Starting big

Jack Dorsey Has Kickstarted His Efforts To Support Africa’s Crypto-glazed Future

By  |  December 7, 2022

The first time Jack Dorsey visited Africa in 2019, the Twitter co-founder all but vowed to move to the continent for a brief period in mid-2020—at least 6 months. Though the plans never actualized due to criticisms and, of course, the pandemic, he eulogized the continent’s crypto potential and promised to return

Now, Jack is on his second trip to Africa; yesterday, the billionaire tweeted that he had arrived in Ghana. And, hot on the heels of his arrival, Jack seems to have started walking his [own] talk about the mouthwatering cryptocurrency prospects. 

Block, a Jack-led digital payments firm formerly known as Square, has today joined forces with Los Angeles-based VC outfit, Stillmark, to lead a USD 2 M seed round for Gridless—a Kenyan Bitcoin mining company vested in generating new energy sources in and for East African ruralities. 

Gridless specializes in the design, build, and operation of Bitcoin mining sites, doing so in collaboration with renewable energy producers in far-off localities with an excess of unspent energy. As an anchor tenant, the firm provides the funding needed for the setting up, management, and maintenance of data centers in vastly underserved ruralities.

With its new capital injection, the company would be able to expand its Bitcoin mines across other markets in the continent. During its debut year, Gridless rolled out 5 projects in rural Kenya in partnership with HydroBox, an Africa-focused hydroelectric energy firm. Three of the said projects are already operational, and the company looks to expand to other East African markets. 

Gridless is but Block’s most recent investment in sustainable and decentralized mining; the business has been signing on decorated cryptocurrency mining engineers and managers [in an effort] to build out an affiliated mining unit and create initiatives capable of encouraging Bitcoin mining. 

But, why is Gridless’ presence relevant? It is almost common knowledge that Bitcoin mining is one of the most energy-intensive endeavors in existence. The process demands computers capable of heavily consuming electricity, mostly [in order] to secure the blockchain on which the digital asset is built. In some reports, Bitcoin mining consumes more energy annually than most countries of the world. 

That brings renewable energy into context. To reduce the strain on power grids, it would be more sustainable to power Bitcoin mining operations with clean energy solutions. And, while it is a global sector, there is often a tendency for stakeholders to suggest the business case makes more sense in Africa than anywhere else.

In November last year, Jack officially relinquished his role as the chief executive officer of Twitter, a seat that was replaced by the microblogging platform’s former chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal. Now, however, Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX boss, calls the shots at Twitter—having bought the company for USD 44 B.

He backtracked his plans to move to Africa for half a year majorly because he was overly criticized for “overstretching” himself. Recall, at the time, he doubled as Twitter and Square’s CEO. Now that Twitter is no longer his priority, one would expect him to revive his Africa project—and he is, already. 

Though the African crypto sector is yet reeling from the over-flogged FTX debacle, trying to weather the layoff storm and survive the VC funding winter, Jack making good on his word to support the industry comes as a validation amid undermined hopes and uncertainties. Last year, Jack and Jay-Z put USD 23.6 M worth of Bitcoin down for Africa’s crypto future. 

Moreover, Gridless’ milestone aligns with a global trend that sees crypto mining firms with access to low-cost energy—as well as innovative business models—woo over investors. El Segundo-based Aspen Creek Digital Corp, a solar-centric Bitcoin miner, and Berkeley-basedVespene Energy, which converts landfill-derived methane gas to power to mine the [same] asset, respectively raised USD 8 M and USD 4.3 M back in August. 

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