One of the great issues with Silicon Valley is we build things for ourselves, primarily to address our biggest problem: tremendous laziness (under the guise of convenience).
When we’re not spending millions of dollars and hours trying to make our San Francisco commutes two minutes faster (or more fun, with like, a scooter), we’re trying to turn sci fi into reality with Mars tech or driverless cars.
There are bigger fish to fry and we don’t have to look far: Flint still doesn’t have clean (enough) water, for example. So few are using their skills and time to address real needs away from the coasts and this only becomes clearer when we look beyond our borders.
But I am thrilled to say we may be approaching an inflection point.
Tech talent is sprinting toward blockchain — one estimate earlier this year said there were 14 job postings for every 1 qualified blockchain developer, something that’s changing rapidly — and the top use-cases for blockchain have very little to do with life in northern California.
Generally, I believe distributed ledger technology is most impactful in areas where there is a fundamental lack of trust in institutions or governments. On the cryptocurrency side, there are cases of massive inflation or deflation where fiat currency risk threatens daily life (and a non-government run currency may represent a huge improvement). When we talk about smart contracts, we’re leveraging technology to ensure something happens — “bringing trust to untrusted parties,” as people like to say.
That means these engineers are going to have to start building for someone other than themselves, and I’m watching with great interest.
That’s why I watch projects like Treon. Treon cites customer experiences that I certainly don’t have, like how individuals in many markets spend 20+ minutes paying a single utility bill each month. This is done in person or on the phone and is especially prevalent with government-owned utility companies or with the unbanked of the world.
Treon offers these individuals something I take for granted: the ability to pay a utility bill online, in minutes, from a single dashboard. Their application of blockchain tech brings trust to a situation where there’s high risk for fraud — the DLT serves as a great receipt — and their business model is smart: they negotiate margin on the utility side rather than asking for a service fee from consumers.
I’m not here to knock those who are pointing us toward our Mars and driverless cars and scooter commute future — I just think it’s worth paying a little attention to the billions whose daily lives could be improved with technology. And with the talent flooding blockchain, I think we’re about to start doing just that.
Andrew J. Chapin is Co-Founder & CEO of Benja, head of the benjaCoin token project, author of Art of the Initial Coin Offering, and an advisor to several crypto projects. This November, Andrew is running the New York City marathon for Athletes to End Alzheimer’s.