You may be too young to remember when Yahoo, Altavista, Lycos, and Excite were the dominant companies in the emerging field of internet search. In 1998, Excite was offered to buy Google for a total sum of $1 million. At the time Excite had $150 million in annual sales, so this would have been a very small investment for them to acquire Google’s technology. After Excite declined the offer, Page and Brin reduced the price to $750K. Excite turned them down one more time and moved on to obscurity. Twenty years later, internet is everywhere. Companies like Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), and Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) are the clear winners of the internet age. Today’s emerging technologies are artificial intelligence and blockchain. Many investors believe Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), and Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ:AMZN) will dominate these fields as well. After all they are today’s leaders and have ample resources to invest in future technologies. Excite’s management probably had this same mindset in 1998 when they were one of the “big guys” in the technology space whereas Google was only a tiny start-up.
We believe it is very likely that one of today’s start-ups will come to dominate the future. These start-ups may not have Google, Facebook and Amazon’s vast resources but they have the flexibility to use open source technologies and collaborate with each other to compete against the tech titans. We recently came across an interesting artificial intelligence and blockchain lab that is dedicated to researching and developing open source solutions. New Technologies Research Labs (NTRL) recently established itself in Panama with a multi-disciplinary research focus on artificial intelligence and applications of blockchain technology in various industry sectors such as loyalty, retail, financial, civil polling and industrial uses of blockchain. Hence part of NTRL’s mission to improve transactional efficiencies, transparency and security is providing a smart contractual basis for gift cards and consumer rewards. If implemented in a user-friendly and technically viable fashion, blockchain issued digital gift cards will lower costs, reduce fraud, and provide merchants and brands with new marketing opportunities. The dollar denominated digital gift cards are powered by the Internet and open protocols, and the experience of using one will be familiar to anyone who has paid for something with a smartphone.
Hence part of NTRL’s mission to improve transactional efficiencies, transparency and security is providing a smart contractual basis for gift cards and consumer rewards. If implemented in a user-friendly and technically viable fashion, blockchain issued digital gift cards will lower costs, reduce fraud, and provide merchants and brands with new marketing opportunities. The dollar denominated digital gift cards are powered by the Internet and open protocols, and the experience of using one will be familiar to anyone who has paid for something with a smartphone.
NTRL has chosen Panama and specifically the technology center City of Knowledge as ideal hub for its research lab. According to Dr. Sebastian Fourné, Academic Advisor of NTRL “Blockchain technology and AI are advancing fast in mature markets around the globe, foremostly North America, Europe and Asia. We see a great potential for a LATAM based lab to bring these new technologies closer to the business and end user”.
Ciudad del Saber (City of Knowledge) has excellent conditions to build a knowledge-hub and tech-friendly regulatory environment. By entering into this ecosystem NTRL benefits from Panama´s convenient geographic location as launchpad to access emerging markets in LATAM and at the same time gain exposure to more mature markets in North America. Panama´s traditional focus on the banking industry as natural ally of NTRL for digitalization also motivated the company´s choice to start operations in this thriving economy.
About City of Knowledge
Panama’s Ciudad del Saber (Spanish for City of Knowledge) is a government-sponsored cluster of academic organizations, technology companies and non-governmental organizations, managed by the foundation of the same name. It is located just across the Miraflores locks, in what used to be United States Army South Headquarters, Fort Clayton.
Among its better-known affiliates are UNICEF´s regional headquarters, the Red Cross, the United Nations Development Programme regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean, the World Food Program, and Plan International.
Among the members of the academic section are the Balboa Academy, ILISA (a Spanish language school), Isthmus University (architecture), and international programs of McGill University, University of Pennsylvania, Florida State University, Saint Louis University, Iowa State University.