“What a Difference a Day Makes.”
I attended my first ‘official’ Bitcoin meetup in January 2014. Andreas Antonopoulos was the keynote speaker and he had been traveling all over the globe serving as an ambassador to Bitcoin – the protocol and revolutionary idea itself – no commercial strings attached. I remember how cold it was that day but how warm the room was – a tiny rooftop bar on the near north side of Chicago. The room was packed. I still remember the first thing I ever purchased with Bitcoin that day – a backrub from a masseuse that was just as excited as I to be transacting with this new “money” that could be used to pay for just about anything without anyone’s permission or exorbitant fees. It was the most empowering backrub I ever received. The event made the papers. “Nerds gather on coldest day to talk Bitcoin”. Ok maybe that wasn’t the exact headline, but the sentiment was definitely there.
The key focus in those days was around the monetary aspects of blockchain technology – rightfully so – as Bitcoin is still the most successful DApp on a blockchain to date. In fact, a good chunk of the crowd were former open call pit traders who regarded the relative difficulty of acquiring Bitcoin (and no regulatory oversight) at the time as an opportunity to practice their favorite past time – connecting buyers and sellers in a high demand low supply, fast-paced settings. The rest of the crowd was rounded off by speculators, enthusiasts, and small business owners.
Fast-forward 3 years into the future and I have been privileged to witness another historic event for Bitcoin and Blockchain in the city of Chicago that drew just as diverse a crowd, only this time bigger (with better location, food, and alcohol) and notably that diverse crowd now included representation from government and key business organizations, all gathering with one purpose in mind- to advance the understanding and application of Blockchain and Digital Ledger technology for enterprise solutions. It was a head trip to remember the feeling of being “free to operate” without permission contrasted with this new excitement for permissioned blockchains and ledger technology that streamlines business processes and integrates existing IT investments – offering an on-ramp to a better way of operating globally around the clock more efficiently and reliably than has ever been possible.
The point that everyone seems to understand these days is that we need a balance between completely open and private protocols that give us the “room to breathe” and learn the proper function for and limitations of each approach in a practical way. Hats off to Matt Roszak, Jennifer M O’Rourke, their supporting teammates and partners who celebrated a “coming of age” for Blockchain technology through the re-branding of the Chicago Bitcoin Center as the new Chicago Blockchain Center.