Block Con Day 1: Planes, Blockchains and Token Sales

Not far from the storied Los Angeles beaches of Santa Monica and Venice, a large group of blockchain enthusiasts met Wednesday for Day 1 of Block Con. The conference was organized by Kurt Kumar. The blockchain-themed conference took place at the Museum of Flying, just outside of the Santa Monica Airport, under a perfect sun.

Block Con was different than most bitcoin and blockchain conferences to which I had been. First, model planes adorned the conference hall.

 The energy was palpable. It seemed like more than a thousand people were in attendance. Block Con was a ‘who’s who’ of blockchain. Brock Pierce, Crystal Rose, Vinny Lingham, Ryan Charles, Brian Hoffman, Jeff McDonald,  and rapper YTCracker all gave very well-attended speeches.

The first thing I saw when I arrived was Dorian Nakamoto, the man mistaken for the creator of Bitcoin, using the VR collaboration platform by AI and blockchain company Matryx. I spoke with Matryx CEO, Steven McCloskey, about his company’s plan to combine virtual reality and blockchain. Blockchain attendees were enthusiastic to try out the company’s decentralized collaboration platform.

Vinny Lingham found himself at the center of attention on multiple occasions. His appearances on panels throughout the day covered a wide range of topics. After Brock Pierce opened the conference with a discussion on the importance of positive social impact in tech disruption, Mr. Lingham sat on a panel alongside Justin Newton (NETKI), Armin Ebrahimi (Shocard), Rouven Heck (Consensys). This meeting of the minds discussed the state of digital identity and security. Mr. Lingham asked how many in the audience had been the victims of identity fraud, and very few raised their hands. A number more had had their Twitter accounts hacked.

Soon after the star-studded panel, Jeff McDonald, creator of Smart Asset platform ‘NEM’ (short for ‘New Economic Movement’), presented his independent, distributed ledger. By the end, Mr. Mcdonald had become a rock star. His permissioned blockchain delivers smart assets, which are similar to Ethereum’s smart contracts. His presentation demonstrated the hard work he had put into NEM. His talk – “Blockchain as a Platform for Fintech and Beyond”- featured some of the projects being built atop NEM.

He described some pretty complex transactions. “This is [the record] for three transactions in one transaction, and in one block,” he showed the audience. “This [here] is the hash. This is not something we want to do some day. This [has been done] on my computer.” He described some more NEM transaction wizardry.

“This [transaction] here is even more amazing,” he said. “A third party initiated the transaction for the sender and receiver. This is me initiating a transaction for Alice to Bob. I am not sending nor receiving. In this transaction, I have half-price coupons, I have yuan, and I have orange juice coupons. I have three different crypto-currencies atomically swapped from three different accounts at once.”

Hello Sugoi presented their decentralized event management platform after lunch. With advisors from LiveNation, HelloSugoi is looking to bring blockchain technology to the event planning aspects of the music industry. Their presentation was clear to understand and they gave the audience a tour of their event management system.

Science Blockchain founder Greg Gilman declared his token the most complex token on the market, because it is a security. He also described the incubator behind the token in his speech, which took place during the “tokens” segment of the conference. Others who presented during this time included Celsius Network, BitClave, Datawallet, Protos and Insights.

The beer drinking started at 2:30pm. Coronas were had by many in attendance. Mantra Indian Cuisine catered the event, and while apparently there were many in attendance who complained about the Indian food, this was probably more due to some unsophisticated palates. Pizza was delivered mid-day to appease them. Some brought their own McDonalds.

Michael Perklin, Chief Security Officer at Shapeshift, gave his evening talk while putting down a Corona. Hundreds gathered for his talk on the state of security and the blockchain. Mr. Perklin has served on the boards of The Bitcoin Foundation and C4. He also led the creation of the CryptoCurrency Security Standard. Known for investigating hacks like Shapeshift and Bitfinex, Perklin anticipated big changes to come over time from the blockchain industry. He stressed security as a major pain point when it comes to blockchain becoming adopted by the mainstream.

In the panel, “Anatomy of a Successful Token Sale,” Stan Miroshnik, Nancy Wojtas, Eric Doyle and Vinny Lingham discussed token crowd sales with moderator Alan Soucy. It seemed like Mr. Lingham had a lot on his mind in regards to token crowd sales. He suggested that companies looking to do a token crowdsale should keep it private and raise their funds that way. That, to paraphrase, if you can’t convince a monied investor to buy your token, there’s no point in bringing it public.

After the panels and presentations, many of those in attendance were very excited about having some beer with Bryce Case, otherwise known as rapper YTCracker.

Block Con, like other modern blockchain conferences, seems to have forgotten about on particular blockchain: bitcoin.

By ignoring it out of fear of scaring away financial professionals, many in the blockchain industry itself continues to lose influence over the most impactful blockchain technology in the world.

With that said, this was an enthusiastic gathering of the minds. I enjoyed it more than most industry events, for sure.

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