Token Summit — Not Just a ‘token’ Crypto Event

A genuine melting pot of ideas and projects, which took the crypto conversation forward, both in breadth and in depth. Here’s a short overview of some of the major themes of the summit.

Timing is everything. Token Summit 2 couldn’t have asked for a more powerful context than this first week of December. Cryptokitties happened; Crypto valuation had just pushed the nitrous button; Olaf got on Bloomberg, made a prediction about Ethereum that blew the minds of the finance industry; All the while, a vast number of very interesting protocols and projects that had been evolving over the last 10 months had all begun to converge in San Francisco.

It’s like Nick Tomaino, co-host of the event, said — ‘…people more aligned by beliefs and interests than by physical location’. The summit represented 38 countries. However, across all countries and the dApps and projects they represented, some themes were universal. Here’s a short overview of the major themes of the Token Summit.

The #Decentralized Ecosystem

Loi Luu of the @KyberNetwork had flown in from Singapore to participate in one of the most anticipated panels of the day — Understanding Decentralized Exchanges. He put forward a highly relatable, promising proposition — trading directly from your blockchain wallet, without interfacing with any centralized entity. Looking forward to checking out his platform on the mainnet, which is due in two months. Luu also made an under the radar statement which made me wonder if I heard it right — something about a centralized exchange, on-chain. Revolutionary, any way you look at it.

More than one way to scale the kitty. Plasma, Trubit and Cosmos talk scale.

When discussing bottlenecks to adoption and scale, Will Warren of the @0xProject said there ought to be better tooling on either side of the exchange and, amid the excitement of decentralized exchanges, made a pertinent point to the users — you need to be comfortable with having custody of your funds. You asked for it. Can you handle it?

The soft-spoken Thomas Greco of @Omise_go asked that we look at the end user base as beyond crypto. Well beyond. Right this instant, he says, there is a whole world of users depending on digital fiat for everyday transactions. Scale assumes major importance in this context.

Enter #Plasma and some incredible discussions on scaling the blockchain.

Cats Eat Up Lion’s Share of Ethereum Bandwidth

The immense and frankly unsurprising popularity of Cryptokitties is further proof that scale is an immediate priority for the blockchain. Fittingly, scale was addressed not just in an exclusive panel, but also by several individual presenters.

The panel itself, an invigorating post-lunch session, was also a ringside view of three distinct, parallel approaches to the same problem. Joseph Poon described Plasma as blockchains within blockchains, Jason Teutsch of @TruebitProtocol said decoupling verification from mining is the answer to scalability, while Jae Kwan of @Cosmos recommends communication between multiple blockchains as the answer to scaling issues.

Greco had built up quite a bit of steam for the plasma approach, so Joseph basically bolstered the argument for blockchains within blockchains. Of course, he was also quick to admit that there was still some ways to go before that became a workable reality. Jason’s point on freeing up computational bandwidth was on target, and Jae’s excitement about achieving ‘instant finality’ was infectious. He colourfully described an aspect of multichain communication as ‘hard spoon’.

Joseph took a sharp dig at private consortium chains, said they know they’re BS and that they just don’t tell their clients. Went down well with the audience, that one.

A suffix to this discussion came from a project presentation by the Oracles POA Network. With a multi-window slide and a lot of emoticons, the team displayed a third, three-pronged approach to scaling — consensus + multichain communication (think Cosmos) + horizontal bridging of blockchains. According to Oracles, you can bridge seemingly incompatible blockchains and scale horizontally. Food for thought.

Watch out for…

Rapid fire pitch presentations were spread in three segments throughout the day. Kudos to the organizers for keeping the pressure on, which forced the presenters to focus on the most important and kickass aspects of their project.

If I were to do a quick roundup of what stood out, I’d say

@vigsun introduces @Lendroidproject — finally, trading for grown-ups. Pic: Rhys Lindmark twitter

Part 1: @storjproject (distributed cloud storage platform) presented a strong progress report, @numerai (unified hedge fund) beckoned data scientists, @etherisc (decentralized insurance) demoed profitability.

Part 2: @lendroidproject (decentralized lending, margin trading and short selling ERC20 tokens) reimagines trading in 3 minutes, @dether_io (byu ether for cash, spend in physical stores) envisions cash to crypto, @1protocolinc (virtual workers on Ethereum) is anti-staking, @oceanprotocol is ready to frack data safely and @ConsenSys offers accounting services for digital assets.

Part 3: @dydxderivatives (decentralized derivatives) does a smooth demo, @oraclesorg (decentralized hub for POA consensus) brings a compelling approach to scale, @bluenote_world (build decentralized trusted economies) sets off to save the planet with the blockchain, Soffito does crypto to cash via a card, @OrchidProtocol seeks to end internet surveillance.

Man of the moment. Pic: William Mougayar twitter

What struck the average attendee at the conference is the feeling that the conversations and fireside chats and presentations and panels were amplified well beyond the boundaries of the crypto space. Kudos to William Mougayar and his team for making this happen.

Next Up! — Part two, where we examine crypto regulation, marvel at blockchain utopias, and celebrate some celebrities who quite rightfully hogged the limelight. Yeah, @naval, you know who you are.