Susan "Sue" Owen '94 March 5, 2018 9:26 AM updated: May 16, 2018 4:30 PM
Three Texas A&M students with ideas on how to utilize blockchain technology tapped into their Aggie Network for help — and former students responded.
Gentill Abdulla ’19 sees potential in blockchain data structures beyond their use in cryptocurrency, and has founded a company called Ciaspora with Princewill Imouokhome ’19 and Michael Jordan ’19.
Their first endeavor, the Lotus Protocol, will allow victims of sexual assault to anonymously report incidents via a decentralized, secure system. “We wanted to create a tool for them to talk,” Abdulla said.
Connections that helped Ciaspora get started were made last fall at a reunion of the Black Former Student Network.
Paul Stafford ’90, a Dallas attorney, gave a speech at a Nov. 11 tailgate luncheon hosted by the BFSN, an Association of Former Students Constituent Network that Stafford helped found in 2001.
There, he met Abdulla, who was attending the reunion events in his capacity as president of the Black Student Alliance; the two also shared a connection through A&M’s Pi Omicron chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
“I saw him like three times in one day, and he kept talking about this concept that he had,” Stafford said. “This was truly an Aggie connection.”
Abdulla said, “He was more than happy to help us. We learned a lot.” Stafford talked with them about creating a business plan, about intellectual property and other legal issues, and connected them to other former students who could help, including a fellow Alpha, Sherman Wright ’92, cofounder of a Chicago marketing firm.
“A&M’s one of the only places you can find people like that, who are willing to go back and help those who are following in their footsteps,” Abdulla said.
The setting on that football gameday was particularly inspirational: BFSN’s 2017 reunion, held in conjunction with Aggie Big Kick It, brought several of A&M’s first African-American students back to campus for a luncheon honoring them. (Find news coverage of the event here.) Stafford said, “I was speaking about the importance of these pioneers, and the challenges ahead.”
Abdulla said another former student, Adekunle Adepoju ’16, has helped the Ciaspora founders with coding and adapting their ideas to a global scale.
Though the Ciaspora trio plans to branch into other ventures, they felt strongly that the Lotus Protocol reporting platform should be their first, Abdulla said.
“Having people in our lives who have been affected — to an extent, we all have been affected — we wanted that to be our introduction to the blockchain space, to get people thinking that way,” he said.
“This can be applied in ways other than just making money from it.”
Connect with the Black Former Student Association here and learn about The Association’s other constituent networks here. Programs such as these are supported by thousands of small donations made by members of the Aggie family each year. To add your support, visit tx.ag/give.