Crypto Q&A: Interview with Ben DiFrancesco, Founder of ScopeLift and Co-Organizer of Philly Blockchain Tech Meetup
Ben DiFrancesco is a cornerstone of Philadelphia’s blockchain industry. He has been interview by Anthony Pompliano, went back and forth on crypto Twitter with Vitalik Buterin, and is one of two co-founders of Philadelphia’s second oldest blockchain Meetup.
Question: How has Philadelphia's blockchain scene evolved over the past few years?
DiFrancesco: When Ryan and I started the meetup in early 2017, we thought that was the time of crazy hype. The actual hype was still ahead. We wanted to build a community for tech, not just people who wanted to get rich quick. We started as a little group, but it’s grown to become a lot bigger than that. It’s still the community I wanted to build; it’s people and technology.
Question: What is the community like now?
DiFrancesco: I think there’s still a lot percolating beneath the surface. There’s a surge of interest that came with the price rise. We wanted to curate the meetup so that it exposes people who want to build new things. Now in the community, we see people from other industries; they have ideas, they built the prototype, etc. they have something they want to build with this new technology.
There are also people that have really successful crypto projects and companies. There’s all this energy that’s still in an embryonic stage. It will be interesting to watch if that amounts to any big successes in the years to come.
Question: It’s incredible that in the same room, you have people who are brand new to the technology, but then you have people like Matt Rosen who built Splinterlands (the #1 dApp in the world right now that just reached over $1M worth of player transactions). What has it been like to witness the Meetup’s growth over the past few years?
DiFrancesco: When we started the meetup and I first met Matt (Rosen), he was still working in a company unrelated to crypto. He had one side project in the Steem ecosystem. He was on the fence about going into blockchain full time. Then he built this awesome game that is thriving (Splinterlands, formerly Steem Monsters). He’s a great example of the type of person you can find in our growing community.
BTW: You can find our Crypto Q&A with Matt right here: 👇👇👇👇👇
Question: What is Scope Lift? Describe the breadth of projects that you work with?
DiFrancesco: ScopeLift is a boutique consultancy. We work on a broad range of projects across tech, from native mobile development like iOS to traditional web and backend tech.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve added crypto projects to that mix. At this moment, it’s 50% crypto projects, 50% software projects. I expect it will drift more toward crypto projects. However, I’m very particular about the projects that we take on. There has been a lot of scammy stuff in crypto. In 2017, there were lots of people who were looking to crank out ICOs. This time in the market delivered a huge opportunity to make a lot of money. However, I didn't feel comfortable getting that business; the fundamentals weren’t there.
In retrospect, I was proven right, investors lost a lot of money. This is still shaking out now. I’m not interested in participating in that.
On the other hand, there are a lot of projects that are great but still haven’t identified a funding model yet. Some of the best quality projects don’t have the funding backing them up. The ones that do have funding were the ones that did ICOs.
The good news is that blockchain is permissionless. If you have a good idea, no one can stop you. In the long run, these ideas will emerge. In the meantime, there will continue to be a lot of noise.
It’s a similar to the progression we saw with the internet itself. It attracted high-quality entrepreneurs and developers that were building interesting things, but it took a long time to track what was happening in mainstream use.
One of the cool perspectives I have as a consultant is that I speak with a lot different entrepreneurs. Even if they don’t have the money to hire me right now, I can talk to them and understand where they’re at. There are a ton of smart people. We will see a lot of amazing things built- but we’re still at this stage that’s simmering beneath the surface.
Question: What was it like to get interviewed by Pomp?
DiFrancesco: A lot of fun. Pomp is a great guy. His role is to bring education to people that are unfamiliar with the technology. He’s an ambassador to people who are not highly involved in the space.
It was cool to be on the podcast and speak to an audience that is broader than the one I’m used to — I’m typically talking to people down in the weeds, into the technical stuff; people that have been in it for a while. Pomp gave me an opportunity to talk in broader strokes about the impact I see this technology having from my perspective as a developer. You have to love Pomp’s hustle, though. He’s relentlessly positive, and he gets himself out there as a champion for Bitcoin and crypto.
Question: How did it feel to get responses to your tweets from Vitalik Buterin?
DiFrancesco: That’s was great too. Vitalik is obviously a genius. I’m a pretty technical person and I think I have a pretty solid grasp on this stuff. But he just produces insights at such a voluminous rate, it’s hard to keep up.
Being able to interact with people like Vitalik, though, is one of the cool parts about the internet era. In a past age, he would be like Steve Jobs after the early success of Apple… he’d be completely inaccessible to your average person. With social media, it’s super cool to have a direct connection with people like Vitalik.
The fact that he does engage on Twitter is much to his credit, too. He comes across as humble. And I think it must help him understand the community he’s helped create. He undoubtedly has some influence over that community, so it’s critical that he’s willing to engage like that.
Question: What is Bitcoin’s biggest value? Is it the script, as a currency?
DiFrancesco: Bitcoin has a very singular purpose; it will succeed or fail based on whether it can become the best form of digital money, of gold that it can be. Censorship resistant, decentralized, and predictable with regard to the network, monetary supply, etc. In many ways it’s already succeeding at this. But it’s early.
In the long run, it needs to remain the best form of digital money that we have. For that to happen, these other use cases that we see for crypto might not be built on Bitcoin, and this is a good thing because that means Bitcoin can focus on being censorship-resistant, unhackable, keeping the complexity of the system very low. There are other technologies that can handle other use cases while Bitcoin just focuses on being the best form of digital value, of digital gold, that it can be.
Question: Where is the industry headed in 5 years?
DiFrancesco: Predictions are so hard. It’s almost a guarantee that something critical will happen that no one is talking about. My guess is that the most important thing that happens will come out of nowhere. There are things that are predictable that we’ll see: important infrastructure build-up, regulatory clarity, etc…
I personally think we’ll continue to see the expansion of Ethereum as the most important smart contact platform. We’ll continue to see a lot of the long tail projects shrink and wither. For the most part, I think there will be more consolidation. But as for the biggest revelation, when we look back in 5 years, there will be something that none of us expected or predicted.
Follow Ben on Twitter (@BenDiFrancesco) or catch him live at Coinvention 2019 on September 21 at the Philadelphia Loews Hotel! 💥💥💥