With the explosion of Bitcoin and the ever-expanding “ICO Bubble,” it’s safe to say that 2017 was a massive year for blockchain and the decentralized economy.
It’s also been a year of new opportunities, challenges, and unprecedented growth for Blockchain at Berkeley.
Throughout our history, and especially over the past 12 months, our dedicated members have set an industry standard of cutting-edge blockchain education, research, and consulting. Because of their tireless efforts and the support of our general community, Blockchain at Berkeley has quickly become the largest and most active university-based blockchain organization in the world.
This article is an overview of Blockchain at Berkeley, our highlights from the past year, and our vision for 2018.
Who Are We?
Along with our growth throughout 2017, there’s been a decent amount of confusion about what Blockchain at Berkeley is, and how it got started.
In short, Blockchain at Berkeley is a nonprofit, student-run blockchain organization based out of UC Berkeley. Premised on the idea that universities are hubs for cutting-edge research and visionary ideas, Blockchain at Berkeley serves as a neutral party that creates blockchain education, consulting, and research initiatives at the intersection of academia and industry.
A Brief History
In Spring 2014, a group of Berkeley undergrads founded a club called the Bitcoin Association of Berkeley. It started off as a niche student organization of less than 10 members, who hosted small discussions on campus and eventually organized a for-credit course about cryptocurrencies by Fall 2016. At that time, however, the public interest in Bitcoin was not strong enough to sustain an active club membership over time.
Realizing this, and upon foreseeing the future implications of blockchain technology, the Bitcoin Association of Berkeley rebranded to Blockchain at Berkeley in Fall 2016. After expanding their focus to the greater blockchain space, and introducing new branches of education, research, and consulting, Blockchain at Berkeley managed to increase their active membership from 10 to over 100 between September 2016 and September 2017.
Today, Blockchain at Berkeley’s executive board is solely composed of student entrepreneurs, many of whom are focused on doing more beyond getting a degree at UC Berkeley. They are responsible for managing several projects under one cohesive name. Our board members have worked at companies like Consensys, Earn (previously known as 21.co), Qualcomm, Facebook, Cosmos, and various startups.
Further, with an extended community of over 1,800 active worldwide contributors to its public Slack channel, Blockchain at Berkeley is currently one of the most inclusive and insightful crypto and blockchain communities in the world.
Blockchain at Berkeley Today
Going into 2018, we reflect on the opportunities and achievements that have brought Blockchain at Berkeley to where it is today.
Here is an outline of our highlights — Continue reading below for more details about each of these categories:
- UC Berkeley Courses
- Executive Education
- Community Meetups
- Online Education and Resources
- Standardized Blockchain Certification
- Research Projects
- Offshoot Organizations
- Conferences and Hackathons
UC Berkeley Courses
In 2017, we designed and taught 3 for-credit courses at UC Berkeley about blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
These are some of the largest student-run courses at UC Berkeley, with a total enrollment of 120 students each. The course content, including lecture recordings, are open source and linked below:
- The Cryptocurrencies Course is a comprehensive survey of topics to understand cryptocurrencies and the wider blockchain space. After Spring 2017, this course material was modified and appended to become the Blockchain Fundamentals course — Lectures by Max Fang, Phillip Hayes, Sunny Aggarwal.
- The Blockchain Fundamentals Course is a comprehensive survey of game theory, economics, cryptography, and non-technical topics to build a strong foundation of knowledge about cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology — Lectures by Nadir Akhtar, Aparna Krishnan, Gloria Zhao, and Rustie Lin. This course also includes five discussion sections led by Alex Tran, Brian Ho, Gillian Chu, Cliff Ahn, and Griffin Haskins.
- The Blockchain for Developers Course provides a chance for students with minimal blockchain knowledge to prepare themselves for the industry through hands-on assignments and projects. This course emphasizes the ins and outs of Ethereum, smart contract security, architecture, and best practices. Later in the course, the focus shifts to more advanced topics integrating DApps with different platforms including Lightning, IPFS and Cosmos — Lectures by Akash Khosla and Nicolas Zoghb.
For 2018, we are in the process of expanding our partnership with UC Berkeley’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology’s (SCET) Blockchain Lab, and adding the Blockchain Fundamentals Course as a prerequisite for blockchain certification by SCET. This would make Blockchain Fundamentals the first student-run course to be included in this acclaimed certification.
We delivered education programs for graduate-level departments at Berkeley and Fortune 500 companies.
Below are programs and partners we were able to work with. All of these educational engagements included end-to-end design, planning, and presentation by our members.
