Building the Future: The Best Pitches From DeveloperWeek

Over a hundred crypto-fans from across the globe—a mishmash of early Bitcoiners, financially trendy engineers, and more than a few curious observers—converged on the Terra Gallery in downtown San Francisco to talk the future of money and payments.

It’s easy to forget that the stratospheric rise of digital currencies has only just begun, given the pace of propagation, and while suddenly being able to, without a middleman, send money to anyone anywhere in the world in mere minutes is nifty, the truly innovative implications of money borne of the ‘net will only materialize once creators start building around this fundamental feature.

 

Stuart McLellan, director of Spurkle, presents his pitch to the judges. Photo: Vahe Hovhannisyan
Stuart McLellan, director of Spurkle, presents his pitch to the judges. Photo: Vahe Hovhannisyan

What happens next is of course unpredictable and perhaps unimaginable, but it all begins with a good idea. And at this particular DeveloperWeek get together, dubbed Building the Payments Web, good ideas would earn a few lucky (and prescient) attendees a total bounty of one million XRPs—part of the pitch competition that concluded the half-day event hosted by Ripple Labs. Judging was based on clarity and creativity.

Naturally, ideas ranged from the straightforward to the paradigm-shifting to the downright zany—including pitches for a ratings and customer feedback agency, an automated healthcare payment platform, and a microfinance network for independent filmmakers. Then there was the guy who simply wanted to shoutout the cryptocurrency party he was hosting this weekend.

“Counting votes is like counting dollars,” said Dave Cohen, whose idea for a voting application won him third place and 200,000 XRP. Cohen shared third place with John Light, who believed his E-Spend debit card would address “the problem with spending.”

As was the case with numerous participants, many have already been hard at work making their ideas a reality. For Light, the self-described artist, writer, and entrepreneur has been pushing E-Spend and clearing regulatory hurdles for the better part of two years and, having already secured major cardholder agreements, expects to be “live by the end of the year.”

Second Place: Cornfeed Hobo
Second Place: Cornfeed Hobo. Photo: Vahe Hovhannisyan

In keeping with the stereotype that the digital payments space is often home to unique and compelling characters, a developer known only as Cornfeed Hobo (fittingly dressed in overalls) took home second place and 300,000 XRP by posing the question, “Where do you get your first cryptocurrencies?” His solution is a firm that helps companies pay part of their employees’ salaries in bitcoins or the like. “Getting people paid in bitcoins is critical to dissemination,” he said.

And while most pitches revolved around familiar functionality, the grand winner, Andrew White, offered a creative service unique to the world of crypto. White’s idea, called the One Million Gateways project, would theoretically allow anyone to set up a Ripple gateway in as little as thirty minutes. Within the Ripple system, gateways are the organizations that can move money in and out of the network. “With the push of a button,” as White explained, anyone could, in practice, conveniently become their own bank.

“The idea that anyone can be a gateway is compelling,” said Chris Larsen, CEO of Ripple Labs.

“There are so many applications for this,” said Jesse Powell, co-founder of Kraken. “You could use it at the county fair or a special event.”

According to White, the project will be ready for beta in the next month and will hopefully attract hobbyists as well as small businesses. “I’ve spoken to dozens of people who want to get into the space but don’t have the technical expertise,” said White, who is also launching the first Ripple-based hedge fund.

Ultimately, all of the presented ideas, if executed, would have a positive discernible impact, said Jered Kenna, founder of Tradehill. “None of these ideas were terrible,” he noted, “which is unique to pitch competitions.”