The audience consisting mainly of men in dark suits were spellbound by the ecstatic blue shapes dancing to the beat of hammers and hip-hop sounds as performed by BitArt theatre in the Chamber of Commerce’s Albert-Schäfer Hall to open the international Blockchance 2019 in Hamburg from August 16-17, 2019. The simultaneity of future and tradition could hardly have been more vivid. Around 750 representatives of commerce, science, politics, media and technology and 50 keynote speakers from Hamburg and all corners of globe had gathered to focus on the technological options and social impact of global distributed ledger technology aka blockchain at the pivotal conference.
Neither black nor white
The technology, which is neither black nor white, good or bad, is reliant on a concrete application. The English-language conference attended by some 1,500 expected visitors is part of the Blockchain Summer and has effectively put Hamburg on the international map of blockchain cities. “Blockchain is a forward-looking technology that is finding ever wider application. Data security, trust and reliability are especially important in the digital world. The high-calibre Blockchance Conference underscores the growing interest in this technology, which we want to use for digitization and innovation in Hamburg,” said Dr. Peter Tschentscher, Mayor of Hamburg, and patron of the event.
Here to stay
But how and for what purpose the technology is used remains crucial. Decentralization and the fact that many participants do digital transactions independently mean that blockchain is transparent and democratic by nature. “When my young son asks me 'what’s happening in the world’ and 'what do you do all day’, I tell him that I’m trying to make our planet a little bit better through my work,” said Fabian Friedrich, organiser of the conference. Friedrich has since become the face of Hamburg’s blockchain scene with more than 50 predominantly, fledgling start-ups. A pioneer in Germany, he is also the initiator of the Hanseatic Blockchain Institute and founder of the Blockchance Campus inFinhaven: “Blockchain is here to stay. It’s up to us what we make of it.”
Answer to many questions?
The term blockchain is often equated with crypto currencies such as Bitcoin and business models in a legally grey area. Yet, blockchain may yet help solve many environmental problems and eventually even avert climate change, according to keynote speaker Mark Buckley, Ambassador of the U.N. Sustainability Goals (SDGs) and member of the Expert Network of the World Economic Forum. People should be open to new technologies, he added, and noted: “The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.” However, Blockchain consumes huge amounts of energy and this problem has yet to be resolved. An exposition in the Chamber of Commerce featured several uses of blockchain in Hamburg. Michael Westhagemann, Senator for Economics, had earlier noted: “Real added value is created here in the form of efficiency gains and additional security through innovative blockchain applications in sectors such as energy, logistics and industry.”
The agenda also featured the launch of BlockRock Ventures, the first privately initiated blockchain accelerator in Hamburg and a start-up pitch. Plans are also being laid for two investment funds of EUR 5 million and EUR 30 million targeting start-ups in the pre-seed and early-stage phases as well as a support programme lasting up to two and a half years. Evan Luthra, an international investor, and founder of the company builder Startup Studio, had set up the BC19 Evan Luthra Startup Award worth EUR 50,000, which was presented to the winner of the start-up pitch on August 17, 2019.
Time is moving forward – confidence as a currency
The technology needs above all broad acceptance and trust to reach a breakthrough. The fact that blockchain from Hamburg could spread all over the world goes with traditional Hanseatic merchant virtues such as openness to new things and handshake deals. A stone plaque in the Chamber of Commerce reading: “Time strives forwards, invention pushes invention; test and with a strong hand acquire excellence,” composed by Heinrich Geffcken on the inauguration of the stock exchange in 1841, took on a new meaning after being lit up by the flashing blue lights during the earlier performance.
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