The four day Blockland Solutions Conference in Cleveland brought tech leaders from around the U.S. to meet with local entrepreneurs and investors to look for new ways to use blockchain technology in the local economy.
As Blockland backers plan next steps, there are challenges they'll face in creating a regional tech hub.
Charles Stack is CEO of Flashstarts, a tech-acclerator that’s putting $6 million in seed money into two dozen blockchain-based startups over the next year.
Stack is convinced that blockchain, the digital technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, is the wave of the future.
"Like a surfer," he says, “I’m good at finding waves.”
And he would like the blockchain wave to wash over Northeast Ohio’s strongest business sectors, “supply chain, finance, medical records, finance, philanthropy, healthcare. All of those," says Stack, "will be impacted by blockchain."
But Stack says Cleveland needs to mobilize those various industries to create markets for blockchain innovators.
“If we could put together lists of companies in our region that are willing to test new solutions," he says, "blockchain companies will flock here.”
Stack says the Blockland Solutions Conference is the first step in the plan to revitalize the region through tech. But the real work of catching the blockchain wave means using Northeast Ohio as a test market for the promising, but speculative tech revolution.
Seeking local solutions
On the final day of the conference, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish asked technologists and entrepreneurs to help the county address its challenges using blockchain.
Budish made a plea for blockchain developers to focus on local government. "We have lots and lots and lots and lots of challenges," Budish says.
The County's systems for voting, transferring titles, and administering public benefits are all too complicated and cumbersome, he says. Also, the region is still suffering from an opioid crisis.
Perianne Boring is with the Digital Chamber of Commerce, a group that advocates for blockchain businesses.
By providing a secure way to quickly record digital information, she says the technology can address all of those problems, including prescription drug abuse.
She says, "We have a company that's building a pharmaceutical supply chain to bring greater transparency in these drugs."
It may be a while before the county adopts these technologies. Budish says procurement is a long a bureaucratic process. But he hopes blockchain can fix that too.