After finishing preparations, it was time for Max Kordek, Oliver Beddows and myself to pack our bags and attend Consensus 2017 and Tokensummit 2017 in the heart of New York City. In this blogpost, I will share my personal opinion as a new addition to the team, elaborate on our experiences during both conferences and highlight the main takeaways of our successful week abroad. Consensus 2017 featured several keynotes and panel discussions throughout the day, addressing most opportunities and challenges in the Blockchain space today. Topics ranged from privacy to regulation and from governance to healthcare. Following I will highlight a few topics of interest.
Health Care in Blockchain
Several healthcare companies are planning to integrate Blockchain technology to improve their database systems. One of the discussion panels elaborated on the challenges the healthcare industry faces like how complicated it is to give people more control over their personal data. Debbie Bucci from the US Department of Health and Human Service summarised the health care discussion in one sentence:
“Consumers don’t really know the power of owning their own information.”
Blockchain and ICOs
Another topic with much interest was the buzz around Initial Coin Offerings (ICO), by many seen as the newest funding mechanism of the future in an increasing tokenized world. Different perspectives were provided to the audience by a panel discussing the legal and regulatory implications of ICOs. Peter Van Valkenburgh (Coin Center) pointed out that the term ICO is very commonly associated with the heavily regulated Initial Public Offering (IPO):
“What does an organization like the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulate? They regulate IPOs. Why would you adopt the terminology of the regulator while you are building on something you don’t want to be regulated?”.
Although ICOs are designed as a funding mechanism, projects that focus on their utility rather than only transferring value should stray away from that financial image by replacing the terms digital currencies, coins, and cryptocurrencies by “tokens” for example. Some projects already recognized the importance of this and started calling their ICO a token-sale or regular crowd-sale. At Lisk we agree on this trend and acknowledge the importance to emphasise the future utility of the Lisk (LSK) token.
On the first day of the conference, global financial institution Citi and stock exchange NASDAQ kicked off by announcing their partnership on a new Blockchain payments initiative. Adam Ludwin (CEO of Chain), together with two representatives from both Citi and Nasdaq explained how they are looking to tackle liquidity issues in the private securities market by using the Blockchain technology of Chain. The Blockchain industry no longer only consists of developers and start-ups preaching for a decentralized future. Big companies such as IBM, Toyota, and Deloitte were interested in the benefits of trustless ledgers and private Blockchains. Even though we see the benefits of private Blockchains, at Lisk we believe that a decentralized future is shaped through public Blockchains by enabling developers to build Blockchain applications with our upcoming SDK. However, with big companies and VC’s entering the Blockchain space, a broader movement towards decentralization can be perceived. Through those established firms, more money flows into the industry, credibility, and public trust increases from which the whole Blockchain industry benefits, including Lisk.
Although the keynotes and panel discussions were not directly relevant to Lisk, it contributed to my personal understanding of the Blockchain industry, especially since I am new to the Blockchain space. Most value for Lisk was generated by its exposure on the conference floor and our ability to network with industry peers. In the evening we attended networking events including a dinner organised by our legal firm MME. Here we met people from the Blockchain space such as Guy Benartzi. During the dinner he pitched us the interesting concept behind his Bancor Protocol.
Throughout the week, Max introduced Oliver and me to his network and friends from the space he met over the years. This included the people of our own PR agency Wachsman, based in New York City. We distributed and collected lots of merchandise, pitched the Lisk project and shook an incredible amount of hands with interesting people. Among those Warren Anderson (Ripple), Paige Peterson (Zcash), Etham Buchman (Cosmos), Patrick Dai (Qtum), Vasiliy Ivanov (SONM), Eyal Hertzog (Bancor) and Vitas Civilis (Mysterium). Since it was clear that we were representing Lisk, it was easier for people to approach us. A great number of new people showed their interest in Lisk by raising questions or asking for our advice. The result? A suitcase full of business cards, more investors, and a growing Lisk fan base.
As Consensus 2017 came to its end, a certain criticism and disappointment among some attendees became noticeable. Especially among the attendees that were present during previous editions of Consensus. Some even felt that the conference was in some ways a step backwards due to its focus on private Blockchains and corporate atmosphere. I perceived a certain tension between the crypto-enthusiasts and the corporations. It seemed to me as if those two worlds are existing independently from each other. Although both try to use Blockchain technology in the best way possible, the differences in vision and execution became clear. In contrast to profit focused corporations relatively new to the space, the founders of cryptocurrencies and early adopters become even more wealthy by new money entering, permitting them to focus more on ethics and their personal vision of a decentralized future. Whether those two worlds will merge remains unanswered for now. However, the growing interest for Bitcoin and Blockchain technology has its positive effect on the size and potential of the still relatively small Blockchain space.
Consensus was a meaningful part of my steep learning curve since I started working for Lisk. It became clear to me that Blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt multiple industries across the globe. But in my opinion, we are still far away from mass adoption. Together with the rest of Lisk, it is my task to accelerate that process by providing the right tools and support to enable developers to create stunning Blockchain applications that soon will provide value for millions of people across the globe.