Sunday, January 24, 2016

Beyond Bitcoin: The current applications for blockchain like Bitcoins are just the tip of the iceberg

Paul Chen

When I was in San Francisco on business in March 2014, I made a trip down to the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto to look around. I had the serendipitous luck to be on campus when Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen of Google and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a discussion on the future of technology. I was able to sit front row and center: During the Q & A, I held up a sign saying “Bitcoins? Regulations” Secretary Rice saw it and gave me a nod. A few minutes later, she asked Mr. Schmidt about the current fascination with bitcoins. Professor Rice was concerned with the regulation of the currency. However, Mr. Schmidt was interested by the architecture of blockchain. He said that the fact that certain parts of it is difficult to replicate is a interesting part of blockchain.

That's me under the arrow!
For a young currency, Bitcoin has had a controversial history. At the time of this writing, it is trading at $409 per coin. At its peak in December, 2013 it was trading at $1147 per coin. Then Mt Gox collapsed and brought the market to its knees. The value of a currency is based on how much people trust it to be able to hold value. Based on the fact that mining bitcoins is complex, energy intensive process coupled with the fact that only 21 million coins will ever be mined, one might reason that it should be worth more than gold. But it’s not. However, whatever happens to bitcoin, its underlying architecture will continue to fascinate, tech and financial people for years to come. It has become one of the most exciting tools of the fintech sector.

I sat down with Patrick Young (CEO of Hanza Trade) a finance expert with over 30 years of experience in exchanges as to discuss the present and the future of blockchain. (In addition to advising investors the world over, amongst his portfolio of startups, Patrick publishes “Exchange Invest” the global daily benchmark newsletter on markets & market structure world-wide).

You once told me that you have been involved in the bitcoin market for quite some time. How did you come to be aware of such a thing at such an early stage of its development?

PLY: Actually I predate Bitcoin insofar as it was obvious when I first picked up on the nascent WWW over 20 years ago, that the web broke down just about every value chain then extant. That meant money too. I codified this thinking in print (yes, that quaint old concept of a physical book!) in 1999  with “Capital Market Revolution! - the future of markets in an online world” (FT Prentice Hall). However, I am no Satoshi. While I could see the value of electronic money, I didn’t foresee the distributed ledger which Bitcoin introduced to a broader public.

I feel that anything that holds value or used as money should be somehow regulated. What are your thoughts on this in terms of cryptocurrencies?

PLY: At heart, I am a sunny Reaganite optimist and his maxim that the most dangerous phrase in the English language was “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” remains seared to my soul. Regulation is as double sided an instrument as the existence of cryptocurrency. After all, it is regulations that are precluding customer choice to user disruptive services such as Uber… Look at what works in Poland and what doesn’t: the public sector is broadly incompetent if not outright dysfunctional, oblivious to the requirements of its client base and spends more time regulating to serve its own purpose than delivering economic good. Besides, no other currency is regulated - what government would submit themselves to such scrutiny when they regularly deface the value of their own coin through various monetary shenanigans?

The great news late last year was the EU’s own courts deciding Bitcoin is a currency and not a commodity which helps it grow relatively unimpeded in at least these 28 nations. (It also ought to be helpful to the Polish BTC ecosystem where the tax authorities and government have generally been much more conservative in adjusting to new processes).

Banks seem to be very interested in bitcoins and other fintech ventures as it has the ability to render them obsolete. Do you feel that the banks have anything to worry about?
Banks have everything to worry about. This is the perfect storm where their exploitation of double entry bookkeeping leading to a protracted regulatory monopoly is now in very clear danger of extinction.

Those with great balance sheets can survive and pivot profitably to some new milieu but banking per se has, on the macro level (and I am talking about a 500 year trend here!) peaked. It’s decline is already happening and remains inevitable in terms of the classic model but it may take as long as 30-50 years to be really clear at the general public level.

The current application of blockchain is pretty much exclusive in the mining of bitcoin as well as other cryptocurrencies, however there are more things that once can do with the architecture.

