William Mougayar: THE BLOCKCHAIN WATCH 10/01/16

Blockchain Presentation Draws 250 Businesspeople in Chicago

It’s late Monday afternoon in Chicago, and more than 250 people pack into the main presentation room at the 1871, the city’s largest startup workspace and accelerator. From the looks of it, most of the audience members are business people, not the usual tech types.

Indeed, the presenter, William Mougayar, asked the crowd how many were blockchain developers. Just a few hands raise. The Toronto-based investor and startup advisor, is author of The Business Blockchain. The event’s sponsor, West Loop Ventures, turned people away for lack of space.

People who usually leave for their trains as soon as they can on a Monday afternoon came to 1871 to learn about blockchain.

Mr. Mougayar takes a pragmatic approach to blockchain. He avoids hype, suggesting the blockchain adoption will be evolutionary, not revolutionary. He is not a crypto-purist, speaking positively about private blockchains. Following are some of the topics he touched on with my favorite quotes from his talk:

Blockchain Implementation
“Let’s not confuse . . . proof of concepts, pilots, implementations, and testing. There are lots of smart scientists who are inventing but let’s not confuse what works today with what might work in three years.”

At the same time, “I think we have enough basic technology that works today (to suggest) that proof-of-work is working today. . . . Whatever works today, let’s use that and try to take it into a true implementation.”

Blockchain Disrupts Databases
“Just replacing a data base is one step.” A lot of what banks and securities firms are discussing is taking existing technologies and replacing them with blockchain-based systems. This makes existing processes less expensive and more efficient, but that’s how the internet itself started. “The banks don’t want to disrupt themselves, but they do want to improve themselves.”

“The next phase of blockchain development will be driven by business, rather than technology.” At that point, new business models will develop. “The best things happen when you put a business person and a developer in the same room.”

Blockchain Authenticates Identity
There was a bit of skepticism on this point, reflecting both a lack of understanding and a difficulty in explaining how a decentralized system could possibly engender trust.

“We have been brainwashed to believe that we need third parties to authenticate identity.”

OK, it wasn’t really a blockchain comment per se, but it speaks to the means that today’s centralized web systems generate income by selling personal data:

“Facebook should be giving us tokens. They are monetizing our attention. They are good at it. They should be spreading that wealth.”

As he wrapped up audience questions, I decided Mr. Mougayar was an optimist, not just because he speaks so passionately about a future technology but because he believes in the power of individuals working together: “”The wisdom of the crowds always wins.”

Nearly as soon as he finished, the room emptied. Time to catch the train.