Enterprise blockchain was on full display at Consensus 2017 in New York City today.
There, leaders from some of the largest and most influential companies gathered on stage to address an audience of blockchain executives and coders alike. From infrastructure provider the DTCC, which conducts quadrillions of dollars worth of transactions each year, to legacy bank Citi, valued at $171bn, an enterprise blockchain track brought together a host of incumbents who have been active playing innovator.
Following shortly on the tail of news that Citi and Nasdaq have been running a live blockchain powered by Chain technology, Ian Lee, head of Citi's Global Lab Network, publicly discussed the importance of collaboration among incumbents.
Lee told the audience:
"Partnerships have been integral to our strategy from the very beginning. They have accelerated our efforts and helped us bring products to market in a short period of time."
Lee recounted the history of Citi Venture's blockchain work, which kicked off in 2015 with a partnership with Ideo to help create the Collab idea incubation facility. Lee credited this early move as leading to the business relationships that culminated today.
Yet, Lee put into perspective how this journey was not taken in isolation. He projects the number of blockchain proof-of-concepts has risen to 240 in 2016, up from 56 in 2015. At the same time, he tried to quantify the number of consortia engaged in this work, speculating the number has increased to 25, from just three a few years ago.
Saving money with network effect
Elsewhere, panelists from the DTCC discussed the creation of what they termed "minimum viable networks" that could showcase blockchain efficiencies.
In January, the DTCC revealed that IBM was helping build a platform to settle $11tn worth of credit derivatives using technology created by blockchain startup Axoni, and overseen by distributed ledger consortium R3. This is in spite of the fact that IBM, Axoni and R3 all have their own blockchain solutions.
As a result of their ability to work well together, DTCC chief technology architect Rob Palatnick said he expects the solution to go live in the first quarter of 2018, triggering savings for many of the clients actually using the DTCC framework.
"Instead of just taking 25% out of DTCC's cost, we could take 25% of the entire industry costs."
Complement not compete
In a twist on the idea of what a minimum viable network might look like, "Big Four" accounting firm PwC revealed more details about its work to make cryptocurrencies more palatable for big banks.
Launched in November 2016, PwC's Project Vulcan is also a collaborative effort between a number of startups with little more in common that that they serve complimentary parts of what its leaders believe will help lay the foundation for wide-spread use of cryptocurrencies.
Initially focused on using public blockchains such those that power the bitcoin and ethereum, the collaborators including infrastructure provider Bloq, auditing firm Libra and identity platform Netki, are now working with a bank to build out a private blockchain solution.
Instead of building solutions from scratch for bridging banks and cryptocurrency products, PwC's Robert Allen, the co-founder of Project Vulcan, formally now as Vulcan Digital Asset Services, recommended that the audience to use a "plug and play" solution to integrate their existing data into a blockchain.
As such, the presentation served to underscore the theme of the day – startups and enterprises need to work together, both among themselves and with each other.
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