All About Blockchain

Transforming Business with Blockchain | André Salem

March 23, 2022 The UBRI Podcast from Ripple Season 4 Episode 3
Transforming Business with Blockchain | André Salem
All About Blockchain
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All About Blockchain
Transforming Business with Blockchain | André Salem
Mar 23, 2022 Season 4 Episode 3
The UBRI Podcast from Ripple

We've been hearing of all the benefits to using blockchain across various sectors. How can companies who know nothing about blockchain implement this technology into their business?

Blockforce Founder/CEO André Salem has a solution for sellers to easily use blockchain without any previous knowledge.  Learn how merchants can accept digital assets like XRP, and also issue and offer NFTs.

André and his start-up advisor, Professor Eduardo Diniz from Fundação Getulio Vargas, are XRPL grant winners. They discuss the rise of their Brazilian consulting group offering B2B Saas models for wider infrastructure  adoption.


Show Notes Transcript

We've been hearing of all the benefits to using blockchain across various sectors. How can companies who know nothing about blockchain implement this technology into their business?

Blockforce Founder/CEO André Salem has a solution for sellers to easily use blockchain without any previous knowledge.  Learn how merchants can accept digital assets like XRP, and also issue and offer NFTs.

André and his start-up advisor, Professor Eduardo Diniz from Fundação Getulio Vargas, are XRPL grant winners. They discuss the rise of their Brazilian consulting group offering B2B Saas models for wider infrastructure  adoption.


Lauren Weymouth (00:00):

Hi, I'm Lauren Weymouth, your host of All About Blockchain, and we're excited to introduce André Salem, the founder/CEO of Blockforce. Blockforce is a consulting group, providing B2B SaaS models for companies towards blockchain adoption. I met André through his former technology professor, Eduardo Diniz, from FGV. I've been working with FGV in São Paulo for almost four years now. They're doing some really cool things with blockchain crypto education, including running a student crypto datathon.

Eduardo will also be making an audio appearance on the show to shed light on the importance of relationships between universities and entrepreneurs. Welcome André and Eduardo.

So starting with you, Andre, when did you get involved in blockchain and what were your early thoughts on this rising technology?

Andre Salem (00:49):

Hey, Lauren, thanks for having me here. It's a pleasure to participate with Eduardo in this talk here. It's a kind of really significant moment for us. For me, blockchain starts when I work on IBM work on research lab area there and I developed some research and also some business solutions regarding blockchain technologies. I thought that blockchain could reach a more, wider, perspective, thinking about public blockchains and like social adoption of the technology.

So Blockforce raise up on this context,looking for provide some blockchain solutions like as a service or social impact initiatives. And on my view, blockchain has a much to do with that, like to provide a new infrastructure for a more transparent and fair and trustable, environment for business, for society, for any kind of transactions that depends on trust. So like the infrastructure to build the new society, or at least the post capitalism. 

Lauren Weymouth (01:51):

And you founded Blockforce. So when did you found Blockforce and tell us a little bit about your team.


Andre Salem (01:56):

So in mid 2017, I left IBM. I start to develop some blockchain related projects, basically on Blockforce team. I'm the sole founder, we had some, advisors at this time, but, to raise up the company, but Blockforce was born to provide this social blockchain solutions. And now we have 19 people on our team. from these four years of company history, we developed like 11 blockchain related projects related for traceability for digital assets, a lot of spheres.

Since one year and a half ago, we figure out that beyond this whole projects we have developed, there was strong infrastructure that we are using to develop these same projects, just adding some really, marginal stuff on top of it. we almost freeze out our consulting operation in order to provide this infrastructure as a service for the blockchain market. And especially for people who want to develop on blockchain, without any kind of expertise on the team.

So basically the name of this product that we are running now on Blockforce is called cryptum. And cryptum is like a web between infrastructure to provide crypto currency as a service for any kind of company or project that like to easily integrate blockchain in their solutions and ordering, tech squad teams to develop blockchain without any kind of previously knowledge. So we are really focused on it.

