About three weeks ago, I — along with 25 other people from over a dozen countries — traveled to Zug, Switzerland aka Crypto Valley to spend three days exploring the decentralized future.
The quarterly event — the first of which debuted in August — was conceptualized by Jeremy Epstein, Ken Berger, and Marcelo Garcia.
Highlighted in Fred Wilson’s blog back in July, the Crypto Valley Trip brought our group — the Crypto Explorers — to three different sites over the course of three days. To say that demand for this event was sky high would be an understatement. Five of the attendees in my group were individuals who were waitlisted from the inaugural event in August —yay for persistence! Hundreds of applications poured in this time around given the overwhelmingly positive reviews from the attendees of the inaugural trip, as well as the skyrocketing popularity of Bitcoin and ICOs in just the few months since.
The high value attendees in this second iteration represented a variety of backgrounds, skill sets, and overlapping interests. The group included hedge fund managers, early stage VC partners, startup founders, investors, influencers, traders, miners, developers and more. There was a lot of reciprocal value exchange to go around over the course of those three days.
The first day was spent at the Zug headquarters of Lakeside Partners AG. We listened to those partners and other speakers talk about the Crypto Valley Association (CVA)in Zug and the canton’s efforts to attract companies and talent through their friendly regulatory and tax environment coupled with their deep knowledge of the blockchain industry. Regulatory agencies like the Swiss Financial Markets Supervisory Authority (FINMA) work in close cooperation with the CVA and now work to formally approve new ICOs for projects registered in Switzerland.
We also listened to a presentation from Melonport, one of the few crypto projects that actually has the product team based out of Zug, talk about the project’s efforts to disintermediate the hedge fund business model, which includes a goal to reduce the cost of starting a hedge fund to be as low as $100 — ambition!
Following the first day of presenters, our group took a funicular up the Zugerberg Mountain and had a fondue dinner at Restaurant Zugerberg with a spectacular view of the area.
Day two of the event took place inside of Huwilerturm, a 16th Century defense tower which made for a truly memorable experience.
Our group listened in on several presentations, including one from Stephan Karpischek of Etherisc — a decentralized insurance platform that promises to issue policies and compensate claims autonomously via smart contracts. Stephan made an announcement for the first time publicly that Etherisc was testing their product by offering the option to purchase travel insurance for those purchasing flight travel to Cancun for Devcon. In the event a flight were to be delayed or cancelled, triggering a condition that satisfies an insurance claim, the smart contract would automatically compensate the insured party within the same day and without requiring a third party intermediary (i.e. customer representative). How cool!
Other speakers included Mathias Bucher from Diamond Coin, Max Niebylski and Marcelo McAndrew from Gladius, Guido Bulgheroni (government official) from the Canton of Zug, Jean-Baptiste Decorzent from Everex, among others. After wrapping up the day-long event, our group walked over to nearby Lake Zug to observe an unforgettable sunset, followed by wine and hor d’oeuvres at Rathaus Zug, where Jeremy Epstein (President of CVT) and Max and Marcelo from Gladius both gave presentations.
Day three offered another day of presenters, though this time in Zurich, not Zug, at the Swisscom business campus. Swisscom is 51% owned by the Swiss Confederation and, through a subsidiary arm, invests in token projects while also offering full advisory services for token sales. The campus was anointed with a spacious meeting room and drinks and refreshments.
Highlights included a very insightful discussion about ICOs and the scalability challenges of blockchain protocols from Daily Fintech co-founder Efi Pylarinou, a wide-ranging interview about blockchain for enterprise between Jeremy Epstein and Swisscom Blockchain AG CEO Daniel Haudenschild, and illuminating insights about regulation from MME law firm partners Thomas Linder and Andreas Glarner.
Following the day of listening to speakers providing us with actionable information, we held a group thinking session to recap some lessons learned from the experience. This was just as valuable to me personally as listening to the presenters.
Afterwards, we walked over to the Zurich office of MME law firm to enjoy cocktails, beer, and snacks on their extraordinary rooftop terrace. We were fortunate to enjoy some agreeable weather considering autumn temperatures can be unpredictable in this part of Europe.
Later, we then walked over to Hiltl to enjoy a wide-ranging and delicious vegetarian dinner — words I never thought I’d say. As it turns out, Hiltl also happens to be the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world, established in 1898.
My general sentiment about the experience both during and following the trip was a feeling of immense gratitude. I actually feel like I underpaid for the experience. The organizers — Jeremy Epstein, Ken Berger, and Marcelo Garcia — clearly put a lot of thought, effort and coordination into making this event meaningful and valuable for the participants; and let me tell you, it wasn’t for the money. The cost of attendance was too modest for that to be an incentive. The real motivation was to pay it forward and put together something special. To borrow some terminology from my angel investing world, I felt like I “10x’d” on some relationships. In fact, through our official Slack community, private Telegram groups, and old-fashioned e-mail (ahem, Ken Berger, cough..), I am still in frequent contact with the organizers and fellow attendees.
This experience was another affirmation of the wisdom of the adage to “invest in yourself” by pursuing opportunities to share experiences with other value-add people. These are exciting times in the crypto world, and the Crypto Valley Trip compounded that feeling for me even more.
Applications for the next trip in late January 2018 are currently being accepted.
*Photo credits to fellow CVT alum Mahoney Turnbull.