Reinventing the Charity Run with Thomas Vanderstraeten and Ethereum
Identifying killer use cases for any nascent technology is often the final bridge before mass adoption. Bitcoin, for instance, has already revealed itself as an excellent store of value especially in cases of massive inflation. Similarly, Ethereum, programmable money, and smart contracts also imply an interesting future for collectibles, insurance policies, and fundraising.
To learn a bit more about yet another use case, BTCManager recently caught up with Thomas Vanderstraeten, founder of Cryptizens, and discussed his next venture; a sixty kilometer ‘Crypto Run’ around Brussels, Belgium.
Good Ol’ Charity Run, Reinvented With Crypto
On May 20, 2018, Vanderstraeten is looking to garner attention for a non-profit organization in Brussels called BeCode. He will run 60 kilometers in one go, following the rich green belt that surrounds the Belgian city in hopes of gathering roughly €5,000 (~$6,000), or the cost of putting one student through the six-month web-development course at BeCode.
More importantly, he’ll be leveraging Ethereum’s smart contract capacities to test its strengths in the philanthropic sector.
“So, I guess we’re looking to raise 15 ETH, but hopefully the market swings up,” Vanderstraeten explained to BTCManager in a Skype interview.
Next to blockchain projects, the runner and coder does also have a background in social entrepreneurship. Vanderstraeten and three others also run a volunteer platform called Fovento that promotes local associations in achieving their non-profit objectives.
Fovento, a background in Mathematics from UCL, and a massive interest in blockchain technology has helped Vanderstraeten reimagine the good old charity run.
“I added the crypto spices to attract more media coverage, but I do think that there is a real use-case here,” he explained. “We can track the use of the funds and see how these funds are working. People want to see their impact, and a blockchain allows that.”
In regards to Vanderstraeten’s charitable endeavor, he will be gathering donations in Ethereum’s native currency, ether, of which will be locked up until the 60 kilometers are complete. In programming a smart contract for the event, the funds will be under the submission of a piece of code, rather than a trusted intermediary.
It is in the elimination of these third-parties that we begin to see blockchain’s most popular use-case, especially for charities and the philanthropy sector. Incorporating this technology, moreover, also means that all funds collected are perfectly visible:
“Immutability allows the exclusion of intermediaries by incorporating raw data directly between BeCode and donors.”
In order to collect the above-mentioned real-world data, as in the actual kilometers logged, Vanderstraten will use Strava, a mobile app that helps runners and cyclists to track, analyze, and share information with other athletes. It is basically a “log book of running challenges.”
Plus, Strava offers a powerful API that can be used to combine all the features of the ultra-marathon in May – this makes the connection to an Ethereum smart contract possible.
This image illustrates how funds will be collected, distributed, as well as how the data from Vanderstraeten’s run will release the funds into the BeCode wallet. “The efficiency of the whole process is also a real advantage,” he explained.
BeCode: Supplying a Workforce of Coders
Upon the completion of the run, all funds will then be immediately handed over to BeCode, a non-profit less than a year old. The organization’s principal function is to provide young people entering the job market, as well as long-term unemployed individuals, with a free coding education.
“By 2020, there will be nearly 30,000 technology vacancies in Belgium and more than 20 percent youth unemployment,” Vanderstraten explained. “There’s just a huge vacancy for tech jobs right now.”
BeCode offers a six-month PHP developer course after which more than half of the graduates earn a job. Surrounding the organization are partnerships with local firms who hope to capitalize on the skills these students acquire. Often, graduates of BeCode are conveniently hired by one such partnered organization.
But, what about the rest of the crypto scene in Belgium?
“It’s still quite young as a sector in the country,” explained Vanderstraeten, “There are 25 blockchain startups, but only five have conducted ICOs. That being said, startups like TheLedger and Settlemint are consulting governing bodies regarding blockchain.”
Interestingly, he has also created a visual representation of the “state of the Belgium Blockchain ecosystem,” which “aims to support greater publicity around Blockchain projects in the Plat Pays, fostering entrepreneurship and connections between individuals and ventures.”
On top of traditional European financial legislation (i.e., MiFID, AIFMD, MAR, AMLD4, etc.), Belgian ICOs are subject to a ban preventing the professional distribution “to one or more retail clients of financial products of which the return is directly or indirectly dependent on a virtual currency.” Belgium, much like the rest of the world, is clearly still a bit hesitant about where best to draw the line between innovation and regulation.
The five ICOs were thus only possible after formulating an investor prospectus approved by the Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA) in the country.
In any case, while young, use-cases such as the Crypto Run do offer an interesting non-financial application of blockchain technology. For more information about BeCode and Vanderstraeten’s work in the sector, please visit Cryptizens.