Lauren Weymouth (03:31):

What was the problem that Cryptum set out to solve?

Andre Salem (03:34):

Some of them, especially the barrier between the traditional web two, special web two, environment and the companies who has no expertise, to develop technology and is even more blockchain. So with one simple integration, we provide like a whole bunch of integrations to do the same functions.

So once you connect through our SDK, you can reach XRP Ledger, like frictionless, so you can develop an asset and create a wallet. A lot of Fintechs are reaching us to understand how they can integrate crypto or crypto reality into their business. XRP has a lot of demanded protocol on our basis because of that, because it's much related to Fintech and banking. This kind of segment on the market is looking a lot at it. So we are really anxious to launch it live with public 

You can develop everything you want. And so our wallet make a transaction issue a token and issue NFT, make some conversions and exchange, requesting balances.

So every kind of transaction you will do on the blockchain you can do on the JavaScript connection through the SDK. The idea is to provide a more easily, access for any kind of developer and also inside of the product. We have all the super products, they are related to the NFT market and also to eCommerces. So this one is the problem that the big cryptum, solution that's the SDK is, solves. That's the connection between app two and app three migration by providing a more easy and friction migration for these companies between these two worlds.

And the second product that Cryptum has is the NFT solution as a service, which solves the problem, to people who wants to develop or create some NFT artists and creators who has no technology skill, and through our dashboard, we provide a no code solution to them, to the tokens and to select how many, what's the meta data and whole stuff you need to them. And in the same dashboard, we also provide as a service creation for marketplaces.

So once you have like open sea with all NFTs, that has like a range of offers there, you can develop your own marketplace with Cryptum, with your own NFTs, everything from the dashboard. at this point of the product in the NFT as a service, the problem as we solve is to offer a no code solution for people who are not developers. And last one, which is related for plugins, the problem that we solve is to transform any kind of marketplace to offer them the possibility to receive cryptocurrencies.

So installing, integrating the pluggin, any kind of merchant is able to receive crypto, as a new point of revenue, and also to issue NFTs, connecting them, through the portfolio of products that they already offer to the marketplace. So you build a simple connection, with the products that we already have with the NFTs you on our dashboard. There are three different problems that we solve. that's why I take it a little bit to answer you, (laughs) but they have the same fundamentals, I think in my opinion.

Lauren Weymouth (06:59):

Right. And so, from what I'm really hearing overall is that the Cryptum product is offering end-to-end platform, right? That's lowering-

Andre Salem (07:06):


Lauren Weymouth (07:07):

... the barriers to people entering the market and allowing them to use blockchain technology, even if they don't really understand how it functions, they can use your services to get involved and take advantage of the benefits of using blockchain technology ‘cause you're providing like the back end?

Andre Salem (07:22):


Lauren Weymouth (07:23):

Okay. We'll turn to you, Eduardo, you are Blockforce's advisor. Tell us how you got involved.

Eduardo Diniz (07:28):

A couple of years after, Andrea, finished the school. FGV was organizing a project together with IBM and so Andrea was there. (laughs) And so we just remind that I was his, his professor and we started talking and everything, we start, getting together just by chance in blockchain events.

So then was the first one, then the second one, and the third one (laughs) so, well, so we're all interested in blockchain. So then we started talking about that. At the time, Blockforce was in this first, I think months probably. And we started talking about how we create a company, he started telling me, what was the ideas behind Blockforce. And he invited me to be the advisor, for the company and of course it was my pleasure to join the team. And since then we became close friends and we're all the time together discussing new ideas and everything.

Lauren Weymouth (08:31):

And so as far as your advising capacity, what kind of things do you advise Blackforce on?

Eduardo Diniz (08:36):

So actually I'm a professor in a business school, of courses related to technology in many different ways. As I'm very interested in blockchain, so I teach courses related to blockchain technologies, to undergrad students, graduate students and also get involved in research projects. And one of those research projects was funded by university blockchain research initiatives.

