Lionel Messi using a SIRIN OS powered laptop. (Source: Sirin Labs)

Startup Street: Lionel Messi-Endorsed Startup Launches Blockchain Smartphone

This week on Startup Street, a blockchain-powered smartphone that’s endorsed by arguably the world’s best football player; a startup that is going to help Andhra Pradesh build its new smart capital; BSE’s separate platform for listing startups is delayed; and hotel aggregator Oyo gets tech savvy. Here’s what went on:

Blockchain Mania Meets Smartphones

The hottest buzzword of the year, blockchain, has now reached the smartphone industry.

Switzerland-based Sirin Labs AG has unveiled its first “blockchain-powered smartphone” that would allow users to store and trade cryptocurrencies securely through their devices. The phone, named FINNEY, will cost $1,000 and will be available from November, according to its website.

The smartphone will run on SIRIN OS, which is built on top of Google's Android 8.1 operating system, and offers top-of-the-line features. It runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, has 6 gigabytes of RAM, 128 gigabytes of expandable storage, a 12-megapixel rear camera and a 6-inch screen with minimum bezels.

How is a blockchain smartphone different? “FINNEY smart devices will create an independent blockchain network using a distributed ledger consensus mechanism,” the company said on its website. “This enables fast payments between the network peers without the need for fee-less mining.”

FINNEY is named after Hal Finney, the first known person to have made a Bitcoin transaction.

The phone also features a cold-storage cryptocurrency wallet with a physical security switch for protection. It also features encrypted communication through calls and text, although the person on the other side should also have a device capable of it.

And Sirin is not the only one in the game. Earlier in May, Taiwan’s HTC had also announced that it was working on a blockchain smartphone named Exodus.

Source: Sirin Labs
Source: Sirin Labs

There’s a catch though. The phone can only be bought using the Sirin's own digital token called SRN, that is currently trading at $0.16 a piece. Sirin’s track record isn’t very comforting either. It had launched a $16,000 smartphone called Solaris in 2016, which was claimed to be the world's most secure phone. A year down the line, manufacturing was discontinued and the startup had to let go of one-third of its staff. The Solarin is still available on its website, at a lower price and an on-demand basis.

The startup had signed up footballing star Lionel Messi as its brand ambassador in December last year for its FINNEY line of products. It had also made the headlines when the launch of Solarin was attended by movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy.

This Little-Known Startup Will Help Build Andhra Pradesh’s New Capital

UrbanStack, a little-known Indian startup (which doesn't have a website yet), just won the Amaravati Pitch Competition with two other startups from Singapore. This means the startup will pilot its solutions in the planned city of Amaravati, helping the state’s development body build it.

The startup is an integrated data-sharing platform that collects urban movement data for early intervention and policy-making with the mobility patterns that emerge, Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry said in a statement yesterday.

A laptop computer shows a map of the proposed Andhra Pradesh state capital “Amaravati” inside the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority office in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)
A laptop computer shows a map of the proposed Andhra Pradesh state capital “Amaravati” inside the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority office in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

UrbanStack is designed to build prediction models with multiple data sources which would determine where people could live and move to the city. It will also determine if the city were to undergo any sort of unplanned disaster/disruption—natural or man-made, the statement added.

Singapore startups, ECOSOFTT and SpaceAge Labs, were the other two that won the competition. Amaravati is slated to become the official capital of the state, replacing Hyderabad, in 2024.

BSE’s New Startup Listing Platform Will Have To Wait

If you were planning to list your startup on the upcoming platform by Asia's oldest stock exchange, you will have to wait.

The Bombay Stock Exchange postponed the launch of its new platform for listing hi-tech startups, without giving a reason. “BSE has decided to postpone the split of the BSE startup sub-segment from BSE SME segment,” it said in a circular on its website. Startups will continue to list on BSE SME segment as usual and will have the option to migrate to the startup segment once it’s launched.

The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building, left, looms over a no-entry street sign in Mumbai. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)
The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building, left, looms over a no-entry street sign in Mumbai. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

The platform—originally to be launched on July 9—was meant to promote listing of hi-tech defence, drone, nano technology, artificial intelligence, big data, virtual reality, e-gaming, robotics and genetic engineering startups, among others.

Oyo Has AI-Managed Hotel Rooms On Its Mind

Just a week after diversifying its hospitality offerings, Oyo is now looking to make its hotels tech-savvy.

The hotel aggregator startup acquired Mumbai-based AblePlus that develops Internet of Things solutions for the hospitality industry, according to an emailed media statement.



A Marriott brand sample hotel room sits on display in the Innovation Lab at the Marriott International Inc. headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S. (Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg)
A Marriott brand sample hotel room sits on display in the Innovation Lab at the Marriott International Inc. headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S. (Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg)

Softbank-backed Oyo will now implement features such as self check-ins, digital arrival and departure registers, IoT-enabled smart locks in rooms and self KYC with Aadhaar verification across its hotel chains. AblePlus also builds solutions that allow remote monitoring and management of hotel rooms.

This will help Oyo ensure better tracking of its hotel assets and also reduce wastage of electricity, the statement said. “Oyo also plans to implement a comprehensive guest entertainment programme that will include fitness, gaming and augmented experiences.”

The forthcoming years will witness OYO introducing voice-based assistance in rooms enabling automation of controlling appliances, lights among other services.
Oyo Media Statement

The startup will also use machine learning that will aggregate the customer's preferences and use them to personalise their stay.

AblePlus was founded by IIT-Bombay graduates Akash Goel and Bonish Gandhi. “Both Akash and Bonish are extremely talented individuals and we are excited to welcome them onboard,” Anil Goel, chief technology officer of Oyo, said in a statement. “Through partnerships like this, we envision a smooth road ahead for building the world’s largest technology-enabled hospitality brand.”