The possibility for the Blockchain are colossal. If Poland sees an outbreak of government with foresight for instance, then local councils could easily use Blockchains to deliver registers for property - thus removing the vast mountains of paper cluttering up regional government offices amidst a cloudy and broadly incompetent paper-centric system of local property taxation for instance.

One of the most pressing issues in tech is security. How might blockchain be used to address this issue?

Blockchain can deliver various means to effectively clarify trades / data entries that are difficult to break without simultaneously hacking a broad range of computers in different places because the ledger of data changes is, as it is called, distributed. This, in and of itself, delivers a multi-faceted security feature.

One of the features of blockchain is the open ledger. Why would this be considered a benefit, and what can we do with it?

“Open” in the sense that the ledger is available to all members within that chain (dependent on protocols this can be in near real time or over longer periods - essentially the one quirk is the need to have a lot of bandwidth to show every transaction in near real time to every participant).

Eric Schmidt mentioned in the talk about “inability to replicate or to be copied” when talking about blockchain. What does he mean by that?

With the Blockchain a public (or private) user group distributed resource, to change a record means changing it on a multiplicity of different stored ledgers simultaneously - which is, to put it mildly, rather tricky to effect without leaving behind a trail evidencing manipulation.

Some say that  blockchain can be used to authenticate physical objects. How would that work?

Essentially it’s a type of certification that would show the origin of the product and thus as the ledger is distributed it would be harder to change the certificate of origin without, again, being in multiple places changing the record at the same time.

Business Insider  say that insurance is the next untapped market for fintech. How can blockchain be used in this space?

Insurance is costly, inefficient, based on huge quantities of paperwork dependent upon relatively poor databases of information (much of which is blandly unspecific), Blockchain could be used to store better, personalised data, creating even smart contracts for insurance, delivering microinsurance products for small risks and so forth much more efficiently than the current bureaucratic approach which is a bit like a bludgeon managing pinpoint risks.

Blockchain can be quite costly, In terms of resources needed to even get started. I mean the hardware and the electricity requirement. How can a startup team even get started?

I disagree, blockchains can be derived open source at zero or next to no cost. The user group network can take the strain for processing - overall the costs of Blockchain creation are low.

At the moment, blockchain is so abstract that it is hard to even comprehend for the regular Joe. What needs to happen for the tech to go mainstream?

PLY: Blockchain is plumbing. Smart plumbing. As such it will go mainstream through business adoption but without the public having to realise it is taking place. How many drivers are well versed in the systems their bank uses to keep their money, or their insurer to record their motoring history? I would wager next to none. In fact most people have no idea of the complexity of electronics in their car, compared, say to the simplistic electrical system of, say, the classic Polish Syrena from the 1950’s. Blockchain revolutionizes the world in the same way software does - the vast majority of humanity does not have to worry about where the process happens or how it works...they just want to use the software and enjoy an efficient, cost effective service.

Tell me a little about your latest publication?

The settlement infrastructure of financial markets as well as the risk management processes for derivative and cash markets are at once fascinating and also, in many places, significantly behind the speed of other technological innovations, as legacy systems have not yet caught up with the innovations of technology and, indeed, Blockchain. I call it the move to “Zero Hour” clearing. You can download “Towards A Real Time World Market” free of charge.

Thank you for your time. It was much appreciated.

Thank you for reading another post just for you!  If you liked what you read please share it by using one of the buttons below and check out other posts in this blog.  I don’t want you to miss out on future posts so please follow me on Twitter @Eurodude23.  If you haven’t done it already, please like my Facebook fan page by clicking here!  And if you like the content you have read, and are looking for a content writer for your team please go to for details. See you next time!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

MIT Tech Review President Kathleen Kennedy’s prescription for Polish Start-ups and innovative Entrepreneurs

Paul Chen

Over the last 116 years, MIT Technology Review, is the go-to place for in-depth reporting on the latest in technology and what is to come. Their articles are insightful, comprehensive, and authoritative.  Their mission is to equip their audience with the intelligence to understand a world shaped by technology.  Part of their work is to point out some of the most innovative people in the world.  This year they brought their Innovators Under 35 program to Poland for the first time.  As the grand finale of the Bitspiration Festival in Warsaw in a ceremony, they awarded ten young Poles with Innovators Under 35 distinctions. They have also awarded two of those with Social Innovation Special Mention and the prestigious Innovator of the Year. I had a chance to talk to Kathleen Kennedy, the President of the MIT Technology Review.

