Blockchain, the technology the Financial Times labeled as radical and others have called foundational, transformative and revolutionary. With all the buzz and constant developments, it can be difficult to visualise the opportunities this technology creates.
This article will introduce three distinct segments of the Blockchain ecosystem and, hopefully, direct those looking for investment and collaboration opportunities to exciting new business ventures, as well as serving as guidance for professionals looking to join the Blockchain technology revolution, in the right niche, for their own motives, ambitions and skills.
Block chain – The revolution, decentralised
Technology doesn’t originate in a vacuum, as my article “Blockchain – an origin story” attempts to demonstrate, and so the original block chain is forever coupled to Bitcoin and the community built around those same edgy themes. Please be prepared for any eventual culture shocks when entering this space.
For clarification and contrasting purposes, block chain, its original name, is the technology and bitcoin the community.
- Experienced developers and other seasoned IT professionals will find this to be a very exciting niche to be involved in right now, due to the ample improvement opportunities and the shortage of highly skilled talent needed to work on consensus algorithms and advanced mathematical programming. There’s an increasing demand in startups and entrepreneurial businesses as they grow and expand operations with plenty of non-IT roles, for those interested in working in a startup environment.
- For commercial ventures, Bitcoin is the most mature planetary scale distributed ledger technology and that makes it a very attractive investment opportunity now that it has reached a 20 billion Euros market capitalisation. There are plenty of solid business models and viable enterprises built around Bitcoin so as an investor, a customer or a professional looking for a career change, this is one of the hottest niches around.
- Prospective revolutionaries, or miners as they are commonly known, must account for all costs incurred in dealing with weaknesses in the areas of storage management, scalability and energy efficiency required to run the entire block chain database. Mining carries some benefits and rewards but there is no cost sharing mechanism other than what is provided in transaction fees so BitcoinX’s profitability calculator might come in hand.
- For developers, mining costs are not a concern as there isn’t the need of running a full node on a development environment. Because the community is very active in fixing bugs and proposing advanced, mathematically literate software development such as zero-knowledge proof, working in this space can be tremendously attractive for those interested in cryptography.
- Professional Training – B9lab runs an Ethereum certified developer course I am taking myself and would highly recommend, and they have offerings for “Blockchain for Technical Executives and Analysts” and “Ethereum 101” courses. Cost conscious professionals can rely on Andreas Antonopoulos’ Youtube channel, Khan Academy’s crash course and several other Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offerings as a starting point.
- Investment – Bitcoin carries high risks which should not be discarded by optimism or naiveté. For knowledgable investors with technical analysis skills, Bitstamp’sgraph below speaks for itself.
- For research purposes, it’s important remembering that the block chain can be deployed on private and consortium networks. Since there are several use cases where a central high-trust entity that can bypass group consensus, let’s say an arbitrator or an escrow, is desired, I would encourage experimentation with the consensus algorithms, the configuration parameters and extensions available in order to gain a better understanding of both the combinatorial possibilities and the resource utilisation requirements at your target operating scale.
- From a professional development perspective, there are plenty of startup incubators, some established businesses, venture capitalists (VC) and early adopter in need of capable talent in multiple areas both IT and others.
- For entrepreneurs, VC backing and Angel investors across the world are the easiest reference point, but there are no impositions or constraints because there is no dependency to any one country, institution, business or person. Blockchain allows everyone to create products and solutions that reflect their own needs, visions and identities.
- The bitcoin ecosystem is advisable to those who want to access the block chain directly since there will be a tight coupling to the development roadmap of its main innovation driver, the currency and its main purpose, the digital economy it creates.
- Scientists, systems engineers, software developers, hackers, cryptographers, quants, technologists, startups, R&D departments, investors.
Distributed Ledger Technology – The revolution, productised
As market awareness of the underlying block chain technology inside Bitcoin grew outside of the bitcoin community, analysts and technologists coined the term Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) as a generic term for this emerging building block.
Soon, products based on this foundational technology started emerging as business-ready composite solutions in very compelling packages such as BigchainDB and Ethereum, even if they have almost no overlap in terms of markets, features or capabilities.
