DevCon V - Blockchain Narnia I Escaped To
Not my usual conference.
I visited dozens of different conferences during my 10+ year career in the traditional market. Most of them are made around a new product or tools releases, discussion boards on the hot topic of the industry or best practices sharing. The last types of sessions are usually the favorite ones, because what can be better than a ready-to-use solution (even if it doesn’t fit your company)? With few exceptions, traditional events are great to visit, but not crucial to miss.
A few weeks ago I went to Osaka in Japan for the biggest Blockchain Conference of the year - DevCon V. Thousands of professionals gather together to do an industry update. As the industry itself is comparably young conferences of that scale are vital for constructing the ecosystem and its proper expansion, including competition, strategy and trends set. If you just google the blockchain updates, you will probably think the industry now is expanding in every direction. You will be right. However, the conference allows to see the process of formation of main players who might set trends or standards later, meet their opponents with newer and creative solutions and get direct feedback from the real audience - the early adopters.
CEO, legal, marketers and business developers, programmers, data analysts specializing in blockchain - I was part of the world most people don’t know exists.
“In Narnia, some animals can talk, mythical beasts abound, and magic is common.» ― Wikipedia
Don't make my life more complicated.
You would say "Why should I be interested?". Not only blockchain is complicated, hard to understand within 30 minutes and no-one knows the truth about - it’s common for inventions and technologies especially in early stages.
- Not every new industry has its own currency. Blockchain has multiple of them. Finances are something everyone has to deal with and it starts with the nest egg under your mattress and ends with the state budgets of countries.
- Not every industry goes through the hype. How many people did sell a house or took a loan to invest in cancer curing nanorobots? Is it instant wealth, electric cars or antiaging - people want to talk about it. They will talk about it. And if you are new to the topic it’s easy to think blockchain is bitcoin, every company needs blockchain or bitcoin trading is what blockchain is about. It’s false.
- There are many debates about the blockchain mass adoption and how it will influence people’s everyday life. It might not be everywhere, maybe not tomorrow, but it’s something you as an individual will surely experience in the coming future.
- Last but not least, as technology itself is quite universal it already has spread in almost every branch: financial, marketing, governance, audit, games, etc. It makes the target audience of future inventions extremely wide and increases the chances you be part of it.
The world changes. Blockchain changes.
2018 was the year of the blockchain proof of concept. This year, industry livens up steps toward real product implementations. For many, blockchain is still a fantasy (bubble/fake/bitcoin/chose the option depending on the media they’ve read). For the avant-garde, it is already a reality with multi-layered working system.
“Implementing blockchain is not risky or unconventional – it’s pragmatic.” - Laurie Pyle
DevCon is a more technical conference where the majority of the participants are blockchain developers and business owners (mostly ex developers). Unlike traditional conferences, there were different types of speaker-audience interaction: lightning talks, presentations, interviews, discussions, workshops. (Sometimes up to 12 side talks at the same time!). The desire for practical benefits and further use of presented material is clearly expressed throughout every hour.
Workshops allow learning how to work with tools and ease up your blockchain experience. But due to the size of the industry, most speakers are people who developed these tools themselves. Imagine Microsoft Office product owner will show you how to work in Excel. Ain’t it cool?
Secret key to Narnia.
Many people I met during the conference were asking the same question after finding out I came to blockchain from marketing and business development on the traditional market - How did you manage to go through the information noise, avoid all stereotypes and save your belief in the true magic happening? This is a fair question. Internet sinks under high volumes of daily confusing information of blockchain. There are only special ways how to get to Narnia and find the truth. If you just open a random wardrobe you might end up on in the wrong world the propaganda of trading strategies, investment horror stories, cryptocurrency price predictions or analysts demanding you integrate blockchain in your business right now. Even business owners are concerned about what to believe and how to find information relevant to their company.
To break through the curtain of false information you need a special key. A friend, a coach, company you are working for, will of chance, professional interest. Something or someone who will guide you through prejudice and help to understand the system.
Conferences are one of those places where you can observe the real market. Business owners and investors come to these conferences to find evidence, that blockchain is a real developing industry, that there are many real companies with vision and resources to create real products, that other companies are already using it. Business developers look for the optimizing solutions they can implement in their businesses, not loose the "perfect timing" for innovation but also not to invest in myth.
You didn't notice it happened.
The information noise not unique for the blockchain, but is especially critical for 2 reasons. Firstly, the industry intself is quite complicated - it has its own language, requires technical knowledge to understand the advantages and danger and operates with factors not common for an average individual. Secondly, the system includes a financial component, which is a hotbed for a large number of fraudsters. Scammers use the reason we just reviewed and are actively developing schemes for luring funds from beginners or simply inattentive participants in the ecosystem. In the meantime, the regulation of such situations is not established yet, getting into the trap is not difficult.
While the crypto noise is echoing around loud titles, the first movers are the least expected but the most pragmatic adopters. Walmart worked on the blockchain with IBM and 9 other partner companies so the consumers are able to follow the full food supply chain of the products they buy. FedEx uses Blockchain to track high-value cargo and is planning to adopt the solution to almost all their shipments. Even the Moscow City Duma election this September went partially on the blockchain. The world is moving and I loved to hear that mass adoption is one of the hot topics in those conferences.
“One day, you will be old enough to start reading fairytales again.”― C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia