Hasan Surtiwala is a Venture Consultant. Stemming from a background as an entrepreneur and investor in the financial markets as well as private start-up industry, he now consults ventures across Europe going from idea to commercialization and advising with growth financing strategies. Hasan is also a mentor at Blockchain Centre Vilnius.
My personal journey into the world of blockchain felt like Donald Trump’s first day in the US presidency. I knew what it was, but I had no idea how it worked. Little did I know that the knowledge I consumed (much of it from peers also in awe of the world changing before our eyes) would lead me to an enormous (and sometimes scary) world of innovative disruption, and time will tell whether for better or worse.
Fast forward to 2017 and not knowing what Blockchain and Bitcoin is, is a bit like being a person who hasn’t watched Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones.
I was charmed into a global movement, which has gained more popularity than the recent major technologies like machine learning (and all other learning as well), artificial intelligence, internet of things and many others. Blockchain technology is without doubt the most revolutionizing breakthrough (in the literal sense) since the birth of the internet. Then the question occurred to me, what is blockchain exactly, what is the problem it’s aiming to solve?
Is it another fad created by the dark net to revolt against the established norm or is there a greater purpose? Like many the curiosity kept me engaged and no matter how I tried to escape the phenomenon in order to focus on my own work (which today has lead me to working with blockchain start-ups) it kept seducing me back. With all that said, it was the rise of Bitcoin which first caught my attention and only later was I to discover the underlying technology sold with the idea of being the answer to our prayers post-2008 global meltdown.
In absolute desperation (ref. the global crisis of 2008) one cries for a savior, a messiah if you will, and that savior just happened to be “Satoshi Nakamoto”. He, or they, came to us with a patch for our wounds called Bitcoin. Now just for a second, think blockchain and take away musical buzzwords like Bitcoin, crypto, altcoins, fintech, money… Can you still explain what blockchain is? Do you still believe in the technology or is it just another fad, which is reserved for the techies to develop and venture capitalists to devour. If new money wasn’t part of the equation would you still find blockchain technology sexy? A few might, but for most the answer is probably no.
Money and getting rich was what it would take for the world to accept, adapt and become willing to accommodate the technology into their lives and businesses. However, instead of focusing on the enabler for what seems to be many people’s new found fortune, the sole focus, innovation and value creation, rests within cryptocurrencies and funding the new internet. While cryptocurrencies surely prove what the power of blockchain has done to the established world – what they in one way or another did to us, I believe it’s driving us away from the very essence of the technology…trust.
Flip the coin and unchain the blocks
As a trader in the global financial markets, it’s of course a delight to see new opportunities in alternative markets; however, one cannot begin to think that the behavior of what caused the now decade-old crisis is re-emerging. Contributing to that, the technology which is changing the way the world trusts and trades resembles the dotcom craze exploited by organizations as a means of inflating their value by merely adding dotcom (in this case blockchain) to their existing names. Responsible trading, accepting crypto as an alternative (for now) investment strategy (just like we had to do with derivatives), will surely flip the coin in a direction where value is created by many, captured by most and shared by all.
Of course no one is to blame, as value creators are also aware that value capturers will contribute only for short-term gains and consequently, blockchain could go from becoming a modern day miracle to another doomsday machine without ever having the intention to do so. Trust has been an evolutionary process for the past few years with the emergence of people sharing their homes to strangers and driving someone’s daughter home from a party. Along with many other shared economy platforms, blockchain is the final piece in codifying trust as a protocol in a world where we identify ourselves by dividing others, but have we forgotten the one thing which brings us closer to each other… trust.