ETHDenver 2022 Wrap-up: Major Themes

ETHDenver 2022 just wrapped up a jam-packed 10 day conference. The annual event launch on February 11th with BuidlWeek focused on the builder and developer community coming together to compete for millions of dollars in bounties. The main event, located at the 6 story Sports Castle, opened Thursday evening, February 17th, with a keynote from Vitalik Buterin, co-founder and key public figure, representing Ethereum.

Vitalik Buterin Keynote at ETHDenver 2022: “The e-theory-um blockchain”

Founded in 2017 and launched from a Denver Ethereum Meetup group, ETHDenver is now the largest Ethereum Hackathon in existence. ETHDenver 2022 grew to nearly 15,000 attendees. In addition to Vitalik, the who’s who in the Ethereum ecosystem, many of the leading industry founders and public figures were speakers and participants. Colorado Governor Jared Polis spoke about the state becoming the first digital state (the Delaware of crypto-native companies or Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, or DOAs).

Here are some of the major themes from ETHDenver 2022.

The Rise of Web3

The Ethereum ecosystem is quickly becoming the underlying infrastructure for a Web3 world. The infrastructure (e.g., the public blockchains) comes first and what naturally follows is an application ecosystem for any and every industry. We saw this same progression with the internet, high speed broadband and mobile computing in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. While Web3 isn’t formally defined, the fundamental concepts are a decentralized World Wide Web built on blockchain technology and incorporating token-based economics. The 2008 Bitcoin whitepaper, introducing a peer-to-peer electronic cash system, was the seed that started the decentralization revolution as trusted 3rd party intermediaries are no longer required. ETHDenver highlighted the ever-growing landscape of Web3 builders spanning many different industries, from Decentralized Finance (DeFi) to decentralized computing, file storage/exchange, cloud hosting, video streaming, and the list goes on.

Several emerging Web3 Protocols compared to their Web2 counterparts

Demand for Blockspace

The demand for public blockspace has soared in 2021, as evidence by Ethereum’s high gas fees. Many Layer 1 blockchains have entered the market to capture new use cases and users while touting improved features and functionality. With so many blockchains vying for blockspace market, is there fierce competition or collaboration? ETHDenver provided insights into what a multi-chain world might look like and how information can be bridged across chains in an efficient and secure way. Some see a world with around a dozen public blockchains serving different use cases and users. It’s evident that bridging blockchains is a requirement going forward, and a hard problem to tackle (recall the recent Wormhole exploit). We are likely to see more solutions in this area in 2022.

Offloading to Layer 2

Layer 2 solutions are one of the key ways to scale Layer 1 blockchains, especially Ethereum. Layer 2 solutions effectively move operations such as compute (execution) or settlement off of the Layer 1 blockchain. There are many different Layer 2 protocols including State Channels, Rollups and Plasma. We will not go into the details of these protocols here. The key takeaway is the need for modularity of blockchain functions, to remove some of the stress placed on today’s monolithic Layer 1 blockchains. This is a natural evolution of technology as it expands; disaggregating functions into modular, inter-working components that can each scale independently. Blockchains are really good at decentralized consensus of data (whether through Proof-of-Work or Proof-of-Stake) and providing that immutable data to upper protocols. Today’s blockchain users will likely not be the same users in the future. Applications will own the users and abstract the underlying blockchain technology away. Protocols, such as Layer 2 solutions, will be the new users of the Layer 1 blockchains and everyday users may not even be aware of which blockchain they are settling to.

Modularizing today’s Monolithic L1 Blockchains with L2 Protocols

Utility Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs)

Non-fungible Tokens are one of the largest use cases for blockchain technology. Projects such as Crypto Punks, Crypto Kitties, Axie Infinity and Bored Ape Yacht Club paved the way for mainstream adoption. NFTs are used for digital identity, play-to-earn gaming, music, social and event gating and art. NFTs will evolve from early jpegs to providing utility across every industry. Brands and retail are sure to be the next big step for utility-based NFTs. NFTs will be associated with tangible goods and brand loyalty. For example, consumers of luxury goods may receive NFTs with their purchase. How can utility NFTs be associated with services, such as certificates of authentication to access services? The use cases haven’t even emerged yet for the service-based industries. We’ll explore these concepts in a future post.

Blue-chip NFTs

Telecom Projects

We’ll end with highlighting a few telecom-related projects at ETHDenver. The main focal point is a Decentralized Broadband network being built out by Althea. This project looks to initially solve the rural last mile challenge with LTE wireless connectivity using token economics as incentives.

A Decentralized Broadband Network from Althea

Finally, IoTeX is building a blockchain Internet-of-Things (IoT) platform to facilitate connecting real-world data with on-chain use cases. Their vision is to connect off-chain machines on-chain. They are also working with several standards organizations, such as leading the IEEE P2418.1 Standards Working Group focused on creating a universal standard for the use of Blockchain in the Internet of Things (IoT), as part of the IEEE Blockchain Standards Committee.

A Blockchain IoT platform from IoTeX

We’ll examine these projects in more depth as we learn more about them in an upcoming post. Stay tuned for that.


While this was our first ETHDenver conference, we are excited about what the future holds for the build out of the Ethereum ecosystem, Layer 1 blockchains and scaling with Layer 2 protocols. It will be interesting to see what the major themes will be at ETHDenver 2023. Cross-chain protocols are certain to be a topic of discussion with emerging bridge protocols. How will utility NFTs evolve? More importantly, what other industries will be highlighted as they adopt blockchain technology and token economics. How will Colorado emerge as a digital state leading the nation?

Exciting times to be part of this revolution of innovative technology being driven through many grassroots efforts! While the internet was developed as an initiative from the government (DARPA via ARPANET), blockchain and Web3 is being developed by growing communities of developers from all over the world.

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