What I Learned from my Blockchain and Bitcoin Crash-Course

The digital technology incubator 1871 and Chicago Reader recently hosted a presentation and interactive panel, called The Basics of Blockchain and Bitcoin. This event gave beginners to the topic a chance to hear from experts about the workings and implications of cryptocurrency and the system upon which it’s built. Here are some takeaways from the event:

Bitcoin & Blockchain Conference

The History of Blockchain and Bitcoin

According to Investopedia, blockchain is a digitized, decentralized, public record of all cryptocurrency transactions. When someone pays someone in bitcoin, that transaction is timestamped and recorded on this public ledger that every user of bitcoin – all over the world – can see.

This technology burst onto the scene in 2008 with the release of a white paper called, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” In this paper, the pseudonymous creator of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, breaks down this revolutionary system of paying someone online without the aid of third party verification system like a financial institution.

In traditional online payments, these third party systems are checking for double spending and other malicious actions. Double spending is a kind of digital counterfeiting in which the payer clones his or her payment data, sending the fake information to the payee and keeping the original information for himself or herself.

For example, if you were to give a barista a $5 bill for a coffee, it is next to impossible to spend a duplicate of that $5 bill elsewhere because of the defenses put in place by our financial institutions and government. The same cannot be said for digital payments since users can theoretically copy the data on his or her computer and continue to “spend” over and over again.

The Need for a “Decentralized” System

Several of the speakers at this event reiterated that, up to this point, the traditional form of third-party verification has worked just fine for most people – and then the Great Recession hit. Some people no longer feel that they can trust the institutions verifying their transactions, as these institutions can represent a single point of failure: if that institution becomes compromised, then the entire system can fail.

Blockchain is said to be “decentralized,” because it does not utilize a central authority or third-party verification system to guard against malicious actors. On a blockchain, everyone can see what everyone else is doing or has done. If you try to duplicate a bitcoin, every user on that system will see and essentially “exile” you from the platform by refusing to give or take any payment from you.

What are the Implications?

One of the speakers at the event, co-founder and CEO of Bit Capital Group, Jimmy Odom, said it best when he explained that, never before in the history of humans trading with each other have we been incentivized to act “right” until now. Because blockchain allows others to see what you’re doing, the thought is that it will hold people accountable for their actions and encourage them to play by the rules.

This nascent technology is revolutionizing everything from online payments to international supply chains to the Internet of Things because people from other industries are now realizing that blockchain’s visibility and accountability can be applied to other systems as well. Despite this, there are still so many undiscovered business applications for it. If you would like to learn more how your company can position itself as an expert on this topic in the media, check out Walker Sands’ other blog posts that break it down even further for you!

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Workflow, Intelligent Process Automation and Marine Helicopters at Nintex xchange 2018

What goes best with a California style burrito, the one with fries wrapped up inside? That’s right, workflow and process automation, courtesy of Walker Sands’ awesome Bellevue client, Nintex.

Three members of the Walker Sands West Coast team just wrapped up a week of deep-dive Nintex workflow experiences at the client’s annual customer and partner conference, Nintex xchange.

Annie, Kate, Will

This year Nintex hosted the event at the Grand Hyatt, San Diego, a welcome escape for the rain-soaked Pacific Northwesters that made up the bulk of the attendees. In addition to a Sunny escape in the winter, Nintex’s annual event is one of the largest gatherings of automation and workflow experts from around the world.

Machine learning, AI and automation were the dominant trends discussed, while new product features for Nintex Forms and collapsable workflow diagrams were crowd-favorites for the mostly technical attendees. Wahl Lincoln Photo

Among myriad new technical features and product integrations, the team saw Nintex expert Ryan Duguid set up an entire fire alarm system using a sophisticated process automation workflow. We also were treated to a show by noted performance graffiti artist, Erik Wahl, who finger-painted Abraham Lincoln in less time than a Coldplay song.

Throughout the conference content, the Nintex team has been hard at work evangelizing a new concept in process automation, intelligent process automation. Imagine not having to go through that one tedious work process that takes 20 times longer than it should. Those are the problems the Nintex engineering team are solving every day.

So far, Nintex has automated more than 3 million work processes and is well on its way to conquering the (relatively) new intelligent process automation category. It’s exciting to be present for such cutting-edge technology

What’d we get up to in San Diego over the three days? Annie, Kate and I attended sessions, went to client dinners (Dover Sole FTW!) and took some time to explore downtown San Diego, including the USS-Midway aircraft carrier museum.

USS Midway

Interesting note on that F/A-18 Hornet. It’s been painted brown to look like a Soviet/Russian Federation MiG because it was used as an aggressor aircraft in a the Flight Weapon School training program @ Mirimar, about 10 miles from downtown San Diego. That school is also known as Top Gun. topgun

By the way, even on that once state-of-the-art navy ship, documents were still printed out and routed by hand. I guess even the most sophisticated organizations often still get mired in dated and broken processes.

Thanks to the team for all their hard work and congrats to the Nintex event crew for putting on such a successful show!

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Walker Sands Sponsors ITA Initiative to Empower Women in Tech

When the Illinois Technology Association (ITA) launched Women Influence Chicago last fall, we immediately recognized an opportunity to be a part of an initiative that we’re passionate about­­: empowering women in tech.

In addition to being associate members of the ITA, we’re so excited to announce that we are now proud sponsors and founding partners of their Women Influence Chicago Initiative. Through this incredible organization, we have the opportunity to help women in the Chicago tech scene through training, education and events, with the goal of empowering women throughout a variety of leadership roles.