- The Executive Education Program aims to provide the most pragmatic, comprehensive, and actionable introduction to blockchain and business possible. It is suitable for executives interested in how blockchain might benefit their company, builders ready to hit the ground running with a blockchain PoC, innovators looking to see how blockchain can be applied to real world problems, or enthusiasts simply looking for a unique introduction and perspective on the industry.
- Blockchain at Berkeley delivered three-day executive education programs to Qualcomm in San Diego and Mercedez Benz in India, as well as full-day programs at Inspur and a boutique asset management firm in London. We held workshops for the German Ministry of Economic Affairs & Energy, Postal Savings Bank of China, Lazard Asset Management in Australia, Toyota Materials Handling, Amsterdam Business School, and IDEO CoLab in San Francisco. Primary lecturers are Max Fang and Philip Hayes, along with lecturers Nadir Akhtar, Aparna Krishnan, Ashley Lannquist, and Leland Lee.
- The three-day Blockchain Unlocked Executive Academy was co-hosted by Blockchain at Berkeley and the Berkeley Law School. Lectures were by Max Fang and Philip Hayes, with support from Ashley Lannquist.
- “Bitcoin Game Theory and Network Attacks” presented by Max Fang and Phillip Hayes at the Bitcoin Association of Hong Kong, Tsinghua University in Beijing, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
- “Blockchain 101 and ICOs” presented by Max Fang at National Tsinghua University in Taiwan, as well as to a group of entrepreneurs visiting Berkeley from the Amsterdam School of Business
Our Research & Development department hosted a total of 40 community meetups in 2017, revolving about innovative topics in crypto and blockchain.
Organized by Alex Tran, the Meetup program is a place for Blockchain at Berkeley members and the community to watch lectures and openly discuss advanced topics relating to blockchain technology and decentralized systems, e.g. proofs of space and time, privacy coins, and post-quantum cryptography.
Past guest speakers at our meetups include Tim Swanson from R3, Yonotan Sompolinsky from Spectre, Joel Burget from Quorum, Sunny Aggarwal from Tendermint, and many more. See our Meetup page for more information on past and future events.
The insightful and comprehensive Meetup lectures are primarily created and given by Alex Tran, with help from other members of the R&D Team. In 2018, the program will be run by Steven Elleman, who has also contributed greatly to Meetup lectures in Fall 2018.
We also recently started the Think Tank project, which will provide similar events based on more introductory topics in blockchain. Recordings of Think Tank lectures can be found on our Facebook page. This initiative is led by Steven Elleman and Jeremiah Andrews.
Online Education and Resources
Our members have taken their experiences from Blockchain at Berkeley to create online courses and helpful resources in their areas of expertise.
- Deep Dive Resources have been compiled by Alex Tran and the R&D Team to serve as an in-depth reading guide to advanced topics discussed at our Meetups.
- The Online Ethereum Developer Course provides comprehensive training for developers who are interested in secured Decentralized Applications (dApps). Through a four module curriculum, students are introduced to Solidity, Truffle, Web3.js, Frontend techniques, and smart contract security best practices. Lecturers Ali Mousa and Collin Chin also held two-day developer bootcamps at UC Berkeley in August.
- The online Cryptocurrency Trading Explained Course and Advanced Cryptocurrency Trading Course provide an in-depth explanation of technical, fundamental, and psychological analysis relating to cryptocurrencies trading. This one-of-a-kind series of courses presents an accessible and convenient way to learn from experts in this space, by Blockchain at Berkeley Co-Head of Consultancy, Jon Allen.
- Our Youtube Channel features notable videos from our conferences, meetups, and lectures.
- Cryptoacademia is a comprehensive collection of papers and other resources compiled and managed by Blockchain at Berkeley co-founders Max Fang and Sunny Aggarwal.
- The Blockchain at Berkeley blog (you are here!) features quality content written weekly by Blockchain at Berkeley members.
Standardized Blockchain Certification
We developed a rigorous training process in order to ensure our members possess the requisite knowledge to deliver quality work on their consulting projects for external clients.
For 4 months, our candidates complete multiple projects that are representative of what we do for Fortune 500 clients. At the end of the training period, we certify our business consultants in a two part process, featuring a written portion on fundamental knowledge and extensive interviews on blockchain use cases. Our developers also go through a similar process where they are required to put together a full-stack application in a matter of days that imitates a polished product for enterprise.
A finalized, standard blockchain certification program is in the works for the public in 2018, and we look forward to sharing more information soon.
We have also been conducting original academic research on open topics in the field.
