Our CEO & Founder, Kelley Weaver, had a blast at Consensus 2017. She wrote an article for Huffington Post all about it!
Lessons Learned from Consensus 2017- The Impact of PR & Marketing on Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Blockchain Technology
By Kelley Weaver
This May, more than 2,700 blockchain and cryptocurrency enthusiasts from around the globe gathered at NYC’s Marriott Marquis to discuss the state of blockchain for Consensus 2017. When I got to my hotel at 11:30PM the night before the conference, the prices of Bitcoin and Ethereum were at $2,052 and $157, respectively. Cut to 8:30AM on Monday morning: the show kicked off to a very excited audience, and the price of Bitcoin jumped to a whopping $2,180 and Ethereum to $192, breaking records for both cryptocurrencies. The giant jump in value demonstrates the huge impact good PR and marketing can have on the perception of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
Here’s a run-down of my experience at Consensus 2017, key points of discussion, and takeaways on why this event excited so many people at the event and around the world.
OPENING CEREMONIES AND STATE OF BLOCKCHAIN
Imagine a room full of men and women in business attire clustered together in plastic chairs, awaiting the kickoff opening ceremonies of Consensus 2017 – a 3-day event focused entirely on Blockchain technology and its applications. Out behind the curtain emerges Taariq Lewis, a bitcoin entrepreneur, dressed to the nines, and accompanied by sequined dancers. Surprising us all, Lewis sang “Blockchain, Blockchain, Blockchain!” immediately setting a playful tone that would underline the entire conference dedicated to one of the most revolutionary technologies of our time.
Next up was Alex Sunnarborg from CoinDesk with a presentation of his findings on the state of the blockchain industry as a whole. Here are some of the key points from his presentation, which are also outlined in full on CoinDesk:
- Bitcoin averaged 287,000 transactions per day at fees averaging $0.62 each, leading 67% of the surveyed community to say they feel ‘bad’ about the current state of transaction fees and confirmation times
- More people now view bitcoin as a ‘digital gold’ than a ‘digital currency’ and 86% of the community believes ethereum can be used just as well as bitcoin as a medium for exchange or payment method
- 47% believe we will see a contentious hard fork of bitcoin, and rather than preferring SegWit or a block-size increase, more individuals believe some combination of solutions is the best short-term scaling solution
- The majority of the community believes we will see the Lightning Network live on bitcoin, and both Raiden and proof-of-stake live on ethereum in 2018
- The overall state of bitcoin is nearly exactly split between positive and negative responses, while less than 5% of people responded negatively to the current state of ethereum
- Despite Hyperledger’s multiple open-source frameworks, live proof of concepts, 130 plus member list and backing by the Linux Foundation, 87% of people have slight to no knowledge of the group
- Enterprise Ethereum Alliance launching in February was seen as the primary price driver of ether in Q1”
As the report shows, though enthusiasm for Bitcoin and Ethereum continues to grow, there are still a number of issues that need to be overcome. For example, most people agree that the problem of high transaction fees and slow exchange processes contributes to a negative perception of digital currencies.
BITCOIN PIZZA DAY- ANNUAL COIN CENTER DINNER
Coin Center hosted a Bitcoin Pizza Day dinner on Monday night to commemorate the first purchase made using bitcoin. The heralded occasion occurred on May 22nd, 2010 when early Bitcoin programmer Laszlo Hanyecz paid 10,000 BTC for two Papa John’s pizzas—an amount now worth millions.
Each year on this date the blockchain community celebrates how far we have come. While pizza was not the main course at the Coin Center Annual Dinner, they did give a salute to the progress of the remarkable bitcoin ecosystem.
Wences Casares, CEO of Xapo and PayPal board member, graced attendees of the dinner with some poignant advice he gives to those who are new to bitcoin. Joon Ian Wong of Quartz, who helped Coindesk launch the first ever Consensus conference back in 2015, summarized the keynote highlights here. I’ve included a few of them below:
- Invest 1% or less of what you own, and invest in some bitcoin with it- so if you have $200,000 to your name, buy $2,000 worth of bitcoin, then forget about it for at least 5 years.
- According to Cesares, there is about a 20% likelihood of complete failure, or bitcoin going to zero
- There’s also a 50% or greater chance that bitcoin could succeed so much that 1 bitcoin could be worth 1 million dollars or more, according to him.
- All in all, he says the people he’s seen do “spectacularly well” with their bitcoin investments are those who have bought and held their bitcoin. Those who have bought and sold for quick returns have often shot themselves in the foot.
