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"Every conference on the blockchain is 95pc white, male types of Silicon Valley"

Help: Tech Niall Dennehy is helping to shape a blockchain start-up with big international ambitions, but not everything is rosy in Ireland.

There is a growing sense of skepticism towards the huge excess of blockchain start-ups that appear on the scene, while a way to bind the technology of the ledger distributed to a whole range of different – and seemingly unexpected – projects.

Soccer on the blockchain? I do not know why, but it's okay. Meetings on the blockchain? Dear God, no. These are just some of the examples you meet regularly that highlight why companies at some point decided to add blockchain to their name to get more publicity.

Be a little different

But not everyone must be like that. Before any skepticism felt by this particular journalist, I came across a Dublin start-up called Aid: Tech, two years ago, which used blockchain, but for what seemed like a purpose I can definitely stay behind.

The simple premise was to use the blockchain to help humanitarian organizations track down a charitable donation from the person who donated it to the recipient, in order to prevent cases where aid can be intercepted by corrupt governments or local warlords.

Since then, things have gone pretty quickly to the point that he is now one of the favorites in the blockchain world, having raised 1 million euros at the start of this year, he was named one of the first fintech start-ups in Europe and has just been named Irish Times Winner of the 2018 Innovation of the Year award.

More recently, he began collaborating with Concern's charity to use his digital identity system for aid distribution in war-torn Syria.

Now, his co-founder and chief operations officer Niall Dennehy is ready to speak at the Inspirefest 2019 in what promises to be a great year for the company that has 10 employees based in Dublin but are planning to make them grow up very soon .

Much of this is driven by the launch of its TraceDonate program, which allows a person to donate to a cause to see in real time when his donation is spent and by whom. The start-up has already started working with an important Irish bank to allow its staff to donate using the platform.

Child on the blockchain

Yet it is his work in Tanzania, where Dennehy really sees the technology of the company at work, where it is used to automatically distribute medical rights to pregnant women using smart contracts. This has already led to the birth of what has been called the first "child on the blockchain".

"The World Bank is fascinated by technology and we hope to scale it down to 1.2 million people over the next 12 months," said Dennehy.

"[Its PharmAccess partners in Tanzania was] able to make decisions based on real data on how they will distribute the medical rights to pregnant women, so that they can derive from the data if they were getting enough evidence of folic acid, sulfates and hemoglobin. "

With this kind of results, Dennehy said that Aid: Tech finds itself in a strange place when it comes to blockchain, claiming that most of the space is based primarily on "theory, hype, token, wallets and criptokiddies" [slang term for people unskilled in blockchain trying to enter the space]".

"We do not pay too much attention to others, but there's a lot of crap and clamor in space," he said. "Go now to any conference talking about blockchain and the white, male Silicon Valley guys of 95%." They say very little. "

He admitted that at some point Aid: Tech took into consideration the idea of ​​making a first coin offer (ICO) to raise funds and even got the green light from the Central Bank, but after consulting the established banks , it has been said that it will be a problem with investors the long run.

"Their perception was – whether it was right or not – it's like a dirty thing with speculation and other obscure things," he said, "with people who buy Lamborghini and fly to the moon."

The company has not done too badly from a typical funding perspective as it is, particularly in Asia, where it has signed its 1 million euro financing agreement with the Singapore SGInnovate fund in collaboration with Enterprise Ireland.

"If we stayed here, we would not be around now & # 39;

However, Dennehy admitted that the Irish venture capital scene is not as rosy as some do with me.

"We find that people here have to understand something before they commit themselves to doing it – they look for concrete facts, figures, budgets and traditional mechanisms," he said.

"We had a very bad support here in Ireland, in general, it's pretty poor in the fintech space, and while it's getting better, we have so many reasons we had to look overseas, if we stayed here, we would not be around now."

This encouragement to seek financing abroad is one of the messages he wants to convey when he steps up on the Infirefest stage in May 2019, along with a general sense of encouragement for any other entrepreneur who wants to enter the blockchain space.

"We are proving that you can make money and do good at the same time," he said. "We are still in the early days for us and perhaps we can show what can be done".

Niall Dennehy, co-founder and chief operating officer of Aid: Tech, speaking in 2018. Image: Katie O & # 39; Neill / TEDx Trinity College Dublin / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Inspirefest is the international event of Silicon Republic that celebrates the point where science, technology and art collide. Super Early Bird tickets for Inspirefest 2019 are available now.

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