- Research and Development with Berkeley professors: Our top developers conduct research work with UC Berkeley professors Alessandro Chiesa (co-founder of ZCash) and Dawn Song (a MacArthur Fellow involved with the Initiative For Cryptocurrencies & Contracts). Alessandro Chiesa is currently working on research regarding zero knowledge protocols and zk-SNARKs. Dawn Song is involved with tooling for smart contract security.
- Cryptoeconomics Research: Blockchain at Berkeley’s Cryptoeconomics Research Team has been working on groundbreaking protocol level and cryptoeconomics problems with industry partners. This project has many exciting updates coming up in the new year, and includes Blockchain at Berkeley members Aparna Krishnan, Zubin Koticha, Alexis Gauba, Maaz Uddin, Philip Hayes, Vishesh Mehta, and Steven Elleman.
- Stablecoin Analysis and Design: This team is researching mechanism design and financial markets to design a protocol for a non-volatile cryptocurrency. This initiative started in late 2017 and will be continued well into 2018 under the leadership of Jeremiah Andrews.
- Blockchain and Energy: Members helped develop a proposal for “Blockchain for Smart Energy” with UC Berkeley PhD candidates Jonathan Mather and Eric Munsing. This project was awarded for Excellence in Power Access & Exchange by the Chinese manufacturing giant Wanxiang Group Corporation, and presented at the 3rd Global Blockchain Summit in Shanghai. It included Blockchain at Berkeley members Melissa Mokhtari, Mashiat Mutmainnah, Calvin Price, and Yudi Tan.
- Kyber Network: Kyber is a unique decentralized exchange that doesn’t have an orderbook, and uses reserve managers instead. As this model hasn’t been tested before, Blockchain at Berkeley partnered with Kyber to perform crypto economic analysis to understand the effects of different trading strategies and how to ensure all parties benefit. The team includes Leland Lee, Anton Muehlemann, and Steven Chen of Cryptoparency.
- Radus: Blockchain at Berkeley members created a sustainable token model that encourages ICO accountability and sets the price of tokens according to institutional investors, disregarding hype and FOMO. The upcoming PolySwarm crowdsale will likely utilize the Radus model. The team consists of Alexis Gauba, Ravi Jotwani, Vishesh Mehta, Sara Reynolds, and Aditya Sripal.
We’ve partnered with companies to conduct research and develop proof-of-concepts tailored to their needs.
- 4-month project with Qualcomm Research Center to create a private chain enterprise pilot.
- 4-month project with Kyber Network on risk mitigation for decentralized exchanges.
- Use-case research and smart contract development for Airbus and major automotive manufacturers.
Consulting projects provide invaluable experience for our members, and fresh perspectives on blockchain and software development for companies. Many more exciting consulting engagements are in the pipeline for our members 2018.
Our members have founded various side organizations this past year to offer additional blockchain and crypto-related services.
- Veritas Due Diligence is a child organization by members of Blockchain at Berkeley that creates comprehensive ICO due diligence reports. Veritas provides investors with substantial depth on an ICO by analyzing the technical protocol, security risk, legal matters, team, and platform. It is currently led by its cofounders, Griffin Haskins and Mashiat Mutmainnah.
- Argus is an ICO and Smart Contract Auditing service by Blockchain at Berkeley’s top developers Collin Chin, Ali Mousa, Raymond Chu, Howard Wu, and Pranav Gaddamadugu.
- Dekrypt Capital is a blockchain advising firm founded by Blockchain at Berkeley Co-Heads of Consultancy Jon Allen and Ronen Kirsh, and graduate student developer Howard Wu. Their goal is to become a funding arm for blockchain startups and entrepreneurs graduating from Blockchain at Berkeley.
- Token Services is a white label operation that assists companies who are in the process of having an ICO. They formalize and audit whitepapers with consideration for technical implementations and architecture, along with crypto economics and token economics. This is led by Jon Allen, Leland Lee, Avneet Singh and Chase Smith.
Conferences and Hackathons
We organized major blockchain conferences, hosting speakers from cutting-edge blockchain and governmental organizations:
- Crytpoeconomics Security Conference at UC Berkeley: The first of its kind, this conference featured talks from top researchers from the Ethereum Foundation, promising projects (Hashgraph, Truebit), and universities all over the world. Organized by Co-Head of Consulting Ronen Kirsh.
- ICO Financing Conference at UC Berkeley: This conference discussed how to raise money the right way in an ICO, and featured a panel of representatives from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Organized by Co-Head of Consulting Ronen Kirsh.
We partnered with Consensys to co-host their first ever hackathon at the Haas School of Business in Berkeley.
- Ethereal Summit Hackathon with Consensys: This two-day event allowed teams to create substantial projects focusing on designing and building blockchain-based governance systems. Organizers from Blockchain at Berkeley were led by Leland Lee and Nicolas Truong.
Our members were invited as speakers at blockchain conferences near and far, sharing the stage with industry figureheads like Vitalik Buterin, Joseph Poon, and Brian Behlendorf:
- Blockchain Expo North America hosted by TechForge in Santa Clara, California. Blockchain at Berkeley developer Raymond Chu spoke on a panel titled “Building Apps on the Ethereum Platform.”
- 3rd Global Blockchain Summit hosted by Wanxiang Group Corporation in Shanghai, China. Blockchain at Berkeley consultant Melissa Mokhtari gave a presentation on Blockchain for Smart Energy, based on the research proposal developed with Berkeley PhD candidates Eric Munsing and Jonathan Mather.
- Blockchain Technology for Cybersecurity and Social Impact hosted by the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation at UC Berkeley. Blockchain at Berkeley consultants Melissa Mokhtari and Gloria Zhao each gave a presentation on Blockchain for Renewable Energy Credits, and Blockchain for Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Tracking, respectively. They were also both featured as speakers on a “Blockchain for Social Impact” panel.
Many of our members took their blockchain development skills to hackathons in the blockchain and general tech community.
- Consensys MBA Blockchain Ventures Hackathon: Some Blockchain at Berkeley members partnered with Berkeley Haas MBA candidates to compete and advance to the second round of this hackathon, which is currently in progress. Teams coordinated by Ashley Lannquist, an MBA candidate, Blockchain at Berkeley Consulting Lead, and President & Cofounder of the Haas FinTech Club.
- Hack4Climate at the United Nations COP23 Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany: Melissa Mokhtari was invited to participate in this week-long hackathon at the 2017 UN Climate Conference. She researched figures and solutions for the energy inefficiency of proof-of-work and advised other projects on blockchain and energy.
- Ethereal Summit and Ethereal SF: Two Blockchain at Berkeley projects placed in the top three at Ethereal Summit, and were invited to present at Ethereal SF in front of Joseph Lubin (Co-Founder of Ethereum and ConsenSys) and Bryan Johnson (OS Fund and Kernel).
- CalHacks: Many Blockchain at Berkeley members participated at the world’s largest collegiate hackathon held at UC Berkeley
Here are some of the outstanding hackathon projects by Blockchain at Berkeley members, which were awarded at their events:
- Parameterizing Casper: An analysis of Casper proof-of-stake, exploring potential vulnerabilities and attacks both mathematically and economically. This project won second prize at Ethereal SF after placing in the top-three at the Ethereal Hackathon in Berkeley the week before. It has been expanded into a long-term research project under Blockchain at Berkeley by Zubin Koticha, Aparna Krishnan, Maaz Uddin, Vishesh Mehta, Gloria Wang, and advised by Karl Floresch and Sunny Aggarwal.
- Privacy Token Prediction Market: A prediction market to realign company incentives with consumer needs. Blockchain at Berkeley developer Alexis Gauba was awarded top prize by Gnosis for this project at CalHacks.
- Athena: A governance platform to optimize voting mechanisms for shareholders. This project was a top-three finalist at the Ethereal Summit hackathon in Berkeley, by Saroj Chintakrindi, Jeremiah Andrews, Kevin Chang, Tammy Vu, Federico Kunze, and Avneet Saini.
- Venü: A Reverse-Dutch auction platform to optimize event-booking for music artists and fans. This project was a finalist at Ethereal Summit hackathon by Ravi Jotwani, Nishaad Navkal, Aditya Sripal, Melissa Mokhtari, and Griffin Haskins.
2018 Vision and Upcoming Projects
Our standards for 2018 are high, with a mission to keep Blockchain at Berkeley at the forefront of industry expertise, education, and innovation.
Here are just a few of our exciting projects already lined up for the new year:
- Collaboration with the US Department of Commerce to create an educational resource to be shared with officers among 80+ US branches. This initiative is being led by Aparna Krishnan, Nadir Akhtar, Max Fang, and Ravi Jotwani.
- Part II of Blockchain Unlocked Executive Academy with the Berkeley School of Law in March.
- Executive Education Program with Berkeley Haas School of Business in April.
- Blockchain Fundamentals MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on edX
- and many more…
Want to connect with us?
UC Berkeley Students: Our Spring 2018 recruitment cycle and course enrollment offerings are coming up soon! Stay updated about application deadlines for both on our Facebook page.
Educational Inquiries: email@example.com
Consulting Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Research Inquiries: email@example.com
News and Media Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org