MACON – Mercer University students Aaron Scherf and Brandon Hancock will compete in Harvard University's Social Enterprise Conference (SECON) pitch competition March 25 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Scherf, a senior triple-majoring in international business, finance and economics, and Hancock, a junior majoring in electrical engineering, will present LandLink Parcel Management Systems, a social enterprise that offers secure property registry software services for land deeds offices in middle-income countries.
LandLink creates a publicly accessible database that is protected from hackers through blockchain encryption, allowing governments to better enforce property rights, prevent public corruption, spur economic development and improve value assessment for equitable taxation.
While on an internship with a microfinance company in Cape Town, South Africa, Scherf observed the instability experienced by people without secure ownership of their property.
“Secure property rights are a fundamental necessity for the billions of people around the world dependent on land for their survival. While in South Africa, I heard direct accounts from people who had lost their homes due to fraud and corruption. One widow told me how she and her four children had been evicted from their house in the middle of the night because someone else claimed to own the property. When she brought the case to the government, they informed her there was nothing they could do; she lacked the proper documentation to prove her ownership, even though she had lived there for decades,” said Scherf. “I knew there had to be a better way to record land deeds for people like her. That was when I discovered the potential of blockchain asset management systems.”
Scherf first proposed a blockchain secured property registry during a hackathon in a startup accelerator called the Bandwidth Barn managed by the Cape Innovation Technology Initiative. He received valuable feedback, which he brought back to the U.S., where he partnered with Hancock, a fellow Mercer student and talented coder and web designer.
The team established a legal company, LandLink Holdings LLC, and has earned invitations to pitch the idea at the Citi Tech for Integrity Challenge and Mercer's Next Big Idea competition, in addition to SECON.
Scherf, who serves as chief executive officer, and Hancock, who serves as chief technology officer, hope to secure enough startup funding to further establish LandLink's legal protection before expanding their team and creating the software architecture for its systems. They plan to prepare an initial trial in the U.S. before launching a subsidiary company in South Africa. For more information, visit landlink.systems or LandLink Systems on Facebook.
SECON, currently in its 18th year, is a student-run conference that is recognized as a leading forum for dialogue, debate and networking around social enterprise. For more information, visit socialenterpriseconference.org.