These Entrepreneurs Are Building the Blank Canvas of the New Internet 1 551

We need a new internet. This HTTP stuff is left over from the ‘90s. It’s corporate controlled in the post neutrality world, susceptible to government censorship, inaccessible to many with nearly half the world’s population still unable to connect. It increasingly needs a more streamlined makeover.

Or at least a little house cleaning. How many apps can we possibly have? How many passwords and accounts? How much content can we cram in here? What do we do with the ever growing graveyard of dead links, old MySpace accounts and cat memes, to say nothing of the emptying, generic cruise ship we call Facebook drifting steadily away from relevance? One possible answer: clean the slate. Start again. This time with something more efficient.

Imagining the Internet 2.0

By some indicators, blockchain could be the thing to supplant the internet as the de facto way we create, communicate and store data. But how will we see it widely implemented without it first becoming more user friendly to the layperson? SMBs and entrepreneurs don’t necessarily have a background in programming, nor have the skills to set their business up on the blockchain. Learning to program or hiring a team of blockchain devs isn’t always within reach to the average SMB, to say nothing of individual artisans or small nonprofits.

By contrast, consider how easy it is to start up a website. You can do it in a few hours, thanks to software platforms that make it easy. You get your URL from GoDaddy, a visual template from WordPress or SquareSpace, who also might bundle in your ecommerce space if you haven’t set that up with Shopify already. It’s because of these SaaS and PaaS third parties that we can web.

If we want to go blockchain, we’ll need a third parties like these to help facilitate it. So where are these platforms? Who’s building them?

The Deregulated Ecommerce Toolkit

Well, Eric Tippetts, for one. Tippetts expects the 2020s to see a shift to blockchain much like the 90s shift to the information superhighway and the 2010s shift to mobile. To speed things along, his company NASGO has created a toolkit called BlockBox, the goal of which is to be the ‘GoDaddy of blockchain’ so people and businesses can start building.

Through BlockBox, which Tippetts cocreated with a development team, you can find and secure a blockchain domain address, like you would with a URL, adapt your existing website for blockchain, and create a custom token. Instead of having to wrap your head around lines of code or hire a dev team, it just takes a couple minutes and a couple hundred bucks.

Tippetts describes NASGO itself as “a decentralized hosting environment that allows content to be seen in every part of the world, opening up blocked boundaries for communication and collaboration.” It also includes a platform for decentralized apps (DAPPS) that could compete with Apple and Google’s app stores.

Their website repeatedly emphasizes the deregulated nature of the product, ostensibly gearing their platform toward the “businesses, developers and consumers” of a sharing and open ecommerce.

A Platform for Public and Private Good

Amber Baldet’s company Clovyr has similar goals, but with a distinctly different tone. She wants people to use their DAPP platform to “build the systems we want to see in the world.”

Baldet left JP Morgan Chase, where she was hired to spearhead their out-of-character blockchain experiments, to found her startup. She recently testified before congress about blockchain regulation and the importance of protecting human rights and privacy early on, while the technology is still in its infancy.

She says that there needn’t be a divide between public and private interests when it comes to blockchain. “It’s very divided, the people that are building things for public chain and people that are building things for ‘permissioned’ or business enterprise kind of chains,” said Baldet in an interview with Fortune. She says that nomenclature isn’t helpful, “because it creates this kind of animosity where we’re saying that big business is on one side and the people or the proletariat are on the other side, when really it should just be about information residing where it makes sense and creating security boundaries that are logical.”

Building a Blank Canvas

In a way, the blockchain is a platform much like the internet itself, a canvas available for anybody to use, whatever their interests and intentions are.

So whatever direction the blockchain internet-nouveau of the future takes, if that’s really what we’re in for, people like Tippetts and Baldet are the architects of its structure. It’ll be up to the rest of to fill it up with content. Hopefully good content. Bring the memes, leave the corporate derelicts.

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A tribal member of the Choctaw Nation, Brian grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. He's lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and now writes and makes films in the Pacific Northwest.

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Real Estate Doesn’t Need to Be So Complicated 0 282

Because blockchain is basically data management, one industry it stands to improve a great deal is real estate. The process of buying and selling real estate is first and foremost a data transfer. There were $463.9 billion in large cap commercial real estate investments nationwide in 2017. All that money moves paper. Since land cannot actually be owned, the idea of land ownership must be exhaustively documented, organized, purchased and sold. The myriad processes that make up one transaction, namely title transfers, putting funds through escrow, and navigating an outdated MLS system, all stand to benefit from a technology upgrade.

Blockchain could quicken and simplify these processes by virtue of its transparent, untamperable and near instantaneous handling of data. “What if you could irrefutably determine who previously owned a property, record with absolute certainty who the new owner is after it sells and reference the blockchain at any time to verify all previous owners?” asks Mark Rutzen, Co-founder and CEO of Eondo Inc.  “Even the combination or splitting of parcels would be easy to record with blockchain technology,” he adds.

Moving into the future of real estate, particularly commercial real estate and investment, will soon mean embracing the block. Here are some of the ways blockchain is changing real estate.

Financing Developers and Investors

For anyone in real estate investment or development, the most glaring obstacle is getting the upfront capital when you find a good opportunity.

