Singapore-based blockchain startup Bluzelle has raised US$1.5 million in a Series A round participated by Global Brain, LUN Partners Capital and True Global Ventures.
Bluzelle will use the newly-raised financing to scale up the company’s enterprise business, develop its decentralised database platform, and build its initial developer community, said an official press release.
The startup is led by two Canadians: CEO and Co-founder Pavel Bains, and CTO and Co-founder Neeraj Murarka.
Prior to launching Bluzelle, Bains co-founded 500 Startups-backed Storypanda, a digital book platform that empowers kids to read, create and share books. He was also heavily involved in the digital media industry, in his roles as GM for independent game developer Threewave Software and CFO for Disney Interactive Studios.
In 2014, he turned his focus towards more cutting edge technologies, and that’s when he began researching about Bitcoin and its applications. At around the same period, he met Murarka, who was finishing up his work at a Bitcoin company called ZeroBlock.
“He [Murarka] came back to Vancouver at the same time, we got connected by a mutual friend, and I wanted to work on a new blockchain type of product; he wanted to work on something from the ground up, so we matched well – he had the CTO role, I had the product design role – and that’s how we [Bluzelle] started,” said Bains, in an interview with e27.
At first, the duo wanted to work with payments — one of the most common use-cases for blockchain technology. In Vancouver, there is a significant migrant Chinese and Indian population and they often remit money back to their home countries.
Bluzelle’s initial goal was to help these diasporas send money back to their folks at home more quickly and at cheaper rates using blockchain. But then Bains and Murarka soon made the move to Asia as it offered bigger market opportunities.
“After a year or so in Vancouver, we thought the real growth area would be in Asia…The population is much bigger in Asia — in a smaller circle — a four-hour flight radius wherever you go – you hit more numbers. Vancouver is still good for lifestyle but for fintech or finance — it’s not a centre of it. Our thesis was that if you’re going to go into fintech and blockchain, you need to go where the big business is,” said Bains.
“The Canadian government sent me on a couple of trade missions out this way, and we ended up deciding to come to Asia – and Singapore. From there we started working with the enterprises here [in Singapore].”
With Singapore as its base of operations and its R&D and part of its development team based in Vancouver, Bluzelle began to explore wider blockchain applications.
“We became agnostic and said we will become a backend technology, for whatever use cases there are. So over the past year, one of the things we’ve done was payments – we worked with Temenos [its core banking systems],” says Bains.
“We’ve done a KYC identity management system over the blockchain with a group of banks. And then also with a couple of insurers, we’re doing insurance over the blockchain. So what we’ve said is our technology is flexible – you tell us the use case and we can design a product around that.”
Using insurance as an example, Bains said blockchain automates insurance claims so policyholders do not need to photocopy claim forms, send it over then wait for 6 to 12 weeks for a reimbursement; everything can be processed almost instantaneously.
Bluzelle’s latest product is a decentralised database service. By using blockchain technology, data stored in these databases not only become immutable and secure, they can also be transferred more quickly than current database solutions such as cloud. Bains said blockchain-powered decentralised database is a natural evolution of the technology.
“So we evolved our technology and as the internet is becoming a decentralised internet, with so many different parts of it, this was going to play a big role for data storage and management. It needed to be there – because you have decentralised applications, a new operating system such as Ethereum, a file storage – places like File Coin, a decentralised file storage,” said Bains.
“So if we’re building a decentralised application that was all blockchain-based, [including] the middleware — then the database should be as well. It’s much faster, stronger, more secure,” he added.
Building a decentralised database is similar to how Bitcoin farmers mine for Bitcoins. Both involve issuing cryptocurrencies.
Producers (farmers) can earn Bluzelle Tokens by providing hardware resources Then, the consumers who come on would pay with the token to use the database service.
“A token makes it work efficiently and faster – that’s why it’s inherent in the product – you’re building an ecosystem,” said Bains.
The difference between mining for Bitcoins and Bluzelle tokens is the amount of computing power involved. Bitcoin farmers build expensive mining rigs (computers) in order to acquire as much Bitcoins as possible.
“In Bitcoin it’s an arms race. Now Bitcoin is worth about US$4,000, so there’s an incentive to go after that – to build more power. Ours is built around being part of a network; it’s not designed to be part of an arms race,” explained Bains.
Bluzelle is looking to make a token sale of its own Bluzelle tokens in late October.
“When it’s decentralised it’s broken down into parts all around the world – no one [hackers] can get into any of it [database] to steal it [data], and second, if you’re using blockchain technologies which are based on immutability and consensus, then the data can’t be corrupted because the network – millions of computers – can verify it,” said Bains.
Still, while the benefits of blockchain may be plain to see for tech-savvy observers, some traditional corporations may still view this emerging technology with scepticism.
“We were two new people in town…so we spent time building that credibility and relationships. Once we got that, then you had to convince them with the technology and start doing the work,” said Bains.
Bluzelle was also recently awarded “Technology Pioneer” status by World Economic Forum. Past recipients of this honour include some of the industry’s biggest tech giants such as Airbnb, Google, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Spotify, and Twitter.
That award, Bain said, has helped Bluzelle achieved great credibility in the business world. And it has borne fruits — today, Bluzelle has a portfolio of heavyweight clients such as KPMG, Canada’s Zag Bank and the British Telecom.
Image Credit: Bluzelle