For clarification and contrasting purposes, DLT is the name of the technology and Enterprise Business the community.
- In the Enterprise Business world, where CEOs need and want defendable market positions and use differentiation as the primary means to deliver these results, there is a lot of interest in investigating the transformational potential of DLT and the discovery of previously thought impossible solutions that simplify our layer-cake technology stacks.
- For professionals, enterprise level adoption will definitely necessitate expert support on board so I expect the current market demand to increase further for certified professionals.
- For startups and business managers, this is a very interesting market due to the multiple pain points and Rube Goldberg machines in the business world that can benefit from DLT based simplification. Understanding how and where to position ideas is critical for gaining market traction, as there is a definite B2B inclination to this Blockchain niche and reasonably low apetite for risk in the customer base.
- From an Enterprise Business perspective, the market has long signed-up to the maxim “Reuse before Buy, Buy before Build” so DLTs are best consumed as part of a research venture, such as a Technology Proof of Concept or via a commercial procurement cycle for plug-and-play solutions such as Tradle‘s KYC platform.
- From a professional point of view, the companies and products gaining market traction bring valuable up-skilling opportunities that have direct applicability in an enterprise business context. Below is a chart from Blockchain Angels showing the current fragmentation and specialisation in the Blockchain.
- Entrepreneurial startups and consultancies are creating packaged solutions and products that can better fit the Enterprise market for some time now. Ethereum in particular, having introduced Smart Contracts – a technology similar to Business Rules in a SOA context, seems poised for greatness.
- Professional Training – B9lab runs an Ethereum certified developer course I am taking myself and would highly recommend, and have offerings like “Blockchain for Technical Executives and Analysts” and “Ethereum 101” courses.
- System’s developers and non-IT professionals who possess the know-how and can add value in the startups space are urgently needed.
- IT architects and the decision makers they support, any other parties responsible for evaluating the appropriateness of these solutions in the context of their own Enterprise.
Blockchain++ – A transformative technology
By combining the avant-garde thinking of the bitcoin community and the know-how gained from Enterprise Business world, Blockchain++ looks for combinatory explosions in creative systems thinking and idea realisation, in what futurists enjoy calling the symbolic convergence of minds around the shared vision of a future that works for everyone.
Because there is no one reference point, I won’t include a “why” in this section. I believe all those potentially interested will be able to follow the many links available in this article and research further, if interested.
This is a space for visionaries and dreamers so perhaps best approached with a very open-mind to the possibilities of using reCaptcha as Proof Of Human, Bitcoin based financial systems, Ethereum’s smart contracts coupled with AI and robotics allowing for the creation of businesses-on-demand, and other planetary scale revolutions. With the mindshare of seven billion people, the possibilities are immense; never mind the jetpacks my fellow Star Trek fans, we can explore the outer universe as one!
Entrepreneurs, dreamers, visionaries, social-change activists, systems thinkers, economists, and anyone who can solve this riddle:
Which technology can provide us with a perfectly ordered, unfalsifiable, chain of smart contracts needed to disrupt egonomies?
There’s a quote I often see in entrepreneurial circles that I find very inspiring:
“Life is all business. Spend your energy to get joy, happiness, evolution, and to gain more ability to enjoy. In this field we spend our energy. We never use our time, energy, speech, or ability to do something that doesn’t help us grow and improve our life. It’s not worth it.” – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
My goal is to provide value to the professional community and grow the Blockchain mindshare and talent pool by introducing its complex themes in narrative form, hopefully lowering any perceived entry barriers and dispelling lingering misconceptions and doubts along the way.
Striking the right balance between the energy I need for my family and business projects, how much time it takes to answer all the questions I’m being asked, and my objective of writing simply about advanced technologies in a way that appeals to professionals of different backgrounds, has proven harder than I anticipated. I’m quite happy with this because it means there is some level of engagement from a very early stage but, please, allow for some growth pains until I find the right balance.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. If you enjoyed it and think there might be others who will like to read it too, please like, comment and share this article to help it reach a wider audience within your own network. I will reply to comments and questions posed here and maybe we can start some valuable discussions!