For some time now blockchain has been the latest startup buzzword. Every new company seems to have a blockchain angle, whether it makes sense or not. Companies are trying to bolt on any sort of blockchain application in order to take advantage of the incredible groundswell of interest in blockchains and distributed ledger technologies. It is hard to blame them when you see the results. 129 year old Kodak announced that it would be launching KodakCoin to manage photography rights in a decentralized ledger and immediately saw its stock price shoot up 60%. The beverage company Long Island Iced Tea changed its name to Long Blockchain and saw its stock price soar 500% as it pivoted to focus on blockchain technologies.
This trend of forcing distributed technologies into companies where they don't belong is not going to end in success. Blockchain technologies are in their infancy. They hold incredible technological promise, but scalable applications with real users are few and far between. Today I am going to be highlighting Voatz, one such company that is solving real issues in an innovative way that is only now enabled by blockchain technologies.
Voatz was founded by Nimit and Simer Sawhney. Nimit has significant experience in the software development space including time spent as director of R&D at Oberthur Technologies. He also worked at MoreMagic Solutions Inc. for close to 10 years.
Voatz is an electronic voting platform. It leverages biometric scanning and blockchain technologies to make sure you are who you say you are and that your vote is irrefutably preserved. Voatz removes the need for centralized voting locations by allowing people to vote using their own smart devices. This cuts down significantly on costs while making voting more convenient for participants. Voatz can be used in a variety of different settings including elections, shareholder votes, or civic meetings.
Voatz was founded in 2014. In January 2018, Voatz raised a $2.2 million institutional seed round led by Medici Ventures and including Oakhouse Partners and Urban Innovation Fund alongside other minority investors. Medici Ventures is the blockchain investment arm of Overstock.com and invests in Seed - Series B companies that leverage blockchain or crypto technologies. Urban Innovation Fund is another really interesting fund focused on investing in the future of cities. This city-centric focus is one I have seen a few VC firms start to focus on based on the accelerating trend of people moving to urban areas across the globe.
Voatz is based in Boston, Massachusetts. With schools such as Harvard and MIT, Boston is a tech hub that is somewhat spoiled for riches when it comes to tech talent. Voatz has taken advantage of the developed startup scene in these areas graduating from both Techstars Boston and MassChallenge Boston's accelerator programs in 2017.
Voting is one of the most important areas of modern society. It is used everywhere from presidential elections to boardrooms to classrooms. Unfortunately, it is also one of the areas of modern society to experience the least amount of innovation. Anyone who has ever voted in a major election can easily describe how inefficient and painful voting can be. Voting hasn't changed much in hundreds of years. In fact, voting technology is even REGRESSING back towards paper ballots based on security fears associated with electronic scanning systems. This is where Voatz fits into the puzzle. Leveraging blockchain technology has the potential to create a verifiable record of everyone's votes in a way that is at the same time secure and private. By utilizing biometric scanners and a distributed ledger system, all the votes can be tallied and attributable to an individual without exposing their personal information. This innovation in security would allow voting to become more flexible, with the potential for people to vote on the go or from the comforts of their home. This added convenience is especially important given the fact that voting in the most recent presidential election reached 20 year lows. Voatz is not blockchain technology smashed into an existing product or business model. Voatz is an elegant solution to issues that have plagued voting and elections for hundreds of years. It is uniquely enabled by the development in blockchain technology and paints an optimistic picture of a future where better voting leads to better outcomes and a more engaged citizenry.