In the buzzy worlds of cryptocurrency and cloud computing, one Australian entrepreneur sees an overlooked opportunity—the idle computing power of devices in developing countries.
Dorjee Sun, a Sydney-born Chinese-Tibetan conservationist and tech investor, aims to harness the power of those hundreds of millions of devices in poor countries around the world. The venture, called Perlin, will launch a test version today, financed by an initial coin offering.
Perlin hopes to provide an alternative to the world’s biggest cloud-computing providers, such as Amazon Web Services, through a decentralized network using the unused computing power of devices that range from feature phones in India to laptops in Indonesia.
The network is partnering with the Indian government and Indonesia’s biggest telecoms provider, Telkom. It counts Beijing-based Bitmain Technologies, the world’s biggest producer of cryptocurrency mining chips, as an investor, as well as TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington.
Sun is banking on companies to pay Perlin for storage rather than “Jeff Bezos in Seattle,” by offering discounted rates to what Amazon might charge for its cloud services. In the process, it will allow low-income people around the world to earn money. A woman in Indonesia with a “decent Samsung phone,” for example, would download Perlin’s app and rent out the phone’s computing power at night while she sleeps, Sun explains. She receives payment in the form of PERL tokens, which can be converted into hard currencies. At a 50% discount to Amazon’s rates, Sun estimates that that woman could earn between $200 and $400 a year.
Sun, a serial entrepreneur since his early 20s, is perhaps best known for his environmental ventures including Carbon Conservation, an organization that brokers carbon credits for rainforest conservation in Indonesia. Sun, however, says he grew disillusioned with governments’ commitment to saving the planet, leading him to believe that “people trust technology more than they trust governments.”
Other ventures trying to challenge the dominance of the biggest cloud-computing service providers like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google include ethereum-based Golem, which describes itself as the “AirBnb of cloud computing.” The system allows people to trade computing power over a peer-to-peer marketplace, specifically for certain heavy tasks such as graphics rendering.
Perlin’s challenge will be identifying the types of users best suited to its nascent cloud network. This may include oil companies, for example, which run scheduled maintenance procedures and can deal with potential downtime on a network. (Perlin does, however, offer a centralized back-up cloud network in the case of failure, Sun notes.) With this in mind, Sun says that a company like Netflix may not be the right customer: “If my alternative is that millions of Americans get pissed off that Stranger Things 3 gets cut off, obviously I’m going to stay with Amazon Web Services.”
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