CFX Tech: Breaking Down Blockchain

Comcast Ventures has been unabashed in its support of blockchain startups. It kicked off 2018 by partnering with IBM to create MState, a startup accelerator. It created what is now called the “blockchain crew” by its members, Comcast Ventures managing director Gil Beyda, head of funds Amy Banse, managing director Sam Landman, principal Teddy Himler and Morgan Polotan. The group meets multiple times a week just to talk blockchain and explore trends. The company recently backed Blockdaemon, jumping in with Plug & Play and more to fund a $3.275mln seed round investment.

And Comcast Ventures is not alone. The average investment in blockchain projects in 2017 was $1mln. “What the internet did for communications, blockchain will do for trusted transactions,” IBM CEO Ginni Rometty has said. Almost six in 10 large corporations are considering using blockchain technologies, according to a Juniper Research survey of 400 executives, managers and tech staff.

There’s no doubt that the technology is still in its infant stage. In September 2017, only 0.5% of the world’s population was using blockchain, a miniscule number considering nearly 50% of the world’s population is using the internet. While it will take years to see the full effects of blockchain technology, it will undoubtedly have a major impact on our economic and social systems. In fact, the global blockchain market is expected to hit $20bln by 2024.

But what exactly is blockchain? The technology is essentially a digitalized accounting record of all cryptocurrency transactions. No one person or organization is in charge of the chain. Anyone can review “blocks,” or records, in the chain, which are time stamped and encrypted. Owners have access to their own blocks through custom keys created by digital signatures corresponding with each computer’s sending address. Bitcoin was the first established cryptocurrency, becoming available to the public in 2009, and spurred the creation of the blockchain. By the end of April 2017, the total value of all existing bitcoins exceeded $20bln, with millions being traded every day.

With blockchain technology comes a peer-to-peer network within one enclosed system, cutting out time and intermediary costs through the course of a transaction. Blockchain is also incredibly secure compared to any technology we have today, as each block is connected to the one before it in the virtual chain.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There can still be security risks, as is true with anything that is completely based online. The blocks are most vulnerable when they first come online, becoming more secure with more time. The only blockchain that has been truly put through the ringer and properly tested is Bitcoin’s, putting a heavy risk on those jumping into the business now. If it strikes the way that Comcast Ventures believes it will, then it will all be worth the dive.

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