5 start-ups leading the way for blockchain and digital assets

The World Economic Forum has recognized these five emerging companies as technological pioneers in the sector.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has chosen its technological pioneers for 2021. The group of 100 start-ups, all in the start-up or growth phase, represent the cutting edge of technology in many technological fields.

Those recognized as pioneers in technology participate in a two-year program of WEF events and initiatives. This program is part of WEF’s global community of innovators, described as “an invitation-only group of the world’s most promising start-ups and scale-ups at the forefront of technological innovation and business models.” .

Alumni on the Tech Pioneer Lists include Google, Twitter, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Spotify, Airbnb, and Wikimedia. The program was launched in 2000.

In the area of ​​blockchain and digital assets, five companies from the UK, US and Zimbabwe were chosen for this year’s list.


Named after the Finnish word for ghost, Aave is a decentralized financial protocol that allows users to lend and borrow digital assets through the Ethereum network. Stani Kulechov founded the company in London in 2017, with the aim of providing a decentralized, “non-depository” alternative to traditional money markets.

All transactions on Aave are automatically traded, which means users don’t need to know each other, and the loan must be backed by collateral in the form of a different digital asset. This borrowing can take the form of fixed rate loans, variable rate loans which fluctuate according to demand, and “flash loans” which do not require any collateral but must be repaid in a single transaction.

The protocol is open source, providing transparency and allowing developers to create a variety of tools and applications to interface with Aave. It supports a variety of different digital assets, from Ether to stablecoins such as USD Coin. In addition, the platform is managed in a decentralized manner by the users; purchasing the AAVE token gives you votes in governance decisions.

Aave has raised over $ 49 million in financing to date and hosts a steadily growing loan market currently worth over $ 16 billion.


Founded by Julio Faura, Edward Budd and Peter Munnings in 2018, Adhara creates blockchain-based software for banks and central banks. In particular, the company focuses on the management of central bank digital currency, foreign exchange and payment systems.

Although based in the UK, Adhara evolved from the South African division of Consensys and received $ 15 million in seed capital from its ancestor. The three founders all have banking backgrounds: Faura was head of blockchain for Santander, Budd was head of digital at Deutsche Bank, and Munnings was head of blockchain for FirstRand. The company has done extensive work with the central bank of South Africa.

Adhara’s suite includes two key tools. LiquidityHub T.0 enables banks and groups of banks to manage their liquid assets by representing them as digital tokens that can easily be moved between branches. PayHub T.0 simplifies and accelerates international transactions by using “digital payment objects” to easily work across borders and currencies.


Utah-based Evernym was founded in 2013 by Jason Law and Timothy Ruff, with the goal of “solving the digital identity crisis.” The company uses blockchain for online credential management systems, taking a decentralized approach that aims to maintain individuals’ control over themselves online, known as’ self-sovereign identity ‘.

In 2016, the company implemented a public ledger system called Sovrin Network, based on its own open source Hyperledger Indy codebase. The hope is that making Hyperledger Indy available free of charge will increase the adoption and interoperability of similar self-sovereign systems across the web.

Evernym is also working with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to develop an Internet-wide standard for identification systems that do not rely on central registries, called decentralized identifiers. The project has received funding from the US Department of Homeland Security and may soon result in an official recommendation from the W3C.

Evernym also developed the software behind the International Air Transport Association Travel Pass, which allows air travelers to prove their Covid-19 vaccination and test status. The pass is currently being tested by more than three dozen major international airlines.


FlexFinTx was founded in 2018 with the aim of “rebuilding the identity of millions of Africans”. Currently, more than 400 million people on the continent have no access to any means of identification, whether traditional or digital. This Harare-based start-up, imagined by Victor Mapunga and Haardik Haardik, aims to change that.

The Flex network is built on the Algorand blockchain but, above all, uses a WhatsApp chatbot as the main user interface. Users can generate a digital ID in just a few text messages. This ID can then be used to sign up for services such as bank accounts, healthcare, employee contracts or insurance, even when internet access is not available.

In February 2020, the company became the first African member of the Decentralized Identity Foundation, joining names such as Microsoft, Accenture, Sovrin and Consensys to set interoperable standards for sovereign identity. FlexFinTx claims that its compliance with these international standards allows identifiers generated on the company’s system to be used anywhere in the world.

Parity technologies

London-based Parity Technologies describes itself as a ‘core blockchain infrastructure company’. The company was founded in 2015 by a team of self-proclaimed blockchain pioneers, most of whom migrated from Ethereum. CEO Jutta Steiner was Ethereum’s primary security officer, while lead developer Gavin Wood was CTO and co-founder. Kenneth Kappler and Aeron Buchan are also Ethereum alumni, with Björn Wagner completing the team.

Parity’s core technology is Substrate, a framework designed to simplify and streamline the process of building new blockchains. The company says the tool is used by more than 130 development teams in a range of applications, from digital wallets to the Internet of Things.

Parity itself used Substrate to develop Polkadot, a “meta-protocol” that facilitates the transfer of information and tokens between individual and independent blockchains. “For example, a school’s private and authorized academic records chain could send proof to a diploma verification smart contract on a public channel,” the company explains.

Polkadot’s vision, according to Parity, is not just a tool for blockchain developers, but something that will fundamentally reshape the kind of secure and decentralized applications that can be built. The company has lofty visions of a world free from “its dependence on a broken network” and where “big institutions cannot violate our trust”.

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