I have been a blockchain enthusiast for more than 3 years now. I have seen years end and start and blockchain enthusiasts passionately claiming the coming year to be theirs. And we hear something very similar this year, the ubiquitous roar that 2017 will belong to blockchain, the coming year bitcoin shall rise to so and so price and so on. But from my personal opinion, the voices are louder, more diverse than ever and the enthusiasm fuelling their voices is less of hope and more of jubilation, more like of the song the crowd sings when you’re 3–1 or 2 -0 ahead in a game and your team is defending the last 2 minutes of the champions league.
And the reasons for this pragmatic optimism and not just hope lie in the wonderful year 2016 has been for blockchain enthusiasts. In 2016, price of bitcoin rose from $430 to almost $1000 . And this is an increase that did not happen overnight owing to some change in policy by a major government but a price that has grown slowly and steadily on a trading volume of over $55M weekly. A volume which is about 100 times the trading volume that prevailed when Bitcoin last hit this range. An year that clearly demarcated bitcoin price will no longer be held hostage to small events, +ve or -ve, across the globe, but rather the currency has an inherent fundamental value and will have its value be determined by people’s acceptance and perception of that inherent utility/value. A true reason for celebration for bitcoin investors.
2016 was also the year where the marriage of cryptography and blockchain made another giant leap. This was the year where the couple presented their second child to the world, namely smart contracts. Ethereum, the most popular platform for smart contracts, saw the creation and crowdfunding of a Decentralised autonomous organization (appropriately named the DAO) which would invest money in blockchain projects across the globe, raise over $150M in less than 50 days. Unfortunately, the DAO got hacked, but the ethereum leadership could not have impressed the world more by choosing to act and hard fork the project to save $50M worth of currency from being stolen by hackers. Indeed, the entire ethereum community did not approve of the hard fork, but the dissent was very maturely resolved by the natural creation of two parallel chains/tokens. The entire incident sets precedent of how the ethereum team, lead by Vitalik, combined the best of principles of decentralisation and active central leadership to arrive at a solution where most people were pleased except the hackers. This in my opinion showcased the present world, that blockchain enthusiasts are prepared to provide solutions much better than the world has been witnessing so far.
This was also the year where banks extensively discussed, experimented with and prototyped blockchain solutions in their numerous daily operations. These may be ranging from settling international transfers to trading desks to the royal mint offering gold trading to even running stock markets on blockchain. In fact, 2016 can almost be said as an year where banks stole the limelight of action from cryptocurrencies in the realm of blockchains. It is more than evident that these POCs are likely to fructify in 2017 and maybe start bearing fruits by mid or late 2018.
2016 also saw the biggest corporations across the globe participate in the blockchain industry. All three, namely Microsoft, IBM and AWS saw release of Blockchain as a Service, offerings on their cloud platforms. The biggest technology firms, namely Infosys, TCS, HCL and Accenture, released their blockchain offerings for banking and numerous other industries and actively engaged in POCs with various industry leaders. While on the other front, the big 4, also partnered with numerous technology partners to offer blockchain solutions to their clients across the globe and showcased their blockchain readiness. It was a fabulous year where both immense technological infrastructure was created by tech giants and numerous solutions were built and tested with industry leaders by both technology and management consultants. The next year only beckons to be even more full of opportunities for those who are ready to help the industries benefit from the efficiencies of distributed ledgers.
And to make all of this happen, the governments across the globe and throughout the year, for the first time, welcomed blockchain and bitcoin more than rejecting them. The IRS of the USA, approved a bitcoin individual retirement account, allowing people to directly invest savings for retirement in bitcoins, the government of Japan became the first major government to officially recognise bitcoin and digital currencies as money, the government of Russia softened its stance on usage of bitcoin by abandoning penalties. Also, it is very interesting to note that global financial instability, whether that be induced by Brexit or the bad debts of the European banks or the
Chinese government tightening external capital flow or the demonetisation by the Indian government have all lead the masses towards bitcoin as a safe haven of store of value.
Talking about me personally, we launched GBMiners, which reached about 108 PH/s in about 115 days, averaging about 1 new Petahash added per day, making us the fastest growing bitcoin mining pool in the world, the 2nd largest mining pool outside china and 9th largest globally, operating at almost 5% of the network mining power. We launched CoinBank, a Bitcoin Bank where you can do fixed deposits and we offer 1.5% per month interest rate on a 6 months fix deposit, which is the highest offered by an bitcoin wallet/bank globally.
I have recently also invested in Satoshi Studios, an incubator for South East Asian blockchain startups where the intention is to fund at least 6 startups by 1st of April with $50K each and do a three month intensive program with them while also inviting blockchain experts from across the globe to meet the best of the budding Asia in New Delhi.
We also privately launched BitcoinGrowthFund, a VC fund for blockchain startups in South East Asia. Interestingly, the fund lets investors buy tradable tokens against their investments thus essentially solving the liquidity problem of LPs/investors. The tokens are also stored and traded on blockchain in the form of colored coins, making it the first of its kind Blockchain fund in the region and if the experiment goes well, we will be happy to launch a fund for non blockchain startups also towards the end of the year. Venture Capital is another industry waiting to be disrupted by distributed ledgers.
Earlier in the year, I have invested in 6 other Blockchain startups, all in stealth mode, based out of India, one of them is soon launching an Index Fund for cryptocurrencies, which will help cryptocurrency investors both hedge their investments and also maximise return by carefully choosing a basket of promising alternate currencies to invest in. The team has been busy number crunching for the past six months in pilot phase and so far their chosen basket of alternate currencies has outperformed bitcoin over the matched time period, despite bitcoin’s ominous march in the last few months.
Regarding my vision for 2017, I would love to see many industries getting disrupted by the efficiencies brought in both cost and time by Blockchain, some of them being, namely; Banking & Finance, Healthcare, Supplychain, Insurance, Real estate, Governance/Public sector, Media & content, Anti-counterfeiting. Personally, I am willing to help ([email protected]) startups in any capacity whether that be raising capital, or opening access to connections or lending a hand in technological expertise. Over the past few months, we have built a small but very capable ecosystem of Bitcoin Enthusiasts and Developers in New Delhi, who would be very happy to help anyone dabbling with blockchain or cryptography.
I see a great potential for Blockchain in South East Asia, for it is a region which can gain massively by skipping a technological inefficiency in its journey of digitisation of systems and processes and directly reap the benefits of efficiencies of decentralisation and personally I am really really excited for that revolution to happen in my country, and I am willing to dedicate all I can to the cause for the coming year.