I have spent the last four years helping build PeerNova’s brand and marketing strategy because I firmly believe in what we are trying to accomplish in the financial industry: building frictionless financial markets with trust and transparency. Blockchain-inspired technology brings unparalleled benefits and possibilities to the next generation of financial applications such as our Cuneiform® Platform. Although blockchain technology has the potential to change the way our world operates in a “trustless” manner, it isn’t necessary to solve or even relevant to every trust problem. For those of us in the industry, we must be clear about the marketing messages that we disseminate in order to dispel myths and instill the right expectations and messaging.
Let me explain.
By nature, blockchain-inspired technology solves specific trust and transparency issues. Fundamentally, we use cryptographic hashes to form an append-only, immutable ledger. Implementation of the ledger in a distributed manner will then allow access to permissioned parties on the same network. This unique layer of visibility makes the ledger tamper-evident: any party can check the hash sum of their ledger with the hash sum of another to determine if they are the same. It is crucial that we stick to facts.
1. Get off the hype cycle and make the right kinds of claims
We all appreciate the enthusiasm and energy of the early adopters of this technology. However, we have “crossed the chasm”, and it is imperative that we give the necessary attention and consideration to the claims that we make about blockchain and DLT technology. Questionable claims give rise to misconceptions and unrealistic expectations. When for example, blockchain-inspired technology solves one type of a problem (e.g. immutability), then we should refrain from making broad stroke remarks about blockchain solving all trust problems.
2. Aim to solve real and specific problems
We must build our marketing messages around the exact nature of the specific problem(s) we intend to solve. For example, to say that blockchain technology can help solve all of the problems and challenges in the financial industry is simply untrue. Instead, as the case is with PeerNova, we are focused on solving specific challenges with post-trade processing and removing overall friction in the financial markets. These friction points surround manual processes, workflows, and Golden Source Data.
In theory, the unique trust and transparency that only blockchain can bring to a solution can be applied to all kinds of problems. However, we must pause and ask 1) is there really a “there, there”, and 2) is blockchain really needed?
Let me give you an example.
Problems that involve record-keeping could potentially all use and benefit from a tamper-evident and immutable ledger. As entrepreneurs and visionaries in this industry, before committing to a use case we have to ask ourselves a simple question: keeping in mind the type of record-keeping problem, how big of a challenge is blockchain able to solve? 1%, 5%, or 20%? If the intended solution is aimed at solving a small percentage of potential problems then perhaps attention, energy, and resources should be directed at solving more prevalent problems first. Of course, sometimes even small percentages matter in the financial industry, as a proposed solution which can help solve 2% of transactions errors can be worth millions, if not billions of dollars. The point is that we should focus on solving sizable problems (in terms of percentage or value) first before trying to force-fit blockchain on every issue.
3. Show progress objectively
It has been around six years since blockchain began to attract significant attention and investment. We must focus on measurable progress that we’ve made thus far and be honest about the challenges that remain. PeerNova has made admirable progress in building out the Cuneiform Platform, but we are well aware of the hurdles that still exist (e.g. interoperability). This technology is new and we are under no illusion about the degree of difficulty or the commitment necessary to see it through.
It is easy to get carried away with the enthusiasm, passion, and belief that we all share about the fundamental benefits of blockchain technology, but we must also manage expectations well. If we don’t, we run the danger of overpromising and under-delivering.
4. Contribute time, energy, and resources to education
The general public, our target audiences, and even members of the press continue to confuse industry-specific terms. Bitcoin and Blockchain are not interchangeable, and not all blockchain companies are backed by ICO’s.
As industry insiders, if we do not do our share of educating the public about this technology, we will suffer the consequences that misinformation can bring. We all have a responsibility to help advance the adoption of this technology by donating our time, resources, and energy. No single company or application of blockchain can help replace the collective effort we can all put forward towards this cause. Take time to write blogs, record podcasts, and engage in dialogue about this industry through conferences, events, and forums.
5. Be part of the solution, not the problem
The great majority of the industry is focused on solving real problems. However, in this noisy world, some aim to make a quick buck through questionable methods, approaches, or flat-out scams. I am not naive to the true nature of those who bank on misinformation, gullibility, and credulousness of their victims and I have no doubt that they will continue with their methods. It pains me to see a few bad actors tarnish the veracity of our collective effort to build real solutions.
What can we do about it? I believe the onus is on us to point out these perpetrators and condemn their actions in no uncertain terms whenever and wherever we see them.
I am excited to be a part of this incredible industry and the intended solutions that it delivers. At PeerNova, we continue to make steady progress towards widespread adoption of blockchain and DLT in the financial industry. Our recent collaboration with a number of industry trade groups is aimed at building a truly interoperable platform. Visit our website to learn more about our solution.