Insights on Consensus New York 2019, Blockchain’s Biggest Event

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I had the pleasure of representing Xank at this year’s Consensus conference, one of blockchain’s biggest events. Here’s a little snippet of my experience at Consensus New York.

First off, Consensus New York exceeded my expectations. I generally have low expectations from conferences, but Coindesk did an excellent job. The speakers were great, topics were interesting, and overall quality was high. 

I’m going to start with what felt hot. What was the feel in the air? What’s the aroma of acronyms and VC funding that permeated the air?

ICO is definitely not in the air. To me, this year smells like DeFi (decentralized finance). It’s the hot topic, similar to how stablecoins were the talk of the town last year. If we go deeper, DeFi is roughly broken up into centralized/cryptocurrency banks vs. peer to peer/decentralized concepts. On one hand, we have the centralized/fiat/Wall Street stablecoins that people prefer to use. On the other, we have Maker’s Dai, which is one of the few decentralized stablecoin that’s relevant today. The other decentralized stablecoins are struggling in terms of market relevance and usability.  

With regards to general knowledge, the understanding of stablecoins by blockchain participants is markedly improved. No one gave me a blank look when I mentioned stablecoins, and more than 50% of folks knew of the 3 different stablecoin models. When I mentioned that Xank is a stablecoin hybrid, people were perplexed, but they wanted to know more. They specifically were intrigued by the word hybrid and wanted to know how Xank is a hybrid. I was surprised at the interest that people exhibited.

So in no particular order, here’s a summary of some of the better presentations that I saw:

1. Maker/Dai Project Update

I hope Maker makes it, and I give them credit for making it through the long crypto winter. Transitioning to multi-collateral with help them out, but being built on Ethereum will hinder mass adoption. Actually, all the fiat stablecoins (Paxos, Gemini, USDC) are built on Ethereum, and a stablecoin payment aggregator was complaining about the gas fees. Basically, limited scalability.

2. Emergence of Institutional FX in Crypto

This can sound boring, but to me, it was the best part of the conference. The two speakers, Harpal Sandhu, founder of Mint Exchange, and Alex Gordon-Brander, founder of dark pool exchange Omega One, were excellent. The moderator Kurt Kumar of Capilarity did the best job of anyone at the conference. 

Both of these men come from FX backgrounds and made strong cases that the FX model of trading is going to beat the current equity trading exchange model. Harpal then did a great job of explaining the recent BTC surge using metrics. He has access to the price feeds and order flow of approximately 17 major exchanges. He stated that most of the increased trade volume is coming from Asian markets, is of small order size, and started after Trump’s tweets on increasing China tariffs. He then stated that the notional value increase in BTC is roughly equivalent to the decrease in Asian currencies. Plain english? Individual Asian investors are afraid and sought out bitcoin in a flight to safety. 

3. Updates on Crypto Wallets

The most interesting part of this was Phil Chen of HTC. You know, the crypto integrated phones.

4. End of Volatility, Stablecoins on the Rise

I didn’t really get much from this panel, as great as it was. Like I previously mentioned, it became quickly clear that the audience was already familiar with stablecoins.

5. Medium of Exchange: Bringing Crypto to the World’s Biggest Merchants

This was interesting because it involved mass adoption. Specifically, where are we going to spend our cryptocurrencies? Flexa has teamed up with around 30,000 merchants to accept crypto payments and just launched their Spedn wallet. 

Another project called Lolli is an online rewards intermediary. Basically, you sign up and when you purchase from their vendors (Walmart, Adidas, Gap, Banana Republic, Samsung), and you receive your rewards in BTC. 

6. Crypto That’s Still Punk Rock

This session, which focused on idealism in action, was a nice break from the corporate world. Harry Halpin of Binance-backed Nym Technology focuses on privacy and anonymous blockchain activity. He works with activists all over the world and told stories of friends being killed and tortured because they were tracked. 

Ameen Soleimani runs Spankchain. Adult entertainers routinely have their bank accounts shut down and the pay-per-view channels typically get 50% of their earnings. Spankchain allows adult entertainers to keep a much higher percentage of their earnings and helps a marginalized group of people. 

7. Miscellaneous

The conversations with Olaf Carlson-Wee and Justin Son of Tron were interesting but there isn’t much to report. I only caught the last 10 minutes of the conversation with Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang. I didn’t make time for it because I thought he was going to be the typical politician. He was extremely engaging, and I see why he’s starting to rise in the polls. I didn’t get to hear what he had to say about blockchain and cryptocurrency, but in his other interviews, he has stated his desire to resolve the regulatory uncertainty. 

And that was a quick overview of what happened at Consensus New York. Overall it was a wonderful conference, and I’m looking forward to Consensus 2020!


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