Blockchain Hackaton…a point to start

I think that the inflexion moment was the Davos conference of January 2016. The WEF had the delightful task to open the eyes of most of international bank leaders about a technology that can disrupt the financial services sector and beyond. The rocket took off after this event and since, most of international banks have created a blockchain department in their organizations to search more about this technology that disturbs banks and insurers.

Personally, I still believe that I am a beginner about blockchain and still need to investigate more about the technology… I mean “Blockchain revolution” book is on the top of my literary shopping list.

But as we need to start small, this is an opportunity to write about an event that happened some weeks ago in Sao Paulo, the first international Blockchain Hackaton. The event was organized by the Blockchain Center with the support of Ewally, Accenture and Bradesco. Let’s start, what is the Blockchain Center? Some months ago, the fintech community of Sao Paulo opened a space where startups using blockchain technology and bitcoins can work together, where events related to blockchain can be organized and where anybody who is interested in the technology can go to.

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Robert Schwenteker – Blockchain University

 

Robert Schwentker, head of the Blockchain University in L.A, was present to mentor during the event. He has already organized and participated in several blockchain hackatons around the world and this was his first time in Latin America.

During a day and a half, developers and business people worked on solutions that use this technology and can bring money. To start the journey, several key actors of the Brazilian blockchain and bitcoin community made some presentations to immerge the audience into the blockchain world. Robert Schwentker presented a high level understanding of blockchain, how it is disrupting our current world and some possible solutions that can emerge from this technology.

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Joao Paulo Oliveira and Elias Rodrigues – Foxbit

 

Then Foxbit, the biggest bitcoin broker in Brazil took the stage to present its business and sharing some programming features from its platform with the developers.

IBM had also shared its knowledge about blockchain and went further on the programming tools to provide some guidance. Then Rippex, the gateway of Ripple in Brazil gave some examples of the use of blockchain in financial transactions. For your information, Ripple is the famous startup that uses financial technology to facilitate international payments in real time. Why I am saying “famous” because Santander is one of its clients and has become the gold weapon to disrupt the international remittance market. Finally, the last presentation of the day was performed by OriginalMy. Edilson Osorio, its founder, is quite a reference of blockchain in the country and one of the first ones to use the technology beyond the banking industry. He did a clever comparison of blockchain and Pokemon Go to understand the use of the technology and provided programming tips to the audience. Why to complicate when it can be as easy as capturing a pokemon.

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Edilson Osorio – OriginalMy

 

Then, the moment of ideas came out. Several people in the audience suggested a list of initiatives (from solutions for the medical sector to financial inclusion) and Robert S. helped to moderate the creative moment. I said “creative” moment because when you have to start to put that on reality, challenges are harder and we need to reshape the initial project. The three teams that arrived to the final were: a crowdfunding using blockchain, a certification system of diplomas using the technology and a voting system for building management. The final winner was “CertMe”, a solution that authenticate university diplomas on blockchain.

During this journey, I want to highlight some important points:

  • Several developers that attended did not know programming in blockchain and had to learn in the moment.
  • 98% of the participants were men
  • I met a faculty girl student at the hackaton. She participated to dig more on blockchain because she heard that mastering this technology will warranty her a job within the big banks for the coming years.
  • The final solutions presented were not disruptive rather general but let’s be realistic, it is the first hackaton in the city. Several people discovered blockchain and had to deliver a solution in a day and a half. It was a short time to take a disruptive approach.
  • Developers stated that there is still a lack of documentation about programming with blockchain on the internet. Big companies as Microsoft or IBM should facilitate materials (in every language) and environments to push developers feel comfortable with the technology.

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In a previous event, I heard that “blockchain is like sex for teenagers, everybody talks but nobody does nothing”. Well, we still have a long way to ride but I would say that this was a good beginning. Developers rolled up their sleeves and started experimenting what is programming with blockchain. We need more events like this in order to create among the coders the curiosity to learn more about the technology. Blockchain is the future and we cannot be left behind now that the global movement has started.

