Young entrepreneur Gabriel Gonzalez, of Raleigh, sees firsthand the benefits of networking within the technology sphere. That’s one reason the Venezuelan immigrant and his teammates decided to apply for Carolina Fintech Hub’s inaugural Generation Blockchain Challenge.
Representing North Carolina State University, Gonzalez and his team pitched a platform called Versity, which allows students to access their education records from anywhere at any time.
“It not only helps us clear the validity and the viability of our concepts and ideas as a startup, but putting us in the right ecosystem to help us build what we want to build,” Gonzalez says. “It’s been about two months of hard, intense work.”
Dan Ward, associate partner at consulting firm Sia Partners, says he approached Carolina Fintech with the challenge idea based on a similar event Sia sponsored in Paris last year. More than 60 students from around the Carolinas submitted about 30 use cases for enterprise blockchain. CFH then selected 10 teams to compete. First-, second- and third-place teams will receive cash prizes of $6,000, $3,500 and $2,500, respectively. Versity took home first prize.
“I knew what the formula was to do it, but we localized it to Carolinas,” Ward says. “We did a deep-dive training for all 10 teams, and then from there they set out to take their idea into a brief concept.”
Ward says the participating students are the only ones in the world now trained in software company Oracle Corp.’s beta testing for cloud-based blockchain. Oracle was a main sponsor of the challenge, along with AuraBlocks. Representatives from some of nation’s largest banks were also on hand to mentor the student teams. Those involved hailed from several universities, including N.C. State, UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte and the University of South Carolina.
“We’ve gotten help from top-tier individuals and that’s all been amazing,” Gonzalez says.
Generation Blockchain Challenge was hosted at AvidXchange Inc., and Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Corporate Development Jay Plueger says it was an opportunity for AvidXchange to access the talent pipeline from the universities. Plueger says leveraging this type of cutting-edge technology can open up companies’ eyes to untapped possibilities.
“When we built our corporate headquarters, we built it with the sense of ‘we want to involve the community,’ and wherever we can help when it’s technology or fintech events, such as today’s blockchain challenge, we absolutely want to be a host to those type of events in Charlotte,” he says. “There are a lot of great companies in Charlotte, and it seems like more are finding out about our little secret here in Charlotte every day.”
As is Carolina Fintech’s belief, Ward says the blockchain challenge was about connecting the whole region, not just Charlotte and the Triangle.
“We are on the front end of something great,” he says.