We started to develop in a project in a poor community in Brazil where... actually they already had their local currency and our idea is to provide a better infrastructure, where they can use their local currency, but in a crypto format. So that's the main idea. Then we also invited Andre to help us to develop this project in this community.

Lauren Weymouth (09:32):

And speaking about your classes, you give lectures on tech and social development, technology and sustainability. How do you incorporate your experience with former students running startups into your lectures?

Eduardo Diniz (14:34):

I'm a researcher on the field, so I'm all the time, dealing with, real problems so then I try to bring all those problems to the class to discuss with the students. Right now today, I just finished the class, earlier on, actually base on that.

We're discussing a project. that also Andre is involved with. Which is a crypto project to fund, women in Brazil women that works,in agriculture. In the class today, we are discussing, how this project was created and how blockchain could help this poor women, in Brazil to get funded and to raise their crops and to put their products in the market. This is like an example.

Lauren Weymouth (10:23):

Yeah. So Andre's working on projects with your students. Is he also guest lecturing in your classes?

Eduardo Diniz (10:30):

Yeah, some of them, yeah every semester I have, Andre or one of other collaborators from Blockforce to tell to my students, so how is the blockchain market, so what they can do there. it interesting to have a former ex student from FGV telling to the students now, for what could be their future, for example. and they're always telling behind how to connect blockchain with social projects and sustainability and so on. Actually Blockforce is always present in our classes.

Lauren Weymouth (11:04):

Okay. So we can hear how you and the university supports former student startups like Blockforce. How else would you say the university supports the blockchain ecosystem in Brazil at large?

Eduardo Diniz (11:14):

There are many ways. So actually, because we are in the business, are more, interested in understand how we can integrate, blockchain in business projects. So how can we, understand not only, the cryptocurrency market, which is something that students are very interested in, but also how can implement other different, ideas using blockchain in business. Like, tracking organics, for example, that's one thing that we always discuss. how can we use blockchain to improve financial inclusion and other things like that?

Lauren Weymouth (11:50):

That's great to hear Eduardo. Now, back to you, Andre, you spoke earlier about social blockchain systems. Your LinkedIn profile says that you're focusing on accelerating social and systematic impact projects at scale. Can you expand on this for us?

Andre Salem (12:04):

So we offer our technology as a part of companies core business, related to social business enterprise. Once some initiative wants to provide some systemic positive impact, we'd like to be partnered and to reach the solution until we see some kind of impact. So this example that Eduardo gave us one project that's called Mohan Seeds, has a lot to deal with that.

To empower people through technology, this is one example, there're some others related to enterprise companies, as I said, like CNA that's, a company for fashion, right? And we are offering the traceability for the whole supply chain to them to reach from the client from the old supply chain actors, looking to the whole process to how to track this, the flow of, of information and how to measure the impact.

So there's a lot of applications that blockchain can enhance as, you know, the transparency and the immutability. We try to enhance how the impact's done, but look into the product side, we aim to offer, systemic impact through the, scalability that the product can reach, So once we can offer more people, more technology and more easy access through tech to SDKs and to develop blockchain easily, we think we can reach more people. The impact is through the blockchain infrastructure, where you already have like systemic impact once we change the infrastructure model of transactions on society. So based on it, we already think, we are providing impact looking at this point but considering, the social point of everything will provide like a discount for each project that proves through the form. they will fulfill, until reach the SaaS plan.

And once the project proves, they are driven some social sustainability, we offer special tiers because of it because we like to promote it, you know? This is the way we think about product scalability and product market fit through crypto, but, continues looking to impact both systematic, both impacting on environmental and social.

Lauren Weymouth (14:25):

And we hear that a lot amongst blockchain startups as looking towards how to scale, right? Once this goes mainstream, how do we scale up these projects? Right. You know, we haven't talked on the show about what it means to issue security tokens, or initial coin offerings, stable coins and tokens, and you issue digital currency and assets. Can you talk a little bit about how that works?