Kathleen Kennedy began her career at Deloitte and Touche in accounting. But having found her calling in media, she left finance to join a startup that specialized in media research for the film industry. Kathleen worked on a wide range of movies for major studios, including Warner Bros., Paramount, and 20th Century Fox. In her 14 years at MIT, Kathleen has helped MIT Technology Review redefine the magazine brand and achieve success in a rapidly changing market.  She has helped to create a new type of media organization that was based at MIT but remained an independent entity from MIT. She has since helped to build this new type of media organization and that means that they diversified away from being a single title magazine into a robust media organization that has a number of different channels.

MIT Technology Review has been seen as an authoritative source of information on technology. How did your publication get to that point?

We do this with serious journalism, written in clear, simple language, by a knowledgeable editorial staff, governed by a policy of accuracy and independence.
We use features, news analysis, business reports, photo essays, reviews, and interactive digital experiences that invite our readers to probe deeper, examine data, get to know experts and their opinions—to see, explore, and understand new technologies and their impact.

Technology was quite a different thing at the founding of the magazine in 1899. Has anything changed now in 2015?

Our mission has been pretty much fundamentally the same over the last 116 years: to help leaders and technologists and policymakers to understand what is the impact of new technologies.  And today we see the most interesting new technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, biomedicine, smart devices, Internet of Things, and in new energy sources as a vast amount of technologies that are fundamentally changing our world. They are allowing people to harness new technologies to help our world become more sustainable and to solve our most pressing problems.

MIT Technology Review is not more than just the magazine, can you tell us what are some of their other endeavours?

We have host competitions like the Innovators Under 35 competition that is now in twenty two regions around the world.  Our MIT Enterprise forum organization is a community and support organization for technology entrepreneurs. In that, we have twenty five chapters around the world.  In addition we still have our flagship magazine and we are expanding our events globally where with the MIT Enterprise forum we have over four hundred community events around the world. Our signature MIT Technology Review flagship event called M. Tech which in 2016 will be in ten markets.  

In a world with so many technology related media outlets, how has MIT Technology Review manage to get above all the noise?

As our mission statement is all about the impact of new technologies. Therefore, editorially, what we try to do is not only explain the new technologies but talk about why they matter.  And that is that is our unique value proposition. It's not just ‘OMG’ technologies and “aren't they cool” but in fact how new technologies are being harnessed by people to fundamentally solve problems.  So we look all around the world at data from all kinds of different sources. That data is being harnessed to understand what are the patterns and how those patterns can help people to identify and solve problems.  Just tonight we saw and heard from Stefan one of the Innovators under 35 from Belgium to talk about his new company that is harnessing telecom data for aid workers so that they can work better and work smarter and actually see patterns and stop hunger in Africa.  So that's just one example of of a fantastic story that shows how innovators are harnessing new technologies to address a major issue.

Many people would like to say that we live in a world of crisis. Climate change was a major call of the Pope of all people. Here in Europe we have some financial crisis with Greece. However, in Chinese, the characters for ‘crisis’ also translates to opportunity. So which opportunities do you see in the next decades?

MIT Technology Review is leading a new initiative from MIT called Solve. It is organized around four major pillars.  

One is called Learn: We're looking at their how technology is fundamentally changing education and how we need to change education to allow anyone in the world who wants to learn to be educated.  New technology is a major solution for that. We've seen cases rise up all around the world. There are systems in place that will allow a young kid in India who has a real aptitude for math to learn from some of the best mathematical minds in the world in Cambridge Massachusetts.  And we've had some fantastic results.  This pillar is empowering people all around the world to be able to take charge of their own education and have the tools that they need to be able to truly learn.  

