The View From Rice

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Recap of Business and the Blockchain Conference – Rice University, May 24-25th


This week’s marquee gathering was the Business and the Blockchain conference organized by Tyler Smith (@R_Tyler_Smith) and hosted by his alma mater Rice University’s Jones School of Business. In addition to many of the usual Blockchain event speaker set, either at Tyler’s invitation or in of support of and genuine interest for what this tight knit community of peers is working on, it was an industry who’s who. The event kicked off with keynote William Mougayar, author of “The Business Blockchain”, and followed with EY, ConsenSys, Microsoft, IBM, Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, Hyperledger, and R3.  That is a solid line up in any event, but truly impressive when it all happens within sight of lunch on day 1 or a 2 day event.


While there was a heavy focus on blockchain and the Energy Sector, events of the week and the sheer depth of knowledge represented by the speakers and audience meant that even narrow topics carried elements with big implications.  The presentations covered everything from IoT hardware and distributed storage to self-sovereign identity management and open source communities with questions from the audience pushing the scope of even some of the best planned presentations.


R3’s Tim Grant challenged conventional descriptions suggesting that blockchain was not about establishing trust, but about confirming truth, and that the notion that “fast follower” was a fallacy in a paradigm shift.


On the heels of Gnosis record setting token sale there was a lot of discussion about ICO’s and token’s. co-founder Mark Smith said that they would have a Delaware compliant platform to legally allow shares to be converted to Distributed Ledger Tokens by the end of the summer.   Polychain cofounder Ryan Zurrer talked about their Token Investment Fund and the problematic likelihood of “Rent Seeking Tokens” soon being recognized as stocks.  It was not an audience to lightly mention the possibility of a future ICO or token sale as the probing and philosophically divergent questions from the audience made clear.


Healthcare was represented on stage by Hashed Health and Pokitdok with number of interesting use case references from Factom, R3 and IBM.   The Q&A sessions revealed a good mix of healthcare professionals officially and unofficially representing MD Andreson, the VA, and several health-related causes and foundations.


In all, Rice put on a well curated event where leaders in the space presented and then casually talked and challenged each other on what will come next.    It is not hard to imagine one of those hallway conversations will become a topic of its own at a future Business and the Blockchain gathering.


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