Blockchain

There are tectonic shifts happening in BC’s tech industry. And SFU Beedie BBA alumnus Stacey Wallin is at the forefront. At BC Tech, Stacey leads a team dedicated to ensuring the province’s most cutting-edge companies have access to capital, talent and expertise.

The applications for blockchain go way beyond crypotocurrencies, Stacey says; it’s a foundational change in the way we do things. Watch to find out how.

Stacey Wallin

Director, Venture Programs at BC Tech

Bachelor of Business Administration

Q&A WITH STACEY

Can you give us a “simple” explanation of blockchain?

Blockchain is a distributed open ledger, which means that it allows for information about a contract or a transaction to be shared equally amongst a large number of people at the same time.

With blockchain, people can make transactions or share assets back and forth without needing to actually trust each other, meet each other, or know each other. These transactions can be 100 percent verified and guaranteed non-fraudulent, so you don't need middlemen to make sure the thing you're giving to a person stays in good hands until it's actually passed over. As a result, everything that requires the transfer of data or assets, such as banking, legal contracts, insurance claims, etc. can be done directly from peer to peer.

Blockchain is a concept that many people are applying in many different ways. So, there's no single tool called “a blockchain”—it is a framework or a way of doing things that can be applied to processes or problems. It’s a foundational technology that's going to allow for a bunch of new technologies to be built on top of it, creating a new wave of transformation and innovation similar to what the Internet did to digital transformation. It has a transformative effect on how we do business in nearly every way.

What are some examples of blockchain commonly in use currently?

Blockchain has a few major buckets of use cases, one of which is as a method of distributing assets. The example familiar to most people is the exchange of wealth or cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. Similarly, blockchain can be used to distribute data or information. This means that information can be shared across an infinite number of networks or places simultaneously allowing it to be understood and known to be true at any point at any time. One example of a way that distributed data can really empower us is with health records. Imagine that any doctor at any location knows your health records and you have 100 percent confidence that those records are up to date and accurate across all those different places.

Another major use case for blockchain is allowing for settlement of contracts. Examples of that would be real-estate transactions or interbank reconciliation (different banks settling contracts between themselves).

One specific application of blockchain actually comes from the industry that I used to work in: stockbroking. Right now, when trading stocks, the purchaser of the stock can electronically decide what stock they'd like and place a transaction, and seemingly that stock is transferred instantly. But what actually happens behind the scenes is that that stock trades hands through middlemen until it reaches the eventual buyer. At that point the transaction actually settles, which means that the assets and the money change hands permanently and both ledgers are updated. With blockchain, that can all happen instantly without the middlemen, which allows for the asset, the money and the ledgers to be updated instantaneously, providing much more efficient and transparent security transactions.

What are some of the controversies or challenges related to blockchain?

Challenges right now include the loss of privacy associated with a completely transparent platform, and cyber security, which is always a concern when introducing new digital tools. There’s also the issue right now with having these different chains and platforms become compatible with one another so they can work together. Then of course there’s the regulatory challenges—how do we make sure that people are not using this tool for nefarious purposes? So, there are regulatory requirements from governments around the world that are still being worked out.

There's also the aspect of there being a lot of hype around this industry right now, and so there are businesses and individuals who are jumping on the bandwagon without full understanding of whether it's the best fit for them or their problem.

These challenges are similar to those that crop up any time we enter a new, nascent industry. How does it work? How does it affect things that used to be done? How are we going to build tools above and beyond this to make sure that it's used for the reasons that we first anticipated it would be?

How can I find out if blockchain is the right solution for my business?

The first obvious thing I'd recommend doing is a little internet research, but second is getting involved with some members of your community that are actively engaged in this space and are helping to shape our blockchain solutions together. There are great events, there are great communities and conferences that you can join and get involved with. And if you're not sure where to start, there are organizations dedicated to helping people who are interested in the blockchain space get connected and get supported. So, reach out!

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