Texas Blockchain Mass Event - SXSW Report

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Texas Blockchain Mass Event Crypto was the catchphrase at most events scattered throughout SXSW, from the Initial Taco Offering to Ethereal Lounge and our Crypto Summit. The FOMO among startups, investors and enterprises was real. Startups we have encountered were hard at work improving the core technology, with most leaving regulatory issues aside for now.

South by Southwest (SXSW) has grown over the past three decades from its humble beginnings into an international phenomenon that transforms the streets of Austin, TX for 10 days every March. The conference and festival brings together a colourful crowd from music and film to tech and covers all the new and emerging trends. Blockchain, decentralisation and token economics were some of the hottest topics among the usual badge-wearing and drink-craving conference goers.

The vast majority of attendees and speakers sat through long panels while occupying the biggest stages the convention had to offer. Blockchain drew crowds comparable with the panel featuring Elon Musk (who has been spotted with a copy of Julian Hosp’s book Cryptocurrencies Explained Simply) and at other times left the speaker to talk Bitcoin basics to the untimely few. It seemed like everyone was hoping to understand the encrypted future and get rich in the process while founding a blockchain startup or two.

Because it’s SXSW after all, the atmosphere is lighthearted, smells strongly of fried food and nothing is taken too seriously. Startups are trying to figure out how to quickly materialise what the distributed ledger enabled them to offer. Most of the ones we’ve met are focused on finance, supply chain and health. There was an ongoing joke that any startup can increase its value by using the term “blockchain” in its name, which proves that true value of blockchain is still to be validated and use cases for blockchain IRL need to be defined.

Crypto Summit

Cofound.it supported the ICO Pitch day at the Crypto Summit which took place on 12–13 and featured all kinds of crypto-curious people joining in to get the latest insider knowledge from the community’s leading experts. The first day focused on the most inspiring women in blockchain, and the second was the time for blockchain startups to take over the stage and compete against each other.

The Cofound.it team was active throughout the mass event: Angela was part of the fireside chat on Monday, Ambroz presented his research on alternative ways of raising funds. Our very own Daniel Zakrisson was one of the judges, and the whole team agreed with his assertion that it’s essential that young startups ask themselves whether blockchain really is the best way to achieve their aims.

The winners of the ICO competition and most promising startups were Swytch (Rewarding renewable energy), Polyswarm (Decentralized antivirus marketplace) and Akash (Decentralized compute marketplace).

Our take from SXSW and the Crypto Summit was that a lot of people still remain blockchain-curious without getting solid answers, and if people don’t know what blockchain is, we can’t explain to them which problems blockchain can solve. In this sense, SXSW included an array of basic sessions to explain the fundamentals of blockchain.

Austin, the ‘Silicon Hills’

Austin has been nicknamed “Silicon Hills” for the cluster of tech startup companies spread on the hilly terrain on the west side of the city. Blockchain startups are blooming at the moment, uniting into rich collectives, and it seems that many San Francisco startups are packing their bags and moving across the country to Austin, Texas. Much like the gold rush to California, startups are drawn to Austin mainly because of money (Texas has no state taxes at all, while California has one of the highest tax regimes in the United States). Apart from lower living expenses and lower company burn rate company, emerging startups seem to be fond of the cultural side of Austin, the diversity that the Silicon Valley lacks and the momentum that is being co-created by startups daily.

Hubs are booming in Austin and Texas is slowly becoming a hotbed of blockchain activity. Our team got the impression that the startups are focused on improving the core technology such as scaling issues and leaving abundant regulatory issues aside. The lack of a uniform regulatory framework in the United States isn’t making the country as well-suited to crypto as Switzerland, Latvia, Slovenia and others. Without a rock-solid set of rules in place, some blockchain startups may remain hesitant to put their roots down in Austin or elsewhere in the US.