Innovation is part of New York’s DNA. The pacemaker, MRI, ATM, and the Bloomberg Terminal were all born here. So were the remote control, Scrabble, and the Oreo cookie. Pfizer made its first blockbuster drug in Williamsburg, and Thomas Edison created the world’s first power plant in Lower Manhattan.
Today, the city needs to channel this commitment to the future into becoming the world leader in blockchain, the technology platform that allows people to verify and record transactions and directly exchange information.
Blockchain is best known as the medium supporting Bitcoin, the blockbuster cryptocurrency valued at more than $11,000 a share this week. But the real excitement is the technology underlying it. With its increased transparency, efficiency, and security, blockchain has the potential to transform every one of New York’s leading industries. It could change retail’s supply chain management, revolutionize how life sciences companies track drugs, and empower financial institutions to significantly cut costs.
Investing in blockchain isn’t a risky bet — demand for the technology is already here. The only remaining question is, how will blockchain most effectively be deployed?
By 2022, companies will spend $7.7 billion on industry-related products and services; this is a 3,100 percent increase from 2016. Blue chip companies like IBM and Microsoft are making big investments in the platform, and nonprofits like UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are exploring its possibilities.
With blockchain’s rise, we at New York City Economic Development Corporation see a tremendous opportunity to create good-paying jobs and help our existing industries face new market realities. We anticipate the creation of entirely new products and services. There will also be new blockchain practice areas for lawyers, consultants, accountants, and regulators, and new companies that could create thousands of middle-class jobs. And the technology has tremendous potential to help working New Yorkers. Blockchain can help people without bank accounts transfer money and send remittances. These possibilities could also create new jobs for New Yorkers.
That is why we have partnered with CoinDesk, a leader in blockchain news, to sponsor “Blockchain Week New York City.” This event, which will run from May 11 through May 17, will highlight how the city is an emerging hub for blockchain jobs and innovation. It will also feature a first-ever Blockchain Job Fair, a free event open to any member of the public, featuring technology leaders like IBM, Accenture, Deloitte, ConsenSys, Ripple, KPMG, and Ledger.
To stay ahead, we have to continue to innovate and learn from other cities and states. Illinois and Delaware both started their own blockchain initiatives to increase government efficiency and retain their competitive advantages. Switzerland has its own “Crypto Valley,” one of the world’s largest blockchain ecosystems, and Spain is actively courting companies that use blockchain technologies. We also need to take a holistic look at the regulatory structures to make sure our laws are not limiting blockchain companies’ ability to grow and create good jobs.
New York has all the ingredients to be a blockchain trailblazer. The city is home to three of the nine top venture capital firms investing in blockchain and Bitcoin. Last year, $181.4 million was invested in New York’s blockchain startups, compared with $68.5 million in the Bay Area’s. We also have the most talented and educated workforce in the world, a thriving tech scene, and more Fortune 500 companies than any other city in the United States.
We must secure New York’s lead while blockchain is still in its infancy. It is time to seize this opportunity to attract top industry talent and companies that will propel this new sector forward. Any city bold enough to invent the Oreo can, and should, be the leader in blockchain technology.
James Patchett is President and CEO of New York City Economic Development Corporation.
To learn more about NYCEDC’s programs and initiatives, please visit edc.nyc.