Many have missed it – but not for much longer. The financial press is having fun talking about Bitcoin, but another important story that gets less attention is the technology underlying Bitcoin called “blockchain.” There are now books written on what it is and why it’s important and buzz phrases that are created and used to try to keep you out of the crypto club, but allow me to save you weeks of reading.
Blockchain is simply a new way of keeping electronic records. You might ask “isn’t this just a database?” It is – it just happens to be a much better database for many applications that is public, highly-secure, decentralized and permanent. There is no single third party that maintains it. What this means is there is no centralized authority (no government, Google or Visa—let’s call them ”intermediaries”) that maintains this database.
With a high-level understanding of what blockchain is, you might ask “why is it important?” Blockchain has many implications, but it is going to change how we interact with each other and over time will make peer to peer interaction the norm. Blockchain is going to disrupt the business model for many companies that make their money as intermediaries—and there are lots of them. There is a reason large banks, insurance companies and financial institutions are scrambling – they are likely to be among the first to feel the impact of blockchain technology—but many other markets, businesses and asset classes will be impacted.
Background: The Power of the Divorce and Blockchain Become Clear to Me
Getting divorced is a miserable slog. Since you have no incentive to do anything financially productive during a divorce, you have time to read, research and plan for what’s next. I was fortunate in that I first heard about blockchain in 2013, and by 2015 I had plenty of time to research and think about this technology. I completely missed the importance of the whole “internet” thing in the 1990’s, but the more I researched and thought about blockchain, the more I came to believe that this is a transformational technology. Now that my divorce is complete and I am less than half the financial man I was before, I can go back to figuring out how to translate this technological epiphany into a financially and socially productive endeavor.
What to Do
If you subscribe to the general thesis and agree we are in the early stages of an impactful technology development, there are couple of things you can do:
Invest on the Thesis: Identify businesses and industries that are going to be impacted by blockchain and go long, exit and, in a few cases, effectively short them, as there will be winners and losers. The bet is not that we will all be using Bitcoin to buy groceries in early 2018 – even great technologies take time to gain general acceptance—the bet is that over the next five years how we transact and commercially interact is going to change, particularly where intermediaries are involved. Banks and financial institutions are obvious candidates—but there are many more. Agriculture, auditors, government, legal, logistics, manufacturing, services, transport, venture capital… are all going to be impacted—in many cases, dramatically.
You are Not Too Late: If you are so inclined, you are not too late and can jump in over the course of 2018. After talking to many people in the space—some of whom have been active for much longer than me—I have found very few people that I would describe as “experts” or even as highly proficient. I have met many “crypto millionaires” and they are very interesting people. For the most part, they came in during the “wild west” phase, made a killing and like most technological development cycles, they will be replaced by people who are going to migrate over from more traditional backgrounds. Daily there is a new blockchain “intermediary” that pops up which I find curious given what the technology represents—but they are the physical “eBay Stores” of the early internet era and will soon pass as we all become more familiar with the technology and new solutions enter the market to make things easier. Bottom line—you have time. There are plenty of resources to read and in six months or less, you can become as proficient as most of the people that are the “experts” today. You can even come up with ideas and try to transform an entire industry and asset class…like us …
While tempted to just trade, at some point in 2016, it occurred to me that blockchain could have a massively beneficial impact on the patent industry and patent asset class. I had some positively stupid initial ideas, but by 2017, the crazy ideas started to slow down and the better ones took over. I began assembling the team of programmers, data scientists, communications specialists and patent wonks we would need to implement and create a new business model that intelligently captures the power of blockchain in the patent space. Today, we start to reveal our newest creation: www.IPwe.com
We have a team of 20 full time people at IPwe and a diverse group of consultants that are working tirelessly to refine and implement the many solutions we will begin to offer the market starting next month. We have been fortunate to obtain strong financial backing that has permitted us to develop what some are only beginning to contemplate or conceptualize about (you see a lot of this in the space these days—big dreams, little execution and a really nice White Paper). Applying blockchain, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to improve patents, the industry and the asset class is our mission. It is a curious path how a collection of misfit trolls, geeks and wonks ended up here—but we are going to crush it and make a fortune, improve the patent asset class and benefit the patent ecosystem and society at the same time. We look forward to introducing you to IPwe.