Sam Harrison discusses the Fun and Folly of Blockchain Technology
The Hero City training program at Draper University is unparalleled. More start-ups have been founded in its halls than any top business school in the nation. nVision — which was acquired by Boston Scientific for $275 million — was created there. As was Qtum — a blockchain-focused company with a current market cap of over $330 million.
Therefore, it was with great pleasure when the Director of Draper University reached out with an invitation to come and address the largest cohort of entrepreneurs they have ever had. I had been on stage there several times and it has always been a rewarding experience. They had 124 entrepreneurs from around the world, predominantly non-US citizens, of which only a handful had had any exposure to blockchain technology.
I was asked to provide an intro to blockchain technology. Any of you who follow the space will know that the first thing we need to caution people about is that, while blockchain is a phenomenal piece of technology — it is still very early and there are still significant problems that we need to solve. As a result, I titled my talk “The Fun and Folly of Blockchain Technology”.
At the end of the day, I told my audience, blockchain technology is effectively super-sophisticated accounting software. But the reason this is interesting is that blockchain can answer the question of “Who has What” — a cornerstone question for almost any enterprise. But, as I told my audience, the brilliance of the tech isn’t simply that it can answer a single question — but that it can automate a process out of the results of that answer. It’s almost as if Naval Ravikants’ quote on the fact that automation will eliminate the need for any non-creative jobs and Marc Andreessens’ quote about software eating the world had a baby and called it “blockchain”.
It is no surprise that we expect blockchain to become a transformative feature in industries such as Finance, Records, Healthcare, Gaming, Digital Assets, Real Estate, Logistics and on and on. After all, I can’t find a single analyst worth their salt who hasn’t issued a report in the last two years on the forecasted effect that blockchain will have on their industry.
But, I cautioned my rapt audience of entrepreneurs from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and around the world, just because a piece of technology CAN do something doesn’t mean that it WILL do that thing. Blockchain — one of the greatest infrastructure technologies developed in the last 50 years — still has some growing pains to go through. The blockchain trilemma as explained by Vitalik Buterin can stand as a roadblock to widespread adoption of this technology. After all, if you can only pick two features from Scalability, Decentralization and Security — what is the tradeoff a business is most likely to select? In my view, they will sacrifice decentralization in the interest of scalability and security. And, if that’s the case, wouldn’t they just have a over-complicated database?
And that, I explained, was the folly. There are ways to transcend the blockchain trilemma. We have done it here at ThunderCore. But, importantly, we have also side-stepped it. If there is a blockchain that is capable of a massive scale but it only has 30 to 40 users, scale no longer matters. What matters is that users get access to this technology. Like other infrastructure tech, they may not know that they are using blockchain, but they find their international transfers are faster and cheaper. They find that they can time-out permissions on sharing medical records. They realize that their charitable organizations can have greater transparency and that they can show true, unique ownership over a digital asset.
Our goal, here at ThunderCore, is not just to build another interesting computer science project (although that is fun too). Our goal is to get our technology in the hands of as many people as possible. This is why we built scale in from the very beginning with a blockchain that is currently capable of processing over 1,500 transactions per second. But we also focus on people using the technology and our applications have over 10,000 daily active users — more than any other chain that has publicly released their data.
It was great to be able to speak to the summer cohort of Draper University. I hope my short time there showed them both that the future will be an exciting time and encouraged them to go and build that future. We, here at ThunderCore, look forward to continuing our relationship with Draper U and the new relationships that we are building with the start-ups changing the world.