Five New York Blockchain Companies to Watch (May 2018)

With Blockchain Week underway in New York, we thought there was no better time to spotlight some of our members who are using blockchain technology. Meet five New York startups that are rethinking and remaking important services by moving them to blockchain, including healthcare, legal services, real estate, and fashion.

Additionally, four of these companies will be demoing their services on Monday, May 14 at our Blockchain 101 Policy Labs event. Let us know if you’d like to attend.

  CoverUS Co-Founders Andrew Hoppin (left) and Christopher Sealey posing at New Lab in Brooklyn.

CoverUS Co-Founders Andrew Hoppin (left) and Christopher Sealey posing at New Lab in Brooklyn.

CoverUS

What does your company do?
CoverUS Co-Founders Andrew Hoppin and Christopher Sealey: CoverUS helps close financial gaps in healthcare by helping patients earn a royalty stream from their health data. Consumers capture and share real-world data into a blockchain-powered decentralized health data exchange that they directly own and control, earning cryptocurrency rewards funded by data buyers.

What inspired you to reinvent part of the U.S. healthcare system?
AH & CS: Third-party data brokering is a multibillion dollar business, yet 25% of Americans can't afford a $100 medical expense. This isn't just morally questionable, it is economically inefficient, leaving patients unhealthy and taxpayers stuck with the bill.

Why did you found your company in NYC?
AH & CS: CoverUS was founded in NYC because it's a place where the smartest and most accomplished people in the world still have to wait for a table at a restaurant. Moving with humility matters if you're audacious enough to build a business like CoverUS that you hope will change the world.

What is the most surprising thing about how our medical data is used?
AH & CS: Consumers are largely left out of the data economy that their health information generates. Your health data is perhaps the most private information you have. Why should others control and profit from it?

Andrew was the CIO of the New York State Senate. What responsibility do you think tech companies have to civic engagement?
AH: When private sector tech companies authentically embrace civic responsibilities, truly putting the best interests and preferences of their customers and our communities as a first order priority, we can be a powerful force for solving problems and creating opportunities for people, efficiently at scale.

Where would you like to see blockchain go next?
AH & CS: Continuing evolution of blockchain-based projects that deliver not just transactional efficiency and thus financial opportunity, but also outcomes that further equity across humanity, providing more egalitarian access to efficient trusted transactions.

HODL or BUIDL?
AH & CS: BUIDL if you want to leave a legacy. HODL if you want to leave an estate. No judgment on either. For us? BUIDL.

What brought you to New York?
AH & CS: Diversity in all forms with the best food, art, and music. And sports teams we could make fun of. (We're from Boston.)

What’s your favorite pizza slice?
AH: The Onion Sicilian Slice from Famous Ben's Pizza in Soho.

What’s your favorite bagel?
CS: Russ & Daughters is where I go to treat myself to a classic New York City bagel. So many venerable New York City cultural and culinary institutions have closed, it's important that we preserve the ones we have.

What is a great place to take in city views from a New York waterfront?
CS: DUMBO is my home and my favorite New York waterfront, especially with the addition of Brooklyn Bridge Park. There are few things I enjoy more than chasing my two-year-old son as he whizzes between the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges on his scooter.

What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you in NYC?
CS: DJing for Prince. R.I.P. Chappelle's Show has nothing on my story.

  The first three Kadena employees: Co-Founder Will Martino (left), Engineer Monica Quaintance (center), and Co-Founder Stuart Popejoy (right).

The first three Kadena employees: Co-Founder Will Martino (left), Engineer Monica Quaintance (center), and Co-Founder Stuart Popejoy (right).

Kadena

What does your company do?
Kadena Co-Founders Will Martino and Stuart Popejoy: Kadena is a blockchain platform provider with both a private and public blockchain and an open-source, purpose-built smart contract language. Our mission is to become the universal, one-stop shop for blockchain by providing platforms built for entrepreneurs and ready for enterprise.

Why did you found your company in NYC?
WM & SP: We met at JP Morgan in the Emergent Technology group, where we researched blockchain's potential for financial services. We took our blockchain prototype and founded the company in NYC because of the opportunities to work closely with leaders in financial technology, insurance, and innovative small businesses.

