Mentions of the word “blockchain” on US-quarterly earning calls saw its first rise in nearly two years. According to data from CB Insights, the number of mentions increased around 25 percent to reach 125 mentions in Q4 2019. This is the first quarterly rise since blockchain mentions rose to a peak of around 275 in early 2018.
The renewed focus on blockchain for US-listed companies is important as it indicates a renewed focus on the use of distributed ledger technology (DLT) to drive both innovation and cost savings for publicly listed firms. Just last month a study between Cointelegraph consulting and Swiss enterprise blockchain firm Insolar found that the use of blockchain technology could reduce supply chain-related costs for businesses by between 0.4-0.8%. While that may not sound like much, these savings are estimated to be worth over $450 billion a year in logistics-related costs in just Western Europe alone.
Looking through the data for all US blockchain earning call mentions over the past five years—it can be seen that just three firms make up over 65% of the 1000+ mentions on quarterly investor calls. We take a look to find out more about who these firms are what they have been working on.
Overstock.com: 307 mentions
The American online retailer was founded back in 1999 by well-known bitcoin bull Patrick Byrne. Overstock originally built up its business by selling surplus and returned merchandise through its online e-commerce marketplace. Byrne took the company public on the NASDAQ stock exchange in 2002 and was most famous for becoming the first major retailer to start accepting bitcoin as payment for its goods in 2014 (when bitcoin was still trading in the hundreds of dollars).
The firm’s blockchain adventure only really kicked off when Overstock launched Medici Ventures—a wholly-owned subsidiary with the goal to “change the world by advancing blockchain technology.” After the venture studio went on to invest in a host of blockchain-related projects—Medici went onto launch its own blockchain-based cryptocurrency called tZERO via an ICO that raised $134 million in late 2017.
One of the aims of tZERO was to develop solutions relating to token liquidity, while still remaining within the general framework of securities compliance laws. tZEROwent on to launch an STO platform earlier this year and also released a new Android and iOS app to trade cryptocurrencies a few months ago. Just last month an Overstock analyst reported that the new app had helped drive transaction volume for the firm in its latest quarter. But despite this, the firm’s stock is currently at a 7 year low with a current market cap of around $266 million.
It must also be mentioned that despite the American retailer’s unusual foray into blockchain technology, the firm’s chief blockchain evangelist Byrne did, in fact, step down from his role as CEO in August this year. This personal decision came after Byrne admitted to a three-year relationship with Maria Butina, a Russian agent currently serving 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to charges of acting as a foreign agent. Worry not however as new Overstock boss Jonathan Johnson has said that he is not planning any major changes to the company’s blockchain efforts, following the departure of its primary crypto evangelist and founder.
Xunlei Networking Technologies: 193 mentions
Coming in at number two is the Chinese multinational technology company and online service provider Xunlei Limited. The firm headquartered in Shenzhen China went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange in 2014 after being founded in China in 2003.
The firm’s adventure into blockchain started in October 2017, when the company announced that it will transform itself into a blockchain company, and release a new blockchain-based product called the OneThing Cloud. The product would work by letting users generate Link Tokens for contributing their bandwidth to the Xunlei's content delivery network.
Following Xunlies’ initial foray into the blockchain, in April 2018 the firm would go on to launch its own high-performance blockchain platform named ThunderChain. The firms’ high-speed blockchain could conduct millions of transactions per second (TPS) and supports smart contracts written in the solidity language (compatible with Ethereum’s Virtual Machine) making it easy to migrate applications from other competing blockchains.
The firm, however, has not stopped there. Just last month the Chinese cloud provider announced plans to set up a $100 million blockchain fund. The news came after the Nasdaq-listed company’s share price rocketed after China’s president, Xi Jinping, endorsed the virtues of blockchain technology. During the endorsement, Xunlie’s share price went from $2.30 to nearly triple to $6.70–since then the stock price has cooled back off to $5 to give the firm a current market cap of around $1.6 billion.
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IBM: 164 mentions
International technology goliath IBM is by far the biggest corporation on our list. With over 350,000 global employees and a market cap of around $116 billion, it’s no surprise that the firm founded over 108 years ago is looking to get involved in blockchain tech.
According to data from CB Insights, the blockchain earning call mentions are split evenly at 82 mentions apiece between the IBMs main holding company and its research-focused arm. The firms’ first entry into blockchain technology came in early 2017 when IBM unveiled its “blockchain as a service” business which is based on the open-source Hyperledger Fabric protocol. Having initially outlined the idea in 2016, the firm planned to offer a public cloud service that customers can use to build secure blockchain networks on top of.
IBM’s blockchain ambitions have been well-documented over the years. The tech multinational has also been involved with the likes of Walmart, Hyperledger, VeChain, Ethereum, and a host of others in the blockchain space—racking up a record number of patents in the meantime. Earlier this year it was reported that several IBM staffers are looking to patent a blockchain-powered domain-name system (DNS) and just in October IBM were looking to put scallops on the blockchain.
Other areas that IBM is looking into include using the blockchain to combat drone package thefts and even entering into a collaboration with the likes of SoftBank to transform telecommunications with the use of cross-carrier blockchain technology.
The bottom line
With all the innovation happening in the area of blockchain, one thing seems for certain—it’s an industry and technology that is here to stay. Apart from just Overstock, Xunlei and IBM who can’t seem to stop talking about the blockchain in their quarterly earnings call—it’s also well known that other giants like Facebook and J.P. Morgan are working hard on their own blockchain-related projects.
But it's not just all about the technology, according to a recent report by Beseen on Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and blockchain jobs—the number of blockchain-related employment ads in shares per million across popular job listing sites rose by 26 percent between 2018 and 2019. In terms of just blockchain roles, the top 5 employers listing jobs were Deloitte, IBM, Accenture, Cisco and Collins Aerospace.
One way or another it seems that blockchain technology is going mainstream and it’s only getting bigger everyday. If you can’t beat them, join them I guess.