Cryptocurrency and blockchain have been inching closer to the mainstream, with Mastercard MA MA and Paypal PYPL PYPL announcing they’ll accept tokens such as Bitcoin across their networks in the U.S., while Aura Blockchain Consortium, a platform for LVMH, Prada Group PRAA PRAA and Richemont, among others, has thrust blockchain technology into the spotlight.
See more: Blockchain in retail supply chain
Blockchain and decentralized systems can help retailers drive efficiency with supply chain and inventory management. Using blockchain technology can provide retailers with other benefits, including reduced costs, increased transparency, faster transactions and improved security by reducing counterfeiting and fraud.
“Mainstream blockchain integration may be years away, but the potential to revolutionize everything it touches is transformative. There are pilot programs in financial services and retail,” said Mark Cachia CEO of Scytale Ventures. Walmart Inc., for example, has worked with IBM on a food safety blockchain solution, bringing transparency to a digitized food supply chain.
“Right now, it’s very fragmented,” said Cachia, whose Scytale invests in the technology and believes in a Web 3 vision that includes a decentralized, verifiable and more secure Internet enabled by blockchain technology. “What does it mean to have a self-sovereign thing living on the Internet with no particular jurisdiction and no employees? Governments don’t know how to deal with it yet.
“As more useful and impactful blockchain protocols gain prominence, that will mark the turning point for public awareness,” he said. “Public awareness of blockchain protocols will mirror the protocols that power the Internet, TCP/IP.”
A set of standardized rules, TCP/IP, which stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, allows computers to communicate on a network such as the Internet.
“Many people have never heard of TCP/IP, let alone understand how it works, but they use the Internet every day,” Cachia continued. “Blockchain protocols will exist and function behind the scenes, powering applications people will use every day, with the understanding that these services are made possible by blockchain.”
What interests Cachia is the intersection of two or more industries that will create something new that previously wasn’t seen as an option.“One has to do some mind-bending to try to see all the different intersections and what they mean,” he said. “There will be a few of those.”
Tech companies, such as IBM IBM IBM , Amazo AMZN n AMZN , and Microsof MSFT t MSFT have been offering blockchain-related services for years. “Blockchain was made to solve a problem,” Cachia said. “The presence of third parties makes a system slow and costly. The aim of developers was peer to peer and immutability. Any information that’s entered into this ledger technology can’t be altered, and can’t be hacked. That makes it very secure.”
ESG, or environmental, social and governance considerations are a part of Scytale’s investment philosophy. Scytale’s existing fund includes Polkadot, Ocean and Energy Web Foundation, with each entity exhibiting aspects of social responsibility.
Polkadot allows blockchain networks to interact with one another. “Unlike previous networks that operated largely as standalone environments, Polkadot offers interoperability and cross-chain communication,” Cachia said. “This opens the door to innovative new services and allows users to transfer information between chains.”
“My goal isn’t to build a multi-chain universe,” said Gavin Wood, founder of Polkadot. “Interoperability is a means of reaching a goal but isn’t the goal itself. My goal is to create Web 3, a third generation Internet platform allowing for barrier-less trading and service provisions throughout the realm of human endeavor.”
Facilitating interoperability and composability – the ability to connect smaller independent components to build sophisticated solutions – “is one of many ways to achieve this end,” Wood said, adding, “There are others, such as decentralized governance, upgradability, performance and economics, in which Polkadot also has made significant progress.”
Bruce Pon, cofounder of Ocean Protocol, said Internet platforms have no choice but to migrate onto the blockchain. “It’s a matter of survival or irrelevance as the technology moves forward,” Pon said. “Everyone remembers that Microsoft narrowly missed catching the Internet wave before correcting course. I hope that the Internet giants have learned their lesson. We’re seeing massive implications for blockchain in the world and the data economy.”
The first public, open-source enterprise-grade blockchain designed for the energy industry, Energy Web has obvious social impact goals with its mission to accelerate the decarbonization of the world’s energy grids. It also offers renewable energy certificates where any company or entity can provably offset its carbon footprint.
Chairman Ewald Hesse said Energy Web is working at high speed and ramping up its activities. “There’s a whole industry in the energy sector that does nothing else than manage back office services in the energy markets,” Hesse said, who is also cofounder and CEO of Grid Singularity. “This not only reduces the cost of utility bills, but also lowers the cost and knowledge threshold for new innovators to enter the field.”
“Energy Web’s technology can be used to trace the origin of energy and allow buyers such as enterprise users or other blockchains to use provable green energy, such as Energy Web Zero,” said Cachia. “It also enables many use cases for decentralized energy resources such as rooftop solar panels and batteries to get digital identities. That will enable them to easily register to provide services to grid operators.”
“The most intriguing part about our current place in history is that blockchain technology could be a game changer for the global economy,” said Andrea Abrams, strategic advisor at Scytale Ventures and board advisor at Lukso. “Mainstream blockchain integration may still seem years away, but just as the Internet upended how we exchange information, blockchain has the potential to change how we exchange value, transfer ownership, and verify transactions.”
Cachia cautioned not to describe Polkadot, Ocean and Energy Web as simply investments. “I saw a value proposition to participate in blockchain and its growth in an informed way. Early stage is very high risk and very high return,” he said. “We know the things we invest in have real viability. Anywhere in the U.S., someone can open a Coinbase account and participate in blockchain ecosystems. It’s not buying a stock and not buying shares, it’s buying participation in an ecosystem.”
Likening blockchain ecosystems to shiny airports and airplanes, Cachia said what’s needed now are passengers. “There are applications that people can use, but they only start to make sense where a lot of different people start using them. That hasn’t happened yet. For Scytale’s next fund, we’ll start is investing in protocols that have users or a credible path to having users.”