Over the last decade, blockchain technology, a public, accessible ledger for digital assets, like Bitcoin, has received increased interest not just by banking and financial services — 15% of big banks are expected to start using blockchain starting this year — but also from supply chain management, insurance services, emerging technologies like self-driving cars and drones, and even the public sector.
Now, a new public-private partnership is launching the Chicago Blockchain Center (CBC), a physical space for both established and emerging businesses interested in applications of this technology. The space features about ten working desks (at the time of launch) and is located next door to fintech trade association FinTEx’s new innovation center, Currency, at WeWork’s Kinzie location in downtown Chicago.
CBC’s programming will include guest speakers, workshops, hackathons and meetups. With a tiered membership and sponsorship model, it is especially hoping to provide a platform for emerging technologies looking to collaborate both with government services as well as larger corporations.
CBC’s seeds were planted at the Chicago Bitcoin Center meetup group at 1871 by the founders of Chicago-based software startup Bloq, which aims to advise clients on blockchain strategy. Matthew Roszak, chairman of Bloq, is the founder of the CBC and also one of the earliest investors in cryptocurrency.
“Our goals are to offer a co-working space and accelerator for blockchain-based startups as well as educational programming and mentoring in the field. Chicago has a unique ecosystem with a thriving corporate and startup presence, as well as comparatively less stringent regulatory oversight,” said Lexy Prodromos, Research and Marketing Strategist for Bloq and Director of Operations for the CBC, in an interview with Chicago Inno.
Prodromos, in her previous life, was also one of the architects of the Illinois Blockchain Initiative, a state-led initiative for the government to work with blockchain technologies as a potential vendor. Championed by the state’s Chief Technical Officer Hardik Bhatt as well as Illinois’ economic development agency, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), blockchain could see potential applications in areas like voter registration processes or healthcare data storage. The Cook County Recorder of Deeds is already testing blockchain to transfer and track land titles.
Blockchain, the underlying technology behind digital payment platform bitcoin, is essentially doing to databases and records of transactions, what Google Docs did to Microsoft Word — placing data and information on a distributed network which can be updated and made accessible in real-time. Moreover, if one “node” or source of information is rendered insecure, it can be cut off easily without affecting the rest of the network.
Other founding partners for the CBC include FinTEx, the Chamber of Digital Commerce, a national blockchain trade association (Roszak serves as Chairman), the Blockchain Education Network, a university coalition looking to train students on working with the technology, and Chicago-based CME Group.
CBC’s team also includes legal representation Perkins Coie, Roszak’s venture group Tally Capital, and blockchain news and intelligence provider Distributed. The center’s board of advisors and additional partners will be announced in the next few months.