New Kids on the Block

Benjamin Diggles and Jonathan Bradley (right) at R/GA Venture's blockchain studio demo day

A peek at the businesses emerging from Portland’s new blockchain studio.

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Earlier this year investment firm R/GA Ventures launched a blockchain studio in Portland, gathering six startups specializing in the record-keeping technology.

The aim of the studio is to connect these founders and innovators with one another, and collaborate with business partners in the Northwest to develop blockchain-based solutions to business challenges.

For reference, blockchain is an innovate record-keeping technology which creates connected data blocks that cannot be altered unless all the previous blocks are modified. This structure makes the records resistant to data mining and cyber attacks.

On Oct. 8 the six companies selected to participate in the studio presented their projects at Portland State University.

Here is a peek at the startups and their projects: 

1) Brave, a privacy-focused, ultra-speedy browsing platform, which allows users to be paid for their data rather than have it be mined without their knowledge. The company collaborated with Intel to help pay PC users who create original online content.

2) Chronicled, a blockchain-powered supply chain tech company, has brought together more than two dozen pharmaceutical partners to implement blockchain to meet the 2023 requirements of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act. The legislation mandates that pharmaceutical products can be traced across the national supply chain.

3) Concord, a company which uses blockchain to provide solutions for data privacy, is being assessed by Umpqua Bank to provide privacy assurance and deliver a better digital experience to customers.

RELATED STORY: Six Startups Part of Portland Blockchain Studio 

4) Qiibee, a company that uses blockchain for company loyalty programs, has teamed up with Moda Health to provide cross-platform reward programs between brands. 

This type of technology would make it easier for programs to offer the kinds of rewards users want in exchange for staying healthy, such as offering Netflix discounts for getting your teeth cleaned.

5) Everest, a company specializing in identity verification, secure transfer of digital funds and transparent accounting, is in discussions with Umpqua Bank to test and improve cyber security systems. 

Moda Health has enlisted Everest’s help to streamline access to state-issued pharmacy discount cards.

6) Patientory, a blockchain-based health app, has connected with Moda Health, Oregon Health and Science University, and the state of Oregon, to publish a paper on how an individual’s lifestyle impacts their overall health and wellbeing.

Patientory’s use of blockchain allows the records to remain secure while providing a more personalized health-tracking experience. This helps users to detect potential health problems before they start, based on their own unique medical history

“One of the things health care providers are looking at right now are social determinants of health,” says Chrissa McFarlane, founder and CEO of Patientory. “This is the future of health care technology.”

Dave Issacs, the studio’s creative director, says that while technology and the talent to create a blockchain economy exist in Oregon, what is still needed is for blockchain companies to brand themselves effectively, and communicate how they can help businesses.

“There’s a lot of hype around blockchain, and a lot of scrutiny, but due to that hype there are a lot of opportunities for mass transformation,” says Benjamin Diggles, entrepreneur in residence at R/GA Ventures.

“We’re seeing a lot of limitations around data in the space, and a lot of promise with blockchain’s ability to overcome those limitations. When you enter something in blockchain it can never be scrubbed. You have a permanent record of what happened.” 

“At the end of the day, it’s about trust,” says Jonathan Bradley, vice president partner at R/GA Ventures.

“Anywhere where trust can create new relationships, blockchain can help with that. We bring more people around the world into more financial systems when we can guarantee trust and ownership of your data.” 

“I like to think of a data server like a dragon, who eats a lot and gets really big,” says Diggles. “What blockchain does is take that dragon transformed into hundreds of little birds. Even if someone throws a spear, it might hit one bird but the flock will survive.”

R/GA Ventures chose Portland for its studio because it says Oregon is the ideal place to create a blockchain economy.

Businesses such as Umpqua Bank, Intel, Moda Health and other Northwest powerhouses have already put money behind the studio. Portland State University offers a graduate certificate and undergraduate program in blockchain.

A spokesperson for R/GA Ventures added that Oregon’s friendly political atmosphere toward tech companies was also a factor in its decision.

“We hope this studio acts as a catalyst,” says R/GA Ventures new programs development director Dylan Boyd. “We believe anything less than creating a blockchain ecosystem in Portland isn’t thinking big enough.” 

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