Mark van Rijmenam is the author of ‘Blockchain: Transforming Your Business and Our World’ and founder of Datafloq, a one-stop shop for data, vendors, and jobs in big data, blockchain and AI. He’s also been named one of the top 10 big data and blockchain influencers and acts as an advisor for a host of blockchain startups. Below he explores his journey into blockchain and how startups mistakenly sell blockchain as a technology, rather than blockchain as a solution to a customers' problems.
How did you first get into blockchain and the decentralized web?
Every year, I write a trend analysis report on what organizations can expect in the next year. The first time I mentioned blockchain was in 2015, and I have included it in some way in these reports ever since. In early 2016, I started my Ph.D. and not long into my research, I participated in a blockchain workshop where I learned the intricacies of this fundamental technology. It was then that I decided to change the topic of my Ph.D. and to include blockchain in it as well.
When did you set up your company?
I started Datafloq in 2012, first under a different name and only as a blog about big data. In 2014, we rebranded to Datafloq and since then have ventured out to cover emerging technologies including blockchain.
What need does it serve?
Datafloq is a content platform, focused on the technology industry. The platform has over 400 authors from around the globe, sharing their insights on emerging technology.
Can you give us a summary of your career thus far, how did you get here?
I have done many different things in my life so far. I have a bachelor’s in hospitality management from Nyenrode Business University, a master’s in marketing management and soon also a Ph.D. After my bachelors, I worked in Dubai as part of the opening team of the first ski resort in Dubai, a crazy experience. After my masters, I worked for a few years at ING--a well-known Dutch bank--but soon after that, I decided to start my own company.
Since then, I have written three books: Think Bigger–which is about Big Data, Blockchain: Transforming Your Business and Our World–which is co-authored with Dr Philippa Ryan and is about how we can use blockchain for social good and The Organisation of Tomorrow–which is based on my Ph.D. and discusses how emerging technologies turn every organization into a data organization.
Did you know?
In 2011, I circumnavigated Australia on a bicycle. 14122 km in just 100 days to raise funds for a children’s cancer fund in The Netherlands. An absolutely awesome experience!
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in building a business in this space?
From a technology standpoint, the fact that much of the decentralized ecosystem still needs to be built. This takes time and it can be frustrating. However, the entire community is working hard to make a decentralized society come true. From an educational standpoint, people from outside of the community still confuse blockchain and bitcoin. Some more education is required that helps clarify why blockchain is a fundamental technology and why it has the potential to radically change how we build organizations and societies.
What’s the best piece of advice you were given when it comes to being an entrepreneur in this space?
Everyone within the blockchain community understands the fundamental shift that this technology can bring. However, those outside the community are often a lot more skeptical. They do not want to know what type of DLT is behind applications, they only want to know whether or not it works. If you wish to sell your product to those who have a less thorough understanding of blockchain, you should focus on what problems the product solves for the potential customer, not the technology it is built upon.
What advice would you give to someone setting up a business in the decentralized web?
Simplify. Incorporating blockchain can easily become complicated and in the end, the customer does not care what technology is used. Take Amazon, for example, billions of customers use Amazon but most of them have no clue how it works, it just works and it is super simple. Blockchain is here to stay but the impact will only become clear once we stop talking about it.
What project or projects are you most excited about (that aren’t yours!)
For me, blockchain has a lot more potential than merely simplifying financial transactions. I am particularly enthusiastic about blockchain projects working on social good to actually improve the world. I think Humaniq and Banqu are doing great things, as they are focusing on helping the poor, those without an identity or a bank account. In addition, I am excited about Sovrin, as they are building the infrastructure for self-sovereign identities–a key component of the decentralized ecosystem.
What is (or what will be) blockchain’s ‘killer app’
Blockchain’s killer app is the smart contract or even more so the Ricardian contract. Ricardian contracts differ from smart contracts that they are legally binding, and it records the agreement between multiple parties in a human-readable and machine-readable text (contrary to smart contracts, which only executes what is defined in an agreement). Once this type of contract becomes easy to use and easy to implement, it will fundamentally change how we collaborate.