Key Takeaways from New York Blockchain Week 2019

Every May, New York City briefly becomes the epicenter for the entire blockchain industry. The city is suddenly crowded with dozens of small meetups and afterparties, not to mention bigger conferences like Consensus, Magical Crypto Conference or Token Summit. The Lisk team has attended this event for the last three years.

This year, myself, Max and Business Development Manager Jan visited New York to represent our blockchain application platform, make meaningful business connections and give the global blockchain community a sneak peek of our upcoming Alpha SDK. In between networking events and business meetings, we had the opportunity to catch a number of talks. Here are my five takeaways from the week and how I see Lisk staying ahead of the curve.

By Lisk

24 May 2019

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Hype is out, building is in!

The crowd was noticeably smaller than last year but this smaller audience was one of blockchain developers and entrepreneurs rather than retail investors. Gone were the Lambos, staged protests and (sadly) Snoop Dogg. Inside the conference halls, talks were centered on demos and deliverables rather than promises to change the world.

Compared to the heady atmosphere of last year, the event had an air of quiet confidence. You could feel that the attendees were focused on building and growing the industry. In conversation with Laura Shin, Olaf Carlson-Wee of Polychain Capital cited that 2019 was the year of launches. This sits well with us — Lisk was always about developing blockchain and ignoring the buzz of the cryptocurrency market. We believe the technology will speak for itself and we came to Consensus to showcase the first version of our blockchain building toolset, Lisk’s Alpha SDK.

Developer experience is becoming extremely important

User experience has always been correctly noted as a key hurdle to overcome in order to gain mass adoption. This year the UX conversation at Consensus went much deeper, focusing primarily on developer experience. This focus is justified — developing with blockchain still comes with significant overheads (particularly for devs new to the industry) and tackling these pain points will allow developers to build applications and solutions for wider adoption.

Developer experience is something that Lisk has championed from day one. It’s one of the reasons we choose JavaScript, why we created Lisk Commander, our CLI, and are dedicated to excellent documentation. It is good to see the industry catching up to the importance of this part of blockchain technology.

The Alpha SDK we showcased on stage at Consensus Construct included new SDK interfaces, and their familiarity to Express JS, continuing our commitment to developer experience.

Enterprise blockchains are making waves…

Private, permissioned blockchains remain a strong theme in the industry. Amazon Web Services took to the stage for the first time this year to demo their new managed blockchain service. ConsenSys similarly introduced their new Blockchain Business Cloud, Kaleido. Although public blockchain purists dismiss these private blockchains as nothing more than slow enterprise databases, for some use-cases (auditing, cross departmental communication, etc) they might prove to be valuable.

… but public blockchains are still king

With so many projects and applications based on them, public chains’ supremacy in security and immutability was clear. This was perhaps best illustrated by Microsoft’s decision to launch their decentralized identity initiative on Project ION on Bitcoin’s blockchain. We agree that running a public, open-source blockchain is the best way to ensure transparency and security.

New financial models around staking and DeFi are appearing

The emergence of crypto based stable coins, such as DAI, open or decentralised finance is bringing disruptive innovation, and real tangible use cases for blockchain. Similarly, the rise of Proof of Stake (PoS) and Delegated Proof of Stake (DPOS) over the last few years means that subject of staking is becoming even more important year.

Staking as a service was a frequent topic, proving investors improved staking returns. The rise of such services signals the increasing importance of staked (delegated or otherwise) blockchains. As one of the earlier DPoS blockchains, we’re committed to this consensus algorithm and are constantly researching ways to improve it. Check out Lisk Research for some of the network improvement proposals currently being discussed and get involved!

Blockchain applications are still on the horizon

Compared to last year, blockchain applications were less frequently discussed. Perhaps, this is due to an industry wide re-focusing on infrastructure and developer tools, and away from consumer facing applications (save DeFi). We are still some way off having useable, scalable blockchain applications with a product market fit.

But with the next generation of developer-focused tools such as Lisk Alpha SDK just around the corner, now is a good time to start diving in as a developer.

All in all, New York blockchain week provided a snapshot of where the industry is at in 2019 — less flashy than 2018, but one that has grown up significantly. With the rise of developer-focused tooling and second generation SDKs, there is a clearer direction towards wider adoption. We can’t wait to share our Alpha SDK with Liskers and the blockchain industry — let’s get building!