Blockchain has the potential to fundamentally change our society, today’s moderator Willem Koeman says at the opening of the session. Willem is lead digital connectivity at the Amsterdam Economic Board. “But I don’t have an answer to how it will change our society. I don’t think anyone has. We need a strong community to find that answer.”
And exactly that is why Startup Amsterdam and the Board are organizing this event today. It might be a first step into a more coherent ecosystem. “We want to find out what the role of the local government in the blockchain ecosystem should be”, Bas Beekman from Startup Amsterdam adds to Willem’s story. “Is there something that we can do to make the blockchain community grow?”
The Amsterdam blockchain community
Before today’s attendants are asked to ponder those questions themselves, Jonathan Knegtel – from the Amsterdam-based startup Blockdata – shows what the Amsterdam blockchain community looks like. His main conclusion: a lot is happening in Amsterdam, but there is a lack of a central point of authority.
There are dozens of blockchain startups, corporates are building blockchain teams, there are investors focused on blockchain startups and there are several meetups and other events on blockchain technology, Jonathan says. “The government has more than 20 pilots concerning blockchain technology, and there is a growing number of merchants who accept cryptocurrency. What we are still missing is association between all the different parts of the blockchain community”, Jonathan says.
In places like Berlin and Zurich there already are central organizations that help the blockchain community to connect and move forward. “In Berlin you have for example a co-working space dedicated to people working in blockchain. And in Switzerland there is Zug, a small place just below Zurich that dubbed itself ‘Crypto Valley’.” The local government there actively invited cryptocurrency companies to come to Zug; now, among many others, the Ethereum Foundation has its headquarters over there.
It’s time for the interactive part of today’s meeting. The attendees are asked to come up with 5 ideas to strenghten the Amsterdam blockchain community. With two others they then have to come up with a top 5 of ideas, and then in groups of 6 with a new top 5. All those ideas are collected and put up on the wall.
Of course there is a lot of overlap in the ideas the groups come up with. Five categories are distinghuised: marketing & communication, education, the application of blockchain technology, regulatory and sectors. Most ideas fall under the marketing & communication of blockchain technology, both within the blockchain community and to a wider audience.
Some groups want to create a single identity for the blockchain community, in terms of a brand. “That creates an incentive to come together and share learnings”, someone says. A mission statement for the community is also one of the ideas.
A blockchain knowledge center is also mentioned, and a portal where all things related to blockchain in Amsterdam can be found. “For businesses it’s hard to find information sources, while there is a lot of information around.” Someone says: “In the talk of Jonathan I missed the private companies that have been working on blockchain technology for a while now, but that haven’t been open about it. If we can connect those to our ecosystem too, that creates a lot of value.” There needs to be more matchmaking in the community, one group suggests. Another: The Amsterdam Blockchain Alliance should be founded.
Awareness is another important aspect of strengthening the blockchain community. “We need to tell the blockchain story to everyone, not only to developers”, someone says. “Blockchain is sexy and safe; we need to debunk the myth.” Someone adds: “What if the municipality selects some specific blockchain use cases to demo in public, in a cool way?”
Support the Amsterdam blockchain community
So, what’s next? Many ideas have been floated. Who’s turn is it now? “Today was an explorative meeting that gave us guidelines for what we can do for the blockchain community in Amsterdam”, Willem from Amsterdam Economic Board says. “In phase two we can start thinking about who we want to be as a community, about how we can differentiate from other communities.”
“Building an ecosystem and strengthening it starts with getting to know the ecosystem”, Bas from Startup Amsterdam adds. “We want to find out how we can help, but you should also come up with an ambition yourself. We can do a lot as a government, but only as facilitator. If it’s up to us, this meeting and the next ones are not public, but public-private initiatives. So we hope to see you again in a few weeks.”