I was honored to be asked to do the opening keynote at Block Im Park (Block in the Park) at Frankfurt’s Deutsche Bank Park this past week. Hosted by Eintracht Frankfurt, it was an extraordinarily diverse gathering of business and tech professionals focused on innovation.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Fußball (soccer), Eintracht Frankfurt is one of Germany’s best and most popular teams. But this was not a sports innovation expo – far from it. Block Im Park was filled with presentations and conversations about the democratization of finance, the future of commerce, and how technology was likely to impact consumer experiences. It was fascinating. (BTW, the image above is me with Mario Götze who needs no introduction to soccer fans.)
Axel Hellmann, CEO of Eintracht Frankfurt Fußball, opened the conference by speaking about the need for all of us to become fluent in a common nomenclature for blockchain-related technologies. That sentiment was echoed and amplified by Stefan Bender, Head of Deutsche Bank’s Corporate Bank in Germany. Importantly, both executives set the tone for the day by asking everyone to question everything. Block Im Park was designed to foster healthy, vigorous debate.
I asked a simple question from the stage: “Why is blockchain a better solution for your project than a well-structured database with a secure password?” Very, very few of the people I spoke with had an answer to that question. If you don’t have a good answer for your project, it probably does not require blockchain either. Importantly, brands are central authorities. So if you are thinking about a brand-centric project, decentralization may not play an important role.
Should I Buy Bitcoin or Ether?
I don’t offer financial advice. If you want financial advice, consult a licensed financial advisor. I offered this disclaimer from the stage (it got a big laugh and a round of applause, BTW). Even so, almost everyone I spoke to after my keynote asked me whether they should buy (or sell) their BTC, ETH, SOL, DOT, or ADA, etc. People were mostly fixated on BTC and ETH. My only suggestion (and again, not financial advice) is to consult your tax professional about a concept called tax loss harvesting. Since most people who became crypto millionaires in 2020–2021 are now crypto thousandaires, there is an opportunity to mitigate the loss. Again, not financial advice. But please do consult your tax advisor.
Are NFTs dead?
NFTs are not dead. Far from it. Over the past few months, NFTs have decoupled from crypto. While it’s clear that prices have fallen for some of the NFTs that were created as speculative investments, people are starting to understand that there is a new asset class called “digital collectibles.” Ownership of any asset (digital or physical) can be represented by an NFT. But there is much more to the value proposition. NFTs are smart contracts, which means that when its terms and conditions are met (a secondary market sale, for example), the smart contract will execute automatically. This capability makes NFTs extremely useful for all kinds of projects. Utility is the key value driver for NFTs.
There was a lot of talk about digital twins. These are usually thought of as a digital asset that mirrors a physical one. Examples include a 3D rendering of a game-worn sports jersey or a 2D animation of a valuable trading card. But there’s more to this story as well. One of the more interesting uses for digital twins is crafting a smart contract that is a digital twin of a paper contract. In smart contract form, it will automatically execute when the terms and conditions are met – but if those T&Cs aren’t met, the contract will not allow the transaction to proceed. Imagine how valuable a smart contract might be if you were trying to enforce a data transfer in advance of releasing funds, merchandise, or even other data. Smart contracts do not need a blockchain to function as long as one party is a trusted authority (the rights holder, for example).
Blockchain and Sports
Almost everyone I met at Block Im Park was a hardcore sports fan. And every conversation eventually found its way to speculation about blockchain in the context of the future of sports. The technology has the potential to touch every aspect of our lives as well as every area of the sports industry from recruiting to marketing to game play to in-stadium/arena experiences to places we have yet to imagine. It will also span the entire observable metaverse from AR to MR to VR.
Timing Is Everything
What is less clear is how we are going to get there and how long it will take. If you need a way to calculate a timeline, think about this: A little more than 30 years ago, when my youngest child was about to be born, I headed to the hospital with a roll of quarters and a paper list of people to call. This past week, a roll of quarters would not have had any value to soon-to-be new parents – the vending machines all take credit cards and there are no payphones on the island of Manhattan.
Many thanks to Eintracht Frankfurt Fußball AG and Deutsche Bank for putting together an exceptional conference. We may be experiencing a crypto winter, but the topic is as hot as ever.
Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it. I am not a financial advisor. Nothing contained herein should be considered financial advice. If you are considering any type of investment you should conduct your own research and, if necessary, seek the advice of a licensed financial advisor.