By Olga Kharif
Technology companies, banks, and real estate brokers have high expectations for the blockchain. The technology underpinning bitcoin could be used to move money, trade stocks, or sell houses more efficiently. One problem is that few programmers have the expertise to work on blockchain projects.
CODER-FOR-HIRE Jeff Garzik, one of about two dozen core bitcoin developers, is capitalising on the hype by creating a coder-for-hire service specialising in the blockchain.
His startup Bloq charges customers $3,000-$5,000 a month to develop new features for blockchain software and have access to 24*7 customer support. PricewaterhouseCoopers has agreed to sell Bloq’s services to its clients, Garzik said.
“That opens up a lot of doors for us early in the company’s lifetime,” he said. “Companies know who to call at 3 am if the blockchain is melting down.”
Garzik modelled his startup on Red Hat, which built a $11 billion company out of helping businesses develop and implement Linux and other opensource software.
He used to work at Red Hat, and he said his code can be found in every Android phone and in most data centers around the world. Since then, Garzik has been an important contributor to the technical and promotional benefit of bitcoin.
He serves on the board of bitcoin advocacy group Coin Center and on the advisory boards of startups that include BitFury Group and Netki.
He has also tried to launch satellites supporting bitcoin transactions into space. That startup is not off to a good start.
ATTENTION TO BLOCKCHAIN As bitcoin remains volatile, with onetime advocates of the digital currency predicting a doomsday scenario, many businesses have turned their attention to the blockchain. With Bloq, Garzik must compete with other ventures vying for the few programmers wellversed in working with the blockchain, a decentralised online ledger for logging transactions that involve bitcoin or just about anything else.
“There are less than 200 people who know the blockchain very well,” he said.
GLOBAL TREND International Business Ma chines and Samsung Electronics have collaborated on blockchain technology.
Others, such as Chain, Factom, Digital Asset Holdings, and Overstock.com, are developing new applications that tie into the blockchain. R3, a consortium of dozens of financial institutions that include Barclays and Wells Fargo Co, is working on ways for its members to use the blockchain for money transfers and other applications. “There is a big opportunity for companies building customised blockchains based on open-source code to address various business challenges,” said Gil Luria, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.
Bloq has five customers, including bitcoin startups Circle Internet Financial, ItBit Trust Company, and KnCMiner AB, and expects to soon add Foxconn Technology Group, which assembles iPhones and other electronics. Garzik said Bloq has raised less than $250,000 from his co-founder Matt Roszak’s Tally Capital. The company’s board of advisors includes bitcoin experts Andrew Filipowski, James Newsome, Nick Szabo, and Gavin Andresen.