What I’ve Learned as a Research Scholar at UC Berkeley Blockchain Lab
Differences in Blockchain Ecosystems of the US, Taiwan, and Hong Kong
Overview & Incentive
My co-founder Jeff Hu and I was invited to The UC Berkeley Blockchain Lab as visiting researchers from this March to July. Prior to this, we are both Taiwanese students studying in Hong Kong. Thus, with our diverse cultural background, we have many interesting findings in terms of the differences between the blockchain community in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Hope this article can help anyone who has a dream to join Berkeley Blockchain Lab someday or simply want to know the differences between these communities! :)
About The Program
We were in the “Visiting Researcher Program” at Berkeley Blockchain Lab and the Xcelerator, hosted by the UC Berkeley Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (SCET). The Xcelerator is an accelerator blockchain specific startups, organized by the SCET Center, UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and student-run Blockchain at Berkeley. The top 12 out of over 100 startups from around the world were selected in the first batch.
Our major responsibilities include:
- Advice the top 12 startups in the Xcelerator on the feasibility and implementation of the technical solutions.
- Collaborate with the SCET staff, researchers, and others to advance individual and department research.
- Represent the Berkeley Blockchain Lab and SCET to speack at conferences in developer’s community and local companies.
How We Get Admitted to The Program?
We met Jocelyn, the director of the Xcelerator Program during our visit for the ETHSanFrancisco Hackathon and the SanFrancisco Blockchain Week in October last year. Luckily, we caught her attention as our team won one of the prizes in the hackathon. :) She then invited us to be a visiting researcher to help the lab and the Xcelerator.
World’s largest Ethereum Hackathon — ETH San Francisco: The Learnings, The Project, and The Trend
Major Differences of Local Blockchain Communities
Here is a list of the top blockchain meetups and events (let me know if I’ve missed any meetup or event!):
Silicon Valley & US
From my experiences, the most prominent characteristics for the US and Taiwan community is the supportive and willing-to-share-knowledge-without-acting-superior atmosphere. Especially in the developer communities, people are very open minded when it comes to discussing the current development trend and interesting projects in the blockchain field. Also, in the US, you can easily meet people traveling from around the world just to attend a global event. “Where are you from?” thus became the usual ice-breaking question. Similarly, as people here are very used to grouping up with someone they just met, it is definitely the greatest place to meet like-minded developers at the hackathons there. :)
Compared to Hong Kong, I didn’t feel as supportive in the blockchain communities. Though maybe it was because I don’t speak Cantonese. What I see was there are more business-oriented people at large conferences but comparatively not as active in the developers communities. It is easy to tell from their dress code. People wear suits instead of t-shirt and slippers which is common in the US. They are also more interested in the business model, compared to the technology itself.
Building Valuable Connections
Another interesting fact thanks to the open-minded atmosphere in US is that it is relatively easy to grab a coffee and exchange ideas with someone you just found on Linkedin. My personal feeling is that the quality of the people met there is very high, but ths is usually not the case in Hong Kong. Take my story as an example, when I first arrived at Berkeley, I added lots of Berkeley students and blockchain enthusiast on Linkedin. 50% of them have messaged me back and wanted to meet and see how we can help each other. They have introduced and recommended my co-founder and I to speak at BASF, ABC Blockchain Community, Starfish Mission, etc, just to name a few. In exchange, we will advise them on the ecosystem in East Asia as we have been doing blockchain consulting in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, and China since mid 2018.
“Most people in US are very interested in entering the Asia market. Leveraging this, we can easily exchange back the resources we want. :)”
In Taiwan, it is a little harder to gain new connections if you don’t have friends in common with others. Cold email and Linkedin messages are just not working here. People use Facebook to connect with each other more often. My recommendation is to attend local meetups and add people you met there on Facebook. It is also a plus to share things you’re proud of on FB to raise other’s interest in connecting with you. :P
Breaking the Rules — The Common Key to Success in These Places
- Be Proactive: Reach out to people who you think you can help each other. Opportunities won’t find you if you don’t take the first step.
- Ask Fearlessly: This is one of the most vital steps to really get the opportunity. For example, the key moment my co-founder and I got invited to Berkeley is we asked the question: “Studying in the US is our life dream. Is there any way for us to have a chance to contribute to Berkeley and the lab?” to the director of the Xcelerator directly. You’d be surprised of how people are willing to help if you just ask bravely!
- Help And Share Whenever You Can: The principle behind resource exchanging is “How you are helpful to others determines how others will help you.” For example, one of my approaches is to share insights at local meetups. Though some of the events are unpaid for speakers, you will have a chance to show how you can be helpful at a specific domain. Writing articles (like what I’m doing right now) is also a way. After all, it is impossible to exchange with nothing on hand. Keep this in mind. ;)
Now you have a brief overview of how the blockchain communities in US, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are different from each other, including the list of meetups and events, cultural background, people’s characteristic, and the easier way to obtain resources from different local communities.
Hope you like it and feel free to let me know if I missed anything.
Thank you for your time reading! :)