For bitcoin and blockchain enthusiasts, Toronto is becoming a hotbed of conversation and action.
FinTech Canada presented the Bitcoin and Ethereum Summit, hosted at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, in order to dive into the bitcoin and ethereum ecosystem.
The event featured over 20 speakers spread out across multiple panels, talking about everything from the definition of bitcoin and ethereum, how to use blockchain technology in large enterprises, and the many use cases of blockchain technology.
What is bitcoin, ethereum, and blockchain?
Sunny Ray, organizer of FinTech Canada, opened the event by saying that bitcoin is “the world’s first open-sourced digital currency and payments network.”
The first panel of the evening tackled this statement and went a bit more in-depth, noting that bitcoin being two things at once — a currency and a payments network — causes confusion. The currency part of bitcoin fluctuates just like any other currency moves in value. The payments network, though, remains active and tracks every move of every bitcoin.
Ethereum, on the other hand, is a platform upon which to build blockchain applications, says the panel. You have to purchase ethereum from the original offering in order to buy on the network, as opposed to bitcoin where you loan computing power to “mine” the coins.
— Andy Foley (@andykfoley) August 15, 2017
Panelist Tone Vays said Ethereum is akin to Amazon forcing you to buy Amazon stock in order to purchase from their website. It creates a situation where all customers are forced to be speculators, which he feels is an economically bad decision.
Ethereum, though, is good for smart contracts, which can offer more security and a way to get around censorship. This is helpful when there is little trust between stakeholders, or you don’t want to have to consider trust a factor, such as when you have partnerships between multiple organizations.
Blockchain for the enterprise
The second panel, moderated by Iliana Oris Valiente, founder of open-source blockchain research hub ColliderX, discussed the multiple use cases of blockchain that make it a potential game-changer for large enterprises.
The panel discussed why blockchain is so versatile, and noted that it’s due to its inherent security measures. Blockchain is autonomous and trackable, which means that it can be used for security purposes when trust is a concern — echoing the first panel.
Blockchain helps to create a database that is not corruptible, meaning that you can share it easily around many stakeholders without fear of a malicious actor.
Non-corruptible, autonomous databases lead to a particularly interesting use case: digital identity products.
Using blockchain for identity means sovereignty over your identity information. An individual user will be able to entirely control his or her identity information, removing the need for disparate passwords, fingerprint scans, and voice or face recognition.
— Zach Justein (@ZachJustein) August 15, 2017
While convenient for unlocking your iPhone and getting into your office building with the same identity token that you own and control, blockchain in identity products also has crucial applications for helping millions of people around the world gain increased access to mainstream services like opening a bank account that require precise individual identification.
The panel did acknowledge, however, that blockchain talent is lacking right now. So if you have a potential blockchain use case and want to develop it further, the panel recommended reading up on it and seeing what you can launch yourself.
Given the lack of skills across the board, the panel called for blockchain education to be added into all school curriculums and professional development programs.
“We don’t all become professional writers,” said Ethan Buchman, chief at CoinCulture Crypto Consulting. “But we all know how to read and write. It should be the same for understanding technology.”
Canada and the future of bitcoin and ethereum
“This is a revolution, not an evolution, and we must tackle it together – entrepreneurs, developers, and regulators,” said Loretta Joseph, an Australian blockchain and FinTech leader who was on the second panel.
Ted Livingston, founder and CEO of Kik, talked often about the need for collaboration and for building new economies.
With Kin, the cryptocurrency being launched by Kik, he is doing just that.
“Kik had millions of people working to earn Kik Points, our first test of a digital currency on our platform,” he said. “Once we saw that, we saw the potential to build a whole new economy within Kik where millions of people interact.”
— Arunan Sri (@ArunanSri) August 14, 2017
This represents a fundamental shift for Waterloo-based Kik, which was recently valued at over $1 billion; it means shifting away from the business model that made them a unicorn.
“Ultimately, the numbers didn’t work out. We didn’t have the size to compete with Facebook on ad revenue, a problem affecting more and more companies.”
Instead of trying to beat Facebook at its own game, Kik moved into cryptocurrency because of its potential to create massive value, some of which Kik will capture.
He warns, however, that unfriendly regulation is going to drive innovation to other countries. Unlike other strictly regulated products and industries, cryptocurrency is entirely digital and thus easy to move around.
Meaning, more so than any era beforehand, the regulation debate is global.
If one country is too harsh on regulations, businesses can easily leave and build cryptocurrencies in other countries – like Switzerland and Singapore – that are “putting their hands up” to be friendly to blockchain innovators.
A packed house at the Canadian Bitcoin and Ethereum summit! About to go on stage with @wmougayar Such an exciting time for the space
— Ted Livingston (@ted_livingston) August 14, 2017
We’re already seeing this affect Canada.
The founder of ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, immigrated to Canada and was attending the University of Waterloo, but left the country to pursue ethereum in the United States as a Thiel Fellow.
That’s why it’s important, says Livingston, to collaborate with the people who are actually building the cryptocurrency economy.
Kin has plans to allocate a percentage of the value in their cryptocurrency specifically for the developers who will help them expand the economy. That expansion, explains Livingston, will raise the value of everyone’s cryptocurrency because Kin and cryptocurrencies, unlike other digital products, have forced-scarcity, activating traditional laws of supply and demand.
The solution to the issue of overcoming regulations and building community, said moderator William Mougayar, is for entrepreneurs to be transparent and tell the public what they are going to do.
This honesty, he said, will “get us over the hump” of building enough trust in blockchain to use it more broadly in public life.