Our new Disruption by Blockchain series aims to highlight companies that are leveraging the incredible potential of blockchain technology to disrupt and revolutionize their industry. Through one on one interviews, we'll speak directly with industry leaders to cut beyond the hype and get directly to the heart of practical use cases and examples of how it will change the world, one industry at a time.
The following is an interview we recently had with Alex Howard, Founder of Giftcoin.
1. What’s the history of Giftcoin? How and where did you begin?
AH: The first six months of 2017 was a difficult time globally. Between the Syrian refugee crises, Grenfell Tower fire in London, natural disasters in the US… never had it felt that good causes needed more support. And yet, I could feel the resistance in myself to give money and I knew I wasn't alone. Despite the fact I have founded a major charity and deeply believe in the potential of charity to make the world better, I could feel my own questions around how that money would be used. It then struck me, blockchain provides a hugely powerful solution to an age-old problem. Working closely with several close business partners of mine in another company we started to develop the idea of how blockchain could be a game changer to the charitable sector. Before we knew it Giftcoin had somewhat taken over all of our lives and it's been a wild ride ever since!
2. Who are the founders and key team members?
The founding team is:
In 2004 Alex founded The Optimum Health Clinic, one of the world leading integrative medicine clinics with patients in 40 countries, and now run as a UK charity. More recently he founded online self-development platform Conscious Life.
He has been recognised by the Parliamentary Review.
Tim is an entrepreneur and CPO. He was the co-founder of fintech start up Q App (Acquired by Yoyo wallet in 2016), as well as product consultancy Nimble Mobile.
His awards include Times 2015 top 10 disrupters to watch, Startups 100 two years running and two interactive BAFTAs.
Jonathan embarked on his entrepreneurial career at age 15 when he started a web hosting company. Since then he has founded several successful businesses including a leading software monetisation platform and Techtopia, a creative campus and tech incubator. In 2014, he co-founded Safer Technologies (a security software company) which was acquired by Avast Software in March 2017.
Ben was previously at Morgan Stanley, where he was chief performance engineer for the Google IPO in 2004. Subsequently he was the lead architect at Deutsche Bank (listed derivatives) before becoming the co-founder and CEO at JClarity. A blockchain enthusiast for many years, Ben is heavily involved in the Java community and has writen several books on Java Development. Ben also has a MA in Maths from Cambridge University.
Christopher is a systems analyst, IT consultant, and entrepreneur. Since 2004, he has been a specialist in the design and implementation of decentralized peer-to-peer networks and technology.
He consults on projects involving peer-to-peer blockchain platforms in the cryptocurrency and digital asset space.
3. What problem are you solving? Who are you solving it for?
AH: What if, when donating money to charity you had absolute transparency and confidence in how the money is being spent? That is the promise of Giftcoin. Utilizing the power of the blockchain we are building a groundbreaking new system that we believe has the potential to bring an extra $250 billion to charities globally each year (based on research showing donors would give 49% more if they could see how funds are spent). We are solving this for donors, charities, and most importantly the end users who we hope to bring more money to.
4. What is your solution to this problem?
AH: The dream of Giftcoin is end-to-end giving. This means that the blockchain would give absolute transparency of how a charity uses and spends funds. This obviously depends upon being able to pay those at the end of the supply change in Giftcoin which is not going to be the starting point (although this will become possible as cryptocurrency adoption develops). The stepping-stone towards this is having milestones in projects and the smart contract only releases the next section of funds when Giftcoin users have validated they are happy that the milestone has been reached. For donors, this will create a much more engaging experience, and for charities it will be a powerful way of communicating the impact of donations.
5. Why is your industry ripe for disruption?
AH: We did a survey of 2,000 people that found that people believe that only 55% of what they donate to charity actually goes to the cause they are trying to support. They believe the other 45% is lost in overheads, fundraising etc. What's more, people said they would give an average of 49% more to charity if they could see how their money was being spent. Trust and transparency is a clearly identified problem in the charitable sector, some would say it's on the verge of becoming a crises. Our solution is greatly needed at just the right time.
6. What’s the future of your industry?
Prediction #1: We believe that whoever it is charitable giving will absolutely end up on the blockchain.
Prediction #2: We believe there is a move away from funding projects and towards solving problems. For example, there is research suggesting that all of the programs put in place after the Haito earthquake may have put the local economy back a decade. There is now a move towards injecting funds into the right places in the local economy to support those on the ground rebuild themselves, and we believe Giftcoin can provide a powerful tool to support such an approach.
Prediction #3: In an increasingly globalised world, the gap between donor and recipient is going to keep on narrowing. People want to connect with where their money is going and blockchain makes this possible in a way never seen before.