Columnist

Blockchain and cryptoland October 2018 – where are we?

JON WALSH: "In many ways, I am more interested to understand the failures than the successes as this, for me, is where the real learning happens"

So for all of the hype, the articles, the YouTubers, the meet-ups, the scams, the education courses, the hacks, the blogs, the podcasts, the tokens, the SEC cease & desists and the talk of Lambos and moons, where exactly are we today?

In technology terms, we are still right at the beginning – a smart guy in the industry I spoke to compared today’s blockchain technology to MSDOS –  which was great for its time and a technological leap forward, but hardly mesmerising based on what computers and operating systems are capable of today.

If that’s the case, then all of the hype that was generated in 2017 was premature in its nature, and created the perfect environment for a bubble to occur – the defining factor in the actual bubble was that the public could get involved in the investment whereas before it was restricted to institutional money, family offices and sovereign wealth funds.

Emerging technology…

The public are typically naïve to highly speculative investment opportunities that are based on bleeding edge emerging technology, particularly if they were too young to truly experience the dot.com boom and bust of the late 90s/early 2000s. So we had a combination of nascent tech with huge speculative hype and investment driving my most despised acronym – FOMO.

That was then, what is now? So now we have a pretty dry ICO landscape with many projects either delaying their ICOs, pulling them altogether, setting more of a milestone based ICO to make the project more accountable or heading down a different funding route entirely – good!

It’s time to get realistic. If we are going to build the next phase of the internet, and it’s going to be decentralised then we are going to need projects that are robust in their nature with solid communities that believe in them and can spread the word due to the change these projects will bring to the world and not based on individual or corporate greed.

Need for regulation…

We need regulation surrounding ICOs and fundraising to ensure that greedy idiots are protected (I am reminded of the adage that a fool and his money are easily parted. However irritating I found the fools banging on about their crypto investments from H2 2017, I still want them and their like protected – schadenfreude isn’t helpful when one is emotionally invested in the success of an industry).

Other than some very odd 30 second TV advert for HDAC that was placed in the ad breaks during the World Cup, there has been no mainstream marketing for any consumer product or service that is underpinned by blockchain.

For all the talk of Starbucks and the high street accepting crypto, none of it has happened, and we are still many years away from this being a reality for a myriad reasons that I won’t go into in this month’s column. We need our blockchain Boo.com, Letsbuyit.com, Pets.com, Excite.com, Ask Jeeves (et al) businesses that have been backed to the hilt, but will still fail due to fundamentally incorrect business assumptions based on the reality of the tech/consumer needs/scalability issues/runway needed.

I believe that we are not out of the hype cycle in full. We may have seen a crash in token value, but we have yet to see the tombstones in the blockchain graveyard of much hyped projects, and until we have that moment, and we can see the new businesses rise from their ashes, we won’t be on the way to the decentralised promised land.

Crossing the chasm…

I believe that we have some way to go before blockchain sits in the background, the same way the internet does today (no one “surfs the internet” these days).

My personal opinion is that with 2019 being the year we will see the actual product releases from many of the companies that raised in 2017 and 2018, we get to start seeing what gains traction and what doesn’t, and in many ways, I am more interested to understand the failures than the successes as this, for me, is where the real learning happens.

In 2020, some of those companies may still be around, most will not – and that’s okay. I find it hard to really see how we can as a community and an industry “cross the chasm” to mainstream until 2021 at the earliest – think I’m wrong? Good! Prove me wrong with action and not hype.

JW

 

Twitter: @walshjonwalsh

LinkedIn: walshjon

 

 

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