1. SIBOS: NKOTB(chain)
SIBOS Singapore wrapped this week, and one word that attendees could not escape was blockchain. Over 1000 conference-goers attended the first day Innotribe panel New Kids on the Block(chain). Eight panelists (including three R3 partner banks, Barclays, BNY Mellon and UBS) crowded into a set of the "not-too-distant-future" to discuss the promise and potential of blockchains and shared ledgers in financial services:
R3's Tim Swanson has a very comprehensive roundup of the pervasive trend of rebranding in the Bitcoin startup and investing world, as many groups have conspicuously moved away from featuring the virtual currency in their name or their pitch. We have seen software eat the world, now blockchain eats bitcoin...
One of the more inscrutable pivots has been that of Uphold, née Bitreserve, which now joins the handful of consumer facing "...but with Bitcoin!" startups that have morphed into Venmo wannabes.
3. Startups in the News
Congrats to the teams of Chainalysis, Wave and Syndicated Loan Direct for their announcements at this week's Barclays Techstars NYC demo day, as each inked contracts with the UK bank. Especially happy to see the Wave team overcome their handicap of having your author as a very negligent mentor...
Across the pond, tight-lipped startup SETL announced that their yet-to-be-seen ledger technology has processed over a billion simulated transactions behind closed doors. The announcement was very light on details, so it is unclear if the tech behind this is in-house built or part of their previously announced outsourcing deal with fellow startup Credits.
Blockstream hit the news earlier this week with the first commercially released sidechain dubbed "Liquid" :
It’s one more front being opened in the quest to keep bitcoin alive. While the digital currency remains the only use case of the software to reach any critical mass, and the price has stabilized, the underlying technology has itself this year become the focus. From the startup world to the biggest Wall Street firms, there are numerous efforts under way to build products and services that utilize bitcoin’s underlying technology, while abandoning bitcoin itself. The Blockstream group is an effort to counter that tide.
4. Shared Ledgers FTW
The always insightful Pascal Bouvier continued his bullish exploration of distributed ledgers in this post on the potential complete disruption of capital markets infrastructure:
Another way to describe the above 10 bank example, pre and post distributed ledger, is to say that markets rely on the ability of multiple parties to have the same view of what has happened, what was traded and by whom, who owns what, who owns what to whom. A distributed ledger system can guarantee that these parties share the same view of the world without the combinatorial explosion of reconciliations between siloed systems.
A recent Water Technology panel explored the not-to-be-neglected view of buy side participants on the potential blockchain disruption:
"Everyone is looking at blockchain," [Mike] McGovern [CIO at Brown Brothers Harriman] said. "We're looking at it. We've set aside some funds in our 2016 innovation budget around R&D and working with colleagues on the buy side to think about how it can be applied."
And finally, R3's own David Rutter has an opinion piece in the Tabb Forum entitled Cutting Through the Noise – The Transformative Potential of Distributed Ledger Technology:
By collaborating on research, experimentation, design, and engineering, our aim is to help advance state-of-the-art enterprise-scale shared ledger solutions to meet banking requirements for security, reliability, performance, scalability, and auditability.