Blockchain is without a doubt the most discussed new technology these days, and many would say that it is on the brink of disrupting our lives. However, a lot has to happen before that vision can become a reality. First of all, we need platforms to talk about what exactly has to happen. Not a day goes by without a meetup or workshop diving into the ins and outs of blockchain, but next to these small, local initiatives, there is a need for platforms that stretch across borders, sectors and interests. There is a need for a platform that will define the current state and the future of blockchain.
One attempt to create such a platform is about to happen this November in Barcelona. European Blockchain Convention – as described by one of the Founders, Victoria Gago – will be the first European conference in Spain to bring together the blockchain world and raise issues that have to be solved before blockchain can reach its full potential.
Victoria works in AddVANTE M&A advising tech, retail and industrial companies. Additionally, she advises several blockchain projects. She’s also the founder of Accelerate Network, a group of young female professionals who motivate each other to pursue leadership roles in different sectors. We chatted about how she discovered blockchain, what opportunities the technology represents to her and to society, and of course, why she is so passionate about organizing a prestigious European convention and bringing together the most important players of the blockchain world in Barcelona.
First encounters with blockchain
Victoria was first introduced to blockchain and its significance by a friend she met at Accelerate Network, and she was instantly blown away.
“I was fascinated by the idea that, with the help of blockchain, we can distribute wealth in a completely new way. It was the philosophy behind the technology that first attracted me to it. And it wasn’t until later that I realized it was something you could actually invest in,” she tells me.
She seems to relive the excitement of her initiation to the world of blockchain as she recounts her story.
“I was very excited about investing. Not enough women invest their money, which is a huge issue. Not only is there a significant wage gap, we also miss out on opportunities because we don’t invest! Anyway, in the beginning, I invested in Ethereum – because I was amazed by what you can do with it. It’s far from just a payment method – you can create all kinds of applications and apply them to any sector. At some point I dabbled in trading, but I quickly decided to stop. I figured, if I believe in this technology, that’s not going to change from one day to the other. I’m going to hold my position and I am not going to sell. Now, I have a portfolio of different cryptocurrencies, but I hardly ever touch them,” she states.
Blockchain and its potential
When I ask her what areas she believes blockchain is going to be crucial for, Victoria replies like a true blockchain optimist:
“Anything that has to do with value. The blockchain is sometimes referred to as “the internet of value”, because – unlike today’s internet of information – the new internet will be all about moving or sending value in a matter of seconds. One of the biggest issues with the internet of today is that you can replicate everything: for example, you can save photos and make as many copies as you like, which leads to a loss of value. However, with blockchain, value cannot be transferred twice. There is no double spending. Only one copy. And that’s something that can be useful for any sector.”
The industries that blockchain is considered most likely to disrupt include banking, auditing, insurance, healthcare, real estate, the legal industry, security, government and education. One huge advantage of blockchain is that you can use it to create smart contracts – which you can apply to almost anything from buying and selling houses to purchasing airline tickets and so on. Victoria has a couple of other exciting use cases to add.
“Banking and insurance are the most obvious areas where blockchain can have a huge impact. But think about the music industry, for example. If artists had their songs on blockchain, they wouldn’t have to go through so many middlemen to get to the consumers, and they would earn a lot more money. Other interesting sectors are art, luxury goods and food, in all of which tracking is fundamentally important. If you gave these items an ID, you could track them on the blockchain and ensure things like source, quality, authenticity, and so on. What kind of ID would you use and how would you make sure that it actually sticks to the item that you’re tracking? That’s a very good question, and the answer is yet to be figured out,” she admits.
Victoria envisions a future where all healthcare systems – public and private – are also sitting on the blockchain, where every citizen has a profile with all their data and medical history. This topic raises a question that still seems to become the elephant in all the rooms where anyone so much as whispers blockchain: is the technology secure?
“Yes, because only you have the key to your information. Right now, it’s all centralized. Hospitals have your information, and they can get hacked anytime. However, if your data was on blockchain, you would only give access to someone else if you wanted to. You would have control. Denmark and Estonia are very advanced in digitalizing their healthcare systems, they have a lot of IT systems “talking” to each other, but it’s not related to blockchain just yet. I wish all the healthcare systems that haven’t gone digital yet would just skip that step and go straight to blockchain.”
As for what happens if your key get compromised or stolen…
“Currently you have a lot of responsibility in the blockchain world. Much more than in the “real world”. You can’t lose your private key like you can lose your credit card,” she explains.
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The most pressing matter: regulation
The biggest problem with blockchain currently being a free-for-all is not that scammers have a better chance of going undiscovered. It’s that all the truly amazing emerging projects that have the potential to change the world for the better are technically not legal.
“Take ICOs, for example. They’re a way of raising money for your project. Right now, ICOs are not legal. They’re also not illegal. There is no regulation to support them, which means a lot of uncertainty and risk for the future if you do decide to do one. Right now, Spain is looking into introducing an ICO regulation that is similar to the EU’s regulation around equity crowdfunding, so you can raise a maximum of €5M,” Victoria explains.
Sure enough, Spain seems to be actively pushing the blockchain revolution by coming up with regulatory guidelines that encourage innovation. On the 30th of May, the Spanish Congress unanimously supported draft legislation that would regulate blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies in a way that is favorable for blockchain projects, and has “agreed to promote blockchain as a cost-efficient and disintermediated system for payments and transfers, advocating the need to foster fintech startups in particular.”
“On the 6th of June the European Parliament had its first session on blockchain, and they also touched on the subject of regulation. Of course, as with all regulations, it’s going to take a lot of time to be voted on, accepted and implemented,” Victoria adds.
“If we want to achieve something big, it has to be on a European level.”
European Blockchain Convention
European Blockchain Convention will be the first of its kind: an event that aims to round up industry leaders, regulators, politicians, investors, developers, CTOs, lawyers and entrepreneurs building the foundation of the Blockchain and the Digital Economy from all over Europe in a single event held in Barcelona.
“Our goal is to gather people at an international conference, and talk about topics like regulating the blockchain sector. We need regulation, and we need it on a European level. National-level efforts are very positive, but they are not enough, especially when it comes to investment,” Victoria points out.
The flags of a myriad of different countries won’t be the only specks of color at the conference. The organizers are aiming to be inclusive in other ways, too.
“We want to bring together people from all sectors of blockchain, as well as people that could potentially be involved, and people that should be involved. We have politicians coming from the European Parliament, we have Central Banks coming from Spain, England, Lithuania and Switzerland, and we’re inviting people from the very different sectors.”
As a firm believer in gender equality and someone who is trying to disrupt stereotypes around women, Victoria has another, not-so-hidden agenda – giving the conference a refreshingly positive touch.
“The blockchain world is very male dominated. I want to give it another perspective – I’m trying to put together a conference that is very diverse. I would like to have gender parity among both the speakers and the attendees. So in that sense, I’m not trying to reflect the real world. I think this is important because this way, young people might see role models that they can connect with and perhaps start looking into blockchain. We need more women in this industry, and I would love to encourage girls to start thinking about getting into it. I don’t want to turn “Women in blockchain” into a topic or talk about it at the conference. But I do want to show it in a positive light, and let it speak for itself,” she concludes.
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