The second pillar is Cure: We are looking at how new innovations are making health care more effective and efficient for people all around the world.  Professionals are looking at new types of diagnostics.  For instance, in some microfluidic technology that is allowing health care workers in regions all around the world that didn't have proper medical care before to have very cheap disposable diagnostics. This allows them to take a drop of blood or a drop of saliva and drop it onto a piece of paper that has microfluidics on it.  This allows diagnosis to happen rapidly in the field.  That's just one example.  

The next pillar is called Fuel: What fuel is looking at is really the health of the planet. We are thinking about how we need to harness new technologies to help with climate change issues and really fix the health of the planet.  So there we’re looking at renewable energy and new types of solar technology.  One area that we're very interested in this thinking about how do we create better battery power.  If you think about it, batteries are often a limitation on new technologies.  If you think about your cell phone or think about your home being able to store power is one of our big barriers.  So there are fantastic technologists working on new types of batteries. That's one thing that was discovered at MIT but there's people all around the world working on these new technologies that are going to help us create more sustainable energy.  

And lastly the fourth pillar is called Make: Make is really about automation entrepreneurship and the workforce for the 21st century and beyond.  How are we training neural networks or what will be comprised of that workforce. There's a lot of controversy around this. There's a bit of fear around this topic but there's an amazing amount of progress that making around creating a more efficient work force to power our world.  That will be a much more effective and efficient and allow people to realize their true potential.  

During our pre-interview conversation, you expressed your astonishment on how much Poland has progressed. Can you elaborate on that?

This is my first time in Poland so I will admit that I'm not an expert on the Polish ecosystem. However, in the short time I have been here, I have met some amazing people.  I am very impressed with the level of technical expertise and the enthusiastic outlook of young innovators.  I think that there is a real desire to improve the ecosystem here and build it up.  Earlier today, I met with two young gentlemen that are helping us to establish our MIT Enterprise forum chapter for the Polish market.  They are going to be launching an accelerator program partnering with a number of incubators.  And we're very impressed with our first class of the MIT Technology Innovators under 35: Poland.  They span from Michal Mikulski who is creating robotics that allow rehab to happen much faster.  To Olga Malinkiewicz who is making printable solar cell that will allow people to use solar power and their everyday life. So I was very impressed with the wide range of the innovators here and I believe that Poland is going in a good direction.

Wow, this has been very educational and inspirational. We, in Poland, are certainly looking forward to working with MIT Technology Review to solve global problems.

It’s been a pleasure. I’m sure we’ll do some amazing work.

Thank you for reading another post just for you!  If you liked what you read please share it by using one of the buttons below and check out other posts in this blog.  I don’t want you to miss out on future posts so please follow me on Twitter @Eurodude23.  If you haven’t done it already, please like my Facebook fan page by clicking here!  And if you like the content you have read, and are looking for a content writer for your team please go to for details. See you next time!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Is Poland still a good Investment - my answer may surprise you

Paul Chen

By now those following the news in Poland as well as from abroad may have noticed that Poland has been the subject of many reports. Most of those don’t exactly paint Poland in a very positive light. Publications like the New York Times, the Economist as well as cable channels like CNN have reported about the worrisome developments in the Polish government. I cannot say whether these maneuvers will result in detrimental outcomes or not, only time will tell. One thing is for sure, the country’s branding is taking a beating.

Every startup founder knows that one of the most important things is the branding for their startup. Branding builds trust. As a result, investors may not trust Poland as a place to invest their money. So you ask me,”Is Poland still a good investment?”

A good investor needs some information to make an educated judgement, so let me drop some major knowledge on you.

Encouraging Statistics

Currently, Poland is forecasted to have a +3% in growth in their economy with over $13K  per capita. The corporate tax rate is holding steady at 19%. Poland is ranked 26th in the world for the penetration of mobile communications along with 57% penetration with smartphones. With 67% of the population having access, it ranks 22nd in the world for the penetration of internet.

