This month, Cleveland was the epicenter of the blockchain movement.
I never thought I would be able to utter those words; after all, global technology conferences are often held in and around Silicon Valley, Austin, Las Vegas and other tech-infused destinations. But the Blockland Solutions Conference in Cleveland put Northeast Ohio squarely on the map for blockchain, and as one of Skoda Minotti’s go-to resources in blockchain, it was a thrill for me to participate—and for our firm to be a sponsor of the conference.
Blockland was billed as one of the first blockchain conferences to provide experiential learning through hands-on coding and real-world problem solving, with a focus on solutions for business and government applications. Overall, it proved as inspiring as it was informative. An array of educational sessions were offered, as well as riveting keynote speeches from Nick Szabo, the creator of smart contracts, and Mark Hurd, CEO of Oracle. The fact that approximately 1,800 registered attendees were on hand underscores the growing relevance of blockchain, and validates the key role that Northeast Ohio is playing in promoting it. Kudos to Bernie Moreno and Destination Cleveland for orchestrating a wildly successful conference in a short planning window.
Over the two-day conference, mornings were devoted primarily to keynote speeches and industry-specific “block studies” (or panel discussions), followed by afternoon breakout sessions with more than 20 different courses to choose from. Notable sessions included “Blockchain 101,” “The Future of Blockchain Development” and “Blockchain Solutions for Banking and Finance.” The most memorable session for me was presented by Anthony Pompliano and Mark Yusko from Morgan Creek Digital Assets and focused on ways that blockchain will usher in a new financial system. Another great session featured Yoshi Nakamura from Galaxy Digital who discussed finding capital for your blockchain startup. These are all very big names in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space, and they did not disappoint.
The sheer volume of data, insights, analyses and perspectives that permeated the Blockland Solutions Conference is still hard for me to fathom. Perhaps equally important, the primary emphasis of Blockland Solutions was on promoting education and driving ideas around blockchain. This was not a conference with a sales focus.
That said, Blockland Solutions did include an expo. One of the more notable booths was Coin Ninja (Disclosure: Coin Ninja is a Skoda Minotti client), which offers an app called DropBit that allows you to send and receive bitcoin on a blockchain using contacts on your phone. It’s a similar concept to Venmo, albeit for bitcoin. Ethode, an event exhibitor and locally based web development company, is creating blockchain decentralized applications (dApps) and hybrid solutions on Hyperledger, Ethereum and others. The state of Ohio also exhibited at the expo; did you know that Ohio now will accept bitcoin as payment for corporate taxes?
Organizers estimated that two-thirds of Blockland attendees, and one-third of the speakers, live and work in Northeast Ohio, which demonstrates our region’s prominent role as a hub of blockchain adoption and leadership. For next year’s Blockland conference, organizers hope to reverse these figures by attracting two-thirds of the attendees and one-third of the speakers from outside Northeast Ohio. Next year’s Blockland Solutions Conference, they say, will showcase progress made in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio during 2019; feature blockchain leaders from our area; and highlight our collective efforts to harness this emerging and transformative technology. Personally, I can’t wait.