Alex Kim ’24

Kountable, San Francisco, CA

This summer, I was an active impact analyst for Kountable, working remotely from southern California. Currently, there are a variety of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries that are unable to access capital and goods from global corporations without upfront payment due to the increased risk in these areas. Kountable enables these SMEs by providing them access to critical capital in developing countries. Kountable’s work is particularly influential in the environmental, social and governance (ESG) space, as they have worked with SMEs that serve as distributors for healthcare brands and act as local suppliers to corporations and organizations like the UN.

Alex Kim's workspace.Although the bigger picture of the firm was to help enable firms to make a larger impact, the interns started by helping to optimize the payment process. First, we familiarized ourselves with Kountable’s trade finance operations in order to see what needed to be improved. The current process is subject to several price renegotiations, which hinders the delivery timeline of critical goods towards SMEs and increases the costs for Kountable. One way to optimize the process was by automating the payment split, providing more predictable outcomes and reducing potential renegotiations. We programmed a bare-bones use case in order to show that the process could be implemented. Throughout the internship, the project was updated with various APIs and added functionality to mimic the real-use case as much as possible.

I researched the tangible benefits of implementing smart contracts to make the project more appealing for investors. Smart contracts increase trust and security because blockchain technology makes data immutable to illegitimate change, which reduces the risk of fraud. Additionally, smart contracts increase transparency as all relevant transactions are seen by all the relevant parties. This also allows real time review of important financial documents to reduce the time required to initiate shipments. Lastly, smart contracts increase efficiency by removing the need for third-party intermediaries to assume risk. These features are particularly useful for Kountable’s operations in Africa as regions there suffer from weak governance and lack of transparency, which make procurement vulnerable to graft and corruption.

This internship piqued my interest as both an economics and computer science major. My time in classes is spent coding assignments, and this experience showed me real functionality in programming ability, encouraging me to take Principles of Programming Languages in order to expand my familiarity with a wider breadth of languages. Additionally, the internship helped me to dive much deeper into ESG efforts, and I am inspired to look further into the field. This was a large factor in my decision to take classes such as Introduction To Environmental and Natural Resource Economics and The Economics and Ethics of CO2 Offsets, where I hope to learn about sustainability through an economic perspective. Going forward, I want to have a career involved with ESG and sustainability.

I want to thank Kountable for enabling Williams students to participate in its work and contribute in meaningful ways as well as the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for making it possible.