by Liam J Kelly
After BTCManager attended the one-day Zero-In conference in the Netherlands on April 19, 2018, it became clear that Amsterdam is working hard to attract the finest fintech minds to the city.
After a series of panels ranging from commentary on the GDPR regulation set to pass in May 2018 to the monetization of users’ content, the event captured the commercial sentiments urging the blockchain’s technical capacities forward. It also turns out women hate being a part of “Women in Blockchain” panels and that’s actually a very good thing.
First-Time Conference: Paul O’ Connell Takes on Fintech
In the way of conferences, Zero-In was intimate and highly-focused. Folks could meander around the alternative warehouse-style venue past a large exhibition area before being invited to either the marketing stage on one end or the fintech stage on the other.
A number of individuals walked with the precision of a clear objective in mind. Others mingled, chatted and hoped to quantify their knowledge on buzzwords like “cryptocurrencies,” “content monetization,” and, of course, “blockchain.”
BTCManager spoke with marketing strategists João Gomes from Happyfact and Ricardo Correia of NQ Digital Agency both of whom were in attendance all the way from Portugal to figure out new solutions to nascent problems. “I don’t see blockchain as a problem,” Gomes reported, “But it will mean many companies need to change their approach to data collection.”
One immediate solution, which the founder of the conference Paul O’ Connell hoped to make a theme of, is personalization. Instead of setting alight the massive cogs of the aggregation machines, both Gomes and Correia think that personalizing an experience is the only way forward when marketing in a decentralized world. Not only that but as a consumer, “It’s much better,” admits Gomes.
If you’re still not convinced that the user is indeed the product at places like Facebook or Google, the panelists of “Which Step is a Step Too Far? GDPR and Data-driven Marketing” provided an enlightening reality of which we should’ve already been aware.
Alexander Handcock of Selligent reduced the Cambridge Analytica debacle as a “PR disaster,” and in 2018, 12 years after The Zucc took the world by storm, Handcock is probably right. The CA scandal was simply the most public version of what happens just about every day at Facebook. Google too, for that matter, and it’s interesting that we see fewer hashtags to leave the search site. In any case, we now have the European solution, the GDPR.
But even while phrases like “the right to be forgotten” spell doom for an immutable technology such as blockchain, Kim Leonard Smouter-Umans of ESOMAR, a data research community, explained that “there is still a lot that you can do within the regulation.”
Smouter-Umans explained that first, yes, collectors of data must require permission before sharing data with any other third or fourth, or even fifth interested party, but the ways in which this permission is made clear can be done creatively:
“Firms can use videos, make songs, whatever. It just needs to be clear what they are up to when it comes to consumer data.”
These details are also interesting in regards to the public and private blockchain debate. The former seems much less feasible, from a legal perspective than everything the latter can offer. But is a permissioned-blockchain still a blockchain? Such existential questions dotted the playing field the entire day.
Get Out Your Meter Sticks: Crypto Valuation, Use Cases, and Why Americans Are Dumb
Abacus Solutions presented an afternoon workshop on “Macro Trends In Cryptomarkets.” The session boiled down to a brief overview of blockchain technology (Bitcoin and Ethereum; Private versus Public ledgers), the outstanding political qualities that cryptocurrencies portend (i.e., what exactly are borders in a decentralized economy?), and the exciting (yes, exciting) possibility of Security Token Offerings (STOs) headed our way in the next “six to 12 months” according to the analysis firm.
More specifically and according to the Brooklyn-based fintech group, the United States only has one thing going for it in the race to sensibly regulate this emerging market; municipal bonds. In this, the speakers were referring to the ICO under construction by the city of Berkeley, California. Ironically, this move is merely a response from a city under attack by federal funding cuts. Clearly, we’re only beginning to understand the potential of a crypto fundraising model.
Of course, subversion of this order pales in comparison to the exchange haven being set up in Malta, France’s ICO-friendly regulations, and Japan’s lightweight, yet proactive, attempts to legislate the novel asset class.
The US on the other hand constantly “seems to be slower than everyone else in the world when it comes to ground-breaking technology,” sighs CSO Jason Struhl. “We just can’t seem to wrap our heads around this stuff.”
The latter end of the presentation revolved around the imminent arrival of a wave of STOs in lieu of the legislatively cumbersome ICO. Things like asset-backed tokens, “stocks and equities 2.0,” and real estate all look like relevant crypto use-cases. But, as Abacus explained, this isn’t necessarily a new trend; since 2016, already $9 billion had been claimed from this exact token model.
The scheme is indeed dwarfed by the headline-claiming sums of the ICO, but it poses fewer regulatory hurdles and may even add a level of maturity to a market that desperately needs it.
Stop Saying “Women in Blockchain”
Following the summary of market trends, a round table later in the afternoon discussed another hip market trend; Women in Blockchain. Every week seems to reveal yet another article, another panel, or another pair of Barbie font bitcoin sweaters all of which claim to show how the decentralized movement will be a genderless one. Of course, this is a hyper-important subject, especially in the wake of the Bitcoin Miami after-party debacle and the “Brotopia” of Silicon Valley startup culture a recent memory.
Godsil told BTCManager that:
“There’s only a glass ceiling if you believe there’s one. And I just don’t feel that this is the case in the blockchain space.”
“If I’m good enough, then I’m good enough,” said Lampl, “I don’t need a women’s panel. Let me speak with everyone else.”
UTrust Had Another Surprise Up their Sleeve
One of the more highly-anticipated events of the afternoon was CIO Filipe Castro’s unveiling of Utrust’s MVP. The product, according to Castro, will look to upend the retail payment sector and compete with companies like BitPay to make crypto-to-fiat purchases even simpler.
The software indeed also seems relatively easy from a merchant’s perspective. In the case of a needed refund or simply responding quickly to open tickets, all of it does looks much more convenient than the BitPay offering. Plus, Utrust accepts a number of different currencies.
Folks who were interested in learning more were then invited to the UTrust booth to test out the product in real-time. “We had a whitepaper and an idea,” Castro told BTCManager, “And now we have a product that does exactly what we said it would do. It’s very exciting.”
At the conclusion of the conference, the founder Paul O’ Connell, also known for the Uprise Festival, indicated his content with the release of the Amsterdam event. “We were able to get people together to talk about personalization and to start thinking of the user a bit differently. I’m happy with the launch,” O’Connell told BTCManager, “Hopefully it keeps growing more in the coming years and we can inspire more projects from the fintech community to join in.”
With so many great minds getting behind blockchain tech, it’s clearly early days in grasping it’s potential. Naturally, the coming together of curious entrepreneurs in one space has always been the best incubator for future innovation. Next year will undoubtedly reveal more than its fair share of developments in the space.