Because of investor jitters, foreign currency is worth more in Poland than in the last few quarters. There hasn’t been positive inflation in Poland since 2014. The quickest growing sector in terms of employment is in the service sector with 57% of the over 18 million people workforce.

Only 7 of such in the world

Google just opened up a Campus in Warsaw to bring their years of experience and some leadership to the Polish startup community.

Industry leaders in Southern Poland

Krakow continues to be among the European leaders in terms of high technology. It is one of the industry leaders in the shared services sector with over 45,000 employees. There are over 100 multinational corporations with a branch in Krakow. In the last couple of weeks, I was at a meeting where the city has announced increased efforts to build on their already excellent communications between the city and the high tech businesses.

Krakow leads Poland in the number of graduates with a technical degree and ranks third in Poland in terms of IT. Krakow has 40% of the world’s market share in producers of bluetooth beacons in Estimote and

Disrupting Museums and Fashion

A local startup used such proximity to world class beacons to their advantage. HG Intelligence has implemented their Synerise solution in Gino Rossi, a major fashion retailer in Poland. People who downloads the Gino Rossi app will be privy to some exclusive deals via pushes from beacons. Such solutions has also been installed in MOCAK, a contemporary arts museum to enhance the interactivity between the visitor and the artwork. Many users have tried the MOCAK app. It received positive reviews. These apps already have thousands of downloads.

A more secure cloud

Ever since their participation in the 2013 Disrupt Europe Startup Battlefield in Berlin, and things have been pretty interesting for in the two years that have passed. It is a SaaS-based software that essentially gives teams and telecommuters a private, project-centric cloud with the goal of giving users full control over their data.  It was successful on their Kickstarter campaign for their Sherlybox, a slick-looking desktop network storage system that puts a personal cloud on your desktop complete with removable hard drive and a touch sensor for configuration, raising $150K from 900 backers. They have just started to ship the Sherlybox. So far they have sold 1000 units along with 6000 business customers.

A heart for the Tinman

Anyone can create their own personal robot with the innovative RoboCORE. It is the marquee product of Husarion. Fresh off of their successful Kickstarter campaign, raising over $50K from a little over 300 backers, they recently completed a tour of Silicon Valley. Their tour was the result of winning a startup competition by Business Link and the US Market Access Center as a part of the Ready to Go 3 week accelerator program. Their RoboCore units are ready to be shipped.

24 hour gourmet shop

Imagine having to work late but the stores will be closed by the time you get out of work? Coming home to an empty fridge is not very pleasant. Coolomat will help solve your grocery shopping needs. They recently teamed up with the upscale Polish supermarket, Alma, in their Alma24 e-shop.You can get anything from bottles of olive oil to Polish ham delivered to a postal locker so you can pick it up anytime you want within a certain period of time. Their lockers are temperature controlled so your ham will not get spoiled. The postal locker method of delivery have been very popular in Poland among busy e-commerce customers who cannot pick up their packages during the operating hours of the post office.

A Unicorn in the making

In a recent article appearing on CNBC, Brainly  was featured as a possible candidate in the mythical Unicorn Club, a startup with over $1B in valuation. It is certainly exciting to follow this startup from Krakow. Currently they are helping students with their educational needs across the globe, from Indonesia to Russia. They have tens of millions of users as well as millions of downloads of their app. So far they have raised about $10M.

Despite the current wave of negative press about Poland. The numbers and developments in the Polish startup community can speak for itself. Polish entrepreneurs and startups are pressing forward independent of what is going on in Warsaw. More and more Polish businessmen are thinking beyond the borders. Is Poland still a good investment? Absolutely!

Thank you for reading another post just for you!  If you liked what you read please share it by using one of the buttons below and check out other posts in this blog.  I don’t want you to miss out on future posts so please follow me on Twitter @Eurodude23.  If you haven’t done it already, please like my Facebook fan page by clicking here!  And if you like the content you have read, and are looking for a content writer for your team please go to for details. See you next time!