Thank you Robert Schwentker and Blockchain Center for organizing the event.

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Searching innovation… go to the Innovators Summit in Brazil

Some weeks ago, Sao Paulo hosted the Innovators Summit Event gathering international and national speakers. This was the second year that the event took place in Sao Paulo. For one day and a half, attendants immerge in the new trends of innovation within an organization and within several sectors.

Technologies were presented and discussed during the event showing the potential that can be reached if we implement that in Brazil. The different panels were meant to induce attendants to look for innovation thinking outside the box and also learning how to boost innovation when you work in a big company. To sum up there is no more a reverse way, innovation has to be in our companies whatever the size and organizations need to learn how to accept it and seed this new state of mind in all the levels of the hierarchy.

Obviously, if we talk about new trends, panels about fintechs and blockchain have to be presented.

To start, we had the presence of Robert Schwentker from the Blockchain University. It is a university in California that provides blockchain related technical classes and organizes events for developers and the startup community. For beginners, the presentation was a great material to educate the public to the world of bitcoins and blockchain, in few words it is a sort of new internet where all transactions are transparent and we can ensure traceability and therefore safety. Several countries are creating new solutions using this technology and even the World Economic Forum recognized it as a disruptive technology of the future. Xapo and Ewally are South American examples of startup using the blockchain technology. In fact, Robert emphaticized that now we are going to the next level of the technology creating more complex solutions linking blockchain to internet of things or artificial intelligence for example. More organizations have realized the potential of this technology and companies as Citigroup has created its own cryptocurrency and consortiums were created as R3. Blockchain is starting to invade financial products (wallets, investments, merchants, financial data, payroll , insurance…) and big organizations cannot missed it anymore.

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Coinbase also spoke out at the event to depth in the discussion of bitcoins. Coinbase is a digital asset exchange company headquartered in San Francisco, California. It is a global leader in digital currency, and present in 33 countries. There are still some controversies about the real success of bitcoins but its volume and usage are growing globally. Sam Rosemblum, from CoinBase insisted that regulators will be the key drivers to accept the existence and advantages to use a digital currency. He mentioned for example Japan as a model about openness and acceptance of bitcoins and saluted Brazil regulators to start investigating and learning about digital currencies.

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Finally, there was a conversation with Kay Schmitz from IFC and its investments in Latam and Africa. IFC has performed high level investments in fintechs, by mid-2015, it had invested over $180 million in equity and debt in early- and growth-stage fintech companies around the globe and Latin America is becoming a more attractive place. Kay considers that in the next 5 years (maybe less) the role of banks will definitively change, going beyond credit and deposits…As a specialist of fintechs, he confirms that cooperation of banks and fintechs is crucial and productive to attend client  needs  (from millennials to baby boomers). In Brazil, he sees great potential on fintechs providing loans because the credit penetration is low in the country and has the highest net margins in the world.

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Kay points out Mexico as the second country of fintechs in Latam due to the size of the market and a high need of credit for all the population. Then he mentioned Colombia and Peru, emerging countries which focus on financial inclusion. To conclude, banks are confronting big challenges in the close future because digitalization is imminent but still do have a big number of clients that refuse or are in the transition period to stick to an agency. In addition to that, customers claim convenience and customization so banks have to invest in user experience too. How to find the balance between modernization and old structures? … Unfortunately, there is no a sole answer.

To finalize speakers recognize that Brazil has a special place in the heart of investors, (besides economics figures and political disappointment), it is quite difficult to not like this country. These are encouraging words for every Brazilian startup and a chance to not miss with international investors.

I would like to thank +Innovators and CI&T for the event because they did choose carefully the speakers and it is great to listen new points of view about the fintech environment in Brazil, its positioning worldwide and of course its potential.

Thank You +Innovators and CI&T and we look forward the next year with more innovations (certainly not yet discovered) in the agenda.