Beyond cryptocurrency: There are new blockchain opportunities for SMBs

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FinancialPost | By John Lorinc | Sept. 19, 2017

When the Bank of Canada and payments giant Moneris last spring threw cold water on a blockchain trial as a potential clearance system, Canadian startups could have been forgiven for feeling deflated.

But Canadian blockchain entrepreneurs might have cause for renewed optimism with the emergence of potential applications in a range of industries – beyond such cryptocurrencies as Bitcoin — as well as new investment vehicles.

In late August, blockchain guru Alex Tapscott told Bloomberg that NextBlock Global Ltd., a blockchain-directed venture capital fund, plans to raise $50 million in an IPO on the Toronto Stock Exchange later this fall. Meanwhile, four Canadian blockchain industry groups in June applied to the federal government for funding to establish a “supercluster” that would finance new R&D and attract startups.

See: Blockchain Will Disrupt Every Industry

While Bitcoin is almost a decade old, there’s been a surge this year in the issuance of new cryptocurrencies, including one in August by Montreal-based Impak Finance, according to Coin Market Cap data, which estimates there are over 800 in circulation now. Much of this activity depends heavily on the maturation of blockchain technology and platforms, such as Switzerland-based Ethereum, and has fuelled this sector’s wild west reputation as a haven for speculators.

Blockchain systems are digital “ledgers” that store encrypted transaction information in networks of specially designed servers. While the technology originally emerged to support Bitcoin, a growing number of startups are looking to adapt blockchain for use in such sectors as fintech, securities, insurance, natural gas, and supply chain applications. The technology is designed to create distributed databases of information that can expedite a wide range of transactions with greater speed and security than more centralized processing systems can offer.

“Within a few years, we’re going to be seeing practical applications for blockchain beyond cryptocurrency,” predicts Jeff Hindle, managing director of finance and commerce for MaRS, adding that these uses are more suitable for corporate customers. “That’s a different prediction than even a year ago.”

There’s lots of interest in Canadian blockchain firms, Hindle says. He points to Toronto startup Nuco.io, which this spring established a partnership with the TMX’s natural gas exchange to test a blockchain algorithm that expedites the verification of service agreements between suppliers and consumers. Nuco’s founders, he says, “understand the practical advantages and limitations of blockchain, which has allowed them to advise on the types of experiments that are suitable for the technology.”

See also: Don Tapscott Announces International Blockchain Research Institute

Another startup, Bluzelle, is looking to develop data-storage services based on blockchain techniques and expects to eventually raise capital through ICOs, according to founder Pavel Bains. The idea is to allow far-flung networks of specially configured servers to provide storage as a less expensive alternative to centralized cloud-based systems, which, the company says, are prone to downtime and vulnerable to data theft.

“A lot of these ventures are already interesting to investors from an R&D perspective,” says Hindle.

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The National Crowdfunding Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada non-profit actively engaged with both investment and social crowdfunding, blockchain ICO, alternative finance, fintech, P2P and online investing stakeholders across the country.  NCFA Canada provides education, research, leadership, support, and networking opportunities to over 1600+ members and works closely with industry, government, academia, community and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative online financing industry in Canada.  Learn more About Us or visit www.ncfacanada.org.

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