Andre Salem (14:46):

You basically, you looked to our documentation, we provide all guides, but basically you need to send us the label of the token you want us to create, you need to select the protocol, based on XRP. There's also some little fields you need to input. So the name of ticket, of the amount, you just send us a request based on these parameters. Then we connect it through the XRP Ledger native one, and do like the bridge directly for the wallet, for the user, which can be created also with Cryptum, from the protocol to the user.

This process is absolutely non custodial. So us as a company, don't hold any kind of private key, we offer the keys for the user. it's like an API call, normal one that you do our infrastructure and, and everything happens there.

Lauren Weymouth (15:39):

And how does the wallet component work?

Andre Salem (15:41):

The component of the wallet?

Lauren Weymouth (15:43):

Yeah. Like setting up a wallet. What does it mean to create a digital currency account or wallet?

Andre Salem (15:48):

Okay. So to create an wallet, you just need to on our infrastructure, like once we are talking about web, there's no KYC needed to create some kind of wallet, you know, there's no process of know your client or know your customer that we need to do it, just a call the infrastructure to generate it. So it's like parameters to, to create it. There's no secret, you know, so yes.

Lauren Weymouth (16:14):

Can you talk to us a little bit about how adoption is going in Brazil?

Andre Salem (16:17):

We have seen  in the most recent times, a really movement more strong here in Brazil, talking about ecosystem, talking about companies that are look into it. We are seeing a strong movement from migration web two, four by three, and looking to banks. So we are seeing a lot of Fintechs, wanting to add crypto, into their portfolio of financial service. So there's a lot of big companies here doing that. We have a company that's basically born from, tax driven system.

99Tax here on result. That's the Brazilian name. they have also a wallet for payments. So it's a big company which has a big holding, behind it. And they just crypto currency for users, adding us block as a solution. So that's not their core, you know, the cores business is other thing, but it's a really mainstream application here in Brazil. There's a lot of users, use it every day and they're offering blockchain, especially Bitcoin, through this interface.

So it, it, it gives us a signal that the market along with other companies are moving to that. And especially regarding the investment, uh, scenario, we are seeing that Brazilian funds and venture capitalists here are looking for companies much more than ever, to which are positioned on this segment. Even though the projects, most of them are not ready. We are seeing that they are on the path to it. So I think there's a lot of signals here that it's coming much more stronger here.

Lauren Weymouth (17:59):

That's great. And is Blockforce global?

Andre Salem (18:02):

Actually, we just did one project globally. That was based on U.S. Cryptum, will be global. So you can pay with dollar, there is everything website that every few will be on English too. So, yeah.

Lauren Weymouth (18:17):

That's good to hear. Eduardo, how would you say Fintech and blockchain is driving the economy around you?

Eduardo Diniz (18:24):

The cryptocurrency market, it's more mature in terms of blockchain. So you see a lot of companies, involved with the cryptocurrency market in many different ways. From the startups until the Central bank in Brazil is also interested in promoting what they call here, the Brazilian digital real, which is our currency. So the Central bank is already investigating ways to implement our Central bank digital currency based on blockchain.

Besides the cryptocurrency markets, you see lots of other companies interested in the tracking abilities of blockchain. Big companies that are investing on blockchain to create tracking of products, especially, companies with a long supply chain that they want to control better all the connections that the partners have? So the blockchain would be an option.

And that of course is an opportunity for startup companies, that works with blockchain to get involved in those project. When big companies are creating projects using blockchain, many times, they hire startup companies to get involved. So then it's something that we see, growing, little by little, in the country in many different types of companies or many different types of industries.

Lauren Weymouth (19:44):

I hear that. Okay. Andre we'll talk a little bit about the XRP Ledger grant that you won congrats, by the way, on winning the XRP Ledger grant, you've integrated a half dozen protocols. What has been your experience using the XRP Ledger comparatively?

