It has been about a year since we started Omega Grid to help utilities deal with the financial aspect of all the new inexpensive solar, batteries and electric vehicles their customers can now afford. We first approached blockchain technology as an interesting way of solving issues around transactions with databases for large physical networks like the grid. Why does all this matter for the electricity industry? Because the traditional business model isn’t working as well anymore
This led us happily down the blockchain rabbit hole, an expression referenced often by those who have waded through the intersection of cryptography, distributed computing, and peer-to-peer networking known as blockchain. It is a rabbit hole because before you get very far, you find yourself considering whole new economic systems, calling institutions “intermediaries”, and failing miserably at explaining bitcoin or blockchain to your friends, relatives, and business associates. Only the last group pretends to understand what you are talking about. Some folk even believe that the ‘Blockchain Man’ is replacing the 'Organization Man’.
For everyone who wants to learn about blockchain, I’ve collected a few of the best references below.
- Blockchain, especially cryptocurrencies, has made incredibly fast strides in going mainstream over the last few months. Here is Ellen DeGeneres explaining bitcoin. Seth Meyers has another funny and technically accurate explanation in his Bitcoin Commercial. If you want more technical depth, the seminal Blockchain white paper from the pseudo-anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto is surprisingly readable. You can read the Strategy& Guide here.
- While interesting, the technical details are not as important to understand as all the potentially new incentives it can create for network effect businesses. Naval Ravikant, the founder of AngelList, lays out the big effect and opportunity in this tweet storm where he starts off with “Blockchains will replace networks with markets.” The tweet storm format is not my favorite, but Naval makes it work. He draws comparisons to how our society is now organized around networks ruled by “winner take all” dynamics. His thesis is that blockchains enable markets to rule where organizations once held the power. We’ve concluded blockchain tech is ideal for local electric markets because the more participants you have, the more secure and resilient the system is. Blockchain markets are anti-fragile. Utilities need blockchain because traditional wholesale and retail billing systems are not architected to take on the millions of new generators coming to the grid.
- Alex Rampell from Andreessen Horowitz breaks down blockchain tech in this presentation and agrees with Naval that blockchains must have their own tokens. I have not fully succumbed to the blockchain-token necessity (yet). From an investment or business standpoint, the token model offers some significant advantages over traditional business models. On this thread, Omega Grid will announce a Clean Energy Token to encourage early adopters in supporting the big community solar initiative in Illinois.
Many thanks to Killian!
Have a great week! If you’ll be in Austin for SXSW, do reach out as I’d love to grab a hot choc/coffee. I’ll be speaking at the Innov8rs conference in Atlanta the week after SXSW
, Atlanta friends can get a 15% discount if you use code 8-Seyi
on the registration page.