Token Forum – Don’t forget the big picture


A couple days ago was the first of a quarterly, invite-only conference that pulled together some of the best business minds in the crypto space. Held at the Columbia Tower Club in Seattle, the event was an all-day affair filled with panels from major companies, regulators and venture capitalists. There were 200 individuals who attended representing 70+ companies in the industry. Since the event was limited to invited, active professionals connected to blockchain tech, the discussions were much more in-depth than the other crypto-events that I have attended. The day seemed to center around three main themes: the glaringly obvious regulatory burden for projects in the US; the nascency of the tech, especially during crypto bear markets; and finally, tokenization as a key tool for adoption.

Regulatory Climate in America

The beginning of the conference started off with a bang. Peter Vessenes, the founder of New Alchemy talked about the roots that he hearkens back to during crypto-winters. He recalled purchasing a burger in 2011 for 6 BTC at Porcfest. He called for more cowboyish projects in the space. As business owners, crypto-entrepreneurs need to follow paths similar to that of Uber – provide a great service for users while asking for forgiveness from regulators, not permission. This technology is much bigger than the current regulations can handle. We must all keep that in mind.

Later in the day, a few congressmen from the state and federal level spoke about creating programs to educate the young. Of particular interest were projects about blockchain-based voting, and a national blockchain-based ID system. The focal analogy for this group was ‘skating to where the puck will be, not to where it is.’ Still, the regulators and lawmakers hardly addressed the value-transfer aspect of blockchain. Governance systems like DAOs and even basic smart contracts were omitted completely. Telling.

Darren Marble, head of crowdfundX, spoke in the afternoon, noting that designers and programmers in the industry need to go to lengths to abide by the guidelines that the regulators have delineated. Such rules, he assured us, are in place to protect consumers. The meat of his talk was quite in-depth about how STOs will affect the marketplace. His final question was “Are you an American or an Opportunist?” Soon after Darren spoke, Rahul Sood of Unikrn answered on stage that he is an Opportunist. He has taken to Malta for his business because the regulatory environment is more set and friendly towards blockchain based companies.

The Technology Is Young

In cryptocurrency bear markets, builders and investors must hunker down to build out the infrastructure of the industry in the midst of nay-saying and discussion of market shorts. This constant bombardment when prices fall gives crypto enthusiasts one less benefit for adoption when explaining the value of the tech. Still, to sell these ideas, users must explain the blockchain in terms of software use-cases which are growing by the day, but are not very apparent to most people outside of the space.

Jason White of Indiegogo explained the many moving parts of a DApp and smart contracts in general – There are developmental risks, underlying token acceptance, platform readiness, and potential regulatory burden. Each of these factors pressure developers away from DApp development. In the same panel, Simon Yu of Storm, gave a bright future of DApps disintermediating traditional services, which will pull resources from centralized entities toward end users and product owners/producers.

Tokenization Is Key

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you have heard about tokenization. Tokenization comes in many forms, from tokenizing dollars to real estate to securities to commodities. The underlying premise is often the same for each, (Check out my piece on asset tokenization here – but there are implementation differences for asset classes themselves and even individual assets. Stably founder, Kory Hoang, explained that the stablecoin sub-industry is collaborating to find solutions to pegging tokens to fiat. Tokenized dollars need to be widely adopted to facilitate blockchain based payments systems that are clear to lay people.

John Wantz, founder of Every, and Rui Maximo of ConcReit spoke about human tokenization and tokenization of identity. Wantz’ vision meshed physical attributes with the Chinese social credit system with advertising targeting systems. Maximo focused on security of personal data, saying that each user could soon be custodians of his own data. After the Cambridge-Analytica scandal, data custody is becoming more and more important. I asked Maximo after his talk if he thinks people even desire that burden. He mentioned that maybe most people don’t want the responsibility of being in charge of their data at all times. A new type of company would arise, a custodian of data. We explored this idea where the social media company licenses data from custodians that users employ. The future of data ownership is abstract to say the least.

The conference was a strong start. The format was open, with easy flow presentation-to-presentation, and plenty of time for discussion between and after the speakers. Huge thanks to Jonathan Gagliardoni for putting on the event. I am very excited for the next Token Forum.

If you would like any further information about the speakers or the ideas discussed, please reach out to me directly.