Andre Salem (19:58):

This was something really significant and relevant for us, here Lauren help us a lot to reach a more major moment of the product now, before we launch. And before we do any kind of movement on the market. 

Andre Salem (31:22):

So XRP Ledger is in our view was extremely great, documented. So it was really simple. It was a really great experience. 

Lauren Weymouth (20:33):

Well, it is great to hear that integrating the XRP Ledger, blockchain is seamless, was a good experience for you talking about seamless, how easy or difficult is it for payment providers and banks to implement your technology?

Andre Salem (20:46):

We are looking to offer is something that are not difficult, like the documentation from XRP. So you need to reach what we offer and to see what is the best products or sub products that we have, like if they want to offer some cryptocurrency and wallets, and you offer that as a service is just to call the SDK. If the banks or the Fintechs, want to offer NFT, they can do by their own using the dashboard.

So banks and Fintechs can manage everything. they do. They requests and the wallet creations and everything of feature I mentioned here to our dashboard, so they can monitor their, how many requests have been done, and if the requests are successful or not, and the amount of it and manage it, looking to the graphics we will offer, with crypto also, you can invite people from our team, considering your admin from like a Fintech or a bank.

You can invite your people from your team, the operator, or even a developer to look to the dashboard and manage, how many requests have been done, and everything that you want to see through the application that we offer. You know, so basically the SDK is the seamless integration, as mentioned, and the dashboard is the panel to monitor and control it. it's like a banking as a service integration that we offer to banking.

Lauren Weymouth (22:11):

That makes sense. So what are next steps for you?

Andre Salem (22:14):

Next steps is just to launch the product, right? We are extremely focused on it 100%, and we are also developing some use cases until we launch it, which has XRP, That's very great. So we are looking to launch the product with this better client or use case. So by the time we all have the product life, absolutely testable and usable for everyone, we also have the proof of how they can help the application by itself, 

We are about one month and a half to launch it. at the end of April. I expect to come back here with you with some news and a really great stuff to show.

Lauren Weymouth (22:58):

All right. So quarter to launch, this is very exciting. And both of you, Eduardo or Andre, is there anything else that we didn't talk about today that you'd like to share with our listeners?

Eduardo Diniz (23:07):

We are also working in a project, connecting basic income provided by city governments into local currency, working with blockchain. through cryptocurrencies, local cryptocurrency that they can use. So this is a project that we are designing. So probably the next few months we are gonna get more and more involved in that.I think this could have a huge impact, especially to the poor population especially after the pandemics where, a lot of people in very difficulties economical difficulties. So that's a way that we think that we can help those poor people to recover themselves, in the economic sense. So this is something that we're working for the future now.

Lauren Weymouth (23:51):

Well, that does sound like a blockchain for good project.

Eduardo Diniz (23:54):

Yes. (laughs)

Lauren Weymouth (23:55):

along the lines of financial inclusion and helping the under banked-

Eduardo Diniz (23:59):

Yes, exactly.

Lauren Weymouth (24:00):

... to take more ownership over their finances. And Andre are you hiring, like, do you look to FGV to hire new talent as you scale up?

Andre Salem (24:08):

Yes. For sure. There's a lot of talented people there, talented students, we have one of them with us now, and we are looking for more.

Lauren Weymouth (24:16):

Also you'll be hosting a physical local meetup in San Paulo coming up in April and May, So that's a great way to go check out use cases in action and see Andre's launch. This was really fun. Having a professor and a former student turned entrepreneur on the show. I mean, you've got a lot of big things coming up in the next month with your launch, and we wish you all the best. Listeners, Thank you for giving us your time today and continuous feedback to If you have any questions about this episode or next or feedback for further episodes, please reach out - until next time.

Eduardo Diniz (24:53):

Thank you very much.

Andre Salem (24:54):

Thank you so much, Lauren and everyone who listen to us.