If you are a student/researcher working on a project that addresses critical blockchain bottlenecks —diversity, scalability, custody, privacy, and interoperability solutions–apply by April 15th.

Denali Tietjen
Mar 26, 2018 · 3 min read

With the dawn of each new technology platform, meaningful companies emerge from universities. We saw it happen with OS, web, social, and virtually every new platform technology.

Blockchain should be no different.

Students are the first generation native to the crypto world and they have access to world-class researchers. They’re unencumbered by the status quo — an opportunity to rethink and rebuild entire industries on the blockchain. Plus, in the spirit of decentralization, we believe these companies could emerge from virtually any campus. (Where in the world is Satoshi Nakamoto?).

In fact, it’s already happening. Here at Rough Draft Ventures, General Catalyst’s student-focused program backing founders at the university level, we’ve seen an increasing number of blockchain projects/companies coming out of universities: 1protocol from Stanford, Carbon from Columbia/Stanford/USC, and Everipedia from UCLA, and Commonwealth Crypto from Boston University.

Blockchain has finally garnered deserved popular attention. Your grandma knows what bitcoin is. Maybe she owns one. But its fast growth has also revealed its sobering inefficiencies: CryptoKitties was the first hot consumer app… until it got too slow, Stripe supported bitcoin… until it got too expensive, and women keep trying to get into crypto but it’s too bro-y. In order for blockchain to reach its true potential, the developer community must first address these fundamental challenges.

We’re launching a $1M search for university-born crypto projects, focused on those that address blockchain’s bottlenecks. These challenges present an opportunity for meaningful company creation. And we think students are apt to build them.

Here are five key challenges we believe deserve engineering attention and where we’d like to see companies built. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, so if your project doesn’t fall into one of these categories, still apply!

1. Diversity

Only 5–7% of crypto currency users are women. The industry needs to welcome, enable, and empower more women and minorities to participate in this emerging ecosystem. We are excited to support more women and minority founders building on the blockchain, category-agnostic.

2. Scalability

Current distributed consensus ledgers are slow, have limited throughput, and face rising transaction costs. We need a faster, more scalable solution.

3. Privacy

Blockchain promises identity protection, yet most mainstream ledgers are psuedononymous at best. Public ledgers can be easily de-anonymized. “Psuedo” privacy is not enough when it comes to managing sensitive medical, financial, and legal information — industries that have the opportunity to be significantly transformed by blockchain. We need a solution that ensures critical information is secured and respected.

4. Custody

This guy lost $75M in bitcoin when he lost his hard drive because there’s no good way to store your crypto. Consumers and institutional investors alike need a more user-friendly, cross-exchange, secure solution for managing their crypto assets.

5. Interoperability

The current blockchain state of affairs is increasingly specialized — there’s one chain for medical data, one for financial data, one for manufacturing data, and so forth. It’s currently technically challenging to build across multiple chains, limiting the complexity of potential applications. To unlock the most innovative company creation, developers will need to more easily access information across multiple chains.


Blockchain (and other distributed public ledgers) promises to address entrenched business and social issues: It enables a global economy, demands transparency, lowers costs, expands opportunity, and empowers consumers to manage their information. We’re excited to support students contributing to this movement. If you have other ideas on how Rough Draft can support the blockchain ecosystem in your community or on your campus, drop us a line. We’d love to get in touch.

Rough Draft Ventures

Covering all things student startup

Denali Tietjen

Written by

Associate at @GeneralCatalyst, Platform at @RoughDraftVentures

Rough Draft Ventures

Covering all things student startup

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