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Crypto panel: How blockchain startups are disrupting big industries

Cryptocurrency and blockchain make my head hurt. They’re complicated subjects, but they’re potentially disrupting a lot of industries.

Blockchain is the transparent and secure ledger that uses decentralized computing to enable secure transactions that are necessary for digital monies, or cryptocurrency. I moderated a panel at OKCoin to better understand how crypto startups are disrupting industries.

Our panelists included Boris Reznikov, director of partnerships at Interstellar; Brendan Eich, CEO of Brave Software; and Nicholas Arqueros, chief technology officer of Emurgo. Our panel took place at OKCoin in San Francisco, and OKCoin provided the common thread of an exchange where the startups could trade their newly issued cryptocurrency tokens. (You can view the whole session on the YouTube video embedded above).

Blockchain has gone from being a mysterious source of scams to having its own thriving startup ecosystem. Many blockchain projects are still experimental, but they’re ambitious, trying to disrupt major industries from web browsers to digital payments.

Above: Brendan Eich of Brave Software speaks at OKCoin panel.

Image Credit: OKCoin

Eich’s company is taking on Google, both in its Chrome browser business and its online advertising business model. Eich, cofounder of Mozilla and creator of the Javascript programming language, is going after the $1 trillion spent on online advertising that will happen in the coming years.

Digital ads are annoying to him. They can track and monitor users. Publishers suffer revenue loss these days from ad blockers, and fraudulent ads can slow down web browsing itself. So Brave Software’s Basic Attention Token is an ERC-20 token on the Ethereum platform. Brave’s web browser blocks ads and tracking scripts that slow down browsers, but it anonymously confirms a user’s attention on web pages.

“We are getting users first with a better browser, but will build a platform and will take the token to apps,” Eich said.

These page views are then converted into rewards for publishers, who are paid with security tokens. The process allows users to maintain their privacy while validating creator revenue that would typically come from advertising view metrics. Brave already has 5 million users and 23,000 publishers.

Brave wants to engage with publishers to help users get by pay walls that limited readers to a few articles a month. So Eich wants to disrupt both Chrome and adtech.

Above: Boris Reznikov of Interstellar.

Image Credit: OKCoin

Boris Reznikov, director of partnerships at Interstellar, explained how the company is taking on Swift bank wire payments with Stellar, an internet-level protocol for digital payments.

“It’s not very efficient and in dire need of disruption,” he said.

Stellar wants to get rid of friction related to cross-border payments, which are handled by Swift’s traditional messaging protocol. It will do so via a distributed ledger designed to allow banks to issue fiat currencies (like the U.S. dollar) across a decentralized exchange. That makes payments interoperable.

Stellar recently acquired Chain, an enterprise blockchain company, and the two combined to form Interstellar. Interstellar will deliver Stellar’s global public ledger so companies can issue, exchange, and manage assets across a scalable public network.

Stellar’s wants to make assets across many industries more liquid, sparking more trade and payments.

Above: Nico Arqueros of Cardano and Emurgo

Image Credit: OKCoin

Nico Arqueros, chief technology officer Emurgo, is trying to unseat Ethereum, one of the leading cryptocurrencies in today’s market.

Cardano’s goal is to be a smart contract platform that is better than Ethereum’s capability. It sounds crazy, as Ethereum has a big head start.

As a tech platform, Cardano will be able to run financial applications that can be used by individuals with out so much fear about security vulnerabilities. Cardano is built on the ADA cryptocurrency, which is now available on many digital currency exchanges, including OKCoin.

Cardano emphasizes academic research, as its team includes crypto research leaders who write academic papers. Cardano’s current plan is to complete the settlement layer which runs ADA. Then it will do a separate computing layer that handles smart contracts and decentralized apps.

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