How has your experience with New York's financial sector influenced your approach to the blockchain?
WM & SP: Since we first started building blockchain for enterprises, this meant actually realizing the real-world processes and workflows that blockchain must handle in order to gain serious business adoption, from compliance to auditors to legal. We built our blockchains to be compatible with database systems and APIs used by enterprises today.

What is the biggest potential benefit of open source, and how can you see this bettering New York and the world?
WM & SP: Open source is integral to our company's philosophy. We believe open source empowers and provides transparency and benefits to everyone, from developers who can easily fix code without relying on out-of-date documents, to business users who don't need to sign cumbersome NDAs and licenses.

What gives New York a unique angle for approaching a new territory of technology?
WM & SP: New York's diversity, vibrancy, but also legacy of experience in business and industry set it apart from other areas and makes for a great place to develop technology for real widespread adoption.

What’s your favorite pizza slice?
SP: Giardini's in Carroll Gardens. I consider it the best of its kind authentic, affordable New York pizza slice. It also happens to be close by our office.

  The LOOMIA team from left to right: Janett Liriano, CEO; Madison Maxey, Founder and Technical Lead; Marco Paul, VP Operations and Business Development; and Ezgi Ucar, Chief Product Officer.

The LOOMIA team from left to right: Janett Liriano, CEO; Madison Maxey, Founder and Technical Lead; Marco Paul, VP Operations and Business Development; and Ezgi Ucar, Chief Product Officer.

LOOMIA

What does your company do?
LOOMIA CEO Janett Liriano: LOOMIA is a technology company focused on engineering technology that delivers comfort, safety, and confidence to the human experience by adding intelligence to everyday objects. We design and manufacture soft, flexible circuitry that can heat, light, sense, and store data within everyday clothes. We also allow users to transfer their data to a desktop app that allows them to manage and sell their data to market researchers via blockchain.

What was your initial inspiration to create embeddable circuitry?
JL: All of the intelligence and benefits of the digital revolution are trapped inside metal or plastic devices (i.e. phones, computers, tablets). While there is amazing work being done at the fiber level to innovate with fabrics (i.e. sweat wicking, waterproofing, compression, and heat retention). We realized there was a wide open space to bring active intelligence and functionality to a massive industry if we could make the fabrics that make up our belongings smarter.

What is the coolest use case you’ve seen so far for the LOOMIA Electronic Layer?
JL: One of the most visually impactful uses cases was our color-changing dress for Julianna Bass, and we've really enjoyed employing sensing for industrial and safety applications. (Imagine a car interior that can sense a driver falling asleep and flash cabin lights or automatically put on the hazards.) We are also excited about heating in non-outerwear products.

If you could collaborate with any fashion brand, what would it be?
JL: As a B2B business, we love collaborating with brands. We see lots of opportunity to provide value to brands like Patagonia and Arcteryx, and would be excited to collaborate in footwear with brands like Ted Baker, Adidas, and Nike.

Is blockchain vital to the future of fashion?
JL: Blockchain is an important part of any industry that handles transactions and information. It will be an important component from supply chain management and a user trust perspective. The future of fashion is garments becoming responsive, and materials that are better tailored to advance products.

Why did you found your company in NYC?
JL: NYC allows for unparalleled access and proximity to our customers, a strong base of hardware and apparel engineers, diversity of thought, and an ability to test on a varied subset of people. The seasons keep us thinking about innovating throughout the year, and it's important for a company like ours to have a varied playing field for user testing than more homogeneous cities.

How do you get to your office?
JL: We have two offices: one in the amazing and beautiful New Lab which is walking distance, and another in our core lab and office in Chinatown. Walking or an occasional Lyft over the bridge — or the subway — is my preferred mode of transit.

What’s your favorite bagel?
JL: Bakers Dozen in Kew Gardens, Queens. Fresh made bagels daily and the best bagels hands down. They’re perfectly firm yet soft with a great balance of flavor.

What is a great place to take in city views from a New York waterfront?
JL: Governor's Island! In the summer, there are so many interesting festivals happening and there's water on all sides.

What’s the best place in New York for a coffee or lunch meeting?
JL: 1 Pike Cafe in Chinatown. It’s spacious and quiet and offers fast WiFi, killer mocha, and great service.

  OpenLaw Co-Founder Aaron Wright and Senior Vice President of Business Development Priyanka Desai.

