Blockchain beyond the hype: Q&A with Arwen Smit, Founder & CEO of MintBit
6 MINUTE READ
Speculation on the value of blockchain is rife, with Bitcoin—the first and most infamous application of blockchain—grabbing headlines for its rocketing price and volatility. That the focus of blockchain is wrapped up with Bitcoin is not surprising given that its market value surged from less than $20 billion to more than $200 billion over the course of 2017. Yet Bitcoin is only the first application of blockchain technology that has captured the attention of governments and industries.
Despite the hype, blockchain is still an immature technology. It’ll be a long time before a clear recipe for success emerges in the market. Unstructured experimentation of blockchain solutions without strategic evaluation of the value at stake or the feasibility of capturing it means many companies will not see a return on their investments.
Arwen Smit is Founder and CEO of MintBit, which provides blockchain advisory services to help companies and policy makers avoid costly mistakes when working with decentralised technologies. Setting a course in uncharted waters is never easy, but Arwen and her team work with organisations to help them understand, prioritise, and execute on the strategic potential of blockchain.
We spoke to her for insight into blockchain, cryptocurrencies, Web 3.0, and the role they’ll play in future business ecosystems.
Tell us a bit about your role and how you came to found Mintbit.
There is a disconnect in blockchain space. Technology first innovation (so-called fat protocols) leaves quite a lot to the imagination at C-level. Now imagine you are a director and you’ve done what you’ve done for a while. It kind of works. And, all of the sudden, there is a new technology that challenges nearly everything you think you know. From how your organisation creates and captures value, to how the organisation itself is structured. MintBit was founded because we believe two things: 1) Bringing blockchain benefits to the masses is a good thing and 2) In order to bring blockchain benefits to the masses, blockchain needs to be useful. In order to be useful, blockchain needs to create and capture value in a sustainable way, bringing us to blockchain strategy.
What are the most common blockchain myths you come across?
Blockchain is not just Bitcoin. This is still confusing to people new to the space. Blockchain technology has actually very little to do with Bitcoin’s volatility. On the other side we also find classics. The crypto community tends to preach “decentralisation is always good” and my favorite; “we’ll figure out how to make money later”.
What is web 3.0 and what role does blockchain play in it?
While the Web 2.0 democratised many power structures and created new opportunities, the economic engine is largely privatised and monopolised. The Web 3.0 is the antithesis of this. It’s about multiple profit centres sharing value across an open network. Decentralisation means an opportunity to run companies differently – and not just companies. This principle has the power to impact any initiative where people organise themselves.
A ripple effect that will flow from providing pocket money to your children, to creating monetary policies for governments, and even influencing the structure of society at large. The driving force behind this new Web 3.0 paradigm is blockchain, and it’s here to stay.
Which sectors do you feel have the most to gain from adopting blockchain technology?
Technologies are tools, and the combination of these emerging tools, merged in ‘Web 3.0’, may result in new ways of organising our society. Similar to lego blocks, the technology can be combined in different ways. It is hard to say what the dominant use case will be in the next five years, for the blockchain tools develop all the time, such is the nature of open source. What I do know for certain is that unless Facebook and Uber reinvent their business models to adapt to the bigger picture, Web 3.0 will leave them behind.
In your eyes, what qualities make a great blockchain developer?
Mastering blockchain is cross-disciplinary. Shifts in value, trust and identity touch on behavioural economics, game theory and philosophy. Developing a technology that has immutability as one of its defining characteristics adds an additional layer of complexity, even responsibility.
Are there any cryptocurrencies you’re particularly keen on?
I’m increasingly viewing blockchain and tokens as components to the same puzzle, with blockchain always pre-dating tokens. Figuring out blockchain is hard. Tokenisation, harder. Almost every token is currently overvalued for the utility it brings, but when the network effects kick in, and the protocol developments speed up, I’m quite excited about 0x, Ocean Protocol and Mainframe.
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