R/GA Ventures, a company that acts as the investment arm and startup incubator for R/GA corporate client work, announced plans to open a new studio in Portland devoted to encouraging startups working on enterprise blockchain projects.
R/GA itself has a three-pronged purpose. It helps companies like Samsung, Google and Verizon (which owns this publication) in the product concept and design phase. It will also sometimes build products conceived in the design phase for the same clients. As an extension of that work, the company, which is owned by Interpublic Group, a group of marketing and advertising agencies, opened the Ventures arm five years ago with the aim of encouraging startups to do some of that innovation work for them and extend the company.
The blockchain project is the latest piece, and the idea behind it is to connect these startups with their corporate clients, who are interested in developing enterprise blockchain solutions in verticals such as insurance, healthcare and sports — while building up a blockchain development center in Portland. The goal may be helping the corporate clients, but the startups are independent entities with their own sales and marketing approaches. The company also may invest a modest amount of money in the companies.
Nick Coronges, the global chief technology officer for R/GA, says they are looking at real-world applications of blockchain with the understanding that it’s still very early days for distributed ledger and blockchain applications, and they are looking for ways to explore the utility of it in business.
“I think one of the assumptions that we make going into this is that blockchain, as we currently understand it, is probably going to go through a lot of iterations. And it may be bigger in the next few years…we may talk about it as a kind of ecosystem or a set of adjacent technologies that are related to blockchain, and this idea of decentralized data processing systems,” he explained.
He added, “The main thing that we look for is cases where you have multiple participants in some type of workflow, requiring access and some kind of accountability, transparency and control over data.”
The company has partnered with several institutions on this project, including Moda, Umpqua Bank, Portland State University, Oregon Health & Science University, Business Oregon, ConsenSys and blockchain research firm Smith and Crown.
The first cohort of blockchain startups will begin working at the end of July in an office space in Portland.