In a soon-to-be augmented reality and self-driving car filled world, 40% of the planet’s population does not have access to stable internet. 2 billion adults lack formal financial services. And 844 million people are living without safe water.
Many of the core functions of society still lag years behind modern standards. The role of the entrepreneur, thus, is to find these areas, full of friction, and employ technology to bring them up to speed. In doing so, startups can generate extreme returns, while solving tangible problems.
Though the media tends to shower their attention on high profile founders, with fancy consumer-facing companies, there is no denying the massive potential technology has in many of the most antiquated sectors of our global economy.
For makers, the most lucrative industries for disruption are ironically, often the ugliest. Imagine the fields built on a “pre-internet” infrastructure. Everything is collected on pen and paper and stored in a filing cabinet. By today’s merit, it is a disaster.
Promise lies with the entrepreneurs who are able to apply the frontier technology of today to solve efficiency issues that have been plaguing industries for generations.
One emerging startup doing this very well is ShipChain. Specifically, they are focused on leveraging the power of the blockchain to revolutionize the 8 trillion dollar freight industry, bringing levels of accountability, transparency, and trust that the community has never seen before. ShipChain creates an open ecosystem that allows a lot of current players in the space to leverage ShipChain’s innovative blockchain based platform, rather than make current players completely redundant. Backed by authorities and influencers in the space like Kevin Harrington (original Shark on ABC’s Shark Tank) and Roger Crook (former CEO of DHL Global forwarding), the team is poised to make waves.
Blockchain, at a high level, can be used to solve for a number of issues common to many large, robust industries. First of which is the problem of managing trust. You can supplant the need for expensive and error-prone intermediary parties by implementing a distributed blockchain ledger, which logs all of the transactions that occur across a network.
Secondly, blockchains effectively resolve many enterprise security challenges. The ledger is heavily encrypted, decentralized, and immutable, meaning no single party can override and edit/delete the information. This dramatically reduces the power of a cyber-attacker, as well as prevents corruption from within the system.
ShipChain implements this technology to optimize and automate the shipping and logistics world in their open, decentralized ecosystem. For those unfamiliar, the industry is incredibly complicated and nuanced. Spend on freight in recent years accounted for nearly 10% of the United State’s GDP, totaling USD $1.5 trillion. And that number is only expected to increase as we become more and more dependent on free trade for our goods and supplies.
The industry, however, is built largely on closed loop legacy software and inefficient practices. ShipChain solves that with an entirely new approach to freight.
Their platform enables the dozens of players involved in the process – carriers, shippers, owners, and buyers alike – to track and trace each and every movement in an order’s lifecycle. The technology applies an Ethereum Smart Contract to create a “Bill of Lading” at the time of an order, which details all of the important information about a transaction. Throughout the numerous stages of the journey, stakeholders gain access to a clear view into how and where their product lies. Rather than rely on a single human, an algorithm manages all of the information collecting and storing, which is far safer, and frankly more efficient than any alternative. Then, at the time of delivery, the Smart Contract is automatically verified and will release any payments held in escrow.
By streamlining the entire shipping process, ShipChain, in essence, replaces the entire need for costly freight brokers. Empowered by technology, buyers and carriers can now find and route each other without having to go through another party. At least in theory, the end result will be that consumer goods will become less expensive and arrive faster, more consistently.
Because technologies like blockchain and machine learning are only going to continue to improve, we can expect to see more and more makers finding clever/interesting strategies for improving processes in friction-ful industries. And as access to computing power becomes more ubiquitous, we can only hope to see more startups taking a globally-conscious approach to innovation. Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.