Startup News & Analysis, Technology

Australian blockchain delegation “scoops the field” at New York hackathon as calls grow for more government investment

Dominic Powell /

A delegation of three cutting-edge Australian blockchain startups have taken out the grand prize at the Consensus Blockchain Technology Summit Hackathon in New York, an achievement one of the members puts down to “good old-fashioned Aussie teamwork”.

The New South Wales based team, consisting of blockchain incubator Block8, agricultural supply-chain solution AgriDigital, and blockchain anti-piracy startup Veredictum, were sent over by the NSW Department of Industry to compete in the hackathon on the weekend prior to the Consensus Summit, which ran at the end of May.

Consensus is the largest blockchain summit in the world, attracting thousands of attendees over three days. Prior to the event, 26 teams from around the world are given the opportunity to show off a series of innovative blockchain solutions and win awards from large corporates such as Microsoft and Deloitte.

Using the emerging Ethereum blockchain, the Australian team came up with a traffic management solution to make roads safer and more efficient in a future filled with autonomous cars.

Samuel Brooks, chief technology officer at Veredictum, told StartupSmart the team initially developed micropayments-based system, whereby commuters would be able to pay to have an autonomous car cut in line in busy traffic to get them to their destination faster.

However, the team decided to scale back their proposal to make it more applicable in the modern day.

“We ended up developing it as a virtual ‘black box’, which could retrieve traffic information and safety events and deposit them into a trusted data store on the blockchain,” Brooks says.

The solution would be able to track users’ behaviour on the road in close to real time and store it on the blockchain, a system that in theory could allow users to pay insurance costs on a daily basis based on their driving activity, says Brooks.

The team “scooped the field”, taking home the $5000 grand prize and picking up two others prizes from Deloitte and Chinese Wanxiang Blockchain Labs. Brooks puts the success down to the team all being “nerds at heart”, coupled with a bit of “good old-fashioned Aussie teamwork”.

But despite the noteworthy achievement, the group won’t be looking to commercialise or develop the concept much further, with Brooks saying all three are engaged in their current companies.

Read more: Sydney startup Zimrii Music develops blockchain-powered music platform with $150,000 in seed funding

‘You have an ICO, or you go overseas’

For the team at Veredictum, Brooks and founder Tim Lea are preparing for an initial coin offering (ICO) in September later this year, and are currently in the process of formulating a white paper and kicking off a marketing campaign.

The capital raise will be a “shot in the arm” for the startup, says Brooks, who believes the self-initiated fundraises are one of the only ways Australian blockchain startups will receive the funding and support they need.

“We’re going to see more and more ICOs coming out of startups in Australia, as the reality at the moment is that there is insufficient money and support for blockchain startups and entrepreneurs here,” he says.

“The effect is you have a token sale, or you go overseas.”

Despite the Australian government’s past talk of the “ideas boom”, Brooks believes the current initiatives don’t go far enough, despite the “groundswell” of Ethereum blockchain startups coming out of the country.

“Australia really over-represents in that area, we’ve got a tonne of really talented and educated people in the space,” he says.

“The blockchain offers a lot of promise in the terms of the power and the global market for the areas these technologies are targeting, like Ethereum wants to be the next internet, that’s huge potential.”

With the investment dollar for these startups being hard to come by, Brooks is thankful the process of conducting an ICO is “very easy”. And despite the NSW Government’s support for the Consensus delegation, Brooks still believes more “real investment” is needed from the Australian governments, lest Aussie blockchain startups flock overseas.

“We will continue to see an exodus of talent and we will continue to give away educated and motivated people. The government needs to be serious about innovation, or we’ll go somewhere else where we’ll be supported,” he says.

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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is the lead reporter at StartupSmart.

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