Essentially, investing in bitcoin is a gamble like any investment, but the potential for high returns could be extraordinary. No one really knows how much bitcoin could be worth 10, 20, or 100 years from now.
TOPICS OF DISCUSSION AT CONSENSUS 2017
There were so many topics to discuss surrounding bitcoin, blockchain, and the technology’s potential to transform industries around the globe, it would be impossible to summarize it all. A few of the topics I heard discussed at panels and in casual conversation over and over were Bitcoin’s scaling debate, Ethereum for enterprise, and ICOs in general.
Ability to scale is essential for mass adoption of any technology. For bitcoin, transaction speeds are at an all time low, and the transaction fees are becoming so high that businesses and individuals are being forced to use other blockchains, such as Ethereum. The bitcoin community has been wrestling with this scaling issue for more than a couple years now, but due to the recent rise in popularity of cryptocurrencies, the topic is coming to a head, and the community is of multiple minds when it comes to deciding how to scale.
On day 3 of the conference, Digital Currency Group, one of the biggest investors in the space, announced a proposed solution via Medium Post titled Bitcoin Scaling Agreement at Consensus 2017. This agreement, signed by over 58 companies, was well-executed by the DCG team, and is being pegged as the “New York Agreement.” The price of bitcoin increased following this announcement (although the following week the price fell 20%).
Though there is still a divide amongst the community as to how best to allow bitcoin to scale, conversations are happening that will hopefully lead to a united decision.
ETHEREUM FOR ENTERPRISE
While bitcoin is having scalability issues, Ethereum is quickly gaining popularity amongst businesses. For companies looking to implement blockchain technology, Ethereum is attractive because it offers solutions to many of bitcoin’s challenges and focuses on running the programming code for decentralized applications.
Laura Shin, Forbes contributor and host of the podcast “Unchained: Big Ideas From The Worlds Of Cryptocurrency and Blockchain” broke the news about 86 new companies joining the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance on the eve of the conference. This announcement helped launch the Ethereum market cap into the stratosphere.
Similarly, back in February, Nathaniel Popper of the NY Times broke the story about the formation of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, which coincided with the Distributed: Markets conference hosted by BTC Media in Atlanta. Around the time of this first announcement, ether was trading at around $14. Shortly after this announcement, we saw the price hike up to around $40. The validation from enterprise giants contributed to enthusiasm for Ethereum.
ICOs were the butt of many Consensus 2017 jokes, namely, “There’s an ICO for that!” mocking the fact that everyone in the space seems to be launching a new token. One of the many benefits of Ethereum is that the technology makes it relatively simple for developers to launch their own ‘coins’ as a means of fundraising.
ICO or ‘Initial Coin Offerings’ are a pretty interesting, new way to raise money, but since it is such a new frontier, there is a lot of uncertainty around the legalities of these token sales as well as skepticism over the amount of money being poured into these ‘investments,’ especially in cases where there isn’t much more than a white paper outlining an idea prior to launch.
Some common-sense advice given at the conference was to do your homework before investing in an ICO and get to know the team behind the project, which can be a tricky endeavor when these teams are often scattered all over the globe. Unlike purchasing equity in a company, buying a token does not entitle you to any equity in the venture. There is no regulation (yet) surrounding ICOs, and no mechanisms to protect the consumers. The overarching sentiment with ICO’s at Consensus was to ‘proceed with caution.’
That said, there were some very cool ventures that have been funded via ICOs — heck, Ethereum itself launched an ICO in the beginning — and is a great example of how these things can work for the greater good.
We’ve represented a few companies who have been funded via ICO or will be launching ICOs for their projects. Since there is so much noise happening in the space, it is critically important that these projects have a clean, clear marketing strategy as well as a plan for how to execute on their vision once the funds are in place.
There was definitely a lot of ‘coin fever’ at Consensus 2017, but there is also no question based on the attendee list and the announcements made that major enterprise institutions are now investigating how blockchain technology can benefit them.
In my opinion, the highlight of Consensus were the people I had the chance to meet. Since everyone in this ecosystem comes together for this event, it’s a great opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and those working to bring this technology into mainstream business and culture.
The conference concluded on a high-note; around midday on Wednesday, May 24th, the price of Bitcoin rose to $2413 and Ether to $222, but the rise in value only illustrates one side this technology’s massive potential. It’s still the beginning of this journey into a decentralized world.
Disclosure- author holds some bitcoin and ether.