Blockchain in high places

I waded into the blockchain industry head first in 2014, lured in by the fever pitch excitement of the 2013 Bitcoin bull run. I ended up attaching myself as an engineer to a new project called Navajocoin and for me the rest is history.

Since that time and before, many early adopters have proclaimed blockchain as a technological advancement as important as the invention of the internet itself. It’s promise to revolutionise industries far and wide has made business leaders eager to get involved. The complexity of the technology combined with it’s recent and pimpled maturing from the research lab to the real world has meant that despite the enthusiasm, the details of the revolution haven’t been well televised.

Blockchain like many technological quantum leaps before it, has created an air of mystique in the mainstream. Everyone knows they want to use it, many think it’s a magic elixir that will solve all their business problems, less understand how it fundamentally works and fewer still see where it’s unique emergent benefits add real value to their business.

This is a problem I’ve been chipping away at with businesses in New Zealand. Over the last few months I’ve run blockchain educations sessions at some of NZ’s biggest corporates including Xero, Air New Zealand, Oracle and Trademe, aimed to tackle the elephant in the room — What actually is blockchain technology?

Introduction to Bitcoin and Blockchain at Xero

A little understanding goes a long way toward helping people to realise the limitations and super powers of blockchain technology, bringing into focus how they can maximise its utility in specific areas of their business.

Our efforts have been gaining traction with businesses and the attention of ATEED who flagged the Encrypt S office as a pit stop for the visiting European Union Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström during her recent tour of Auckland’s tech sector. I had the pleasure of speaking with her and her entourage from New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade about our journey in the blockchain industry and where we are heading.

Meeting with the European Union Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström

Commissioner Malmström showed a genuine interest in blockchain and what we were working on, burying her face in my computer screen to read NavCoin’s source code. I talked with them about our plans for NavCoin, Kauri & Valence and their understanding of the wider applications for blockchain was well informed. We discussed its use for identity platforms, logistics, proof of authenticity and autonomous escrow systems.

When asked about blockchain’s popularity in Europe she mentioned there had been a lot of talk about it last year as is common when the markets are booming. She was somewhat unaware of just how vibrant the industry is over there though and was and pleasantly surprised to hear there is a strong and growing European blockchain industry.

We are lucky enough to have a bit of an inside view of the industry there, even though our main offices are tucked all the way down on the other side of the world in New Zealand. Three Encrypt S employees who are also NavCoin core engineers are currently based in Berlin.

There are of course many more blockchain events in Europe than in New Zealand and the team have been busy attending the meet ups and networking with other blockchain engineers.

Berlin Crypto Capital Event – Round Table Discussion

The main rallying point in Berlin at least is around the Ethereum network and building Dapps. Ethereum’s first offices were in Berlin and it seems to have seeped deep into hearts and minds of the blockchain community over there.

With so many people working on the same infrastructure there is a lot of collaboration and cooperation amongst the community. Something which is in alignment with our approach to the blockchain industry and a refreshing change to the often competitive and sometimes fanatic zeal which has created moats around some projects and communities.

There are collaborative workspaces such as Full Node which host various blockchain project teams and gives them opportunity to cross pollenate and connect with other like minded engineers and entrepreneurs. Although Ethereum is popular, not all businesses at these spaces are focused on Solidity or even blockchain engineering. Most are self described more broadly as software engineering companies who use blockchain where it makes sense. They are also largely agnostic when it comes to choosing infrastructure, running with whatever technology is the best fit for their particular project.

Of the projects we have in the pipeline the Kauri Wallet has been of particular interest with a lot of people keen to use or even possibly contribute to our open source multi-currency wallet. The positive response to the project feels like it’s validated our decision to focus on this approach for our next generation of NavCoin wallets. Valence of course is another hot topic of discussion and I’m sure more interest will arise once we actually start putting fingers on keyboards and building it.

NavCoin has a good reputation and following in Berlin despite the cryptocurrency space becoming very crowded more recently. The age of the project combined with the open and transparent approach the core team have stood by has been well received by the blockchain community there.

All in all Europe is a great place to be if you’re interested in blockchain technology and startup culture. My hope is that interest in blockchain by high ranking officials like Commissioner Malmström drives even more support for the European blockchain industry and cements it as a place where blockchain businesses can continue to grow and thrive.