I went into The Disruptive Impact of Blockchain panel event with an open mind. Anytime I attend any events that mention “disruption,” I take in the knowledge with a grain of salt and hope that I will be informed and entertained at the same time.

Luckily, the moderator, Dave Birch, acted like a veteran panel moderator and kept it interesting, on point, and refused to let any of the panelists give a general response to a specific question. He was just short of relentless.

The panelists had a varied, but equally impressive portfolio.


Ryan Shea – Co-Founder of Blockstack
Kelly Olson – Director, Distributed Ledger Technology, Intel
Julio Faura – Head of R&D, Innovation, Santander
Melanie Shapiro – Founder & CEO of Case
Diego Gutierrez Zaldivar – CEO of RSK Labs

And finally, the moderator who pulled it all together in a great way, David Birch, Director of Innovation, Consult Hyperion.


Here’s what I learned about blockchain.

“What is blockchain?” – explained in the simplest way possible

Blockchain answers the question: “Who did what and when did they do it?” This was the resounding response from the panelists when breaking down the purpose of blockchain. A blockchain is a distributed public ledger of records that is not owned by a single entity. I quickly realized that you do NOT want to call it a database with built-in validation, as the panelists collectively shot down that terminology.

Blockchains: When your first instinct is to trust no one.

Of all the panelists, Ryan seemed the most eager to offer use cases on why the blockchain can be useful for times when trust is of the utmost importance.

He offered up a simple question to the audience: “Do you trust your bank to tell you accurately how much money is in your bank account? How can you verify that this is accurate?”

Whether you agree with Ryan or not on the trustworthiness of your bank, this is one use case that blockchain experts are offering up as a reason to trust the blockchain and not your bank.

There are plenty of valid use cases for using blockchain

The biggest use cases discussed during the event all revolved around identity.

From the event summary:

Blockchain’s ability to record data such as transactions, contracts, and agreements and have them verified by users of the distributed ledger means that the technology has the potential to disrupt in a range of industries such as financial services, telecoms, legal, manufacturing, and transportation.

In the case of contracts, if there is a dispute on what was agreed on, the blockchain would be a trusted source to answer that question and reduce any conflicts that may arise from parties disputing which contract is the final version.

The blockchain is the foundation, not the end-all, be-all solution

The consensus, even coming from a biased group, was that the blockchain at the bare minimum could provide a common, secure public record, with other solutions able to be built on top of that. This technology can be used to disrupt multiple industries in a positive direction.

Blockchain can speed up fintech startups

Simply put, if the blockchain becomes a more widely used platform, startup banks can use the blockchain as their general ledger and won’t need to invest in other systems. This could speed up their time to market.

Another big consideration is that if the blockchain is trusted, so is the startup bank. The major issue right now with startup banks is trust. The blockchain will help alleviate that stress so the banks can focus on customer experience and not security protocols.

How real is blockchain? Will it cause a disruption?

The undertone from the panel was a resounding “It’s needed!”

The reality is that the blockchain is gaining traction and large companies like Intel & Santander, who were panelists, are experimenting with the technology and building real-life applications.

As a consumer, you probably won’t be affected by blockchain in the next 5 years, depending on how the large financial institutions adapt to this technology.

Overall, it was an entertaining and informing panel. I came out of it with a better understanding of blockchain and a better idea how applicable it is to the real world.