Public Bloc is building a blockchain for commercial real estate and infrastructure investments — what it believes is a bid to lower costs, increase transparency and even reduce corruption.
Co-founders and co-CEOs Ali Akil and Hamzah El Amin met at a blockchain event in D.C. in August and quickly hit it off, discussing how the technology could solve different business problems. Three weeks later, the idea of a development blockchain — transparent, secure and ultimately cheaper — was born.
The blockchain itself, a decentralized network that catalogs, verifies and tracks transactions, is still in the beta phase, Akil said. But ultimately, Public Bloc aims to create a platform where developers or governments enter real estate projects that need investments and investors pick which ones interest them. Then the work is recorded and monitored, giving better transparency and insight into the process for all of the parties involved.
Public Bloc would take a percentage of each real estate investment deal, Akil said, adding that the platform should go live in the first quarter of 2019.
“We strip away a lot of administrative costs,” Akil said. “If you have multiple partners and parties on a project, we have one single point of truth that’s reliable and transparent.”
The D.C. startup, at about four employees, has been self-funded by the founders so far, though they would be open to outside investors. Among its strategic advisers are Akin Sawyerr, managing director of social impact advisory firm Feleman; Robert Perry, former Central African Republic ambassador and senior consultant at The Stevenson Group; and Kala Fleming, corporate strategy innovation leader at IBM Corp.
Public Bloc could be useful for countries looking for public-private partnerships to develop infrastructure, whether it’s a bridge or a road or a school, Akil said.
With that in mind, the potential is massive, with trillions of dollars of infrastructure and projects that need financing. The American Society of Civil Engineers said in a 2017 report that the United States alone will need to invest $4.59 trillion by 2025 to improve the nation’s infrastructure.
Public Bloc has described a $2 trillion market — and it expects about $2 billion in funds to be raised on its platform. If the company takes 5 percent of that activity, it would generate $100 million in revenue.
It’s a lofty goal, indeed.
“We are the ideal founders for something like this to happen. Somebody telling us it’s not possible is what gets us up everyday,” Akil said.
He believes he had already bucked the odds, going from a tough Cleveland childhood to a successful tech career, including working as an account executive for IBM’s Watson Cloud Platform and running two smaller companies — a veteran social networking site and a socially conscious clothing company. “I am not supposed to be a tech founder, and I am not supposed to have made it out of my neighborhood,” Akil said.
El Amin said Public Bloc would fill a big hole in international project financing.
“We have talked to international businessmen and former directors from the World Bank,” he said. “Down to a man, they all say what we are bringing to the table is needed.”
Source; Andy Medici Staff Reporter, Washington Business Journa