Consensus ’18: The Good, The Bad, The Ridiculous

The jazziest and pizazziest blockchain conference of the world just got over in New York City, and we saw everyone we needed to see there, and everyone we didn’t. Consensus featured all that’s inspiring, frustrating, depressing, and ugly about the rapidly shifting blockchain industry.

We have everything you thought you missed lined up here for you. Read about what the $2000 ticket was all about.

The Good

The flag-wavers. Entrepreneurs who toiled and evangelized before fame and Lamborghinis were involved made their way to the front, just when we were about to forget about them amidst all the loud johnny-come-lately’s. Waves owner Sasha Ivanov even made his first ever trip to the U.S. for Consensus, although his presentation was wickedly shoved into a quiet side room and lasted all of 10 minutes. Even then, after Ivanov touted Waves’ position as the world’s fastest blockchain and second biggest ICO platform, which now supports smart contracts, he won major new fans.

Marketing innovation. Although opulent alcohol was available for free at the meet, identity platform Civic set up a beer vending machine that verified age via blockchain. Ledger, on the other hand, showcased a diamond-encrusted version of its hardware wallet. Also, secure messaging platform Mainframe airdropped its token by filling balloons with coins and floating them over attendees’ heads.

The Bad

Outsourced! The regulators have undoubtedly smashed the dreamers and technologists even if they haven’t been able to kill. The SEC’s vague pronouncements and aggressive subpoenas are driving the best crypto companies to headquarter in foreign lands and forego investment dollars from U.S. citizens

“Every time a startup receives a subpoena, even if they did nothing wrong, that’s a quarter million dollars in legal fees,” said Erik Voorhees of ShapeShift and Prism. “Startups have to spend a third of their resources, measured by time, money, and attention, just to manage regulations.” No wonder Shapeshift itself is headquartered in Switzerland.

Traffic congestion. The line to get into Consensus was very much of a  concert mosh pit. One attendee even claimed Bitcoin to be faster than this.  If you arrived early, you waited one hour. Stragglers waited for two. The Lamborghinis didn’t help either. It would have made a lot of sense if Consensus used blockchain to fix its ticketing. They wouldn’t have to look far, either, as the conference hosted the launch of Blockparty, an excellent ticketing startup.

Moral midnight. You can’t possibly make sure whether the brilliant booth you’re at is even real. The Grapevine might just tell you that the company is probably a scam.” We’ll never know for certain. Investigating crypto companies is a backbreaking job, and there aren’t many people equipped or incentivized to do it. Also, no one wants to risk calling out a company over “probably”, so they recur.


The Ridiculous

The Dogg-shows. Ripple won the after-party game this year by hiring Snoop Dogg to perform, but let’s not forget that majestic spectacles cost a majestic amount and the industry has been hit hard enough already, with all the regulations and dipping public enthusiasm. It makes it sound like the event was organised by college students.

We don’t have much money. Let’s party!

Endless exhibition. Blockchain conferences are exhausting, and they seem to ever end. Mainframe’s Mick Hagen lamented the “roadshow mentality” that’s developed over the last year, where entrepreneurs are expected to conference their way to success with endless presentations, exhibitions, and networking events.

“Vitalik Buterin didn’t build Ethereum by going to 100 events a year, so why are we?”