Do you know the feeling when you hear about something new? Someone explains it with a passion you have not heard before and yet you do not understand what this person is talking about? You wonder what is going on, but you simply don’t get it? Well, that was me four years ago…it was the day I heard about Blockchain for the first time…and now I am one of them. I got infected with the same passion.
How it all began.
To this day I remember when a colleague was explaining the technology to me and making frequent references to terms like Bitcoin, DAO, ICO, DLT, etc. — like these are commonly used words. It made total sense for him — obviously no sense to me at all. He then eventually shared the story about a digital experiment, the so-called “DAO”. DAO means Decentralized Autonomous Organization and represents one of the most amazing and craziest digital experiments I have heard of. Not because it was a bold move and changed the world. But because it was a bold move, went wrong and changed the history of Blockchain (I’m referring to the “good” and “bad” Ethereum).
Exactly that story made me stay with this technology. The mind-blowing possibilities of thinking different, the anarchism to it, the determination that this technology can change the world and make it a better place — all that combined in one technology. In case you are not familiar with the technology, here is how I like to explain it: “Blockchain is a technical system that enables new business models with new forms of democracy and governance. It is getting rid of the “middle man” and allows direct interactions of participants in the network — it digitizes trust.” For sure there are more technical or sophisticated definitions but that has not helped anyone in this area yet. It is widely mis- or not understood and I would like that to change by simplifying its complexity.
What happened in the meantime.
Fast-forwarding this story to today, I have had an amazing journey. We have or are developing several business models. That alone allowed me to visit three different countries in Africa (and others outside of Africa), with Nigeria being the most amazing one. I became a speaker about Blockchain within but also outside of the company I work for. We have built a small community that frequently visits our meetups, even if it is located in the middle of bumm-f***-nowhere of Berlin. We have launched our project in Senegal, despite all the pivots and mitigations. Even my classmates (I’m currently doing a part-time MBA) know that when I’m presenting in front of the class, eventually I will talk about Blockchain. Fabricating it into the storyline of any presentation I had to make (it is arguable if it always made sense ;-)), educating not only my classmates but also taking some professors along this journey. With the result, when we had to choose a topic for our master thesis, one professor basically reminded me with following words: “Well, I do hope that you will write about Blockchain in your thesis.” With that, I took the chance and responded: “If you will be my supervisor, I will.” It was a done deal and I already knew what I wanted to write about.
Picking the right title or topic for my thesis.
Next stop — a research proposal and of course the title for my thesis. I must admit, I struggled with the research proposal, also because I could not really find many answers or write-ups regarding my research question. What I wanted to focus on, is one of the most frequently asked questions, specifically in my work environment. Well, there is one question that is even more frequently asked: “Why Blockchain?” (Duuhhh, right? ;-)). The second most asked question, is the one I’m focusing on: “How can we make money with it?” (Not so duuhh!! Damn difficult to answer actually.) And that is my personal motivation for the thesis. The title of my thesis is: “Business models that enable the monetarization of distributed ledger technologies. The different ways of making money with Blockchain.” I usually go with: “How to monetise Blockchain?”, which does not sound as sophisticated as my title but then I don’t always need to look it up when I want to quote it (SERIOUSLY).
Digging into the thesis — conducting interviews with the Blockchain scene.
I’m professionally and privately involved, I invested in cryptos and frequently visit meetups and conferences. The thesis brought me again a bit closer to the Blockchain scene. I conducted interviews to gather intel. I wanted to learn where the scene stands, how huge this topic actually is, what needs to change, what are the potentials more specifically. By the way, funny story…when I got started, I was shooting for a total of around 20 interviews. Well, I came to a stop at 35 interviews and I’m telling you transcribing those, was painful. Very painful. If it would not have been for the gym, I’m sure I would have some kind of beef with my friends. And yes, I could have paid someone to transcribe it but then I would have skipped an important step in my learning curve. I’m so glad no one called in my “meanest” moments.
My ultimate goal — sharing is caring.
While I was conducting the interviews, I also promised to give back. To share my learnings and somehow keep in touch. One of my interviewees proposed to try “Medium” and here I am. For all the others who might read this and did not have an interview with me, I hope you enjoy the stories anyway, learn something and maybe even get inspired to also get started in the space of Blockchain. With this I would like to already share learning #1 — it takes a movement to change what needs to be changed in order for Blockchain to get fully accepted. Yes, Blockchain has a huge potential and the same time, it challenges the status quo of many existing (also broken) processes, business models, etc. However, these have been embedded over years, maybe even decades and change usually does not happen overnight.
Where am I now? I’m currently on vacation to dig into the analysing and writing part of my thesis. I am hopeful to decipher some new insights that I can share in my next article. If you have anything that could contribute, please also comment and share. I like dialogues. Stay tuned for further insights and stories about my journey.