Hosted by Richard Branson, Bill Tai, and the Bitfury Group, the third "Blockchain Summit" moved to Branson's Kasbah Tamadot in Marrakesh, Morocco, this year. Usually hosted at Branson's private Necker Island, the summit was moved after category five storm Hurricane Irma destroyed the entrepreneur's private retreat last year.
The event is sometimes seen as one for the blockchain elite, and a number of influential blockchain organizations have been created by the conference. The Blockchain Alliance, for instance, now has 36 government agencies as members; the Global Blockchain Business Council boasts members from 35 countries.
After the Necker Island estate was destroyed, the Blockchain Summit organizers decided to use the move to shift the conference's focus toward a more philanthropic purpose and highlight an underdeveloped, underserved region. Fueled by the new location, conference co-creator and Bitfury investor Bill Tai organized around 30 speakers to discuss building blockchain technology in Africa. Tai is also a founder of nonprofit organization Actai Group, which brings together groups of leaders for social good. Tai explained to Forbes:
"I think getting a lot of people together who are knowledgeable, with reach and a high profile, that collectively can form a view about what are the opportunities at hand that can both serve philanthropic and commercial interests."
One key speaker at the conference was Google co-founder and president of Google parent company Alphabet Inc Sergey Brin, who stunningly admitted Google may have missed its chance to be a blockchain leader.
"We probably already failed to be on the bleeding edge, I'll be honest," said Brin, though he did suggest that blockchain could currently be within the remit of Google X, its research division. "I see the future as taking these kind of research-y kind of out-there ideas and making them real — and Google X is kind of like that."
Brin said that his knowledge of cryptocurrency is limited, but that he and his son have been mining tiny amounts of Ether on a gaming PC in the last year or two.
Rumors surfaced in March 2018 that Google was investigating blockchain for its online cloud service. Around the same time, a patent application filed by Google was published relating to blockchain-based auditing technology.
Branson and his enterprises appear to be far more active when it comes to blockchain and cryptocurrency technology. As well as hosting the Blockchain Summit, he has invested in digital asset technology. In 2014, he backed BitPay with $30 million and even earlier announced he would accept Bitcoin as payment for tickets for his commercial space travel program Virgin Galactic.