Everest, a blockchain startup that began generating revenue in 2017 and now has 12 employees, is working to provide people in the developing world with a blockchain identity that will connect everyone to the 21st-century economy.
Founder Bob Reid, 48, says, “Everest gives the average person the ability to prove who they are, exchange value with another individual or institution, and utilize technology provided by an organization, facility, or agent army.”
There are two social issues the team hopes to address with their technology, he says.
- Human Trafficking: By creating an identity utility for humanity, Everest aims to combat human trafficking by supplying a simple means for parents to enroll their children, then, in the case something bad happens, the parent has the ability to flag their children as “missing.” Further, by providing a simple mobile phone app, first responders and healthcare workers are able to screen individuals to make sure that they have not been reported as missing.
- Borrowing Costs for Low-Income People: In frontier and developing markets the cost of capital is artificially high because of the perceived higher risk profile due to a lack of verifiable identities of people. By providing everyone with a durable, verifiable identity, and an attached digital wallet, we are bridging those individuals into a digital economy where the cost of capital is dramatically reduced.
With two IPOs and two other successful exits under his belt, Reid has the credibility to back up that statement with action. Athman Ali, CEO of impact investing firm 1000 Alternatives, has partnered with Everest to address some of the economic challenges facing people and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The partnership was originally focused on reducing transportation costs in the region—cut costs of transport and the cost of almost everything else will fall, too.
“We have since deepened our partnership to position the Everest platform for use by innovators, incubation hubs and social entrepreneurs to spur innovations in the various areas that 1000 Alternatives focuses towards achieving positive social impact,” Ali says.
The expanded relationship now includes another area with the potential to impact people in dramatic ways. “Legal identity, land titles tracking and documentation of ownership and transfers of assets remain a big challenge in African countries,” Ali says. “Opportunities to use the blockchain platform to improve services in education, health and livelihoods is another set of opportunities.”
For his part, Reid likes to start a conversation with context by providing some big numbers. He says, 1.1 billion lack an ID, 2.5 billion are unbanked and 5 billion don’t have a smartphone. He sees these big numbers as both problems to be solved and as an opportunity.
He hopes to take “people from the 9th-century economy to a 21st-century economy in one step,” suggesting that some of the people whom he hopes to help are operating in a barter economy today.
Everest will generate revenue in a variety of ways but has already begun by providing biometric identity verification, charging between two and seven cents per verification. There are a few other players in the space, he says, who are charging fees in the same range. The firm will also charge for financial transactions, perhaps $2 for a remittance or 0.5% fee on new microloans. In addition, business services will generate revenue from the sale of software development kits (SDKs) and access licenses. Everest will also provide integration services to help businesses connect legacy data to the new platform.