So those of you who know me know that I know something about BI / DW and VLDB aka Big Data. I think I may continue to use VLDB to distinguish big structured data from high heaps of Hadoop which may or may not map to anything or reduce you to tears. So let's block and tackle shall we?
I'm fairly sure that I saw this dude a year ago at a conference in DTLA. Dude was in a completely different suit. Today he wore a cowboy hat and showed slides from his wedding at Burning Man. He's quite a showman, and his topic 'Disrupting the Disruptors' excited some non-zero fraction of the audience when he mentioned certain disruptions, which I forget. Seeing that he was an actor does not surprise me. He clearly knows how to play to different audiences. His overall message was very reasonable and underscored what people like me already know. Don't fuck with people's money. I think it's a message that needed to be said, underscoring what was true about what Jamie Dimon said in the previous fortnight or so. This is real money and real people will destroy the fraudulent, real people meaning governments in organized countries and organized criminals in others.
Thinking about Pierce and the DTLA crowd, including the guy who runs Gem and pointed me to Netki boss Justin Newton, one is reminded that players will play in this space and when they have particular interests that they can articulate, things will happen. If I had any doubts about matters of inevitability, they were swept away. This is a herd of smart cattle. They may not know which particular direction or destination they will find, but when those hooves start thundering, watch out. What is clear from Pierce' perspective is that donkeys will get whipped. There's more regulation that applies here than most people are aware of. It's not a whole new type of human endeavor, it's just a whole new set of technologies that haven't put together a full ecosystem yet. It will be the web of value, but we already know what to do with money.
ICOs are a volatile term, and people are already coming up with alternative acronyms. But the writing about underwriting is on the wall. Entrepreneurs can enable a new class of investors in boilerplate fashion so long as they are clear and have no intent to deceive. This will ultimately have salient effects on financial transparency in startups and the accountability of OTC traded public companies. Huge, but ultimately very reasonable. I get it.
The other half of the speech was something interesting that I'm noting from both he and Richard Heart. After you make your first doshpoint, the emphasis is on other things. This is reinforcing my set of ideas around 'the smart money'. Easy for Burning Man types, after all, they're not playing to the masses. Well, not at first. Quoth Pierce, a 'billionaire' is not the person with a billion dollars but someone who helps a billion people.
Experts & Grownups
I had the good fortune to be sitting between an angel investor herder, Jeff and a legal diligence dude, Matt. The former I only spoke a small bit to, whereas I had a bunch of questions for the latter. We briefly talked about China as I poked him about how much the SEC is likely to say. He informed me that their may be questions in the minds of some startup entrepreneurs about whether they can pivot from security to utility or vice versa, but the law is clear. There are, apparently, relatively pro-forma channels for doing this sort of business, and in fact one company has done so as an exchange back in the day. These packages of diligence, provided by his firm which has a technical auditor as well as an economist can look at all of these things. As I thought before, he added some confidence to the idea that coins are commodities and can work like commodities markets.
Other Kibbles & Bits
First of all the overall sense that I got from this conference is that there is a good amount of money and brains in the crowd. There is a level of energy that is frenetic. People are committed to be present in the space. There is a wide variety of done-ness to the projects on display and what is one conference today will surely be 3 or 4 separate conferences in the future. Blockchain is simply too big to put under one roof, and the roof they had this time was already too small. This crowd skewed towards entrepreneurs and devs, very much unlike the one last year DTLA which skewed towards financial folks and VCs. I suspect there is a lot of hashing (!) out to be done before this becomes what I would consider a coherent industry. But believe me, the gongs of inevitability are vibrating the air.
The best thing I wanted to hear was that there are some practitioners and champions in this brave new world who understand that it is actually brave to be new, and newer is not always better. So I was pleased to hear the term 'anti-fragility' in the presentation of Jimmy Song. His presentation was coherent and structured and I have added him to my feeds. I will continue to keep an ear out.
Identity and security are one of my ongoing concerns, and one of the deeper reasons I am paying attention to blockchain. The blockchain will bring to the masses what I'm calling a more 'perfected security'. Since the beginning days of e-commerce a bit of fudging has been going on primarily owing to the original design of the Apache webserver. Too much of the WWW is built on stuff that was overburdened for the applications they would eventually support. Now there are more than enough serious developers to make thing work with purpose-built languages and frameworks. Go exists because of what the web has become. The internet of value will clean up some of the messy identity and security problems we now face, not only for the web itself, but across enterprises as well. It was clear during the panel discussion here that there is a broad set of customers in the identity market and a lot of market penetration is going to happen with brand-y products that may or may not be a comprehensive solution. I'm rather skeptical right now. I want there to be a standard that is at least as good as KYC (if that's a standard). It didn't appear that the panelists were interested in that so much. So I'll keep my bets with Apple and the more boring financial community for the moment.
Pay Close Attention
The two best presenters for my attention span were BlockCypher and This Guy.
Basically they are the AWS of blockchain tech. They lease infrastructure and they have an API that ties the whole thing together. No matter which cryptocurrency does what, this company is the surest bet. They have the proper commercial attitude and they've lined up the most real world partners of anybody I can recall at the conference. They're doing work.
I've tended to forget about this project primarily because I've been answering newbie questions about cryptocurrencies instead of actually building something and answering questions I need to know. Altoros looks like a very sharp operation and so I'm not surprised that they are rather deep into working with those companies that are ready to take a serious look. Oleg's presentation was the first coherent thing I've heard about the differences between private and public blockchains that wasn't dripping with hype about the superiority of Bitcoin. It cannot be that there are only 500 people in the world smart enough to implement, especially given open source, the guts of a world class blockchain. So the breadth of companies seriously looking at this project augur well for the future. I'm really looking to see if I can get a copy of Oleg's presentation.
That's all for now. I should go again next year, and I'm hoping and expecting that if and when Amazon makes an announcement, there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth.