On Blockchain, Decentralization & CryptocurrencY – 10 Takeaways from the Ethereal Summit

Organized by Consensys, the Ethereal Summit aims to encourage conversations on decentralization and its impact

on the future of technology. We spent the day hearing media influencers, government officials, futurists etc share their views about the future of Blockchain, Tokens and their influence on our digital world. Here are 10 key takeaways summarized from various thought-provoking panels across the summit.

1. The Importance of Community in a Decentralized World
“In a decentralized world, it is all great when things are functioning. But what happens when things go wrong? People will want to go to a place or a thing to blame and this is when the community will need to come together to fix them.” – Sandra Ro, Executive Director and Head of Digitization at CME Group
2. A Framework is needed to control multiple manifestations of our Online Presence
“In the Physical world, we view ourselves as our identities, and possess what we know as ‘personhood’. In the digital online realm, we have multiple versions of our ‘personhood’. There needs to be a way or a framework to control this.” – Melanie Shapiro, Co-founder and CEO of Tokenize
3. Our Data will represent a form of Currency in the Future
“One of my favorite books is Homo Deus, which paints a future that is influenced by science and technology. I can picture a world where our data is our currency, where an everyday transaction is based on the data that you are willing to hand over, what you are willing to share and what you feel uncomfortable sharing.” – Jake Porway, Director of DataKind
4. Blockchain is a form of Distribution
“Blockchain is not a form of decentralization but rather a form of distribution. It is a mechanical tool to record the DNA of transactions. Nobody can monopolize it. The beauty of Blockchain is that it creates similar development opportunities for both developed and developing countries.” – Giorgi Vashadze, Founder and CEO of Innovation and Development Foundation, Member of Parliament of Georgia
5. Blockchain and other Future Technologies need more Media Coverage to educate people about their Potential Impact
“Media helps build the foundation of knowledge. Many people still do not know the ideas and key terms related to Blockchain. Media has an important role in shaping the future of how people view Blockchain. The biggest challenge is to get people to understand and build a positive association with it, especially with new tokens being launched everyday. There should be more content on Blockchain and the reason why nobody is writing it is because there is a lack of interest in articles related to Blockchain.” – Alex Klokus, CEO of Futurism
5. Cryptocurrency creates new Investment Models for the Film Industry

“A popular way for independent filmmakers to raise funds is to approach a large studio or to leverage a crowdfunding platform. Through Blockchain technology and a tokenized system, filmmakers can connect directly with their audience from the beginning by giving them the opportunity to become investors in the film. This also enables filmmakers to better understand their audience and provide them with favored content.

Once the audience has invested in the film, they are considered equity holders and are incentivized to market and promote the film, increasing its success rate. With this method of fundraising, artists can also maintain creative control of the film.” – Mitzi Peirone, Filmmaker and Director of Braid (First feature film to be fully financed through equity crowd sale using cryptocurrency)

7. VR and other Technologies will merge to produce Hyperrealistic Interactions
“Where Virtual Reality (VR) is now is not where it will be in 10 years’ time. In the future, there will be a whole new way of storytelling. Holographic avatars may exist for us to communicate not only with one another, but with historic figures as well. Expect merging of various technologies to produce hyperrealistic interactions.” – Cortney Harding, Professor at NYU, Author and Consultant
8. Automation, if executed incorrectly, could have the most significant impact towards a Dystopian Future
“Automation and IOT could both have significant impact. When you have automation, the data transacted can come from anywhere, so we need systems to keep them in check or we risk going off the rails. There is a dystopian potential to it.” – Peter Asaro, Assistant Professor at The New School & Affiliate Scholar in the Center for Internet & Society at Stanford Law
9. Utility of Tokens is growing at a rapid rate
“The token is a new form of currency that will fuel the Blockchain economy for the next 10 years. It is not an ownership of some sort, but it can be part of an application or a software. At its core, it consists of an account and an account number. These tokens can represent everything, from financial assets to products. Their utility is growing at a rapid rate.” – Nick Dodson, Founder of Weifund and Boardroom, Consultant at Consensys
10. A Tokenized System is more favorable for companies than a Traditional Equity System
“Traditional equities such as shares give shareholders the professional rights to a company’s profits. This system of equity drives shareholders to focus solely on growth of profits, and when companies have this sole narrow focus, they are more likely to face market failure. With a tokenized system, a token holder is incentivized to get more people to use the token to increase the company’s financial value instead of getting the company to fixate on increasing profits.” – Joel Monegro, Investment Team at Union Square Ventures
It was an eye-opening event at the frontier of innovation, with industry leaders delineating how Blockchain and Decentralization are disrupting their respective industries. If you want to know more about other emerging technologies beyond Blockchain and Tokens, check out 6 Emerging Technologies and their Applications.

A Power Packed Design Driven Meetup: First Designer at Twitter, Product Designer at Facebook and VP of Product at Kickstarter

The Design Driven NYC meetup on May 3rd brought an impressive lineup. The speakers were Vítor Lourenço, Partner at Expa and first designer at Twitter, Bradford Shellhammer, Head of Personalization and Engagement at eBay, Jonathan Smiley, Product Designer at Facebook and Deepa Subramaniam, VP of Product at Kickstarter.

In case you missed it, or if you just want a recap, we’ve summarized key takeaways from some of the talks.

Product Designer at Facebook, Jonathan Smiley on Compromising
The designer’s responsibility is to define and design the product, and they are typically reluctant to any changes to what they have so artfully designed. However, the fact is:
“You don’t have all the answers and there will be compromises you need to make.”

It is difficult to create a product that works for everyone and compromises will usually need to be made in 5 different areas:


  • Compromises will be made when designing an all-encompassing product that is visually aesthetic, functional and user-friendly.Technology
  • There will be software dependencies that are difficult to develop or change.Business
  • Compromises will have to be made when making a choice between benefitting the users or the company’s bottom line.Political
  • There will be organizational dynamics and colleagues with different working styles, which will result in compromises that need to be made in design.Ego
  • There will be times when you need to be comfortable with the fact that you may not have created the right design.

While compromising, there will be times when you start to doubt yourself but the solution is for you to be clear about your role. It’s key to figure out when and how to compromise. Over time, you will develop good instincts about what users are looking for and bring key priorities for your environment to the table instead of bringing everything to the table.

VP of Product at Kickstarter, Deepa Subramaniam on Team Dynamics, Testing and Engagement

Though Deepa is currently with Kickstarter, she spoke about her experiences as Director of Product at Hillary for America. Deepa shared with us some tips for building good team dynamics, executing efficient user testing and creating effective engagement.

         Team Dynamics

  • The best outputs will usually be produced under difficult circumstances.
  • Teams which are integrated and focused on their prioritization produce the best results.
  • Collaboration should happen regularly by constantly sharing space physically and where necessary, virtually.
  • Diversity and inclusion are also key to building good rapport within the teams. Creating an inclusive and well-represented team with diverse backgrounds, will result in better outputs through stronger collaboration.Testing
  • Use A/B testing and data-driven testing to drive roadmap prioritization and show impact.
  • Prioritize ideas based on timing instead of significance.
  • Test ideas that are “evergreen”, which are valuable for a lengthy time instead of moment-based ideas.​Engagement
  • Get users to take action by being direct and make one clear ask instead of distracting them with multiple vague questions.
  • Provide a guide for your call-to-actions and justify their significance to users.
Partner at Expa and First Designer of Twitter, Vítor Lourenço on Launching Companies

With experience as the first designer of Twitter and a partner at startup studio, Expa, Vítor explained the lessons he learned from launching more than 10 companies at Expa in 3.6 years.

         ​Find something that sucks

  • You need to find something that you are really upset about before tackling the issue with a solution.Define key metrics for success
  • This keeps you attached to the problem you are about to solve. You will need to figure out one number that really matters and make sure that the number grows over time. During his early days at Twitter, the team based most of their decision on intuition without well defined instrumentation for a metric, which resulted in several changes in direction.Build focused prototypes
  • Instead of doing ten different things, pick one thing to focus on. Product needs to have a strong core and people often spend time working on ideas without a solid core.Tell a great story
  • When possible, invest in a good domain and name right from the beginning. Branding is important and it is not only about the name but how your consumers experience your product and its story.Use the scientific method
  • Carry out multiple tests for product market fit. Create a hypothesis, create your product and test it on users through a/b testing and experiments, review the results and come to a conclusion.
Although all of the speakers had design and product background, it was inspiring to hear their perspectives from a wide variety of industries. Thanks to Firstmark and Buzzfeed for inviting the power packed presenters, we definitely learned a lot and look forward to the next Design Driven NYC event.