According to private investment funder Andrew Vilenchik, there are a lot of negative stereotypes about blockchain technology floating around. Mention the blockchain to a random passerby on the street, and they're liable to associate it with stereotypes of basement dwellers, black-market dealers, nefarious hackers (such as those responsible for the recent Ticketfly data breach ), or nothing at all.

Vilenchik is hellbent on changing that.

"Blockchain is a legitimate business," he says. "And the crypto itself is legitimate... It's like a dollar: You can use it to pay for electricity or to hire a hitman. It's not the dollar that's illegal; it's what you do with it."

To spread the good word about the benefits of blockchain, the serial investor and TKTK of the American Renewable Energy Corporation (which itself utilizes blockchain technology) has created several conferences and events designed to educate people about the many legitimate uses of blockchain and build community around these technologies.

His latest venture, the Blockchain Nation conference taking place in Las Vegas this October, seeks to inspire a broader range of engagement with blockchain technologies. He's bringing together business icons, government officials, major investors, and industry influencers under one roof to represent the sheer range of blockchain applications. And he's looking to fund the latest innovations in blockchain tech with a $1 million startup competition.

Busting Blockchain Stereotypes

Blockchain Nation isn't Vilenchik's first rodeo. He's already created a blockchain conference that took people on a cruise in order to create a more familial environment.

"What I didn't like about the conferences that typically happen is when people come to the events, there's really no synergy," says Vilenchik. "There are too many people, they don't socialize, [and] it's too commercialized." In developing the cruises, Vilenchik envisioned a conference where people could deepen their understanding of the blockchain and forge real, lasting connections.

Blockchain Nation expands on that concept. "I wanted to create an on-land version... where people can truly build the connections and the relationships that they need to take their businesses to the next level," says Vilenchik.

Instead of speaking exclusively to an audience that has already bought in to cryptocurrencies, Vilenchik hopes to inspire new fans by painting a clear picture of the blockchain's increasingly broad user base.

"The blockchain is not just crypto itself," says Vilenchik. "It's not just bitcoin... The use of blockchain is a lot wider than a lot of people understand." He points to the many uses of blockchain for everything from company logistics, to medical systems, to exchanging funds in regions that lack functional banking systems.

This diversity of applications is reflected in the event's speaker lineup, which includes everyone from crypto experts to government leaders and reps from both the finance industry and major corporations including IBM and Deloitte.

"It's a whole spectrum," says Vilenchik. "We're trying to create a friendly environment where people can go and learn and not be afraid."

Inspiring Blockchain Innovation with $1 Million on the Line

In addition to educating people about the many uses of blockchain, the conference will also inspire new innovations in the industry. A key component of the conference is its Innovation Competition, which provides startups with an opportunity to gain exposure, pitch their ideas, receive expert advice, and potentially raise (a whole lot of) money.

To that end, the competition will feature multiple judge panels that will review competing startups' presentations and provide constructive feedback. The top three startups will advance to the main stage and present in front of celebrity judges for a chance to win the $1 million competition.

"Not only are they going to present, but they're also going to get feedback," says Vilenchik. "They're going to get educated."

The competition will be moderated by PITCH Investors Live, a token-based app that enables startups to pitch investors live (and in front of a digital audience) from anywhere in the world.

"What PITCH has done is they have created a structure that allows companies at the early stages to find consultants and advisors who would invest... at a fraction of the cost," says Vilenchik. "The platform lets you practice the product presentation... [and become] better, more polished, seasoned business professionals."

All told, Blockchain Nation seeks to educate as many people as possible about the many uses of blockchain technologies--and then put its money where its mouth is by providing investment opportunities for blockchain startups.

"There's a lot of ways [blockchain can] better the lives of people," says Vilenchik. "I believe this is gonna be a great conference."