LONDON -- TechXLR8 2018 -- Alexandra Alden is the founder of Common Ground Labs, an entrepreneur program and design studio based in San Francisco. Alden talked to TechX365 during TechXLR8 about how distributed ledger technology, and blockchain in particular, is the foundation of her initiative and the role it will play in helping the startups grow and become established.
Common Ground Labs has developed its incubation program and platform around blockchain, a technology development that is set to make its mark on operations and development in most (if not all) major business vertical sectors in the coming years. (See Blockchain: More Than a Cryptocurrency Ledger, Blockchain's Economic Value to Hit $2 Trillion by 2030, Predicts Analyst and What Is the Future of Blockchain?.)
I spoke with Alden to find out a little more about the benefits that blockchain brings to her company and how it could alter the transaction trust chain.
Common Ground Labs founder Alex Alden.
Elliott Heath: Can you explain a bit about yourself and what you do.
Alexandra Alden: My name is Alex Alden and I started a company called Common Ground Labs, a design studio and entrepreneur incubation program. We are focused on building products and services, but also incubating entrepreneurs who come from either side of the social divide, with our first target population being refugees and local host communities. We source our entrepreneurs from either side of this divide and bring them together as co-founders. We work with corporate companies to help with different challenge areas, aiming to spot a need in each challenge area and develop a solution to [address] it. Each part of the incubation has two goals: to build better businesses; and to build amnesty and peace between co-founders. We also go out into these different communities and bring them together to co-create these solutions.
EH: So how does Common Ground Labs operate?
AA: Our methodology is acted in three parts. First, we identify community leaders and bring them in as entrepreneurs, and then train them through a six-month incubation program, after which we sustain their development through blockchain tools. The aim is to build a blockchain-based reputation system. All over the world I've consistently seen that, whether you're a micro entrepreneur or a growth-stage entrepreneur with a tech product, you're still locked out of the funding ecosystem. A lot of people with potentially world-changing ideas cannot get them off the ground because there's no funding. Why can't they access funding? Two reasons: One, because there's a lack of information about [the startups], so there's a lack of trust; and secondly, because there's a lack of a network.
So, we'e creating a platform that acts as both a funding and reputation platform. If you enter as a business, you go through a process where you share your plan and the milestones that you want to achieve. Anyone who chooses to invest in your business will have access to this information on the blockchain and can sign off on it, so by the time you finish an investment cycle you have an agreed-upon history of what you've done and the milestones you achieved. As you build your reputation you can then have access to more and more funding. The first stages are more of a crowdfunding [exercise], and [involve] smaller amounts, but as you build your reputation you can unlock higher echelons, which are higher amounts of money.
EH: What is it about blockchain that made it so suitable for your company to use?
AA: It is an immutable record of what happened, and once a transaction is verified and written onto the blockchain, that represents that this transaction is trusted. What we want is that information to be trusted. The only trust that matters in this situation is to show that the investor or investors and entrepreneurs had an agreed-upon set of terms and that these terms have been fulfilled. That's where the blockchain is working. What it does for the entrepreneur is to start building an entrepreneurial identity, which they can take with them beyond the platform I'm building; it is something they can bring into the real world, and in the long term, is a tool that can access traditional financial services as well.
EH: People may see blockchain as a business or professional economic tool. But it's bringing people together, such as entrepreneurs and investors, in a more humanitarian sense than people may realize. Do you think this is the way forward for blockchain?
AA: The reason blockchain is so game-changing is the peer-to-peer nature of it. It allows transactions not just in a financial sense but also [transactions] of information in a way that we never could before. Virtually everything we have as an institution between us -- like marriage certificates, education records, health records, all of that -- you can potentially remove all of that [using blockchain]. For instance, [for US citizens] instead of going through your insurance company to interact with your doctor, you can directly interact with your doctor. That's why it's exciting, and why it's exciting across the board in the humanitarian sense and also in the business sense. People are freaking out because there is a lot of money being made … by the intermediaries, like insurance companies. They know they must fundamentally change their model in order to keep up.
— Elliott Heath, Reporter, TechX365