By Linda Montgomery
You’ve heard of the mysterious “Blockchain”, but how does it actually work, and why all the hype? If you want to learn more, you don’t need to go far. Two events are coming to the Toronto Waterfront, not just for the techy tech crowd, but for kids, students, moms, dads and even grandparents!
The Cryptochicks Hackathon and Conference will happen at RBC Waterfront Place Auditorium on Queens Quay West the weekend of May 31st- June 2nd, followed by the Futurist Blockchain Conference in the Lower Donlands/Docks neighbourhood at Rebel Entertainment complex on August 12th-14th. Some trailblazing local women are behind both events, making strides at home and abroad, creating learning opportunities and growing the community with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion.
Experts have compared the future impact of Blockchain to the advent of the Internet. It’s a technological megatrend, powering new forms of digital money like Bitcoin and disrupting financial markets through the “tokenization” of assets into a truly digital, more efficient and liquid form. The Security Token Offering or STO may offer a far superior way to raise capital than the traditional IPO with its outdated infrastructure originating from a paper share certificate era. Securities Regulators in North America are closely evaluating regulation needs, responding to algorithmic growth of an unprecedented new digital asset class, and innovative companies knocking on their door for new securities approvals.
Blockchain provides an easily accessible, transparent, secure and immutable digital ledger offering “decentralized trust”. Using cryptographic methods, trust, in addition to logic, can be programmed right into the computer code. Many experts think these game-changing properties can dramatically reduce friction and costs in almost every industry. It will alter or even eliminate the role of centralized trusted intermediaries we rely on today, from banks, to credit card companies, real estate agents, capital market intermediaries, and even lawyers.
Rising up from a sea of alpha males and “tech bros” are pioneering Toronto women in Blockchain
Rarely are women the early community drivers of new technology ecosystems, and even more rare; expressly to bring opportunities to other women and youths. Toronto’s Cryptochicks is a not-for-profit established by an all-women team less than two years ago. Since then they’ve hosted Blockchain hackathons, education initiatives, and started chapters in places like New York, Pakistan, Switzerland, Australia and Russia. The name and logo, a cartoon-like pigtail girl, was purposely chosen to stand out and be a bit controversial according to Founder, Elena Sinelnikova. Both she and Co-founder Natalia Ameline have Masters degrees in Computer Science. Natalia makes Blockchain a family affair, she is the mother of Vitalik Buterin, the inventor of foundational protocol, Ethereum. He’s a Blockchain-world rock star at just 25 years of age and you can hear him speak at the Toronto event.
A year ago Cryptochicks hosted the world’s first all-female Blockchain Hackathon, attracting 200 high school students and aspiring company founders from all over the world. During this application development weekend, teams of “hackers”, with the help of mentors, focus on solving a business or community problem. A group of judges pick the winning, most viable project. This year, the event will welcome families on Sunday for educational panels, Blockchain games for kids, and other family-friendly activities geared to learning.
The Blockchain Futurist Conference in August, expects over 3000 international expert speakers and attendees, according to organizer, Tracy Leparulo. A beautiful harbour-side location with killer sunsets is the setting for two days of dawn to dusk keynotes, panel discussions, networking, cruising, and even dips in the pool at the Rebel Entertainment venue. Its a millennial party welcoming all ages, for a novel learning experience on two stages with multimillion-dollar sound and light productions. Tracy, the consummate community builder, puts the focus on inclusivity by leveraging an army of student volunteers and makes tickets accessibly priced. She wants to include everyone including her 80-year-old elderly neighbour, trudging around the expansive venue with cane and smile last year.
Tracy, the CEO of Untraceable, is the first Blockchain event organizer in Canada and a force on the international scene undertaking past events in Chicago and the Bahamas. She discovered Bitcoin in 2013 while working as a microfinance volunteer in Kenya. Active since the early days of the Toronto Blockchain community, her peers founded top organizations like Jaxx, Polymath and Ethereum Foundation. Back then, she says the community consisted of mostly developers but also counter culture groups of libertarians and anarchists. Bankers in the crowd preferred not to mention they worked for a bank. Much has changed since then.
No matter what the industry, applications are being built on Blockchain technology to improve supply chains, loyalty programs, healthcare, identity management and more. If you work for a brand name firm, you can bet there’s an internal team working on this. Waterfront residents can attend both events with a generous discount using the code: WATERFRONT. Use this to register via websites www.toronto.cryptochicks.ca or www.futurist19.com
Linda Montgomery is a Marketing and Growth Expert for Blockchain and FinTech companies. She is Technology Editor of Toronto Waterfront Magazine and a Waterfront resident. @lindamont3