New technologies are created every day, but the impact of most of them is relatively minimal. In rare cases, however, one emerges that has the potential to change the world. A prime example is the blockchain.
The blockchain began as the underlying platform of the digital currency Bitcoin but has since exploded in both significance and scope. Simply put, the radically transparent platform allows people to trade with each other in a way that bypasses the need for traditional contracts and intermediaries.
The blockchain has the potential to transform everything we know about business. The people profiled below are at the forefront of using it to remake our economic landscape.
1. Wayne Vaughan
Wayne Vaughan started a digital marketing company in 1997-- right at the dawn of the Internet age and was subsequently one of the first people to offer marketing automation. Now he's at it again. His most recent venture Tierion is behind the very first "Proof Engine," a blockchain-based system that flawlessly verifies any data, file, or business process for accuracy. In an era of sophisticated hackers, leaks, identity theft, and cyberterrorism, Vaughan's Proof Engine could be as pivotal in the second decade of the 21st Century as the Search Engine was in the first.
2. Ryan Shea/Muneeb Ali
Ryan Shea and Muneeb Ali shared the belief that corporate consolidation hampers innovation. They were particularly frustrated that the flood of entrepreneurs in the app development space had no ability to own their own data or control their own platform. As such, the college friends co-founded Blockstack, a decentralized platform on which developers can keep full control of their own information and have a real say in how their products are distributed. To date, both Y Combinator and Union Square Ventures have backed the project.
3. Geri Balaj
From its mysterious founders to its black market associations, the world of Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and the blockchain had, until recently, somewhat of a hacker vibe. No longer. One major player wants in, and it is looking to Geri Balaj to help lead the way. The former American Stock Exchange director has been selected by the Big Four Accounting Firm PwC as its new US FinTech director specifically for the purpose of expanding its involvement in and understanding of the blockchain. Her efforts have already set the tone for the newest era of the blue chip financial services world.
4. Nick Barba/Kevin Kriss
Kevin Kriss and Nick Barba founded COAKT to resolve the persistent problems and roadblocks they had both observed over the course of their corporate careers. They came together over a shared belief that most people lack the necessary resources or connections to capitalize on their skill sets, talents, or uncommon assets. COAKT used the blockchain to allow likeminded individuals to "trade value" by using their natural strengths to virtually collaborate. The duo has already attracted a considerable amount of pre-launch attention from investors, The Huffington Post, Technical.ly, and the Governor of Delaware, to name a few.
5. Caitlin Long
Caitlin Long is obsessed with letting people know about persistent under-the-radar economic issues that are affecting them. Furthermore, she believes the blockchain has the potential to deliver us from many of our current financial ills. These twin impulses led her to leave a major job at a major bank to found Caitlin-long.com--a mouthpiece that has landed her everything from an intimate audience with the Chairman of the Fed to opportunities to invest in some of the most forward-thinking FinTech companies of today.
6. Chris Betz
Chris Betz has an aversion the way things are typically done. He worked in the FinTech space before it even had a name and was one of the pioneers of electronic trading. It was this reputation that prompted the EDM Council to approach him--an organization with representatives from two hundred of the largest Wall Street firms--to help them revamp financial standards. Betz's solution was to use "Smart Contracts," a blockchain-based technology that increases transparency to an extent that would not have been close to possible even a few years ago. Betz's protocols are now on track to become the de facto standard for financial markets nationwide.
7. Paul Sztorc
After reading a Wired article about Silk Road and the Dark Web in 2006, Paul Sztorc realized this stuff was the real deal. Inspired, he created TruthCoin, a Bitcoin-based "prediction market" with the ambitious aim of doing no less than "solve every human problem by continuously integrating all available human knowledge into a clear, single, useful representation of reality." Today, Sztorc is an Economist at Bloq, Inc. where he continually works to crack the code of mutually-beneficial social interactions.
8. Jesse Grushack
After graduating college, Jesse Grushack's interest in electronic music led him to a job at SFX, which was at the time the world's biggest promoter of live EDM events. His focus on finding and implementing cashless payments for these events eventually led to him to his current role running Ujo, an organization that aims to rebuild the music industry through blockchain technology. The platform's infrastructure allows for direct automatic royalty payments to artists and complete transparency of how rights are administered--a proposition that has already attracted the attention and involvement of artists such as Imogen Heap and Radiohead.
9. Mark S. Smith
With all the hype around blockchain technology, Mark Smith noticed something that not many of his contemporaries seemed to pay attention to. While the blockchain was specifically built for Bitcoin, he wasn't convinced that a single digital currency was right for everyone. Sensing an opportunity, Smith founded Symbiont, an independent blockchain platform that allows for the trading of new fully digital securities. The potential for Symbiont's system to create financial transactions has already attracted established clients such as the State of Delaware.
10. Brayton Williams
After spending a number of years working with a "too big to fail" bank as a wealth manager. Brayton Williams wanted to more deeply explore his futurist tendencies. As an early Bitcoin buyer, he knew there was a real opportunities in the cryptocurrency space for a budding Venture Capitalist like himself. The hunch paid off big time. Today Boost VC is one of the leading Venture Capital firms focused primarily on the Blockchain and Bitcoin space. Twice a year the firm selects 15-25 startups to invest in and supplies housing, work space, and mentorship. Since its early victories in one forward-thinking field, Williams and Boost have expanded into another - Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.