The FintekNews team is from the great city of Chicago, now transplanted to Atlanta. But we continue to watch the fintech scene in the Windy City, and when the Chicago Blockchain Center recently opened, we had a feeling something pretty big was going on “up north”. And in fact our friend Bill Ulivieri attended the opening and told us it was truly an amazing event, so much so that we asked him, along with his friend Chicago “Blockchain Evangelist” Melvin Petties, to share with us their perspective on the opening of the new center and what it meant to them and the future of a new industry.
By Melvin Petties
Sr. Manager, Technology Consulting
“What a Difference a Day Makes.”
I attended my first ‘official’ Bitcoin meetup in January 2014. Andreas Antonopoulos was the keynote speaker and he had been traveling all over the globe serving as an ambassador to Bitcoin – the protocol and revolutionary idea itself – no commercial strings attached. I remember how cold it was that day but how warm the room was – a tiny rooftop bar on the near north side of Chicago. The room was packed. I still remember the first thing I ever purchased with Bitcoin that day – a backrub from a masseuse that was just as excited as I to be transacting with this new “money” that could be used to pay for just about anything without anyone’s permission or exorbitant fees. It was the most empowering backrub I ever received. The event made the papers. “Nerds gather on coldest day to talk Bitcoin”. Ok maybe that wasn’t the exact headline, but the sentiment was definitely there.
The key focus in those days was around the monetary aspects of blockchain technology – rightfully so – as Bitcoin is still the most successful DApp on a blockchain to date. In fact, a good chunk of the crowd were former open call pit traders who regarded the relative difficulty of acquiring Bitcoin (and no regulatory oversight) at the time as an opportunity to practice their favorite past time – connecting buyers and sellers in a high demand low supply, fast-paced settings. The rest of the crowd was rounded off by speculators, enthusiasts, and small business owners.
Fast-forward 3 years into the future and I have been privileged to witness another historic event for Bitcoin and Blockchain in the city of Chicago that drew just as diverse a crowd, only this time bigger (with better location, food, and alcohol) and notably that diverse crowd now included representation from government and key business organizations, all gathering with one purpose in mind- to advance the understanding and application of Blockchain and Digital Ledger technology for enterprise solutions. It was a head trip to remember the feeling of being “free to operate” without permission contrasted with this new excitement for permissioned blockchains and ledger technology that streamlines business processes and integrates existing IT investments – offering an on-ramp to a better way of operating globally around the clock more efficiently and reliably than has ever been possible.
The point that everyone seems to understand these days is that we need a balance between completely open and private protocols that give us the “room to breathe” and learn the proper function for and limitations of each approach in a practical way. Hats off to Matt Roszak, Jennifer M O’Rourke, their supporting teammates and partners who celebrated a “coming of age” for Blockchain technology through the re-branding of the Chicago Bitcoin Center as the new Chicago Blockchain Center.
By Bill Ulivieri
Founder, Cenacle Capital Management
My interest in Bitcoin and blockchain started at a family July 4th, barbeque in 2016. My nephew Cory Tselikis (Ethereum Classic Monetary Policy) had already been deep inside the matrix of Ethereum Classic and other alt-currencies. He challenged me to learn more about bitcoins.
After reading several books and watching dozens of YouTube videos with specialist Andreas M. Antonopolous, I eventually attended a local Meetup group dedicated to Bitcoin and Open Blockchain (BOB) in Chicago.
At first, I dismissed the technology much like I dismissed popular fashion trends like painter pants, rugby shirts and the AMC Pacer. I had the same feeling when I bought my first 286 computer to compute simple math problems. What’s the point of the program when using a pocket calculator was so much faster? Why find a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist?
But after attending the dedication of the Chicago Blockchain Center (CBC), all that changed. At the CBC, I received goosebumps; and a glimpse at what our Founding Fathers must have felt at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Except this time, the government wants us to succeed.
I witnessed a group of people pledging their good name and fortune to a technology basically unproven. Open blockchain is a technological solution embracing free-market participation against a centralized, power structure. Open blockchain is democratic, free and distributed. For lack of a better term, it’s so American. Even the craft beer on tap was dedicated in name to free and open collaboration.
Here, I was introduced to local entrepreneurs I‘ve only heard about or seen in my Twitter feed. Matthew Roszack (Tally Capital), Jochen (Joe) Renz ( IOTA) and compliance specialist Joe Ciccolo ( Bit AML).
Representatives of state governments were in attendance too. Illinois Blockchain liaison Jennifer M. O’Rourke opened the dedication ceremony, stating her belief that the very best of blockchain was in attendance in that room. John Mirkovic and Perianne Boring and others were part of the ribbon cutting ceremony. I walked away with a feeling of pride as a lifelong resident of Illinois and spending my career at the Chicago Board Options Exchange.
In closing, let me pass along some insider information to you, the reader.
While headline news is focused on Chicago crime, gun violence and the Illinois budget crisis; I’m pleased to report there is a technological revolution unfolding in the Windy City; and the Chicago Blockchain Center is at its center.