Malta Blockchain Summit — Was it Worth the Hype?

The Sea Foam Media team at MBS. Left to right; Justin Bowen (CTO), Rhiannon Payne (CEO), Chloe Diamond (me, Director of Media), Shota Samkharadze (European Business Development)

For me, the Malta Blockchain Summit signified a shift within the blockchain space. Despite the current bear market, there was an air of feverish excitement that I didn’t expect, revealing the increasing appetite the community has for structure and, perhaps, a place to call home. Attracting over 8500 people, including industry heavyweights like John McAfee and the Winklevoss brothers, Malta is determined to set itself up as a blockchain island, but can it live up to the hype?

Hosted at the Intercontinental Hotel in Saint Julians, the summit consisted of an exhibition arena, conference, hackathon, ICO pitches, panel discussions and an array of sponsored parties and dinners held after hours. The excitement could be felt even before the event began. My journey from London was full of other attendees doing their best to start networking and, if you weren’t in the mood for talking, you could also read about the summit in the complimentary magazine supplied by AirMalta.

There’s no doubt the Maltese government was eager to get the word out and succeeded, so it was almost refreshing to learn that the man on the plane next to me not only had no idea about the summit but had also never heard of blockchain or crypto - a stark reminder that we’re still in early days.

Once in St Julian’s, it was difficult to see anyone who wasn’t there for the summit, even the nearby bars and clubs were catering to ‘Cryptoween’ and offering free drinks if you had enough wristbands. This made me wonder how local people feel about it all, especially with the mass of developments emerging around the island and the rising cost of living.

The service industry appears to be flourishing, comprising of nearly half of all employment in Malta, but it seems many people struggle to make a sustainable living and perhaps aren’t equipped with the necessary skills to work with the businesses that register there for tax reasons. Hopefully, blockchain businesses there will remain inclusive of the locals who call Malta home.

The summit seemed to attract more lawyers and exchanges than what I usually see, although I’m certain that is due to Malta’s recent regulations rather than geographical trends. The exhibition arena was full of the usual ICO and some STO booths which had spilled out into other corridors. The Intercontinental didn’t cater well to such a mass of people, and it was a challenge to navigate and communicate, suggesting that even the event organisers did not expect it to be so popular.

One thing that makes Malta unique is the government’s overt support of blockchain and cryptocurrency. The summit itself was supported by the Maltese government and was inaugurated by Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta.

“We like to do things the right way within clear and sensible parameters. Not rushing our way through but doing them at the right pace. Our philosophy is to be honest brokers where we all know where we stand with each other. Let us think big and, together, I think we can do the next leap.”
— Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta

Although Malta is eager to present itself as the most crypto-friendly country, I wonder how it compares against the likes of Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Gibraltar or Estonia and what will happen as we see more old money countries like France and, hopefully soon, the UK, offering alternatives without the disputable reputation.

That being said, it is clear that the crypto community is maturing, with an increasing desire for sustainable, future-oriented development and cooperation with regulation, rather than anarchic resistance. To have the government on board is a huge step for the industry and, in my opinion, the current bear market supports that by filtering out those who are only focused on making a quick profit and, instead, encourages people to improve the technology and legitimacy of their projects.

Some of the projects exhibited were exciting, although I found many quite predictable and gimmicky (also, we’re in 2018 — relying on promo girls to attract people to your booth tells me that your idea simply isn’t good enough 💁). It was sometimes difficult to connect with people at the summit due to overcrowding and noise, but the array of afterparties and dinners more than made up for the networking problems at the event.

CryptoDino was… Steamy

It’s impossible to attend all of them, but we (myself and the Sea Foam team) managed to meet some great people at the restaurants and bars surrounding the venue, as well as at ShellPay’s intimate party on Hugo’s Rooftop Terrace and the BitSong house party the following day. Both were full of an exciting mix of people from all industries, all eager to connect and discuss the future of Malta and the next steps for blockchain.

View from the ShellPay party
Daniel Vu’s dinner was a success, connecting those who were still in Malta the weekend after the summit

One of the best things at MBS was its diverse crowd. I particularly enjoyed chatting with the team at Yuser, who are introducing their own blockchain-based social media platform, and to see more social good projects like StopFakeFood and Tree Coin, which reminded me of one of my favourite blockchain art projects; Terra0.

Eunika Sot (COO at Yuser), me, and Rhiannon Payne (CEO of Sea Foam Media)

I didn’t catch Sophia the Robot’s speech, but I did sit through most of the ICO pitches (which is just as cool, right?). Some of them made rookie mistakes and were called out by the panel of judges, and others were fascinating with truly inspiring ideas. My conclusion was that those projects with a serious, long-term outlook who had cultivated a good reputation and had a good team behind them were the most promising, for myself and the judges.

As a whole, the Malta Blockchain Summit was unforgettable. Malta is already proving its worth by attracting giants in the space, like Binance, and by having such strong institutional support. That being said, Malta’s reputation is still hindered by casinos and money laundering, something which we should be careful with considering crypto’s lingering public association with Silk Road. I’m not convinced that most people take Malta seriously — at least, not yet. However, I admire and appreciate the effort they have put into embracing new technologies, which will hopefully set the standard and pace for other countries.

Time will tell… Until next year!

Sea Foam Media is a blockchain, ICO & STO agency headquartered in San Francisco, with global representation. I work out of our London office as the Director of Media. You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Sea Foam Media provides end-to-end services for our clients, including whitepaper development, technology vision and architecture, token economics, digital marketing, PR, web and mobile app development, investor relations, private blockchain network development, and smart contracts.

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