Four months ago Bernie Moreno, an exuberant, outgoing luxury car titan laid out his vision to make Cleveland a tech hub; using Blockchain as the catalyst. Reactions abound from disbelief, to snickering, too flat out denial. Our initial hope was to gather 500 conference attendees (mix of developers and corporations).
Fast forward to the last week of November and not only did Cleveland, and Blockland leaders pull together but we SOLD OUT all 1700 tickets and had to shut down registration and deny those who were walk-ups. Blockland has become a household name in the Blockchain world and Cleveland has put its mark on the newest wave of technology set to transform how businesses and enterprises operate for decades to come.
Ethode has the privilege of working with Destination Cleveland, Blockland Leadership Committee and others to help plan what will be at the conference and even had the pleasure of leading a session on helping businesses accept cryptocurrency as payments. After spending four days at the conference I'd like to highlight just how impactful the conference was and why.
Blockland's Impact and Success:
- Blockland connected businesses/people in Northeast Ohio in the Blockchain space that traditionally is very disconnected
- It might not surprise anyone but developers and technology workers do a poor job of networking, marketing and advertising.
- Cleveland is bustling with companies and employees that are in this space, and Blockland has finally helped bring these people out of the shadows.
- Blockland successfully changed the message about Clevelands future
- Since 2010, when Ethode was founded, I've tried to convince people that Cleveland could be a great tech town. We have the infrastructure, the skill, the cheap cost of living, and startup ready marketplace.
- We have great higher education institutions onboard to help train the talent we need
- We have companies locally willing to create pilot projects to justify if the technology is worthy of becoming an enterprise ready stack option
- Leaders are talking about TECH now, not manufacturing
- Leaders in Columbus are helping to change laws to remove barriers
- Blockland is bringing together venture, angel and growth funds to support startup market
- JumpStart, FlashStarts, BounceHub, Northcoast Angels, Ownum, and the list goes on, are all starting funds to support the blockchain startup community
- The conference has finally highlighted the main reason companies leave as they grow, poor series A and B funding rounds. With JumpStart's $40m fund being one of the largest funds in Northeast Ohio (often used to match Glide Fund from Third Frontier) it's easy to identify that we need to bring together much larger funds into the market. The ball is in motion but 2019 will be critical to get new support for growth funding.
So what's next?
The first Blockchain Solutions Conference is just the beginning. Current in Q1 of 2019 the immediate future of Blockland will be set on finding a location (or multiple) to setup the first development hub.
- Terminal Tower (Tower City)
- University Circle
While all locations would work, I'd like to interject that my personal opinion would lean towards University Circle. When looking at other highly successful incubators and tech co-work spaces, being near one or more tech related higher-ed organizations created a lot of positive momentum and on-going interest.
Second steps in 2019 need to be talking with the state of Ohio to get better funding from the state down, with different regulations. Currently both the Round A and Round B funds from Glide Fund require a match. Often times this can be facilitated by JumpStart start but if you can't find a match, you don't get funding. The problem with this model is simply that often times tech founders have no idea how the funding process works or how to find it. Good ideas wind up dying in the water; and those that do get funding, often times even if you get Round A, $50,000 is just too small for a tech or software startup to really get off the ground.
How can you help?
I am glad you asked. You don't need permission, go to www.blocklandcleveland.com and find a "node" that meets your interest and sphere of influence and introduce your self and start helping.