OpenLaw Co-Founder Aaron Wright and Senior Vice President of Business Development Priyanka Desai.

OpenLaw

What does your company do?
OpenLaw Co-Founder Aaron Wright: OpenLaw creates legal, enforceable agreements that interact with the blockchain.

Why did you found your company in NYC?
AW: We’re based in New York because this is the epicenter of blockchain technology. When it comes to finance and legal agreements, this city is the center of the world and it made sense for the next chapter of those industries to be occurring here.

How do you see blockchain affecting the legal industry and the civic process?
AW: Blockchains, fundamentally, are a way to manage a range of assets. Those can be digital currencies or tokens. In the next decade, we’re going to see more traditional assets, like stocks, bonds, and commodities on them and we need to build legal agreements that can interact with those assets.

You just wrote a book, "Blockchain and the Law” where you urge the law to catch up to technology. How can New York do that?
AW: New York has always interacted with people who are entrepreneurial and believe in free enterprise and has made sure the city is a place to engage in commerce. New York should do its best to provide clarity and certainty so when businesses are looking to set up shop, they do it here.

What gives New York a unique angle for approaching a new territory of technology?
AW: New York is the creative capital of the world, from art to finance law insurance, It’s an incredibly diverse city full of highly motivated people. We’re in a perfect position to usher in new technological change and we’ve seen in the last ten years New York emerge as the second great ecosystem of technology.

Where would you like to see blockchain go next?
AW: What we need to see is improvement on the technical level in terms of scalability, privacy, and security and we’re making good progress in those areas. Then we need to see technological applications like OpenLaw and applications around identity and financial products. As that develops, we’ll see the technology really start to have an impact on people’s lives.

HODL or BUIDL?
AW: It’s BUIDL. It’s essential that people produce technologies that improve people’s lives. That’s what we’re seeing in particular in the Ethereum ecosystem.

What’s your favorite pizza slice?
AW: Pino’s La Forchetta in Park Slope, but I also have a soft spot for Spumoni Gardens.

What’s your favorite bagel?
AW: La Bagel Delight in Park Slope.

What’s the best place in New York for a coffee or lunch meeting?
AW: I go to The Grey Dog in Union Square a lot. It’s nice, but not too nice.

  The Urbanr team takes a break to pose for a quick photo.

The Urbanr team takes a break to pose for a quick photo.

Urbanr

What does your company do?
Urbanr Co-Founder Gabriel Altus: Urbanr brings financial technology to the real estate market creating a more cost-effective model for renting property. For owners, the system mediates inefficiencies and relays the data required to derive important financial-history based decisions. For tenants, Urbanr represents not only the cheapest way to find rentals but also a powerful tool for wealth creation and upward social mobility.

Why did you move your company in NYC?
GA: With all of the banking, property, and other financial companies located in NYC, being anywhere else just meant being away from our core customer.

What is the best thing about leasing in New York? The worst?
GA: The neighborhoods are so diverse that you can find exactly what you are looking for. You can almost tailor make your experience of living and working in the city. On the flip side, I think everyone can agree that prices are not in line with actual income levels. Long-term this trend is detrimental to the entire system.

What is your craziest NYC rental story?
GA: Finding out that you can have an apartment with no windows in the living room still rent for more than $4,000!

Would you rather: Live in a fifth floor walkup or live fifteen blocks from the nearest subway?
GA: Fifth floor walkup! Being near the subway is so key.

Where would you like to see blockchain go next?
GA: I’d like to see a group of hard-core developers and entrepreneurs build away from the hype. That means staying away from crypto fundraising temptations, any sort of trading platform, or SaaS platform for Bitcoin/Ethereum/Litecoin. We need to refocus the community on solving business problems in the unique way that blockchain can.

What brought you to New York?
GA: Urbanr brought me here. At first, I didn’t like it. Then I remember telling my business partner about two months later, “Dude, I f***ing love New York.”

What’s your favorite pizza slice?
GA: The square pepperoni from Prince Street Pizza.

What’s the best place in New York for a coffee or lunch meeting?
GA: Anywhere they’ll let you stay after to discuss how things went and then write a ton of emails either panicking or celebrating.

Photo credit: Brooklyn Bridge, New York, USA from Shutterstock/Marco Rubino