Within the blockchain blogosphere, I mostly see coverage of cryptocurrencies or ICOs. The blockchain implementation itself seems to be a hidden, behind-the-scenes topic difficult to get direct access to. Companies that are exploring blockchain are either mum on information, or are not doing much yet and watching from the sidelines, making it difficult to discover what is really happening.
So it peaked my interest when I heard about Blockchain NYC’s Bringing Your Company on Blockchain event, which took place this past November, featuring ways to apply blockchain to businesses.
I have been covering blockchain and crypto for a bit more than a year now, and this was the first event that actually tackled applications for regular businesses to implement actionable steps for moving onto blockchain.
The event was hosted at the Ebay startup space, and from the first few minutes it felt busy. I’ve seen very few events where, upon opening the doors at 6:30pm, the room was immediately packed. Excitement was buzzing in the space; I met people who were truly passionate about blockchain, businesses who didn't know a lot about it but wanted to explore applications for their business, and representatives from large companies as well.
At this event I ran into people from AIG, McKinsey, Wells Fargo, and the City Of New York—as well as from medium sized and even small sized businesses in a variety of fields. Retail, manufacturing, consulting, advertising, law, startups, banking—the list goes on. All were very inquisitive about the nature and direction of blockchain tech in not just New York, but in general as well. The wide range in size, age, and direction of the companies there was incredible to behold.
I go to many tech events, and it was clear that people arrived here not only to see where technology was going, but how actually to apply it as well. The conversations I had opened up my eyes to just how many businesses are looking at blockchain as a solution to a wide range of problems.
Following the networking portion of the event, the event speakers convened on a panel detailing ways to implement blockchain solutions within businesses. The three speakers on the panel were Nicolas Walker, Project Director at BlockchainDriven Consultancy; Morgan Hill, Managing Partner of AxionV, an AI crypto fund; and Michael Yuan, a tech genius-turned-VC-turned-blockchain convert with CyberMiles Initiative.
The session was eye opening and the depth of knowledge of the panel was very impressive. In particular, BlockchainDriven’s consultant Nicolas Walker’s expertise on blockchain application for businesses elucidated little-known details about the nuances of blockchain applications within a range of different organizations.
AxionV CEO Morgan Hill’s knowledge of financial markets was off the charts, and I highly recommend investors seeking involvement in crypto to reach out to Morgan for guidance, as he is on the forefront of his field.
Michael Yuan was as brilliant a speaker as he is a developer. He has written 6 books and his book, Code is Law, is coming out in early 2018. His understanding of smart contracts and blockchain is second to none.
Here are some of my takeaways from the panel:
● In past eras of technological advancement, business leaders could only view new technologies, such as the internet, in the contexts of things that already existed—such as the equivocation of the internet as a replacement for paper and stamps in the late 90s. Yet these eras, such as that characterized by the transition from paper and telegraph-based communication to the internet, end by completely changing the way we communicate and absorb information.
● The rate of change in tech today is much greater due to an already significant tech base, therefore the rate of change and adaptation is much faster than it was in the 90s. So though today may be the equivalent of 1997 with Blockchain, each year of change in this area will be exponential rather than arithmetic, equivalent to several years of technological progress per year compared to slower in past eras with less sophisticated technology.
● Blockchain tech is still early and evolving, but unlike other fields (VR, AI, 3D printing), it can be applied to almost any business, permeating the smallest and the biggest companies in way of operations, accounting, tracking, staffing, payments and much more, replacing existing structures and creating greater efficiencies for existing workflows and processes.
● The further blockchain tech permeates industries, the more utility various businesses will find in its use. There will be a number of adoption and stabilization phases as various industries experiment with and adopt blockchain. For many, it will resemble a rollercoaster ride, just like in any adoption curve, but the best companies will find efficient ways to incorporate it into their existing workflows and processes and thus make greater strides, allowing them to continue to lead their respective industries and markets.
● While blockchain has enormous applicability, the technology is not for every business. Many solutions can be solved with more conventional methods. Companies must to their due diligence before starting to build in blockchain tech with their existing workflows, processes, and offerings. Yet blockchain in various forms of distributed ledger solutions is here to stay. It offers superior solutions to trust and security.
● The prevailing advice from all 3 speakers was unanimous: if your business is thinking of adopting blockchain, it needs to start now. Whether through educating your team, assigning new blockchain-focused roles internally or searching for new talent to do so, or appointing a core person internally explore possible solutions on a deep level, companies should work with consultants already in the space and start exploring possibilities. Start thinking of how you can utilize blockchain, and apportion your use cases accordingly. Experts in the field can save you a lot of wasted time: going in blindly is not an option. Given the complexity of the field, finding a great consultant and allocating a research budget is key. It doesn’t have to be big, but start thinking of potential uses now.
● Guidance is good. A qualified consultant will make your blockchain adoption and integration path much more productive and effective, while avoiding tech pitfalls down the line.
● Have a long term goal, and allocate resources to begin executing on it. As a first step, start taking the first steps to set a framework in place. If you are looking to explore on blockchain, I recommend Blockchain Driven, as I have seen them in a number of events and they seem to be on the pulse of knowledge for blockchain adaptation, consulting and implementation.
Attending this event lifted the veil on the intricacies of blockchain behind the scenes that a majority of the blogosphere, as well as many companies across industries, are not privy to or are not exploring. The value of the information presented there answered my question as to why businesses who understand blockchain are reluctant to share these insights: competitive advantage is key. Yet the panelists’ views and collective vision of where we are and what’s coming next in terms of blockchain technology—its uses, and how companies are beginning to adopt it—is information every company needs to know. In the end, I believe this event benefitted everyone in attendance through the sheer value of the inter-industry cross-pollination it offered.
The growth and opportunities in the distributed ledger and blockchain field are rapidly growing, and I’m thrilled to observe the technological applications of the topics at the event for months and years to come.