It’s been a week of announcements in the tech industry, from Huawei to Apple, but in my eyes the one to watch is Samsung.
Not least with a blockchain enabled phone due to launch shortly, but also their interest in startups using the technology.
Take the Samsung NEXT Stack Zero Grant fund, born out of the belief that “as an industry, we must support the volunteers and researchers who are building the infrastructure of the future.”
The projects being backed are varied, from decentralized map editing to tech that prevents passive eavesdropping. Through the fund, the tech giant seeks to reward projects that are looking to improve the market, but not necessarily interested in making a profit. Ricardo J. Mendez, Technical Director, Europe, Samsung NEXT said: “We knew from the beginning that we want to reward projects that are non-commercial, doing either open source development or research in the decentralization space.”
The Stack Zero Grant is completely no-strings-attached, it has been designed so that those benefiting from the grant are not constrained with deliverables and prospects of IPO or other commercial moves. The team selected projects that would enable them to monitor progress without setting targets. Despite the strict criteria they put in place, there was still a large number of potential projects that they could invest in. In the end, they chose projects that cover a wide gamut of topics, but that all have common end goals. Mendez said the “hope is that the Stack Zero Grant will enable these developers to continue doing what they have been doing up until now, or even better—grow their platforms. In just a few weeks, we are already seeing results based on the funding. In the case of Mastodon, for instance, its creator has announced that he will use it to compensate contributors.”
The nature of the prize means that winners can use the boost in funds for whatever they choose to, there are no parameters set out by the organizers. Some are choosing to offer remuneration for contributors who play a big part in expanding their projects, whilst others are looking to invest in the companies themselves.
One of the stand out projects being backed by Samsung NEXT is Mastodon, a Twitter-like social media network that allows users to create their own servers on the platform. The company’s founder, Eugen Rochko, is hoping the platform will allow users to feel more engaged when using social media, as opposed to feeling like a simple target for advertisers. Whilst Mastodon is not the first decentralized and federated social network, the platform’s predecessors were not polished enough to be user-friendly for the wider market.
Rochko is keen to distinguish that Mastodon is not a company and has no future plans to become one. He said, “It is an open-source project, and there is no need or pressure to monetize the platform, and no venture capital breathing down our necks about user engagement numbers. There won’t be an IPO, or an ICO, or an acquisition–the code is already free, there is nothing to acquire.”
Another of the projects benefiting from the grant is Simply Secure, which supports practitioners in putting people at the center of trustworthy technology. Director of the company’s executive, Georgia Bullen, said the company was “founded based on the idea that the community was looking for support and there wasn’t another group there yet to provide it. We’ve been around a little over 4 years, and have been working for projects and teams all over the world to help them address these challenges in their work.”
With the help of the grant from Samsung, over the next few years, the company has plans to keep expanding how they support the community. Bullen said, “this investment in our programmatic work is exciting because it enables us to continue to support practitioners and share the resources, and see where the community needs help from us.”
Of course, these grant projects aren’t the only way forward for Samsung and blockchain, earlier this year they announced that the Galaxy S10 phone would come enabled with a blockchain wallet, giving their 41 million users access to the Enjin wallet.
Bancor is the enabling technology behind the wallet and for Galia Benartzi, co-founder of Bancor, she is incredibly excited about the current blockchain landscape.
She said, “The industry itself is in this transition right from very early adopters and technologists and philosophers and traders and business folks on its way to hopefully making blockchain as technology and crypto as an application of blockchain. It’s becoming useful for everyone.”
It is her view that by using the Enjin wallet to entice gamers into using blockchain to keep, store and swap tokens used for gameplay that blockchain can become more mainstream. She said, “Samsung has enabled a great use case by including a really cool company such as Enjin where you can earn tokens or points in one game and take them through into the next. That seamless experience from game A to game B is what will bring blockchain to the masses.”
Still, with users only currently able to access its keychain in just 3 countries – Germany, Korea and the U.S., there is still some way for Samsung to go.