A hot summer night, and a hot topic to discuss: the blockchain. Under the shade of Frog’s mews, we gathered a handful of industry insiders, technologists and curious investors to discuss where this phenomenon is headed. Read on for a taste of where things stand and where they might go in the future. Blockchain is not just about Bitcoin. Blockchain is an architecture that combines cryptography and distributed computing to enable a system to securely authenticate unique objects without having to be beholden to a central authority like a bank or more interestingly a land registry, an identity company, a stock exchange or a betting exchange. With over $1 billion dollars going to blockchain-related start-ups, this is actually pretty big stuff. Until now, the Internet has been great for copying things. Truly secure, scalable authentication of unique transactions and identities has been near impossible. Blockchain feels like it’s only for techies right now. For the most part it is, even though you can go to Shoreditch and get Bitcoin from an ATM machine. But, like VOIP in the 90’s, blockchain will become mainstream as a fundamental technology behind the scenes. Many thought VOIP would never work in the early days, even though telcos were using it for much of the transatlantic backbone traffic well before Skype launched. It won’t be long before we use blockchain and distributed ledger technologies in the mainstream.
So how will blockchain appear in our lives? Actually, the question is more like where will it not? Already, we see companies like Cashaa in remittances, Everledger in diamond certification, Mycelia in music rights, La`Zooz in transportation, Citizenpass in identity, Colony in freelance work, and the list goes on. Whilst nascent, the message is clear. Blockchain goes beyond money, coins and banking. In fact, it appears to be changing very different fields first. Blockchain platforms take innovation to the next level. Like Facebook and Apple iOS, they enable developers to build applications on top of the platform. If you want to use the benefits of blockchain in your business but don’t want to maintain your own blockchain network, then you don’t have to. Here, Ethereum is a name you are going to hear a lot more about. They offer a public blockchain platform that is programmable, basically creating a distributed application stored in a blockchain. For a real-world example, think smart contracts that execute instructions based on certain events.
Blockchain technology will also attract its fair share of controversy and negative headlines as it matures. Recently, the knives were out for how Ethereum would solve a controversy surrounding a $40m plundering of The DOA, a sort of autonomous venture capital fund, due to a weakness in the platform. With the backing of the community, Ethereum took the ‘hard fork’ to resolve the issue and returned the funds to The DOA. Crisis averted, maybe. Blockchain technology has come a long way since the first bitcoin transaction in 2009. With significant venture funding, growing corporate investment and notable government interest, the ecosystem is thriving. Hundreds of companies are pushing the limits of the technology and experimenting with business models. This is proof-of-concept territory. As a growth-focused investor, we are very excited by this level of innovation. Whether it’s in identity, internet-of-things, contracts, marketplaces, publishing or any other theme we like, the businesses that punch through will require funding and scaling know-how. At Frog, we are looking forward to supporting teams with proven blockchain-based models scale up to become massive success stories. Stay tuned, it’s going to happen. And, finally, a special thank you to George McDonaugh from NOMAN Ventures and Angus Bankes, CIO of Skimlinks, for illuminating the blockchain landscape for us and participating.
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