This post is part of CoinDesk’s 2019 Year in Review, a collection of 100 op-eds, interviews and takes on the state of blockchain and the world. Chris Dannen is co-founder at Iterative Capital, a New York-based cryptocurrency investment manager, and CEO of i2 Trading, a wholesale dealer and trading desk.
Anyone who’s attended cryptocurrency conferences in 2019 has experienced the narrative confusion that hit after the ICO bubble. “Blockchain” companies push lame enterprise products which are, at best, nice to have; token issuers shill new issuances; exchange operators search for capital.
Who isn’t there? Big corporate technology customers. Like any technological device of the last 50 years, cryptocurrency needs to catch their attention before large-scale adoption is feasible.
But two years after the bubble, killer apps are nowhere to be seen. So at the start of a new year, it’s worth asking ourselves what sort of path might bitcoin and its competitors take to get there, and whether 2020 is an inflection point.
Whatever the path and timeline, the transition period for corporations building on bitcoin is sure to be painful; at a big company, technological change always is. Automating payroll, invoicing, expense-reporting and other financial operations on top of the bitcoin network would be a slow and expensive process, requiring a massive amount of time and money spent on building software and retraining workers.
Only an extremely serious problem could be the impetus for such a scenario. Does such a problem exist today, and if so, how might cryptocurrency solve it?
The speed of corporate implosion
Consider a few data points:
- In 1958, the mean lifespan of a blue-chip company was 61 years; by 2016 it had dropped to 24 years.
- Almost three-quarters of a billion hours per week are spent by U.S. workers on internal compliance activities, roughly half of which do not create value.
- The return-on-assets of the top 25 percent of public companies declined from 12.9…