ConsenSys Spin-Off BlockApps Inks Deal With Bayer’s Monsanto Arm
ConsenSys spin-out BlockApps is working with Bayer Crop Science, the controversial agricultural giant formerly known as Monsanto.
The multinational corporation is collaborating on several BlockApps pilot projects, CoinDesk has learned, although the firm declined to specify how many. The projects began as proof-of-concept implementations in 2018.
Michael Pareles, the global digital strategy manager of Bayer’s Crop Science division, told CoinDesk that Bayer’s plan is to partner with BlockApps to “increase our applications of blockchain, both in our operations and in our industry.”
BlockApps CEO Kieren James-Lubin said his startup’s aim is to graduate several clients out of production mode and into “live” services in 2019 as it consecutively raises a Series A round.
BlockApps originally emerged from ConsenSys in 2016 with over $3 million in funding from both the Brooklyn venture studio and outside investors such Fenbushi Capital, which at the time included fund advisor and ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin. James-Lubin’s father, ethereum co-founder Joseph Lubin of ConsenSys, remains involved in BlockApps to this day.
According to James-Lubin, the 20-person startup garnered “more than seven figures” in 2018 and expects to earn almost double that amount in 2019 as production goes live. A source with knowledge of BlockApps financials, who asked to stay anonymous for legal reasons, said the startup also earned almost $2 million last year primarily through licensing deals and a few consulting contracts.
Blockskye, a startup that manages inventory and booking within the travel industry, is one BlockApps client that has already transitioned beyond the proof-of-concept stage.
CEO Brook Armstrong told CoinDesk that BlockApps’ software has become “the ultimate backend” for order processing across roughly a dozen directly participating companies.
By leveraging an open system with multiple airlines and hotels, Armstrong said Blockskye is often able to save more than $43 worth of distribution costs per ticket. He aims to expand this corporate network to thousands of travel companies by the end of 2021.
“We are focused on getting as much money on the blockchain as soon as possible,” Armstrong said.
Unlike many ConsenSys companies, BlockApps generally avoids tokens and is open to offering software services beyond the scope of blockchain technologies.
“Blockchain is a tool and not the destination,” James-Lubin said. “We describe ourselves as more of a business network company these days.”
If BlockApps offers a successful model for how other ConsenSys companies might spin out of the parent incubator, it also presents a harbinger of what the ConsenSys “mesh” could actually mean.
Lubin is still a significant shareholder, owning BlockApps equity the way he does for most ConsenSys startups, which has been a point of contention for some. (ConsenSys did not respond to requests for comment and James-Lubin likewise declined.)
Although James-Lubin now considers his startup fully independent from ConsenSys, he said his team interacts with ConsenSys on a weekly basis and shares mutual clients.
“They are on our board. They provide a sounding board when we need help,” James-Lubin said, adding his startup is no longer a part of ConsenSys but has developed a “business partnership” collaborating on contracted projects with his father’s conglomerate.
BlockApps’ partners and consulting clients include some of the biggest names in the tech industry, such as Google and RedHat.
According to a ConsenSys spokesperson, so far BlockApps is one of nine startups to “spin out” of the central venture studio, including the decentralized exchange AirSwap. The spokesperson said another dozen companies are expected to “spin out” of the Brooklyn-based studio in 2019.
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