On Thursday evening, February 20th, AMG clients and guests took part in an informative discussion about the exciting areas of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology led by expert Lisa Calkins, CEO of HalfBlast Studios (See Video).

The presentation began with overview of both technologies and how they are part of a larger trend of moving from centralized data networks to distributed data networks.

Understanding Blockchain and Its Current Uses

In its simplest form, blockchain is a shared, distributed ledger used for recording transactions, tracking assets, and building trust between transactional partners. This technology has several important and distinct characteristics, including:

  • High Fault Tolerance – leverages the consensus model to resolve faults/errors
  • Provenance – traceability of each block in the chain
  • Immutability – nearly impossible to change
  • Highly Secure – uses advanced cryptography

According to Lisa, there are three broad areas where blockchain usage is rapidly taking hold. These include fraud-prone products or services (e.g. money, financial assets, fine art, diamonds, voting, gambling, etc.), areas where goods pass through many hands (e.g. money exchanges, event tickets, music, etc.), and personal data owned by central authorities (e.g. identity records, medical records, education records, etc.).

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Adoption

After setting the foundation with blockchain, Lisa turned the group’s attention to cryptocurrencies, namely industry pioneer Bitcoin, founded by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009.  What made Bitcoin so unique at its inception was the fact that it was the first blockchain-based service that was built by a community of technology enthusiasts, not a company.

Since the first Bitcoin transaction in 2010 for two pizzas, the cryptocurrency market has grown significantly, especially outside the U.S. Today, there are over 1,000 popular cryptocurrencies and even Facebook is getting into the market with its Libra cryptocurrency scheduled to launch later this year.

While we’re still early in the adoption cycle for U.S. consumers, there are many well-known American companies currently accepting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for online purchases, including:

Starbucks, Nordstrom, Overstock.com, Playboy, Subway, Microsoft (Xbox & Windows store), Reddit, Virgin Airlines, Virgin Mobile, Expedia.com, CheapAir.com, Newegg.com, Zynga, Mint.com, and Whole Foods.

The evening presentation concluded with a lively question and answer session. Everyone in attendance certainly appreciated Lisa’s ability to distill these complicated topics into digestible insights that even a technology novice could understand.

A recording of live event stream is available. Click Here to View