How blockchain could shape the future of the Start Fund
In January last year, the Start Network began working with ConsenSys Systems to develop a platform using Blockchain technology to support decision-making by Start Fund members.
We convened a group of our members into an Early Adopters Group, who helped to guide the initial development of the platform.
We carried out a risk analysis exercise with a wider group of members, to help us to understand what the opportunities and challenges were likely to be.
By May we had an “alpha version” of the platform, we were planning to run a simulation exercise in June, and then –
This was deliberate. We paused the project for several reasons. The main reason was lack of budget, at a time when the Start Network overall was in a period of financial uncertainty due to its rapid growth. All the progress on the project that we made last year was achieved with almost no budget – mainly thanks to ConsenSys Systems and our Early Adopters giving their time for free.
The other reason was that the rapid growth of the Start Network made it a difficult time to launch a new project. We exist to serve our members, and if those members are busy dealing with other issues (such as the rapid growth I mentioned above), then there’s a good chance that they might not have time to really engage with a new project.
When you face such challenges, it’s important to be realistic but to maintain your focus. Our deliberate pause gave us the time to continue discussions – including with DFID, who is now looking at its own blockchain experiment – and to raise funds. Thanks to our fundraising team, in December the Estonian government agreed to fund the project for 2017.
What happens next is relatively simple. We’re picking up the project where we left off, planning to develop the next version of the platform. We’ve already done a planning exercise to set out the milestones that we want to meet in 2017, and we’ll also be expanding the Early Adopters Group to include new members.
Those milestones include a simulation exercise, which will involve a small group of Start members revisiting a previous Start Fund alert. We will role-play the same alert using the new platform, which will help us to improve its usability. More importantly it will measure how much quicker our responses are likely to be when it is implemented – one of our key efficiency metrics.
This is the heart of the project. Rather than focus on the cryptocurrency aspects of the blockchain – which most people have heard of, in the form of bitcoin – we want to build a platform that uses smart contracts to increase the speed of our response, and reduce the transaction costs. When we started the project, we were one of the few initiatives exploring this approach.
Now, things have changed in the blockchain space. Some of our members are investigating the technology themselves, and there are newer organisations running pilots in the field.
Our project is not just about exploring a new technology – it’s also about exploring new ways of working together. Whether you’re a Start Network member who’d like to join the Early Adopters’ Group, or a potential partner organisation who’d like to learn more, now’s the time to get in touch!