I bought a bank. So said Jeffrey Berns at a packed event (pictured) where plans were revealed for a smart city running on the blockchain.
He appears to have hit the jackpot. “Involved in the cryptocurrency and blockchain community since 2012,” as he said in an editorial, he learned about ethereum’s whitepaper in late 2013.
For some context, in 2012 bitcoin was worth about $2 at the low and circa $12-$20 on the higher end. Some claim he bought eth during the ICO in 2015.
You could buy 2,000 eth for one bitcoin at that point, meaning one eth was around 20 cent. According to New York Times, there was “some well-timed selling last year before [eth] crashed.”
So the Berns are clearly rich. They’re obviously reasonably intelligent too with a legal background, so what do you do with all this newfound money?
So far they’ve spent $300 million “on the land, offices, planning and a staff of 70 people.” They have county support for the new city, which for now is empty land, with proper construction to start sometime in late 2019.
“He is promising to give away all decision-making power for the project and 90 percent of any dividends it generates to a corporate structure that will be held by residents, employees and future investors.
That structure, which he calls a ‘distributed collaborative entity,’ is supposed to operate on a blockchain where everyone’s ownership rights and voting powers will be recorded in a digital wallet,” NYT says.
Meaning this is just the beginning of a vision. For now they’re sorting out fibre internet connection deals, energy deals, and all the somewhat basic aspects.
Everything though will be linked to the blockchain whenever possible. Even the decision making will be on what sounds like a DAO.
How that will work exactly is not clear. Just as it is not clear what exactly they plan to do, with much of it being at the early stages.
So it may be some time until we know how exactly you apply to become a resident of the Blockchain City. Or whether there will be any grants, sponsorships, free accommodation, or some other perks for a dev that might want to build a blockchain fridge, for example. Or whether there will be a token if you want to invest, or how you invest, and so on.
But the idea sounds nice. A sandbox city for blockchain tech implementations where everything that can be built on a smart contract, will be built.
That means they’ll need a lot of builders. With blockchain talent in short supply, they made a big entrance at Devcon where most of the builders are hanging out.
Builders that may naturally be a bit skeptical, not least because little detail has been provided. In a space where we’ve seen all sorts of actors, whether there will be just big words or whether there will be action is a question to ponder.
For now, however, the Berns have not asked anyone for anything. They’ve simply told us what they plan to do, and since they’re claiming they plan a smart city, then big words may be justified.
Some may well say they just plan to make money by developing barren land to sell it on. If the developed land turns out to really be a blockchain city, however, then any money they make might be well deserved.
If they building things, and they make money in the process, well so much the better, but the potential suggestion is that they might just cover non-building with big words to make it look like there was building when there wasn’t.
Now unlike SEC, which asks entrepreneurs to prove they’re innocent before they can ICO, we’ll hold our judgment in the absence of any evidence that they don’t plan to do what they say they plan to do.
We have to give them a chance to show their actions and then judge. If they build a blockchain city, and a real one, then that would be quite something. If they don’t, then who cares. They haven’t asked anyone for anything so far.
So then why all the big advertising in Prague? Well presumably because they want developers to know they exist. Not for a token sale? Well, they’ll have to go through SEC if they wanted to ICO. Not to flip land? Well, they haven’t built it yet. Once they build it, then people can judge.
Obviously, in making such a big entrance there will be some memes and some jokes. Their presentation, however, did not disappoint. They’re planning what we guessed. If they can execute on it and do so well, is a different matter which time alone will tell.