After attending the largest early adopter tech conferences conducted over the past thirty years – from Internet World, VR World, COMDEX, CES, RSA, Game Developers Conference, etc., it is easy to say Coindesk’s recent Consensus 2018 Conference – the foundation for NYC’s “Blockchain Week”, was one of the largest gatherings of early technology adopters and backers ever packed in a single location. Almost beside the point, Consensus 2018 was also easily the largest blockchain event to date.
Despite exceeding pretty much all expectations, it was not, however, without some controversy. Noticeably absent from the event was Vitalik Buterin as well as any Ethereum presence other than a scheduled announcement and booth presence for the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. The visionary Buterin boycotted the event given disagreements with the sponsor and a purported grievance with the $2,999 price tag – despite the fact Mr. Buterin himself could have bought tickets for all 8400+ attendees if he wanted. Buterin’s thought leadership and insights were certainly missed so hopefully next year there will be some sort of peace accord that brings him back into the fold.
According to the emcee for the event – a Brit anxiously pacing up and down with the obligatory iPad seemingly issued to all tech conference emcees, half of the attendees hailed from outside the United States. In fact, meals and private meetings were enjoyed with folks visiting from South Korea, Australia, Finland, Switzerland, Portugal, Brazil, Berlin, Hong Kong, Vancouver, and Toronto – and that was only on the first of two attendance days. Unlike what was shown by the early days of the web ecosystem, this gathering more than anything concretely demonstrates that any decentralized ledger future will be shaped by those outside the United States as much as by persons located within its borders.
The caliber of the audience – more so than the speakers, also demonstrates that the financial and professional institutions who missed out on the web ecosystem’s early brick laying are avoiding past mistakes. Sensing just how disruptive things may soon get, they were out in full force – with Deloitte leading the Big Four charge and the purported naysayer JP Morgan having a sophisticated presence from New York and London. Notwithstanding the fact the exhibit hall was stacked with ICO and ICO-wannabee companies that will likely go away in a few years, foundational companies were front and center promoting the tools and business models needed before blockchain can be digested by the masses in any meaningful way.
While companies wait to “cross the chasm”, investors are taking sides by investing in token economies and novel ramp up technologies. And, after the speculative sheen has faded, the lasting result will be efficiencies in commerce one could only have dreamt about a few years ago. Simply put, the “trust protocol” that will eventually be layered on top of our current digital ecosystem will create new opportunities for pretty much any company willing to listen and adapt.