Innovation

The „Blockchain Island“ – My experience at the Malta Blockchain Summit

Jonas Huck
Jonas Huck

Arriving in Malta

Now, a few weeks after the dust has settled…

It was the first Blockchain conference I attended. And it was a large one. Over 8500 people flocked to the so marketed „Blockchain Island“. Half of the people on the plane from Frankfurt to the 316 km² island came there for the conference. So I had my first Blockchain related conversation with my seat neighbor trying to not involve myself in a full-fledged scaling debate. When I arrived the morning of the 1. November to collect my batch from the InterContinental Hotel, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the event. Hundreds of crypto startups had set up their booths in the halls of the hotel, and I’ve been surrounded by business people in suits. Definitely not the kind of underground vibes I had heard of years before the hype started to get real. Despite the fact that the place was pretty packed I was surprised how well the whole event was organized. I had been invited on LinkedIn from the guy who planned the event. Eman Pulis.

Malta. The place for Blockchain pioneers?

My main goal for this conference was to get a grasp of the atmosphere within the crypto space and community. What kind of entrepreneurs and people get attracted by Maltas aggressive marketing of becoming the „Blockchain Island“? Their intention is clear. Attract companies, entrepreneurs and developers to relocate their operation to Malta. Leveraging the flexibility advantage of such a small country seems to be a smart move to attract blockchain engineers from all around the world. The legal insecurity due to unregulated blockchain and crypto laws within most countries is one of the biggest restraining factors of this new industry.

The current main challenges in Blockchain space

I currently identify three main challenges in Blockchain space:

  1. Scaling Blockchains to enable big applications with large amounts of users and transactions.
  2. The regulatory stance on cryptocurrencies and Blockchain applications to ensure legal certainty for businesses, entrepreneurs and consumers.
  3. Creating clever solutions to make cryptocurrencies more accessible and easier to use for everyone. For consumers and institutions.

The ICO hype is over! Really?

People were speaking about the ICO hype being over while having an ICO pitch at the conference and trying to promote tokens on every corner. Yet the absolute exuberance in the market has taken a big hit since last January due to decreasing market evaluations of cryptocurrencies. But it more seems like a temporary setback. I think we’ll see many new forms of regulated ICOs in the future.

Nevertheless I also spotted reasonable projects building the necessary links between cryptocurrencies and existing businesses. Salamantex from Austria is a good example. They’ve built a hardware payment panel for retail stores letting customers pay directly in crypto supporting many different coins like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dash and Litecoin. As well as providing a solution for the underlying accounting enabling retailers to accept crypto.

Maltas stance on regulations

I already expected the conference to be heavily business and finance driven.

Malta presented their tax refund system as well as a guideline for a fully compliant ICO to provide legal guidelines for startups and entrepreneurs. That’s a big step forward for many crypto projects yet I don’t think that ICOs are the killer application for Blockchain at all. I think it’s much more important to focus on the product itself than on the way to fund the project. The ICO hype doesn’t seem to be over yet. What I was missing at the conference was the focus on the technology itself. The whole conference
was way to business and marketing heavy, even tho that’s exactly what I expected, considering the way the conference was marketed beforehand. Malta might be lacking a filter for quality projects. A girl at the conference told me about her experience in a local crypto startup and that she had lived in Malta for several years now. From her opinion Malta has issues attracting and developing quality projects. Maltas efforts might lead to short term results, but how many of these projects will survive in the long run?

The people I met and what they do

The best aspect of the event was meeting many interesting and friendly people. I met so many young, educated and hungry people from all around the world trying to get involved in the crypto space in a reasonable and productive manner. I had an interesting conversation with a girl from Japan – she’s traveling the world attending Blockchain conferences, using her knowledge for consulting services for projects and companies in Japan, that often lack international knowledge in the Japanese language. A guy from Nepal currently studying in Bremen, Germany with a deep curiosity for this new technology from a high level economical point of view. A very encouraged girl from russia with a confident business focus within the crypto space. A representative from the leading Canadian crypto exchange with a clear focus on trust and transparency. A guy from the US living a sovereign life earning money on the decentralized platform DTube, a decentralized version of Youtube. A crypto trader from the Netherlands meeting fellow friends from twitter on the conference. A guy from Italy with a profound technical knowledge discussing with a developer from the Nebulas project about details of first and second layer Blockchain scaling. A guy from Berlin, Germany in a similar situation like me, working for a Consultant firm aiming to identify and apply reasonable Blockchain solutions to the enterprise world.

Outlook

I had a great time at Malta, talking to many interesting like-minded people with a deep curiosity and passion for Blockchain technology. We’ve already experienced the first few hype cycles and the market finally finds some much needed air to breath and time to develop solutions on top of these new protocols. Instead of avoiding the real challenges within this new industry, we need to get involved in the new paradigms of decentralized technology. It takes time and efforts. I’m convinced the people that genuinely try to understand and help shaping this new technology will thrive in the long run. As the short sighted opportunists will fail.