innovation, speaking

Keynote: DECENTRALISED EVERYTHING (is Blockchain and Crypto eating the world?)

Excited to be doing keynotes again at real on-premise events despite the ongoing global pandemic!

Today I’m in Unter den Linden 1 at Bertelsmann Berlin, speaking about Blockchain, Crypto and Web3 at the Bertelsmann Tech & Data Week 2021. Humbled and honored to be on the same roster of keynote speakers as the excellent Hannah Fry (read her books)!

It’s a company internal event, so I won’t be able to share the whole nine yards.

On a personal note, I suspect having travelled straight from the clinic where I’d just witnessed our second child being born and not having slept for over 24 hours to deliver the keynote live on stage I might have come off a little disheveled. ;) Zero regrets, though.

Here’s a teaser:

Web 1 – Remember? (1990s – ca.2005)

  • Semantics all over the place
  • Protocols coming and going
  • Things breaking
  • Things not scaling
  • Crowded place, many new unproven players
  • Pump & Dump IPOs
  • Scams rampant
  • Slow mainstream adoption (e.g. e-commerce)
  • dotcom crash 2000
  • “This online web thing will never work…”
Actually, it wasn’t at the time. It wasn’t a self-referential era – unlike Web3.

Web2 is the internet today, dominated by tech giants. It’s built on client-server architecture where users are the client and companies control the servers. These companies extract value from creators and users by sitting in the middle.

Web 3 – Sounds familiar? (today)

  • Semantics all over the place
  • Protocols coming and going
  • Things breaking
  • Things not scaling
  • Crowded place, many new unproven players
  • Pump & Dump ICOs
  • Scams rampant
  • Slow mainstream adoption
  • ICO winter 2018
  • “This blockchain crypto thing will never work…”

Web3 is the internet that’s being pioneered by crypto;peer-to-peer networks of computers that talk to each other without middlemen using blockchain tech. It’s the new Wild Wild West, the new frontier of the Internet.

As we now know, this Web 1 (and Web 2) thing worked out insanely well for some.

For those who made themselves dependant on these centralised platforms – and then the platforms changed – it turned out not so great:

How centralised platforms change over time


  • Web1 was about creating value at/for the edges; the developers and users
  • Web2 is about creating value for the centralised platforms, the middlemen, the rentseekers, the gatekeepers
  • Web3 is a return to creating value at/for the edges; the developers and users – reclaiming independence from centralised platforms
  • Web3 is about trust, ownership, and decentralisation
  • Crypto & Blockchain enables and empowers trust, ownership, and decentralisation
  • Web3 is where the Internet wants to go at the moment
  • Yes, there’s an energy consumption issue with crypto relying on “proof of work”, but alternatives exist, Etherium is supposed to switch to “proof of stake”, and pow miners are “going green” at a fast rate, it’s getting much better
  • Yes, there are problems still with the concept of “decentralised”, e.g. a lot of tech being built on crypto rely on centralised platforms, and crypto platforms have been known to freeze assets and reverse transactions (which arguably should not be possible), we’re not quite there yet today

Also check out Peter Yang’s great beginners guide on crypto. It’s my go-to resource when trying to explain to the uninitiated. It’s the best first step guide I have read so far.

Conclusion & Recommendations

  • It’s 1999 all over again, and the train has left the station, so get in and participate, but don’t bet the barn 1999-style – you have to ask yourself if you can afford to miss the value creation in the pioneer age (again), and worst case you’ll learn something
  • You cannot disrupt the disruptors, don’t try to compete with startups because you’ll lose – acquire or create own initiatives
  • Look over your shoulder and around you, who’s [startups] making blockchain / crypto waves near you, reach out and start a relationship – worst case they’ll ignore you, best case you’ll develop new biz opportunities
  • Leverage your existing IP and its fan base, it’s something no startup will ever have, think of new ways of monetizing and including fans in new ways of participating
  • DON’T BLOCKCHAIN EVERYTHING, use trust and ownership as heuristics; if neither is involved, skip – also think about internal or b2b processes that could be more efficient or cheaper using blockchain tech
  • Look at internal work, internal processes that could possibly be automated using e.g. smart contracts – there’s probably a lot of smart people doing a lot of stupid work that could be freed up by automation (also see above)
  • Think really hard about how you are going to attract the next superstars, offering newer generations more tools to monetize their art and let their fans better participate will naturally be a competitive advantage – crypto could be a part of that toolset mix
  • Do or do not – there is no try