In brief

  • Celo is running an eight-week blockchain startup boot camp.
  • 18 finalists have been selected, and each will receive guidance from mentors in PayPal, Winklevoss Capital, PayPal and others.
  • The winning startup will also receive a $10,000 cash prize.

Blockchain startups are vying to participate in an eight-week, digital boot camp hosted by crypto newcomer Celo and virtual events platform Upright.

The Celo Foundation, the organization behind the eponymous proof-of-stake blockchain that positions itself as a competitor to Facebook’s Libra, yesterday revealed the 18 finalists that will take part in the Celo Camp virtual accelerator.

The camp will run until June 15, with these startups competing in teams for up to $30,000 in prizes, building apps on the Celo blockchain. All the while, the 18 finalists are set to receive mentorship from some of the biggest players in crypto, including Winklevoss Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and Polychain.

Jane Lippencott, an investor with Winklevoss Capital; Alex Pruden, a deal partner from Andreesen Horowitz; Ben Perszyk, an investor with Polychain and Efran Katz, a technology leader with PayPal are all on board to provide guidance to up-and-coming crypto entrepreneurs involved in the camp, according to Celo.

“Mentors will provide guidance to the teams. In some cases, that guidance will be technical, while in others it will be focused on go-to market strategy,” Upright co-founder Alon Shavit told Decrypt. “A mentor-matching process is used to understand a mentor’s areas of interest, including specific use cases or geographies and a team’s needs.”

More than 250 applicants from over 60 countries initially entered the competition. Among the finalists are Conclave, a US-based startup developing smart contracts to manage Celo election votes; Nigeria’s Crosspoint, an incentive-based financial solution that rewards users with cash and health insurance rebates, and Ukraine-based mobile crypto broker Good Crypto.

Another finalist is Air Protocol, a crypto payments startup based in Mexico. The firm has developed an open-source, peer-to-peer (P2P) decentralized platform that enables “censorship-resistant and trust-minimized” asset exchanges on-chain to off-chain.

Air Protocol was founded by Jorge Ruiz, who also co-founded AirTM and served as its founding CTO. Much like Air Protocol, AirTM is a P2P exchange and allows customers to deposit or withdraw funds using more than 200 payment methods. Launched in 2015, AirTM raised more than $7 million in a Series A. It rose to prominence in 2018, when Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro attempted to expel the exchange from the country.

“We’re beginning to see a lot of great innovation coming from Latin America,” Shavit said. “In addition to Air Protocol, there are teams that are leveraging the power of blockchain to provide other decentralized finance solutions. We’re starting to see teams explore how to provide more P2P solutions such as lending and donations.”

The plan, said Shavit, is for the first-place team to eventually receive $10,000 in funding, along with a trip to either Brazil, Argentina or San Francisco to meet with Celo and continue to build out their projects. (But, presumably, only if and when the global social-distancing measures invoked as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have been relaxed.)

Celo recently unveiled its alternative to the Libra Association, the Celo Alliance, which counts with the support of many of Libra’s same, top-tier members. Last month, the Celo Foundation awarded $700,000 in grants to various enterprises looking to develop new products utilizing Celo’s network.