Outlier Ventures, Europe’s first Blockchain-specific venture fund, formed in 2014 to fund and develop blockchain-based businesses. As such, Lawrence Lundy, head of Research and Partnerships for Outlier Ventures, is required to stay ahead of the technological curve in order to provide valuable support to Outlier’s clientele. We sat down with Lawrence ahead of his appearance at Blockchain Live next week to discuss his work and his thoughts on the future for blockchain and DLT.
Taking us back to where his interest in blockchain was first piqued, Lawrence told us of how he came across bitcoin in 2013. Despite his early recognition of the transformative potential proffered by the fast evolving world of cryptocurrencies, lack of demand from his clients meant that Lawrence did not fully immerse himself in the space until almost a year later. Writing about both Bitcoin and the underlying Blockchain technology for a time, Lawrence became hooked. He elaborated that “It was not just the technical elegance of Bitcoin but rather the social and political implications of math-enforced decision-making and trust that fascinated me”.
“History does not repeat itself; it rhymes.”
The rapid rate of growth was mirrored by the almost deafening noise generated by the companies that sought to inhabit the blockchain, crypto space, each vying for the funding which was blindly being pumped into the sector. A key aspect of Outlier Ventures and certainly Lawrence’s work, is distinguishing where the real value lies. Lawrence explained that “there is much more noise than signal today. The best way to find insight and identify investment and partnership opportunities is to look at the intersection of technologies, as well as studying history and politics”. Digging deeper into his method, he emphasised the need to recognise and understand patterns in the industry – “History does not repeat itself; it rhymes. You need only look back at the invention of the telegram, the radio, telephone, television and internet to help inform your thinking of Blockchain”.
One of the oft-touted industry changing applications of Blockchain is smart contracts, and we were keen to better understand Lawrence’s thoughts on their use, both at present with an eye to the future. Lawrence believes that all technological products go through a period of hype, followed almost immediately by an onslaught of challenges as vendors seek to get a working product to market. Smart contracts, he said, are no different, and at present, we are in the extremely early stages of their development. Regardless, Lawrence took an optimistic view of their future – “At an abstract level, a programme that automatically processes reasonable complex transactions can bring massive system-wide efficiencies and cost reductions”. Smart contracts were far from replacing the entire apparatus of human law; they were more to be seen as an extension of back office automation.
In touch with the vast array of traditional applications in finance and banking, as well as the growing activity in non-traditional spheres, we were interested in learning which industries Lawrence saw as breeding grounds for the next generation of blockchains. Seeing wide scope for Blockchain adoption, Lawrence stressed the horizontal nature of DLT and thus its cross-industry potential. Explaining some of these niches, Lawrence continued – “We are investing in companies like uVue, focusing on providing a decentralised software layer for autonomous economic agents primarily in the mobility sector, Botanic who are providing multi-modal trusted personality interfaces for artificial intelligence and IOTA who are building a new data and value layer for the Internet of Things”. While these applications demonstrate Blockchain and DLT’s scope, it was not all grand hypotheses and technical prospecting. – “We believe there are problems to be solved today using decentralised infrastructure and its associated toolkit. This isn’t a five-year time horizon, these products are being bought and sold already today”.
You can read more about Lawrence and Outlier Ventures’ work on Community Token Economies here, their ‘Convergence’ investment thesis here, or listen to Lawrence in the “Beyond Finance: Prime Sectors for the Next Wave of Blockchain Adoption” panel at Blockchain Live on Wednesday 20th September.
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