Episode 45: Spurring Economic Development With Blockchain

Welcome back to Tech Forward, listeners! On this week’s episode, I spoke with the co-founders of Public Bloc, Ali Akil and Hamzah El Amin. Public Bloc is a blockchain platform that provides low cost universal access to financial services for global development projects. Ali brings to Public Bloc years of experience as an Account Executive for the IBM Watson Cloud Platform. He’s also a U.S. Army veteran, and was an analyst for the U.S. Treasury Department where he was part of a team that crafted the first U.S. Crypto-Regulation. Having previously held various positions in both the private and public sectors as a management analyst, Hamzah focuses on business development, customer acquisition strategy, and partnerships for Public Bloc. Today we’ll be discussing their entrepreneurial journey, and how they aim to use their platform to spur economic development both in the US and overseas.

Upon first meeting at the 1776 Incubator in August of 2017, Ali and Hamzah formed a fast partnership built on common ground and common goals. Both came from humble roots and, after working in a variety of roles, found themselves interested in potential applications for blockchain technology in real estate and affordable housing investment. They formed Public Bloc with the ultimate aim of getting more investment to undervalued communities both domestically and abroad. Within a month’s time, they had put together a white paper, registered the company, and flown to Ghana to speak with the Deputy Minister of Finance.

Public Bloc is a project monitoring and verification tool which allows investors to monitor their investment through the life cycle of a project. Their core focus is affordable housing, which is a growing issue within the United States as well as in countries like Nigeria, Egypt, and Kenya. An issue both men are passionate about, they strive to ensure all their projects meet 4 main criteria: have a feasible project plan, outline expected financial return, have a project length of under 18 months, and be an investment with social or environmental impact. Recognizing their successful careers despite not being “Harvard guys,” Ali says, “We don’t want to be the exception to the rule. African Americans are an underutilized asset. We don’t just represent Black business, we represent American business and American culture.”

Rather than the traditional seed round, Ali and Hamzah are currently bootstrapping the company while they finish the tech, get market validation, and seek strategic partnerships with investors who see the value in their vision. Ali speaks strongly in favor of bootstrapping, suggesting companies in a similar stage invest in themselves rather than giving up 25-30% of their company’s value. They also advise being intentional about recruitment, especially for fellow blockchain companies, and put in the effort to build a strong, sustainable company.

Ali and Hamzah, thank you so much for coming onto the show this week and telling us about the work you’re doing with Public Bloc. Thank you also to everyone out there listening, reviewing, and sharing the show. See you next week!


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