Navigating the World of Consensus
The Consensus, organized by the CoinDesk, is one of the largest conferences dedicated to digital currencies and blockchain technology, cut across multiple and diverse sectors, with the potential to impact everyone from Wall Street to the world’s unbanked.
The event took place May 14–16th at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York, where over 8,000 participants waited in line for up to two hours to get their ticket to the conference (fortunately I got mine from a friend’s husband who won his!). Event organizers estimated several thousands attendees who have entered without purchasing tickets.
Most of the conversations and business deals took place in the hotel suites and private conference rooms where people could talk. Some of them were discussing how Consensus founding managing partner Kavita Gupta scrutinized the Securities and Exchange Commission for not moving fast enough in regards to regulating, or providing clarity, on cryptocurrency. Gupta said ,“The faster the SEC moves, the faster it will be for businesses to stay in the United States.”
Simon Bogdanowicz, General Partner at Blockteam Ventures who helped ICOs raise $80 million, made reference to the regulators. Earlier that day ARK Invest CEO Catherine Wood said ,“Our regulators have to get their act together really. … we’re going to see regulation mainly by prosecution.”
We met Bogdanowicz partners at Santa Monica-based crypto venture fund, DNA, to discuss projects in the pipeline. “Cool project”, said DNA’s attorney Clifford Sarkin, after I told him about PITCH Investors Live. DNA Fund recently launched their consulting arm to help pre and post ICOs raise capital.
Sitting by me were businessmen from India and Saudi Arabia, and one from California who raised over $100 million for Facebook. They were sharing various regulatory issues in the Middle East compared to the United States. There are a number of industries that are still not fully digitized in our country although we are one of the leaders in this space. When you look at Dubai, for example, they are creating blockchain solutions across all industries-faster (Dubai recently announced its blockchain projections, becoming of the first countries to become fully integrated by 2020).
I ran into Anu Bhardwaj from Women Invest, a coalition and social movement of passionate individuals to foster economic empowerment for women globally. Bhardwaj spoke at the Women on the Block Conference, an event where I pitched PITCH in 20-seconds, gaining the attention Tereza Nemessanyi from Microsoft (the company is looking to fund blockchain projects, especially headed by women). The event attracted over over 400 female professionals, including Eva Kaili from the European Union who said ,“the EU is looking for blockchain applications.” Bhardwaj was pleased to see more female panelists; many of whom later attended Consensus.
At both Women on Block Conference and at Consensus, I narrowed down the pitch for PITCH Investors Live to 20 seconds, and had not only funds express interest by also corporate executives including Tereza Nemessanyi from Microsoft (the company is looking to fund blockchain projects, especially headed by women).
Our meeting with DNA Fund ended shortly after a man walked through the door and shouted, “Turn off your WIFI, the network has been hacked!”. Everyone in the room took out their phones, turned off their WIFI And went about doing business.
Beyond the private meetings, the stage brought many good speakers including Bermuda Premier’s Hon. E. David Burt, JP, MP who announced that the government will make it easier for crypto funds and blockchain companies to set up bank accounts. Phil Chen from HTC was there along with Princeton professor, Ed Felton, who researched net neutrality.
VCs and family offices around the city held private events to celebrate blockchain, deal flow, and new connections. I could only attend a few, especially one hosted by Tatiana Moroz, the singer who early on created her own coin, displaying her QR code on the guitar she was playing.
My days ended with late-night dinners with Argentinian investors and blockchain founders, companies that my business partner invested in and interviewed on his NASDAQ show, “New Economies” where I pitched PITCH investors Live.
Scamming and Protesting
Every large event such as this one attracts all types of scammers. A few people sold tickets to fake crypto summits and raised funds for ICOs that did not exist.
On one of the panels, it was announced that while United States regulators are continuing to look into virtual currencies and ICO’s, there is no plan (as of right now) to “suppress the sector”. Further, the government officials stated that there was no plan to “hinder innovation in the field”.
These statements empower the crypto and blockchain communities beyond Consensus, and I was happy to hear it. On the other hand, protesters that spoke against Bitcoin outside of the hotel shared a different sentiment. But for the most part, they were dismissed. I didn’t pay any attention and quite frankly I didn’t notice them amid the crowd.
There were many. When Ripple announced the Xpring project, an initiative with the goal of attracting entrepreneurs and expanding the use of XRP, the company hosted XRP Community Night, which brought Snoop Dogg to One Oak for a late night performance.
At another late night event held at the famous club The Box, nerdcore rapper who goes by the name YTCracker, sang cryptocurrency-themed rap songs, “Bitcoin Baron” and “Crypto Illuminati”.
My general impression was, that fewer experts were interested in ICOs than in blockchain solutions across industries. Professionals from both public and private sectors were in general sending positive signal regarding the utilization and growing potential of cryptocurrency (as the event wrapped up bitcoin hit a low of $7,925 from $8,800 the week earlier).
The conversation around blockchain technology has dramatically increased since the last event while protests around Bitcoin has remained the same. Attendees wanted to know how blockchain applies to every industry beyond use cases for cryptocurrency. Whether individuals were promoters or protestors of this revolutionary technology, neither could deny the fact that innovative ideas continue to be born from this technological revolution.