Last night we attended the Central European Startup Awards where we received an award for the best blockchain startup in the region. Winning obviously felt good, but what I think is even more important is the mere fact they had a blockchain category. When they announced the winner, the presenter asked the audience if they have heard of blockchain before, and about 40% of the attendees raised their hands. The next round of the competition will be held in Warsaw on October 24th, where we’ll be competing against the best blockchain startups of the region!
With a continuously expanding reach, the award ceremony has a colorful palette of startups from Europe, Asia and Africa. According to the CESA website (http://centraleuropeanstartupawards.com), what they offer is:
“The best value to startups and other ecosystem players with global visions and a clear understanding of the steps they need to take to succeed. Central European Startup Awards does not offer financial rewards, we are the bridge that connects startup ecosystems to the global network, with a good international media attention and valuable package of services and exclusive conference tickets.”
The awards launched in 2014 in Europe, quickly becoming the region’s biggest no-pitch no-conference startup festival with events in 10 countries (Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia & Croatia) with the aim of inspiring, encouraging & supporting entrepreneurs all around Central Europe.
It felt good to see that many entrepreneurs in the room were at least familiar with the term blockchain and cryptocurrencies, and I took the opportunity to encourage the rest of them to look into it for their own good. One of the underlying technologies of cryptocurrencies – blockchain – will see mainstream adoption once we no longer have to talk so much about it. Blockchain is pushing the boundaries further of what many previously thought was the final frontier – the internet. Some like to call blockchain a disruptive technology, which it is when applying it to certain already established industries, but looking at it as an alternative to past database applications might just have us miss some of it’s most powerful capabilities. The systematic adoption pattern we’re seeing now with blockchain is not unique, in fact it’s following a cycle we’ve seen before. When robots were introduced to factories, they first replaced human workers, “disrupting” the manufacturing process, and only after using them in place of old methods did they start coming up with applications unthinkable before robots. We can start talking about mass adoption when we no longer need to emphasise what we’re building runs on blockchain, because a decentralised consensus mechanism will become the de facto standard when it comes to areas of business where a shared agreement is necessary to certify the origin or the validity of data. Just like internet companies don’t talk about TCP/IP, or even the “internet” itself as a medium of data transfer, and just like the average internet user doesn’t know what an IP address is, or how many servers a request bounces off before reaching its destination, we will know crypto has become the part of everyday life once we stop talking about the technologies that make it possible. Just like we don’t talk about how we use a keyboard or a touch screen to type our tweets, not feeling the need to highlight how our wonderous new invention uses blockchain technology in every sentence will be the sign of real progress.
We could assume Snapchat disrupted the communications industry by putting SMS on the internet, though we would be missing the point completely; the advent of the internet didn’t only present a brand new communications channel where sending texts would be free, but wider bandwidth and higher transfer speeds now enable us to push a whole new range of emotional hot buttons with bunny ears and stars around our faces in a 10-second-long video we can live stream to all our friends at once. Similar to how most of us didn’t stop to ponder how far mobile communications will take us while playing snake on our Nokia 3210 in 2002, it’s very hard to predict where blockchain will lead humanity in the decades to come. I personally believe the future is easier to create than to predict, and those who have a strong idea about the world they want to live in will be the ones making powerful concepts come to life, breaking agreed upon norms and shaping our reality.
Those who can remember the burst of the dot com bubble know first hand that real players with real solutions can only make their voices heard once the noise generated by the introduction of a new technology quiets down. Those in it for the long run this time will rise higher than most of us can imagine only after the blockchain fairy dust used to lure investors settles, and the market starts demanding actual results. Gone will be the days of ICO’s where no real value creation was needed to woo investors and make them believe you have the holy grail of crypto, when the buzz around this new tech was so high, even the dumbest of projects got funded. We are at a time when companies have to mature from a fuzzy startup-like ad hoc ecosystem to adopt the attitude of corporate planning and go from “we’ll figure it out” to detailed roadmaps to survive the coming competition. Being the first mover doesn’t mean someone won’t overtake them on this fibre optic highway where going at the speed of light still might not be fast enough. Along with providing solutions with real utility, I think companies that will survive the coming years will be the ones nimble enough to adapt to this constantly evolving, exponential technological advancement, yet who are also able to keep their feet on the ground and form meaningful partnerships with established businesses, because though the space may be new, collaboration is still the name of the game if they want to win big.
At INLOCK we understand the power of blockchain and we do use it, though we believe our competitive advantage lies is harnessing the strengths of other financial institutions by cooperating. Guess what new solutions to old problems bring about? That’s right, a whole set of new problems! Although cryptocurrencies solve many big problems previously dominating the finance sector, they are by no means perfect. The fact that you can’t go and spend your Bitcoins at the local grocery store yet shows the crypto market is in dyer need of solutions like INLOCK to reach the much anticipated mass adoption we keep talking about.
Ananda Parrott, Head of External Communications
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