This is the second part of ‘Blockchain Associations’ – the latest post by regular guest writer Eddie Mitchell. Eddie is a seasoned writer on all things Blockchain and crypto and we’re delighted that he has become a regular contributor to Rhetoriq.
Blockchain associations around the world share the common goal of establishing blockchain supremacy by fighting for accommodating regulations, funding, developing startups, and in generally pushing a pro-blockchain agenda.
In part 1, we took a brief glance at the state of blockchain associations, what they do, have done, and so on; evidently, there is a logical basis for the existence of such groups, especially given the constant political-friction that blockchain brings to the world. However, whilst a pro-blockchain agenda is favorable, what does that mean for startups seeking guidance and nurturing from the broader community, and do associations provide any value to their efforts or the industry at large?
Swings and Roundabouts
After speaking directly with several industry figures ranging from grassroots startup companies to blockchain association staff, it became apparent that blockchain associations are an ambivalent topic in the community.
For many respondents it was a matter of whether or not they “needed” to be part of one; some believe that added value came in the form of legal guidance, networking, and exclusive event access, whilst others criticized the aggressive sales and marketing pitches that were pressed on them by disingenuous entities.
Speaking with Sharon Henley, Director of Marketing and Communications at the newly formed British Blockchain Industry Association (BBIA), she shed light on what value blockchain associations bring to domestic startups; using the BBIA has a contextual launch pad; she said that the association brings value to members in numerous ways, saying:
“Firstly we provide Networking and professional development opportunities and in this nascent space this is most wanted. It allows our start-up members to network with like-minded people in the blockchain space who are also in the process of growing their start-ups.”
Seemingly, conferences and groups have become a mainstay in blockchain community building, networking and industry development. Understandably so, the space is dizzyingly competitive and complex, and as such, it could be argued that launching a startup in this nascent sector requires some community spirit.
Henley adds: “The networking opportunities allow them to informally benchmark themselves against others, to understand if their issues and experiences are the same as others in the blockchain space. Members depend on other members to solicit advice and help understand the new landscapes.”
However access to such communities, networking opportunities or receiving guidance doesn’t require a paid membership, according to UK based Erica Stanford, the co-founder of educational resource CryptoCurrencySimplified.com.
She said that upon entering into the industry in early 2017, she wasn’t aware that such associations existed, and learnt all she knows “through research, experimentation, trial and error”. Erica also describes owing thanks to lucky encounters with tech-savvy connections in the space, she adds, “I had different ways of looking at things than they did, so we shared insights and research, but I learnt the most directly from other people.”
Gary Woodhead, founder of blockchain real-estate platform CurveBlock felt strongly against the seemingly greedy nature put on display by associations. Describing the early stages of making his company visible on Linkedin, he said it took a matter of hours and days before associations, accelerators, incubators etc. were “promising results beyond belief, either via collaborations or funding” and so on.
He said that all contacts had one goal, “Entry charges at a cost most early-stage startups could never afford”. From the perspective of a startup at grassroots, he cites “cash burn” as a major factor that can destroy a project unless properly controlled.
Whilst he believes that there are plenty of scammers there who have “no interest in who they’re scamming”, he reverts to a more positive outlook saying:
“Fear not, there are associations out there who are 100% genuinely there to help and grow entrepreneurs and startups because they fundamentally care, and are not interested in your wallet or have a sales funnel plan within their association.”
As an example, he notes a company named SetSquared who have partnered free of charge, “no sales” he says, “just industry experts who’ve walked our path and gone from idea, to execution, to exit.”
Despite certain individuals including Erica, Gary and others finding certain facets of blockchains associations as contentious, there was one respondent who found that above all, there is power in numbers.
Mário Valente is a serial-entrepreneur in Portugal who since 2014, has mined, traded and brokered cryptocurrency. For the past two years, he has been working as a wealth / crypto-portfolio manager as well as advising on initial coin offerings. When asked whether or not there was a demand for a blockchain association in Portugal, he said: “I’m actually an anti-collectivist and a staunch individualist, but in mid-2017 there was a lot of disinformation regarding crypto both from media and politicians.”
In order to cut through the noise, Valente and several others banded together to form a public association that would serve as a “united front and voice” for miners, traders, and startups who are seeking to launch initial coin offerings; Valente is the Managing Partner and Head of Strategy & Innovation at Maverick, a blockchain and cryptocurrency services company. He also heads the technical committee at Blockchain Portugal.
He says that now “we are able to contact universities, media, political parties and regulators and put across our point of view”. The position of Maverick resembles that of the South Korea blockchain advocacy and law groups as mentioned in part 1; through combined expertise, they are attempting to shape the blockchain landscape around them.
Having the industry represented by a collective has its merits, they have the ability to push and press government institutions toward friendly laws and regulations, something of which a lone startup may struggle to do – however it can be argued that for startups, a membership is not always conducive to success.
There are likely many like Mário Valente who are in need of proper representation and have taken it upon themselves to do so, which may prove to add-value indirectly to a startup by bolstering the presence of blockchain technology and invoke legitimacy amongst public and private entities.
With faith, Gary Woodhead said: “If you have an amazing idea, genuine associations will see what you see and either help for free or even work for sweat equity. Fail forward, it’s a marathon not a sprint, you will succeed eventually.”