Q&A With Minnesota Blockchain as a Service Startup Banqu

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While most impact initiatives are not setup to scale, Minneapolis startup BanQu is effectively combining capitalism with technology as a force of good.

The for-profit company has a global ambitions to lift 100 million people out of poverty over the next ten years using their blockchain as a service platform.

And after raising $2.5m earlier this year, Banqu announced a pilot with with Anheuser-Busch InBev in Africa last month.

We spoke with Cofounder and Executive Vice President Hamse Warfa to learn more about Banqu’s prospects:

Who started Banqu – when and why?

Myself, Ashish Gadnis, and Jeff Keiser are the three cofounders of Banqu.  Ashish leads the technology side, Jeff is operational, and I bring the social impact perspective.  We started the company in 2015-2016 to address what we see to be a global identity crisis that adversely effects millions of people directly and millions more indirectly.

What is BanQu?

We are a blockchain-as-a-service software company that works by connecting individuals to the global economy through a secure, immutable, and distributed ledger of financial and personal records using blockchain technology:

  1. One needs to know “who” they are engaging in commerce with,
  2. One needs to understand or “trust” that the commerce does not put them at risk
  3. One needs to “record” the details of the commerce for record keeping purposes.

Our mission is to lift people — refugees, homeless, stateless, unbanked — out of poverty by connecting them to the global supply chains they participate in and the brands, organizations, and governments that power them.

How does it work?

The BanQu app helps people move around as seamlessly as possible while bringing their relationships and history along with them. So, for example, you can bring multiple organizations to your BanQu network — the bank, the, the hospital, international NGOs, Diaspora connections — all these groups that exist to support  become part of your network on Banqu, and the network effect among them is critical.  And you add new people and groups as you would with Facebook, but unlike Facebook, our users own all their data and connections.

BanQu helps liberate these people materially and psychologically from dependency to independence, freedom, and control.

How does the company make money?

All of our services are free to the end user; on the other side of the app is our network of corporate brands seeking a solution to their business problems.

The clothes you’re wearing now, the coffee you’re drinking and so much of what the United States consumes is sourced from all over the world. Many of these manufacturers and suppliers are facing increased regulatory pressure and consumer expectations for transparency and sustainability around their supply chain sourcing practices. These customers can sign up for an annual subscription.

Who uses Banqu?

We are global in scope. You’re aware of the recent AB-Inbev example of our application in Zambia where we are providing farmer certification.

Another example, in working with the City of Austin and Dell Medical School, we are piloting a homelessness project for individuals facing challenges around obtaining health services and EHR.

And as you know, we are always involved in active conversations with others…

How many people work for Banqu now?

Eight to ten now (and hiring more) which is what we raised the $2.5m investment capital for earlier this year.

Had you raised any investment prior to that?

We raised a seed round of about $650k before.

What kind of adoption has Banqu experienced so far?

We have connected over 15,000 last-mile farmers, displaced and refugees to the platform across eight countries; our vision is to reach 100 million people over the next ten years!

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