“We have only two rules for this thing. Come to learn and be curious.”
Steven Chen, managing partner of San Francisco-based technology consultancy Noris, promises that SF Blockchain Week won’t be just another crypto conference where participants pay exorbitant ticket prices simply to engage in a glorified networking session with little in the way of actual content. No, he says, the event scheduled for October 5 to 12 will bring together industry leaders, developers, researchers and users for seven days of talks, debates, workshops and hackathons in a bid to educate, evangelize and, above all, to show the public that blockchain is much more than just a scheme to get rich quick. He says, “Our slogan is change the narrative. And that’s what we’re doing – we’re changing the narrative and how we’re approaching this industry.”
Not about the Lambos
One of the organizers of SF Blockchain Week, Chen says the conference aims to push the blockchain industry forward by providing an opportunity for people to learn. According to Bitcoin Market Journal, there have been no fewer than 250 major blockchain conferences in 2018. Most, however, were little more than excuses to hobnob and cut deals. “The reason why we’re doing this, the biggest value added to the blockchain community is the fact that all the other conferences this year have focused on Lambos in the courtyard and bringing in people to network,” says Chen. “I feel like the content itself was overlooked and no one really learned anything from the conference itself.”
SF Blockchain Week is, first and foremost, about promoting understanding of blockchain and its disruptive potential. “We feel that in order to move this space forward, what brings the most value is actually educating people,” says Chen. “Actually teaching people to move forward from either the building perspective, so that’s developers, or from the adoption perspective, so that’s consumers. I feel like this space really, really lacks that right now, and that’s what we’re trying to change with SF Blockchain Week.”
The week kicks off with ETH San Francisco, the world’s largest Ethereum hackathon, a three-day event boasting participation from over 1,000 developers.
What follows is SF Blockchain Week Epicenter, where five “stages” will provide developers with a smorgasbord of learning opportunities.
The main stage features a broad spectrum of figures from crypto and traditional spaces such as Litecoin creator Charlie Lee, Passport Capital founder John Burbank, AngelList founder Naval Ravikant, Indiegogo founder Slava Rubin and ICON Foundation council member Min Kim. It includes not only keynote speeches, but also potentially spirited panel discussions on topics such as security tokens versus utility tokens. “We purposely put content where there will be some spice to it,” says Chen. “People learn more from seeing two opposing views rather than an eco chamber.”
There will also be a consumer adoption stage focused on getting the public to use blockchain, a technical stage where CTOs will be giving technical talks to a curated tech audience and two developer stages where participants can take part in workshops and hackathons led by Oasis labs, ICON, Kyber Network, Rchain, Zilliqa, Lightning Network, Cosmos and others.
The final event of the week is the Crypto Economic Security Conference, an academic gathering focused on developments in the realm of crypto economics. The attendee list includes academics and thought leaders such as Emin Gun Sirer, Vitalik Buterin, Joseph Poon, Silvio Micali and Dominic Williams. To participate, speakers had to apply and submit research papers. The quality of presentations will be high, the ideas new, says Chen.
“As the organizers, we’ve worked hard to put together the best content and cater to everyone, whether you’re a developer, whether you’re a consumer, whether you’re a researcher,” he says. “We want this to be valuable for everyone.”
Tickets for SF Blockchain Week start at USD 235 for the four-day Epicenter event, far less than other conferences, where you’re sometimes expected to pay over USD 1,000 for two days. Chen says that they’re doing everything at cost, that they’re not trying to make money from this. “It’s San Francisco – we still have to charge something for tickets,” he says, but adds, “If you proved to us that you’re a developer who can contribute to the space, we’re happy to provide tickets to those people for free.”
Helping the cause
ICON will be taking part in SF Blockchain Week as a title sponsor. The conference comes at a crucial time in the platform’s development, coinciding with recent or imminent milestones such as the mainnet update, open source release and launches of the ICON Developers Portal and ICX Station. ICON Foundation council member Min Kim will be giving a keynote address, and there will be a developers’ bootcamp, too.
Title sponsors are essentially organizers. Chen says, “A lot of the stuff, we’re actually making decisions based on what the title sponsors want and the kind of personas the title sponsors are.”
Being a title sponsor means you care about more than just the aforementioned Lambos.
“I think it’s really important that as a project, you want to push forward the message that you are focused on the long-term goal. You’re not a project that cares only about pumping the price and making the community happy from a financial standpoint,” says Chen. “You have a much longer vision of pushing forward, education, you want people to work on your protocol from an open source point of view. You want people to build developer tools on top of your protocol, and from that end, push adoption. As a title sponsor like ICON, their essential goal is to get adoption from a developer perspective as well as a consumer perspective. If they share that vision, that’s why they’re a title sponsor.”
Title sponsors may be providing a couple of surprises, too. “One thing to look forward to for the week is that there will be surprise packages and creative sessions,” says Chen. “I can’t reveal anything right now, but there’s a lot to look forward to and title sponsors are a huge part of it.”