These are interesting times for blockchain entrepreneurs. From one perspective, the associated technologies are rarely out of the news. We hear a lot about cryptocurrencies, especially about their investment prospects and the dangers of hype or fraud. Meanwhile, the dazzling prices paid for a select group of digital artworks have seen the term “non-fungible token” become more widely known as well. Those with a more technical mindset can also speak with knowledge of the transformative role that distributed ledgers will play in transforming processes across a wide range of industries.
But despite all this, it’s probably true that most of us would struggle to describe how all these variations on the blockchain theme affect our lives. NFTs – from expensive works of art to more utilitarian marketing tools – tend to be the toys of relatively few early adopters or collectors. Crypto investment and use is certainly widespread, but not yet mainstream. And if blockchain is adopted by industries such as banking and insurance to introduce new processes, then it will be a revolution that is not particularly visible.
That could change. According to some analysts, the arrival of Web3 will be the next big step in the evolution of the Internet. Simply put – and to be honest, it’s not that simple – the third-generation internet will move away from a centralized model that is said to favor “big tech” to a much more decentralized model that is largely powered by blockchain technologies.
If that vision of the internet is correct, then there are opportunities for blockchain entrepreneurs. What do those opportunities actually look like? Well, the London branch of global investor and accelerator operator Techstars may be able to provide a partial answer.
Techstars London has entered into a partnership with the operator of the blockchain development platform, polygon offer a 13-week accelerator program with a specific focus on Web3 and its assistive technologies. Following similar programs in Seattle and Dublin, the London Accelerator will be open for applications from August 29.
So why is now a good time to focus on Web3? When I spoke to Techstars London Managing Director, Saalim Chowdhury, I was eager to find out.
According to Chowdhury, London has a chance to become a global hub for Web3 development. But that raises a question. How big will Web3 actually be? With the likes of Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey expressing skepticism in recent tweets, there’s a sense in some quarters that the brave new internet is more hype than reality. Others strongly disagree
And as Chowdhury sees it, the advent of Web3 will pave the way for new business models. “Web3 is not a product. It’s about architecture. It’s a way of delivering services,” he says.
And in that regard, blockchain and its associated innovations around crypto-currencies and tokens represent the fundamental technologies for the new internet. “Right now they’re not even getting 1% of what they’re going to do.” In the future, he says, Web3 will be embedded in just about everything we do.
A product and customers
What does Techstars look for from applicants to the program?
The general rule of thumb is that members of Techstars’ London cohorts come to the party with a product and hopefully a few customers. In that regard, the ideal is that some validation has already taken place. Techstars London also wants to see a team – preferably a diverse one.
Furthermore, there is a fairly high degree of flexibility. As Chowdhury explains, candidates may currently be working in the Web2 arena, but they are looking for ways to move to Web3. Likewise, however, they may already be working on next-generation products or technologies.
A willingness to turn
But the startup that goes in may not look the same as the company that emerges at the end of the program. “In the last cohort, 3 companies were running and 7 with different revenue models emerged,” says Chowdhury.
To this end, the accelerator is also looking for founders who want to adapt. “We are looking for people who are open-minded, eager to learn and open to quizzes. Intellectual elasticity is an expression I use a lot,” says Chowdhury.
Techstars London specializes in one-on-one mentoring within its accelerators, but the program is carefully structured, with the first month focusing on building a product customers want and the second month helping identify markets and developing growth strategies. Month three houses on income and fundraising.
So what comes out in the end? From Techstars’ point of view, it offers an opportunity to explore the potential of Web3. “Our founders will help us identify the use cases,” says Chowdhury.
But what about the outcome for the founders and their teams? “A good outcome is that companies have a product that customers want and have a balanced business.
Will game-changing business models emerge? We’ll have to wait.