“Real estate investors and developers are turning to new technologies like blockchain smart contracts to find more liquidity at lower costs,” says Joseph Snyder, CEO at Lannister Holdings, an Arizona-based technology company working to create more blockchain lending and crowdfunding tools through their Lannister Development subsidiary.

Lannister is publicly traded and regulated by the SEC, which is uncommon for a blockchain company. But Snyder sees it as an inevitability in the long term. He anticipates a future where blockchain real estate regulation is the norm, and blockchain development like Lannister’s is part of mainstream business development and commerce.

“We wanted to be heavily regulated up front,” he says. “We believe regulation and financial compliance are coming down the pipe.” And, according to their website, they “see a future of security, transparency, and growth beyond the stale oligarchy of traditionalists.”

Systems like this give access to capital to smaller investors and developers who don’t have a lot of capital to work with up front. In theory, this could level the playing field.

Real Estate Professionals Worldwide Are Developing a Blockchain Future

Others are envisioning a near future where you could buy a house with a click on a shopping cart icon. If blockchain can clean up the real estate process enough, it could do more than just disrupt the industry. It could give it a total overhaul.

The P2P nature of blockchain enables faster sales and a higher volume of deals closed with fewer legal headaches and administrative fees. It also means a trustless economy and immediate processing of property values and other technical details, like zoning regulations or utility expenses.

Organizations like the International Blockchain Real Estate Association, or IBREA, are dedicated to incubating the many possibilities produced by the intersection of real estate and blockchain. Local chapters of IBREA hold meetups in 23 cities for its 5,000 members to come together as professionals and co-educators, with the goal of moving the real estate world into the blockchain age.

According to Ragnar Lifthrasir, founder of IBREA, “real estate technology is going more peer to peer.”

“I think what people are missing with blockchain and real estate is the data problem,” he adds. “We have so much data in real estate. So to really do blockchain real estate well you also have to have a good data system, which is distributed file storage, or IPFS.”

Real Estate Without Headaches

With some real world testing to work out the bugs, blockchain real estate could take us into a future where we can buy and sell property as easily as we do a cup of coffee. With data properly arranged and the transactions secure and transparent, there will be no need for the systems currently governing the industry—nor the room for error, delays and complications they open up at every step.

For anyone with aspirations in real estate development or investment, blockchain promises to open a lot of doors.

There’s an Inflatable ‘Bitcoin Rat’ Staring Down the Fed 0 52

Someone has put a giant inflatable rat outside the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.

It’s covered in Bitcoin code, printed in rainbow colors, and is apparently a piece of installation art aimed at subverting the federal institution that controls the US dollar. Or is it pale, puffed-up pariah a commentary on Bitcoin bros themselves? Or does it have something to do with Warren Buffett, who earlier this year called Bitcoin “rat poison squared”? According to CoinDesk, who first reported on the inflatable rat, the meaning is intentionally ambiguous.

The artist behind the puzzling prank is Nelson Saiers. He describes his own work as “mystifying” and “singularly original”, notwithstanding the long history of rats being inflated as protests or used as economic and political icons in art and entertainment around the world.

“It’s art, so I hope they’re entertained by it,” he said, apparently implying that art is entertainment. “It’s informative, I hope people will learn [and] I’m hoping it’ll at least help people understand bitcoin better and be kind of faithful to what Satoshi would have wanted,” he added, citing the mysterious pseudonym of Bitcoin’s founder with a touch of reverence.

A $50 Million Artist

Saiers, a phD in theoretical mathematics, was a hedge fund manager who did that thing where you give up all the money to chase your dream of being an artist.

His financial experience includes a stint as managing director at Deutsche Bank’s prop trading desk, before becoming CIO of Saiers Capital, the hedge fund that bears his name. His creative career gives credence to the theory that working as an artist is more and more a privilege of the very wealthy.

CNBC estimated Saiers’s wealth to be around $50 million at the time of he departed from the financial industry to pick up his paintbrushes.

The Rat Joins a Tradition of Sculpture-as-Commentary in FiDi

The Bitcoin rat, which stands on Maiden Lane, isn’t the first pop up sculpture to grace Manhattan’s financial district. Last year, Kristen Visbal’s 50 inch bronze ‘Fearless Girl’ statue made waves by staring down the famous ‘Charging Bull’, to the outrage of ‘Charging Bull’ sculptor Arturo Di Modica. The 3.5 ton ‘Charging Bull’ itself was left on Wall Street in the middle of the night when Di Modica originally created it, obstructing traffic and drawing the curiosity of passers by.

When Saiers placed the Bitcoin rat, he initially set it up on private property and was promptly ushered off by security guards, who he says were good natured about the situation. He expects the sculpture to be more temporary than the aforementioned Wall Street bronzes, and will probably only be around for a few days.

A Critique of the 2008 Bailouts

The placement of the rat on Maiden Lane seems to be no accident, but rather a reference to the Maiden Lane Transactions, more commonly known as that time when the Fed bailed out the big banks after they all caused the 2008 market crash. The Bitcoin crowd’s antipathy towards the Fed and the big banks is palpable in Sairs’s rat sculpture, and while a more specific meaning eludes, perhaps the success of the piece depends upon its ability to start conversations about the state of finance.

We’ll leave it to the viewers to decide who’s the rat—the Federal Reserve, or Bitcoin itself—and what that means for the future of currencies.

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