Cambridge Blockchain Wins First Santander Challenge for Fintech Startups

A team based out of the Cambridge Innovation Center came down to New York last week and snagged a bit of starting cash at the Santander InnoVentures Distributed Ledger Challenge fintech pitch competition.

CEO Matthew Commons said his startup, Cambridge Blockchain, is an identity management platform for blockchain systems (the public ledgers for the Bitcoin network.) Blockchains are tools that provide trust, he said, in cryptocurrency transactions—which are anonymous by design. “This is one of the most critical areas where blockchain technology needs to improve if it’s going to get out of the lab and into real enterprise systems,” Commons said.

Cambridge Blockchain came up with a way to verify certain attributes of the participants in cryptocurrency transactions without revealing their full identities. Documents that serve as proof of identity are kept in a virtual container with details that can be released among the parties in trading transactions. How much information is shared, such as their credit rating and which country they live in, is determined by the respective users.

Winning first place garnered Cambridge Blockchain the $15,000 top prize at the event hosted by New York-based Onevest, an investment crowdfunding site, and venture capital fund Santander InnoVentures, part of Spain’s Santander Group. Santander and Onevest announced the competition last November as a way to encourage the emergence of more fintech startups, particularly those who use distributed ledger technology.

Even before winning the competition, Cambridge Blockchain had plans to raise funding. “Within the next month, we’ll be closing a convertible debt round with equity funding later in 2016, Commons said.

Cambridge Blockchain hopes to bridge the needs of enterprise and banking institutions and the decentralized nature of blockchains, which are distributed and stored in a secure way among multiple participants in the system.

Usually the records themselves in Bitcoin transactions can be trusted. In the enterprise environment however, there also needs to be trust in who writes the records to the ledger, Commons said, especially given the regulatory needs of banks. He thinks his startup’s technology can address that conundrum. “Bitcoin was designed to be anonymous with identification only by cryptographic key,” he said. “You couldn’t get further away from the requirement that banks have.”

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