11th April 2019

Deconomy 2019: Shilling at the Shilla

It’s time for another blog with me Colin Platt where we explore some of the topics that Zeth, Shaun and I found interesting. 

This blog will be a bit different than normal, as I took the opportunity to cover… myself. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the playful nature of it.

I had the immense pleasure of joining Jeff Paik and his team for round 2 of Deconomy in Seoul on 4 & 5 April. As was the case last year, they pulled off one of the most interesting, and unique events in the cryptocurrency industry, blending very different viewpoints on the industry itself.

Case in point, one of the first features of the event, was the long awaited debate between Ethereum founder, Vitalik Buterin, and legendary crypto-sceptic, Dr Doom himself, Professor Nouriel Roubini. Following his appearance at the US Senate hearing on cryptocurrency and blockchain last year, Nouriel and Vitalik took to Twitter to air their differences of opinion. Deconomy 2019 was where they finally came together. Despite the obvious tension that everyone had expected, I was lucky enough to see some of their preparation behind the scenes, which were quite respectful and cordial, bummer I guess for those hoping for a cage match. I even managed to get them to wear matching T-shirts, more on that later. In hindsight, during the welcome dinner the evening before the event, Vitalik and Nouriel, though they didn’t interact much, were still very much at ease around each other.

So the debate, there are a few places that you can already see it online, and the official videos for all sessions should come out in a few weeks. Nouriel landed a few very good points in my opinion, and Vitalik offered some helpful view points. Neither one of them clashed too much directly, perhaps because they really do fundamentally agree on a few key items: Proof-of-Work consumes a lot of energy, which they see as wasteful; There are a lot of scammers out there; and blockchains haven’t yet proved their value for a majority of cases that they have been billed as offering unparalleled disruption for the better. I dare go as far as to suggest that they came out respecting each other after the debate. Vitalik also did a great job at diffusing Nouriel’s criticisms regarding the uneven distribution of cryptocurrency holdings (GINI coefficients), as perhaps partially being the result of insufficient data.

Keeping with Vitalik, he did have more contentious discussions, this time with a panel on scaling Bitcoin, notably so as he wasn’t even on the panel. This panel featured several prominent supporters of Bitcoin Satoshi’s Vision (BSV), which is famously supported by Craig Wright. Hong Kong based miner, Peter Ng also joined the panel, he confirmed with me after that he wasn’t a “full blown BSV supporter”. I was sitting next to Vitalik during the panel, and he took issue with several of the points made by the BSV supporters, including legal questions surrounding segwit, and the ability for Bitcoin to scale infinitely. One of the more fun reactions was when a panellist pointed to BSV’s desire to offer services for video streaming directly in the BSV blockchain. You can see his Tweet after the panel:

Because I like to toot my own horn, I also want to note that yours truly got to present on my favourite topic: PTK. “What is PTK?” you ask. Well there’s a back story.

At the 2018 Deconomy event, a bunch of us arrived a day early and hung out eating pizza and talking about, what else? Cryptocurrency. One of the popular topics, the number of low quality ICO projects, and the amount of money being given to these projects. We jokingly invented the worst possible idea ever (Pitchtoken), and started intro-ing ourselves on panels and during presentations as part of the Pitchtoken team. After doing this throughout the first day of the conference, we looked it up, someone had unironically launched Pitch Token. Wow.

We quickly pivoted and called the project PTK (Pitchtoken Klassic). A few months later, I decided to make it a real token and explode the value as a playful way to show how easily it could be done.

Fast forward to Deconomy 2019, I was allowed to get up and present to the ~2000 attendees about this, with the goal of warning people about the abuse in the market and empty promises stemming from many projects. Note, I don’t think every project is a scam, but I am a strong advocate of due diligence. Of course, to go with this performance art, I had T-shirts printed for the event which said “PTK Phoundation: Always be shilling”. Of course these were the shirts that we got Vitalik and Nouriel to wear, after letting them in on the story.

It was good fun, and I managed to get a bit of media coverage, here, here and here. Oh by the way, I managed to make myself the richest person in the world in the process. Perhaps worth noting here, that the whole event took place at the Shilla hotel in Seoul. I thought it was funny at least.

The other discussions that I really enjoyed were between Phil Zimmermann, creator of PGP, Vitalik and Zooko, founder of ZCash. The discussion covered privacy and was wide ranging. They all agreed that one of the important functions and aspects to be aware of was the ability for people to control their own fate, and that privacy was one tool to help ensure that.

Outside of the onstage discussions, I noted a very different atmosphere from the year before. There was a lack of real deal making. The previous year the VCs and crypto hedge funds seemed to be actively doing side deals. This year that didn’t seem to be the case. Is this crypto-winter? Maybe. Does it mean that we’ve got further to fall? Don’t know.

Not to despair though, Crypto investors from Michael Arrington, to Bryan Chang, to Remington Ong thought that this was a great time to be an investor in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space. Remington seemed particularly bullish, and thought that the latest crop of companies that he had seen were some of the most promising yet. Cool.

Perhaps I’m also biased on this one, but the enterprise DLT companies seemed fairly content. Quieter than years past, but heads down and working. Maybe big announcements will come in time. Fingers crossed.

As always, nothing here should be construed as financial advice, recommendation or endorsement of any project or cryptocurrency.

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