The rise of blockchain – a public, immutable ledger that was first developed to record bitcoin transactions – as a disruptive technology of epic proportions has been swift, so it should come as no surprise that the first global body set up to educate businesses on the latest innovations in blockchain technology is also moving quickly.
On March 7, less than two months after its founding by The Bitfury Group, in collaboration with the international law firm Covington, the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC) announced it would be establishing a chapter in Washington, D.C. As an inclusive global body, the GBBC will continue opening branches around the world. At the end of March, the GBBC will celebrate the launch of its China chapter at the Annual China Financial Literacy Conference in Beijing and Shanghai.
“During our first year, we plan to create key moments which bring together the business and blockchain ecosystems and facilitate education, engaged dialogue, collaboration and advocacy in this space,” said Mercina Tillemann-Dick, Executive Director of the GBBC. ”Right now there is a real dearth of actionable, relevant, readable information and a false perception that blockchain technology is too complicated. The GBBC will help business leaders around the world see for themselves just how easy – and important – it is to use.”
At its D.C. opening, the GBBC, whose founding members represent 28 countries, announced its board of directors, which includes: Wei Wang, Founding Chairman of China Mergers & Acquisitions Association (CMAA); Valery Vavilov, CEO and founder of The Bitfury Group; Tomicah Tillemann, Director of the Bretton Woods II initiative at New America; Sandra Ro, Executive Director of Digitization at CME Group; Yew Kiat Phang, CEO and Vice Chairman of Credit China FinTech Holdings Limited (CCF); Elizabeth Rossiello, CEO and Co-founder of BitPesa Ltd; George Kikvadze, Vice Chairman of The Bitfury Group; Brian Forde, Co-founder of the Digital Currency Initiative; and Paula Guedes, CEO and founder of Jobzi.
“As with any new technology, the role of the business sector will be key to maximizing the potential and benefits of blockchain technology – the task of informing the business community about this transformative new way of doing business is significant,” said Tomicah Tillemann, Director of the Bretton Woods II program at New America and chairman of the board of the GBBC. “We are so honoured to be joined in this effort by such an exceptional, accomplished and balanced group of partners. We could not have asked for a better team.”
Changing the way we do business
The applications for blockchain technology are manifold and growing. Blockchain technology offers a way for people who do not know or trust each other to transfer nearly any asset using the same process, creating a record of ownership that compels the consent of everyone concerned. Given that no central authority or potentially malicious third party can tamper with it, everything from land registries, to stock markets, to financial services could use this technology to limit fraud and corruption, improve efficiency and maximize economic benefits to a broader section of society.
“In the next five to 10 years, it is likely that blockchain technology will fundamentally alter the way we do business: by reducing friction and costs associated with digital transactions, this technology has the power to open up the global economy to billions who are currently excluded – the GBBC will be essential to making these possibilities a reality,” said The Bitfury Group CEO and GBBC board member Valery Vavilov.
In March, CoinDesk released its latest “State of Blockchain” report, which revealed that venture capital funding for blockchain startups rose sharply in the fourth quarter of 2016 to $75mn, taking the total amount of blockchain VC funding for 2016 to $496mn. Over the past six months, there were over 25 investments in blockchain startups, with five for greater than $10m. All but one of the recent large investments have been in startups with a multi-blockchain business model – ie. those outside the bitcoin blockchain – whereas a year ago, none of them were.
So far this year there have been two significant investments: Align Commerce (to be rebranded as Veem) raised $24mn in March, while The Bitfury Group raised $30m in January in a deal which includes an investment in Bitfury shares and the establishment of a joint venture focusing on the China market.
The development of the GBBC demonstrates not only the increased enthusiasm for blockchain technology, but also a shift towards geographical diversity within the blockchain ecosystem.
Noelle Acheson, a member of CoinDesk’s product team, identified this geographical shift from trends in recent deals. “Take a look at the investors in the rounds greater than $10m over the past six months. One of the investors in Veem was SBI Holdings, a Japanese investment arm. The sole investor in the BitFury round was Credit China Fintech Holdings. Asian investors were present in only one – Blockstream – of the large rounds in the same period a year ago. While the sample size is admittedly not large, the funding rounds over the coming months are likely to confirm this trend: an emphasis on business models that blend blockchains, and greater geographical diversification – all signs of a growing and maturing sector,” Acheson said.