Showcasing Passion and Purpose

Student Entrepreneurs in Argentina

Nikhil Raghuveera
Nov 18, 2019 · 6 min read

In August, C Labs launched the Celo Hackathon and Startup Competition in Argentina to empower students to explore how blockchain technology can be used for social good. While the C Labs team is focusing on financial inclusion, we wanted to see what ideas students have to solve problems in their community.

We opened the competition to all students across Argentina and asked them to design an application or tool that can operate on Celo or an alternate blockchain platform (e.g. Ethereum) to improve the lives of marginalized communities in Argentina. It was important that any student, regardless of academic background, could participate. Students could choose to either build a technical prototype or create a business startup pitch. The startup business pitch allowed non-technical students (e.g. political science, business, and economics) to participate. Students had approximately one month to form teams of 2 to 4 people and submit their proposals. Leading up to their submissions, I had the opportunity to talk to students as they fervently brainstormed ideas and thought about the hardships that people in their country faced.

Competition overview presented at Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires (ITBA)

Through these 1:1 conversations, one thing stood out: the passion Argentinian students have for social impact. Inquisitive students would approach me after I gave a presentation on Celo to learn more about how the platform would work in Argentina. They then followed up with a number of WhatsApp messages about my thoughts on blockchain and feedback on their ideas. These conversations were not traditional networking, but interactions in which students hoped to genuinely learn about how to dampen the effects of problems like inequality, inflation, and food insecurity. For us working on Celo, it’s a wonderful reminder of the passion held by people on-the-ground to create a more prosperous world. We’re excited to showcase the potential of student entrepreneurship in Argentina.

Congratulations once again to the winner of the Celo Hackathon and Startup Competition, Maria Emilia Macor and founder of SAFE FOOD! Congratulations also to the runner-up team of Mateo Fuentes, Yannick Zukian, and Tomás Saavedra who created Pamper.app!

The Student Entrepreneurs of Argentina and their Stories

SAFE FOOD and Knowing Your Food
by Maria Emilia Macor from Facultad Agronomía y Veterinaria UNRC

One Saturday morning, I planned to make a sauce with ground beef. I went to a nearby supermarket and brought home a tray of beef, but when I opened the container I found rotten meat. Since then, I began to think about the path of our food and its traceability. How are the raw materials of our food produced? What’s its source? How can we guarantee food quality and who are the farmers and others included in the value chain?

I realized, supermarkets are meant to guarantee quality but I wondered, how could small farmers commercialize their products without depending on big supermarkets? Speaking with one of my professors about this, we discussed urban and peri-urban farmers in the Rio Cuarto area and the challenges they face selling directly to customers.

I developed SAFE FOOD because I want to create a decentralized open food network where agricultural products can be clearly traced back to their sources without the need for information from a central intermediary like a supermarket. In SAFE FOOD, each farmer inputs information about the product into the database. This product info cannot be changed, but can be seen by customers as they look to make purchases. As a result, food can be quickly traced back to its source. By making agricultural products more traceable, consumers can be more confident about their purchases and farmers can build a reputation for their work.

As an Agronomic Engineering student at UNRC, I am studying how bisphenol-A (BPA) is being used in farming systems and its negative effects on soil and conservation. With SAFE FOOD, I hope to improve food traceability and support farmers in the Rio Cuarto area, and then take this knowledge to other places in Argentina. When I graduate, I want to support regional development of small farmers and advise farmers about soil use and conservation. I’m really excited that SAFE FOOD has been selected as the winner and I hope to continue developing the project to improve agriculture in Argentina.

Pamper.app and Secure Contracts for Housing and Work
by Mateo Fuentes from Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Yannick Zukian from Universidad de Buenos Aires, and Tomás Saavedra from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Follow their story

A big problem in our region is establishing housing and work contracts. To establish a housing contract in Buenos Aires requires certification by a notary. Additionally, you need a formal ID, a proprietary guarantee, and a paycheck from a job in Argentina. On top of this, the process is met with red tape and bureaucracy. These factors make it too expensive for a foreigner newly settled in the country or a person who does not have a formal job to have a housing contract. As a result, these people cannot access an “average home” and must instead live in places that charge significant amounts of money without a certified contract that protects them.

Pamper.app is a blockchain startup using smart contracts to create secure contracts for housing and work. People in marginalized communities currently cannot afford work/housing contracts because of the amount of documentation required and the high costs for lawyers, notaries, and accountants. Our technology looks to make work/housing contracts accessible for all Argentinians. Specifically, Pamper.app uses blockchain technology to establish unalterable contracts, without the need for a formal ID, red tape, or long waits. Verification of these contracts is done on the blockchain.

The team is now in the process of validating our hypotheses. We are making a prototype to verify our business model. We hope that, once tested, we can replicate our approach in other regions. We’re excited to continue working on Pamper.app and seeing its development!

The Future of Blockchain in Argentina is in the Hands of Students

Meeting with Teck Trek, one of our student club partners in Argentina

The student participants of the Celo Hackathon and Startup Competition demonstrate the potential of permissionless blockchain. Their ideas are rooted in the struggles of marginalized communities witnessed daily, and how blockchain can be used to improve lives. The emphasis is not on the blockchain technology, but rather on the people and the problems they face; this is easy to forget in the crucible of Silicon Valley. A significant amount of venture capital funding today goes to blockchain startups in countries like the United States, China, and Canada. Students in Argentina, however, show that people in Argentina are just as capable of developing transformative solutions through blockchain technology. We at C Labs could not be more excited.

Thank you to all the students who participated in our competition. We hope you continue your work and we look forward to seeing what you build.

The Celo Blog

Celo is an open platform that makes financial tools…

Nikhil Raghuveera

Written by

Nikhil Raghuveera is a former economic consultant. He is a current MBA/MPA student at The Wharton School and the Harvard Kennedy School.

The Celo Blog

Celo is an open platform that makes financial tools accessible to anyone with a mobile phone. Visit celo.org for info on the community, contributors, and technology.

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