Devcon2 Demo Day Recap

Thirty startups presented their ideas to a crowd of over 700 developers, investors, and entrepreneurs at the highly anticipated Demo Day.

The startups focused on a diverse set of solutions ranging from creating stable cryptocurrencies, to new blockchain platforms for the Chinese market, identity, and decentralized music platforms, and more.

The featured startups were well balanced with teams from China, Europe, and the Americas. Throughout the day, Ethereum solutions developed by teams from the blockchain production studio, ConsenSys, really stood out. A strong sense of synergy and inclusive approach made it clear that many applications like Gnosis, uPort, and Weifund would be able to leverage from each other’s features, increasing the overall value for users.

The event kicked off with Ujo music aiming to revolutionize the online music industry. The team's goal is to provide artists with a new platform and digital identity that allows them to take full control of their content. This reduces costs, increases efficiency, and allows for novel forms of monetization of art by increasing policies and licensing opportunities. Providing fairer licensing and rights management to artists could trigger a wave of young artists to choose a decentralized solution like Ujo.

Many of the local Chinese startups were aiming to deploy new blockchain systems adopted specifically for the Chinese market. One of them Qtum, developed by a former employee of e-commerce giant Alibaba, aims to clone the Ethereum Virtual Machine and increase elements of privacy. Furthermore, the Qtum team introduced a new concept called master contracts, which are controllable by a central authority and include fixed data oracles.

Several Chinese blockchain initiatives are concerned with the privacy and identity of users. The general consensus is that users’ identities should remain completely private. During the commentary session, Vitalik Buterin encouraged startups to look into blockchain-based identity solutions, not as unique and exclusive, but rather as solutions that are part of a broader ecosystem.

The presentation by Digix Global focused on their trading platform but provided little new information to its state. The team is focusing on KYC (Know Your Customer) regulations and security, moving into a good direction among the increasing regulatory considerations among blockchain startups and token sales. Chinese investors mentioned Digix several times and were impressed by how the project leveraged the Ethereum blockchain.

Juergen Schaar delivered a remarkable demonstration of how Ethereum will pave the way for the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution. His company Ethan BIoT developed an IoT chip that runs a light client which connects directly with a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain. This allows a user to engage with IoT devices by making payments in Ether to the contract, using a standard wallet like Jaxx. The IoT chips can be used for locks, vending machines or smart electricity meters. Juergen Schaar mentioned this would allow for more decentralization in concepts like AirBnB and the company was also working on a version of the device for car rentals. This concept allows car-sharing principles, where anyone can potentially rent their car out to another person. The proliferation of a simple light client IoT chip like this could fast-track the mainstream adoption of Ethereum because a user doesn’t necessarily need to know how they’re engaging with the main chain. People don’t need to understand how electricity works in order to turn on a light switch. 

Another product, Token Factory, makes it simple for anyone to issue their own digital assets and tokens. This allows users to easily experiment with tokenization of anything in an easy and safe environment with a simple wallet interface. Token Factory’s founder Simon De La Rouvière mentioned it was important for people to experiment at such an early stage of development, so they will have a greater understanding further down the road.

The closing speech to the event was delivered by James Gong, founder of ChainB, a leading Chinese company in the local blockchain industry. Gong mentioned he was very impressed by how quickly the Ethereum community had managed to resolve the DAO attack and he believed the community had a very bright future. He mentioned Devcon2 was very different from the previous blockchain events in China because it united developers, researchers, and entrepreneurs in an unprecedented manner.

Vitalik Buterin stated that all parts of the Ethereum ecosystem were moving forward incredibly quickly and,

“One year ago we hadn’t seen five solutions that could reach mainstream adoption. This year we just saw 31 that are very close.”

Identity is one of the most important issues to solve for mainstream adoption. The grand prize of the Devcon Demo Day went to uPort, which is building a universal identity platform on Ethereum. Ahead of its competition, uPort is specifically focusing on interoperability with other applications, as well as security and mobile adoption. Their application solves many of the current challenges of identity with an easy to use, self-sovereign identity system that can be used by anyone on a smartphone. In the future, the team will focus on scaling uPort for business clients and KYC processes, which could be one of the first applications that will provide value to businesses from the public chain.