Block Dojo at London Blockchain Conference 2023: London is one of the best cities in the world to do business
The upcoming London Blockchain Conference is set to become an annual event. So what is it about London that makes it the perfect city to host? CoinGeek spoke with James Marchant, executive chairman of startup incubator Block Dojo, who shares his insights.
London has a long history as a hub for business and commerce, and for good reason. Marchant observes that Bitcoin SV (BSV) and the wider blockchain industry have evolved over the years to become a far more serious industry that works within existing structures and seeks to solve specific, real-world problems.
Block Dojo is in the enviable position of hearing the latest pitches and deciding which ones have the most merit. With their and BSV research and development team nChain’s head offices both based in London, they are also in a place where people and ideas will travel the world to discuss their plans.
Everyone is invited to do the same in late May 2023, when blockchain entrepreneurs gather for the first of many future London Blockchain Conference events. Read on for more details from Marchant about London’s unique qualities from the past, and programs for the future, which will see the industry develop further.
I remember London being a hot spot for Bitcoin events in the early days and it feels like it’s made a comeback recently. Is there a reason for this… or did it never really go away?
I would describe it more as an evolution and one where BSV, in particular, is pulling away from the pack. The early days of the blockchain narrative were simply about being the “cool” rebel technology of the “cypherpunks” who wanted to be resistant to governments, and the rest of it has fallen away – or maybe it was simply passed over by the much stronger and truer revelation among the business community: that Bitcoin is a truly enabling technology that can be used in serious business from start-up to enterprise-level applications. That’s certainly how I see it.
By extension, and certainly positive in my eyes, is that people are talking about using Bitcoin to solve specific problems and to provide a positive impact rather than, as was the case historically, building a new Bitcoin use case or – application that later struggles to gain traction. This is something we at Block Dojo are passionate about – using blockchain to solve real-world problems, deliver value and have a positive social and environmental impact.
Does London in particular have special characteristics that would make it a center for blockchain development?
For me, blockchain and business go hand in hand. The dojo specializes in building businesses. London is one of the best cities in the world to do business, recruit talent, raise investment, etc., and is therefore by extension one of the best places in the world to build a business that harnesses the power of blockchain.
It is no coincidence that the first Block Dojo was launched in London. There is certainly a growing ecosystem of Bitcoin startups, as well as a growing number of more mature businesses pursuing a Web2 to Web3 strategy, and I know that nChain CEO Christen Ager-Hanssen has some very exciting plans to consolidate the ecosystem using a Bitcoin /blockchain hub in London where the ecosystem can leverage each other and grow together.
What growth areas (or at least subfields within blockchain) have you personally noticed over the last year or two?
In general, we see blockchain becoming more widely used as an enabling technology and a much wider range of startups applying to Dojo in terms of diversity across business sectors. When we first started over 18 months ago, some, if not many, of the applications and potential blockchain usage ideas we received were downright scary.
Since then, and as core blockchain technologies like BSV continue to distance themselves from the “cryptocurrency” label, the associated world of speculative gambling on token pricing and zealots, we are seeing a much fairer approach to the applications we receive. into the Dojo. Instead, we now see founders and entrepreneurs seeking to use blockchain to tackle real-world problems.
In some cases, the reality is that some of these businesses can exist with or without blockchain, but by using blockchain in some form, it enables these businesses to provide additional value to the end user. Again, I see this as a positive way forward as it leads to Dojo building businesses that can compete across all sectors, and we are building companies that can stand out in large markets. Trying to exclusively build startups that could only ever exist thanks to blockchain is not a scalable way forward in my eyes and is a classic example of focusing on the solution long before identifying the problem. In most cases, this is one of the key drivers that lead to boot errors.
What is Block Dojo doing to expand it even more?
Quite a lot, actually. Since the inception of the Dojo, we have run many different initiatives aimed at educating, informing and inspiring entrepreneurs to build on Bitcoin. We have hosted lectures and educational sessions at hundreds of UK universities. We have hosted hundreds of business leaders in both the UK and Europe, holding masterclasses, discussion groups and boot camps. We are now rolling these promotions internationally, especially as we begin building dojos in the Philippines and Japan in the coming months.
Do you work closely with other groups within Bitcoin/BSV/blockchain?
We have always had excellent relationships within the Bitcoin ecosystem and find that everyone supports what we do at Dojo. If I were to give a couple of shoutouts, it would have to be the Bitcoin Association, which has always supported the aforementioned initiatives – and of course CoinGeek, which has more and more work on its hands as the ecosystem grows rapidly.
Recently, our partnership with nChain has been a real step forward for the Dojo. To be supported by such a powerhouse of IP, expertise and resources has been a dream so far. CEO Christen Ager-Hanssen and CEO Stefan Matthews, who have both become Block Dojo directors, have been incredibly supportive. This has allowed the Dojo team to focus on what we do best: supporting founders, building startups and growing the ecosystem from the grassroots up.
Have you seen many people moving from other parts of Europe or the rest of the world to London to work in the blockchain industry?
Yes, around a third of the entrepreneurs who have made it into the Dojo have come to London from Europe and beyond to start their startup journey.
From an investment perspective, the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) is a major attraction. This scheme allows UK investors to claim back 50% of the investments they make into eligible start-ups. The limits were recently increased, meaning that eligible startups can raise up to £250,000 under this scheme. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest attractions for anyone considering building a startup in the UK
The plan is to hold the annual Blockchain conference in London permanently from now on. Do you think it’s a good idea?
Definitely. As much as I enjoyed the conference being held in Dubai, it adds an unnecessary barrier to entry for most speakers, exhibitors and attendees who are not based there and therefore have to travel. London is an epicenter for business and tourism, and that makes perfect sense. Add in Block Dojo and nChain’s presence in town and I’m sure it will be a very successful conference.
Naturally, as nation hosts, the Dojo will run a number of side events, both private and public. On behalf of the Dojo and in partnership with nChain and the Bitcoin Association, we would like to invite the CoinGeek readership to join us for a pre-conference drink and networking session on Tuesday, May 30 at 20.00 at Drake & Morgan, Kings Cross. Participants must register for the event here: https://lu.ma/ezwrgzqn
We look forward to welcoming you to London!
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