Berlin Blockchain Week Highlights

Mahoney Turnbull
Editorial

This year’s Berlin Blockchain Week was really a week long celebration of all that makes this city a foundational piece of the global blockchain jigsaw puzzle. The community travelled, (hopefully carbon offsetted) and converged in Germany for an action-packed week of events and hackathons. EthBerlin was nothing short of the authentic, developer-centric vibe you expect to see flowing out of this critical hub of the Web 3 ecosystem. 

As a city with an increasingly diverse blockchain community, this year’s action-packed week full of high-quality events accurately reflected the inclusive, intellectual and technical muscle concentrating in this part of the world. The Blockdaemon team took huge value from being on the ground, alongside core partners and projects the team is working with, many of whom are based in Berlin.

The week kicked off with the official Web3 Summit which like last year, was very high quality and a refreshing deviation from the ‘cut and paste’ model of so many conferences in the space. Attendance was super strong and the variety of talks, 1-1 panel conversations, hackerspace breakouts, workshops, social options, combined with stunning indoor/outdoor flow at the Funkhaus venue, made for a very special event. A key element to the serendipitous human collisions taking place was the striking Berlin weather, making it totally fine for Web3 attendees to spend the conference in the sunshine lounging on the big couches by the riverside, drinking fine German bier, munching on snacks, taking those critical calls and meetings, and connecting with core folks in the industry. A unique value of this summit was the curation of attendees and speakers enabling the usual blockchain hype to be balanced by the sage wisdom being shared by those individuals with broader and more historically rich experience of where we’ve already been, and therefore the direction we can now be aiming for.


A key highlight was Ed Snowden’s live-streamed conversation to a fully packed out theatre, who gave a heart-warming and rallying call to action to the community, Snowden’s comments around “why decentralization” and how we need to think about answering this was compelling. He reinforced how a “that’s the way it is” mentality needs to be questioned, and we need to sharpen our arguments in order to create a movement that changes the world and in his words “does away with the old regime”. Overall, his suspicion rested on that laws will change and tech will change. The community felt inspired by this strikingly intimate conversation with Snowden, and it was powerful to see him affirm the absolute importance of the work the community is doing and his true faith in that there is a trend of progress over time, and that will be in favour of liberty. 

A Blockchain Week would not feel right without a solid stack of evening side events, and Berlin 100% delivered on that promise. True to the techno vibe of the city, with so many options it made DevCon Prague 2018 seem tame, a lot of the events required a certain night staying power and high degree of stamina. Such is #blockchainlife. 

The Celo ‘Validator’ meetup was an excellent gathering of minds, specifically in the validator space, all eager to learn about Celo and the exciting development that’s been happening for their project. It was fantastic to hear from their founder Rene Reinsberg about their vision to create an experience as seamless as Web2 to create true financial accessibility, and how this is playing out in the developing countries they are working in. Ben Perszyk from Polychain (investors in Celo) was also part of the discussion and shared some valuable insights on the trends in web3 as they see them, and the ecosystem fund that they are launching, with a global approach and a more inclusive protocol success perspective versus a ‘one chain to rule them all’ type ethos. 

The A16z meetup on the first evening at Factory Berlin (a core coworking hub for the city) was a stellar merger of individuals and really highlighted the increasing flow of global capital to the Berlin ecosystem. Pantera Capital was another one in town, combining with Enigma and NEAR protocol for another great event to kick off the week. 

Token Wirtshchaft 2.0 was back, and dug into the evolution of DeFi from global perspectives. The core technical panel on infrastructure enabling DeFi brought together sharp minds in this area and the evening was an excellent way to share perspectives on the key challenges hindering widespread adoption of DeFi and how we can overcome then. Lively discussion was had around continent-specific outlooks on DeFi, and how we’re approaching this movement from different vantage points around the world. 

The culmination of the week with a juicy 2 day ETHBerlin Hackathon was the perfect way to wrap it all up. As something that “started as a hackthon, but evolved into a monster”, this year’s hackathon was yet another notch up from the 2018 ETHBerlin. The vibe of the hackathon was hugely collaborative, and everyone’s openness to mentor, share, and work together despite whatever differing values or business goals might have separated these teams or individuals. The scope of talks at EthBerlin was truly stellar, and the temptation to connect, learn from, hack with and dive into all other parts of the hackathon meant choosing how to spend the hackathon was tough. 

In true Berlin style, the ETHBerlin after party gave a true taste of the EDM meets blockchain intersection and was hosted in an enormous outdoor venue complete with a huge pool that remained largely untouched, except for a few souls who wanted to create a final Blockchain Week splash before peacing out. 

The week was immense and a wonderful reminder of how the community and the stakeholders within it are changemakers, builders, dreamers and doers. The active collaboration at play, and the desire for everyone to align, engage, reconnect and again disperse is an excellent reflection of the united decentralization movement to refine and transform what society can do.