In advance of Paris Blockchain Week taking place from April 13-19, BlockchianReporter sat down with co-founder of the event and board member of Chain Accelerator, Michael Amar.
Paris Blockchain Week is a series of events taking place under the joint High Patronage of the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance and the Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, culminating in the Paris Blockchain Week Summit, which will be held on April 16 and 17. It will be the first international conference that will be held in France, dedicated to professionals in the blockchain and crypto-assets space boasts of attendees such as Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of the Economy and Finance and Wei Zhou, CFO of Binance.
Last year, France slashed the tax rate for cryptocurrencies and overall, seems to have become much more supportive of the blockchain industry in recent years. What’s changed?
France is fortunate to have very forward-looking government officials. Even our president has noted the potential of blockchain technology to provide greater transparency to existing industries. We also have numerous members of parliament, Jean-Michel Mis, Pierre Person, and Laure de La Raudière, for instance, that are pushing forward legislation to accelerate the development and adoption of the technology.
There is a sense of urgency from these officials. They are not only recognising the potential of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, but they are also pushing for the necessary changes to foster the right ecosystem.
Outside of parliament, we also see large French companies such as grocery chain Carrefour adopt the technology. Carrefour has successfully implemented DLT to track products from their farms to their stores, reducing the risk of health hazards such as Salmonella outbreaks.
Europe, for the most part, seems to be one of the most progressive places for Blockchain. Would you say that there is greater support for cryptocurrency specifically or just blockchain?
Europe is a place that strikes the right balance between innovation and consumer protection. Initiatives such as the EU Blockchain Forum have been set up by the European Parliament to not only progress the development and adoption of blockchain and DLT, but to make sure it progresses in a way that is safe for users.
Initiatives and discussion at the European Parliament level have mostly focused on blockchain technology. But we see parliaments in specific European countries such as Malta and Estonia pass through legislation to make their country attractive to businesses dealing with cryptocurrency. The Maltese government passed three bills into legislation last year concerning both cryptocurrencies and blockchain. As a result, we are seeing major cryptocurrency businesses such as Binance relocating to Malta. Overall, Europe is one of the most supportive places for businesses relating to cryptocurrency and to blockchain technology.
France has announced plans to spend about €500 million on blockchain over the next three years. In terms of long-term development, do you think Blockchain needs more of funding or positive legislation?
What blockchain requires is the development talent with the skills to work on blockchain and DLT projects. At the moment, there is intense competition for developers in other technology sectors. We are currently seeing the banking industry and venture capitalist funded projects already securing the largest share of this talent that can build on blockchain and DLT.
The funding we see from France and others such as the €340 million EU fund will help secure more of this talent with the goal of building blockchain projects for various sectors. Regardless of funding and legislation, the pool of talent with the skills to develop projects on blockchain will remain scarce in the near-term. However, in the longer-term outlook, funding and favourable legislation will help grow the pool of talent and will also attract more developers from other technology sectors to work on blockchain projects.
Paris Blockchain Week has attracted some very powerful names to its lineup. At the same time, a member of the European Central Bank executive recently referred to Bitcoin as the evil spawn of the financial crisis. Do you think events like this help to change the minds of those in high places?
We have seen Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JP Morgan, progress from labelling bitcoin a fraud to recently announcing that he plans to launch his own internal cryptocurrency built on DLT. Events such as Paris Blockchain Week help these sorts of change in mindsets take place. These events educate executives and key enterprise players to make a difference. We hope to shine a light on what kind of benefits blockchain and DLT can offer, as well as which inefficiencies it can tackle. Let’s not give up on the European Central Bank executive just yet.
The different countries in Europe (naturally) have different policies regarding blockchain. Can the industry thrive that way or are organizations like ‘Blockchain for Europe’ needed to ensure uniformity, at least in the private sector?
Time will reveal whether different policies in different jurisdictions is the best approach for progressing development and adoption of blockchain technology. We will be delving into questions such as this at the conference and we will quickly learn which policies best suit the progression of the technology. It certainly seems advantageous to jurisdictions such as China and Japan where unexpected changes in policy have resulted in businesses having to change location or shut down operations immediately.
Blockchain adoption in Europe is still in its early stages, and it’s still unknown what kind of long-term impact it will have on policies. In the short-term, initiatives such as Paris Blockchain Week will facilitate further discussion regarding the technology and how it should be governed.
How has the bear market affected the progress rate of blockchain in Europe and France, specifically?
Prices are always an important point of interest for the general public, but the development of the technology continues to progress in Europe and France regardless. Prices are more of a concern to speculators than they are to the businesses and developers building on blockchain. Projects do not need to launch their own cryptocurrency to apply blockchain or DLT; the power of blockchain lies in its real-world potential. However, the public often associates blockchain and crypto as one. Hopefully, as more awareness is built around the capabilities of blockchain, people will see that the technology can be utilized for much more than digital currencies.
Apart from investors suffering losses, bear markets can be a good thing. They serve to get rid of some of the weaker projects from the market. Projects that started with weaker value propositions struggle to continue to fund project development and eventually have to shut down operations. Although this can cause pain in the short-term, it is a good thing for the overall health of the ecosystem in the long-term.
What can we look forward to at the summit?
The summit will cover several interesting topics that will showcase France as a leading tech and blockchain hub. Some of the panels will delve into discussions points specifically focused on certain aspects the technology, while others will delve into the broader ecosystem and how we can best facilitate the continued growth and adoption of this technology. Matters such as regulation, including how France is spearheading blockchain regulation in Europe, and the role of corporates will all be important talking points.
The panels will consist of pioneers operating at the forefront of the blockchain industry. The biggest innovators in the industry will address the biggest questions within a growing ecosystem, which should make for a thought-provoking and entertaining event!
You can also look forward to lots of satellite events taking place around Paris for the entire week of the summit, organized by some of the biggest blockchain organisations in Paris. These events will include hackathons, dinners, parties, and much more.