Blockchain Events

So, what are you doing with blockchain?

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As hundreds of people, representing over 75 companies, gathered for the IBM Blockchain Summit 2017 in Atlanta, the main question echoing in the halls was, “What are you doing with blockchain?” While I smiled each time I heard this, I was more ebullient that over half the responses involved the actions being taken and the sharing of lessons already learned. What a long way we have come in just one year! There is no doubt in my mind that blockchain is here, now, and helping companies gain better insights, improve their efficiency and reduce friction and risk.

Fellow and Vice President of blockchain at IBM, Jerry Cuomo, kicked off the event by helping the newcomers to blockchain quickly assemble a simple working visual in their minds while expanding the thinking of those who are already implementing distributed ledger technology. He introduced the term minimum viable ecosystem (MVE) to help us think big in terms of benefits and implementation across an ecosystem. He also shared some “alphabet soup” on starting fast and small using IBM Blockchain Garage methodology to produce a minimum viable product (MVP) and use minimum viable data (MVD) for visibility to achieve rapid business results. Jerry highlighted that the first cohort has already started the IBM Blockchain Founder Accelerator program, where companies have dedicated individuals who will have production solutions in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Next, moderator Rich Gordon, IBM Blockchain Solution Sales Leader, gave a “not so long” introduction to Alex Tapscott.  As a blockchain thought leader and publisher of “Blockchain Revolution,” Alex had the audience envisioning blockchain evolving into distributed autonomous agents taking over the world (a reference to Skynet in the movie “The Terminator”). The entertaining reference helped the audience reflect on how the role of governments will change as we find (and hopefully break through) inefficiency-causing barriers. Governments will also need to be involved in helping ensure blockchain implementations address the needs of protecting critical and private data. As he wound down, he challenged us to “start now” with blockchain and to recognize that we are at the infancy.

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We also heard from Global Blockchain Research Leader Veena Pureswara with the IBM Institute of Business Value. She shared key learnings from their study Fast Forward: Rethinking enterprises, ecosystems and economies with blockchains. Veena identified how the real “explorers” are active in blockchain.  Three lessons stand out for me:

  1. Orchestrate economic advantage
  2. Establish a circle of trust
  3. Learn fast and keep an open mind

The theme that ties all three together is that blockchain will open up new avenues of co-opetition to fully realize its inherent value.  While we may not see a rush for competitors to join the same network, those that do should have sustainable advantage over others in the long run.

The fireside chat led by Marie Wieck, IBM GM Blockchain, Robert Bauer, AIG Managing Director for Commercial Strategy and Innovation, Greg Wolfond, CEO of SecureKey, and Christopher Lynberg, CDC Lead R&D Scientist, also really stood out. They inspired the audience by sharing their own personal stories and efforts.

The breakouts capped the day and provided a place to connect at a deeper level. Each session created a space for attendees to challenge what they had heard, discuss new ways to apply blockchain (for example, trade promotions in the distribution market breakout) and to seek clarification on some of the points made earlier in the day.

Acknowledging the event was a success due to the connections made, discoveries shared and the breadth of attendees, I also realize the impact of a day like this will be realized over time. Looking ahead, there are many opportunities to connect, including Distributed: Trade 2017 in St. Louis on July 24 and other blockchain events coming up over the summer. I am looking forward to hearing your stories on how you are creating value with blockchain and changing the world.

To close, Richard Gordon may have provided the best tagline of the day when he reminded us about the journey of blockchain, “It is a lot more fun to travel with friends.”  Good luck on your own journey and here’s to embracing new friends!

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