Blockchain offers opportunities to all types of companies and sectors. Start-ups, in particular, are expected to benefit from this technology. The Brightlands Innovation Factory, which will commence operation after the summer, will be supporting start-ups in this field.
Together with various partners, TNO is working on practical applications of the promising blockchain technology, in the context of the Techruption Blockchain programme, a division of the Brightlands Smart Services Campus (BSSC) in Heerlen. “We work on blockchain innovations with companies of all sizes, as well as with start-ups and knowledge institutions. The link between established companies and start-ups still poses a challenge. That’s quite understandable, as they are each dealing with different issues, and they operate at different speeds. In short, their worlds do not always match and the challenge lies in finding a way to blend these together. Given that they may have a great deal to offer one another, this does seem a little counterintuitive. In that regard, I have high expectations of the Brightlands Innovation Factory,” says TNO’s Pieter Verhagen, Programme Manager of the Techruption Blockchain programme.
Blockchain is all about interconnections
At BSSC (and soon at the Brightlands Innovation Factory as well), Vince Meens, Entrepreneurship Development Manager at BSSC/Techruption, is responsible for scouting out and assisting start-ups. “It’s important that start-ups grow, that their products achieve mainstream commercial success, and that they become anchored in the region. At Techruption, we are already supporting various start-ups by matching them to investors, markets and talent for example. At the Innovation Factory, we will offer start-ups a unique development programme and access to the relevant knowledge networks and business networks that will help get their business off to a flying start. Cooperation is essential, as individual organizations or sectors cannot deal with these challenges alone. Blockchain is all about interconnections. It will deliver a wealth of new opportunities,” says Meens.
TNO experts (in blockchain and related fields) will act as ‘sparring partners’ (active and critical listeners) at the Innovation Factory. “We will provide subject-matter experts who can proactively help the start-ups develop their own ideas about how to deal with any technological challenges they may encounter. The corporate businesses will provide business coaches and sector experts. In addition, we are jointly developing the Techruption Consortium Blockchain, which start-ups will be able to use”, Verhagen explains.
“Blockchain is all about interconnections. It will deliver a wealth of new opportunities”
Going global with blockchain
According to Vince Meens, blockchain offers start-ups an opportunity to address the entire global marketplace at one go. “For example, you are no longer tied to multiple payment platforms. Crowdfunding, too, should be easier, as this enables you to focus more accurately on the appropriate community.” Pieter Verhagen, too, is aware that one of blockchain’s strengths is that it offers scope for worldwide cooperation. “Blockchain enables start-ups to rapidly construct a robust, reliable and transparent service to which others, in turn, can connect their own services. Moreover, a large segment of the market is still unexplored territory - a field on the move with room for new players.”
“At the same time, this may make it more difficult to find regular paying customers, and pilot-based work may be the most usual way forward for the time being. Nevertheless, the option of setting up initial coin offerings (ICOs) is a commercially attractive funding model. Before launching the new service, start-ups can sell tokens (a form of crypto currency) that can be used in the future to pay for the service in question. If you believe that a given service is going to be successful, you can buy those tokens in advance, at a substantial discount. This also makes you a stakeholder, which means you have a direct interest in the service’s ultimate success. It works too! One outstanding example is Brave, which recently collected 35 million dollars in less than 30 seconds,’’ Verhagen adds.
“Blockchain enables start-ups to rapidly construct a reliable service to which others can connect their own services”
Transparency in supply chains
Blockchain delivers transparency in all kinds of supply chains, from the clothing industry to the agri-food sector. “It helps consumers find out more about where their clothes or food, for example, come from. One example of a start-up that offers transparency of this kind is ClearChainge (was clothing made in an approved workshop?), another is SteelTrace (certifications in the metal industry),” says Meens.
Back to local
Vince Meens expects blockchain to trigger a shift back to the local marketplace. “While blockchain technology makes it easier to do business internationally, the transparency and detailed information provided by blockchain is expected to induce consumers to increasingly opt for local products and local initiatives. That will boost local employment. For instance, one particular project involves self-propelled rental cars (pods), which can be paid for with a specific local currency. The amount involved can then be recovered by generating power from solar panels, for example,” explains Meens.
“I expect blockchain to trigger a shift back to the local marketplace”
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