Blockchain Ain’t What It Used To Be

This was my third year at American Banker’s Blockchain & Digital Currency event, and my how things have changed!

In 2015, Blythe Masters of JP Morgan fame gave the keynote. She told the audience they needed take blockchain as seriously as they should have taken the Internet. At the time, the primary debate was over private vs public blockchains. I wrote a popular blog post on the subject. The sentiment in a room full of bankers was that blockchain technology was going to make financial infrastructure more efficient. Bitcoin’s price was on the decline and Ethereum was a scrappy newcomer that many hadn’t yet heard of.

Fast forward to 2017 and both keynote speakers are executing token sales on Ethereum. Vinny Lingham of Civic, gave the opening keynote. His company is raising $33 million USD in a token sale to build out the infrastructure for a verified identity network. Brendan Eich of Brave gave the closing keynote. He recently sold $35 million USD of Basic Attention Tokens, a digital currency for advertisers, publishers, and users of the Brave browser and advertising network.

Bitcoin’s price was around $2,750. Ethereum was within striking distance of surpassing Bitcoin’s market cap. Upon sitting down at the conference, Yorke Rhodes of Microsoft leaned over and said “So, have you sold all your Bitcoin for Ethereum yet?” (The answer is no)

Something big is happening

The overall tone of the conference was strikingly different. Much of the old skepticism towards Bitcoin and Ethereum is gone. Their continued growth is seen as inevitable, although everyone expects a bumpy road ahead. Many have grown weary of the Bitcoin Civil War and are looking elsewhere for innovation.

I spoke on a panel that discussed the non-financial use cases for blockchain. Two years ago, it would have seemed out of place. This year, it was well received and seemed rather tame compared to the panels on ICOs and token sale regulations.

A friend who worked as an analyst at a financial research company in 2015, is now launching a $25 million crypto hedge fund. Several lawyers remarked that the can barely keep up with the volume of similar funds being created.

These anecdotes reflect an overall change that’s happening. For months I’ve been telling people “Blockchain ain’t what it used to be”. I’m not sure what blockchain is going to become, but it sure is getting interesting.

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