peer e-commerce platform.
It uses a distributed, peer-based network to store data, thus eliminating the need to pay fees and other costs to middlemen as is the case with traditional centralized e-commerce platforms.
OpenBazaar supports over 50 cryptocurrencies and the 2.0 version of the platform was released in November enabling more powerful vendor tools to be deployed as well as the ability to use Tor and a new Segwit-ready wallet.
Hashed Health is leading the development of blockchain and distributed network technology in the healthcare industry.
The company is focused on creating awareness amongst the healthcare industry, technology development, regulatory representation and the creation of industry standards through various working groups.
There is plenty of potential here as blockchain can prove to be an ideal solution to things like medical record keeping while allowing for data integrity as well as auditability.
Libra is relatively new and small startup but one with an interesting product proposition – to provide “accounting, audit, and tax software for the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry”.
Given the unique nature of blockchains and cryptocurrencies, regular software struggles with the accounting and auditing aspects of companies relaying heavily on these technologies.
This is the market that Libra intends to target with its “Libra Crypto Office” product offering. Most of their tools remain in production for now.
Blockstream is a true pioneer in the fields of sidechains and distributed systems.
The company provides hardware and software solutions for the development and deployment of blockchain based networks.
In addition to providing funding towards the development of Bitcoin, Blockstream has also developed other technologies like the Lightning Network and The Elements Project (an open source kernel for sidechains).
Coinbase is one of the most popular digital currency exchanges. The company has a relatively wide user base with over 10 million customers spread across 32 countries operating over 36 million wallets.
Coinbase not only provides a place to buy, sell and trade cryptocurrencies but also provides payment processing tools to merchants.
The company had the unique distinction of becoming the first unicorn (billion-plus valuation) in the cryptocurrency space.
It might be appropriate to list Bittrex right after Coinbase given that they offer a very similar service to their customers.
However, the primary distinction is that Bittrex allows users to trade in over 200 different currencies, while Coinbase is restricted to just three for now.
This makes Bittrex a preferred platform for those looking to invest in the relatively newer crypto offerings. They also provide other value added services like conducting compliance audits on new coin launches and so on.
Storj is a great example of the pace of technological innovation today. While many corporate giants are still slowly lumbering away from their antiquated server systems to cloud-based solutions, companies like Storj are already thinking beyond traditional data clouds!
Stroj is a decentralized storage platform and it provides the tools, as well as the exchange mechanism (STORJ tokens) to make the whole thing work.
Essentially your data is encrypted and broken down into little pieces called shards and saved on a decentralized global network. And it's not just security and speed that Storj is offering. The pricing seems to be more competitive too.
ShapeShift is a 2013 Swiss startup and a leader in the trading and exchange of virtual currencies.
Unlike many other exchanges, ShapeShift does not collect personal user data or move user funds into its own accounts, even temporarily.
The platform allows for quick swaps between virtual currencies without the need for accounts or a signup process. It also seamlessly integrates into many web and mobile-based platforms which has led to many digital wallets incorporating ShapeShift on their platforms.
Blockstack operates on a truly remarkable premise – a decentralized internet. What this means is that data ownership moves away from intermediaries and applications and back to the end user.
This has very powerful implications for the tech giants of today and many other internet companies who rely on your data as a primary source of their revenue. Independent developers can build server-less and decentralized applications on Blockstack.
For more information, check out this detailed FAQ on their website.
Take peer-to-peer lending and transpose it into the world of virtual currencies and you end up with something like Ripio.
It's a relatively young, peer-to-peer credit network based on smart contracts.
To make the contract more secure from a credit/ risk management perspective, Ripio provides for a cosigner to also be part of the contract which reduces the lender's risk and also creates a link between the borrower and the local legal system.