Women Influence Chicago logo

The Women Influence Chicago Initiative will focus on three key areas:

  • Pre-Workforce: encouraging interest in technology through mentorship, education and STEM programs
  • In-Workforce: providing resources and training for Chicago tech companies, as well as their male and female employees, to help them create inclusive work environments for women
  • Positions of Influence: increasing the number of women in the C-Suite, on boards and in other prominent leadership roles at tech companies in Chicago

Powered by the ITA, Women Influence Chicago is co-chaired by Kelly Stickel, CEO of Remodista, and Aimee Schuster, CMO of Miller Heiman. Walker Sands will attend Women Influence Chicago board meetings as their public relations and marketing advisor.  

Allison Ward headshot
Allison Ward, Senior Account Director

Walker Sands senior account director Allison Ward is excited to bring her experience and insight to this initiative. As a senior member of our FinTech public relations team and a working mother, Allison is personally passionate about Women Influence Chicago’s mission to empower female leaders and hopes that their work in the city has a wide, long-lasting effect. “We want to make Chicago an ecosystem where women in tech are not only prevalent, but thriving and supported. If we can empower women in tech in Chicago, hopefully there’s a ripple effect in other large tech markets.”

Toward that goal, Women Influence Chicago will be working on action-oriented projects throughout the year. They are determined to not just highlight the problems — but to actually solve them. Events like the “Women Influence Chicago Series: Negotiating Your Equity Package” are designed to do just that. The group is also working on an actionable blueprint to promote diversity and equality in the workplace, with tips for tech companies on how to empower their women into the C-Suite and leadership positions.

We are thrilled to be a part of this important initiative and can’t wait to share more with you on their fantastic projects throughout the year. Keep an eye out for future Women Influence Chicago blog posts, and in the meantime, connect with them on their website or on Twitter.

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Seattle’s Favorite Hot Dog Gets the Chicago Twist

Following the relaunch of our San Francisco office in 2016, we’re excited to build upon this West Coast momentum with the opening of our new Seattle office!

Seattle’s tech community is vibrant and quickly growing. We’re eager to build more relationships in the area and to continue helping tech brands grow. The additional local support will help us better service clients in the region.

WS Seattle Office

Okay, now to the hot dogs.

Being from Chicago, of course we had to put Seattle’s famous cream-cheese version to the test. Let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed. And then I got to thinking – trying this hot dog represents how our team is approaching new adventures in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Learn Constantly – Cream cheese on a hot dog was certainly a new one for me. We’re eager to learn all we can about the Seattle’s B2B tech PR needs and how we can revisit our operations to deliver better results for clients. This passion helps our teams master top industries and encourages a collective commitment to always doing great work. Tech nerds? Nah. We like to think of ourselves as tech enthusiasts.
  • Get Inspired – Seattle is full of people who believe they’re building tomorrow’s greatest tech inventions today. We believe it, too. And with the opening of our Seattle office, now we can help everyone else see it. We love tech and are constantly inspired by the awesome companies we’re lucky enough to work with. It’s our mission to nurture the sparks of news ideas – after all, one hot dog inspired this entire blog post.
  • Be Fearless – Whether trying a new food or deploying an unprecedented PR strategy, our time in Seattle has already confirmed that risks are worth their rewards. Our mission is to support your business’ goals however we can, and our Midwestern sensibilities won’t settle for anything less than reliable, honest work. But we won’t reach our highest potential if we’re always doing things the same way. We’re ready to take risks, push boundaries and try what the other guys aren’t even thinking about yet. That means we may fall down sometimes, but our resilience only makes us stronger and leads to better results for our clients

Maybe I’m just hungry, but Walker Sands really does feel like a Seattle hot dog with a twist. All the classics you know and love, but with a little something extra to intrigue (like celery salt and a pickle). Okay, maybe enough food. But, hey, there’s something about being from a city that stands behind its dog.

As always, our expansion is made possible by a roster of amazing clients that trust our approach to PR, as well as talented employees who continuously amaze me with the work they do. Thank you for making this all possible – we couldn’t be more excited about our Seattle adventure.

With that said, we could use your help getting started. We’re looking to expand our Seattle family (paid internships and full-time team members). Know someone who would be a great fit? Send them our way!

And if you’re ever in the area, let us know. We’d love to discuss what Walker Sands can do for your business – how about over a hot dog?

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Is Your Business Ready to Talk Bitcoin?

Back for more about bitcoin and blockchain? Now that we’ve discussed their capabilities it’s time to consider whether the two innovations should be part of your company’s strategic messaging. From identifying an internal expert to narrowing your focus, the following three questions can shed light on whether bitcoin or blockchain are topics your company should speak to.

business talks bitcoin

1. Do you have an expert?

The first step to position your business as a trusted resource on bitcoin and/or blockchain is finding the right thought leaders to help drive the effort. Reach out to executives who may be interested in authoring bylines or jumping in on conversations about bitcoin and blockchain. Those who possess an in-depth understanding of your business as well as familiarity with cryptocurrency may be the best candidates.

Remember though, just because someone is considered an expert on bitcoin doesn’t mean they have the same level of knowledge when it comes to blockchain. Divvy up thought leaders based on their grasp of the two technologies.

Having trouble drawing interest? Don’t forget to mention what’s in it for them. Not only will speaking about bitcoin and blockchain raise awareness of your company, but it may also help your thought leaders gain recognition within the industry.

2. What’s the angle?

Once you’ve identified thought leaders, narrow down your company’s messaging. While there’s plenty to talk about when it comes to bitcoin and blockchain, not all of it is important to your audience. Choose an angle that’s relevant to prospects, interesting to your customers and easy for thought leaders to knock out of the park.

Whether the focus is on how bitcoin or blockchain technology may impact your business or the broader industry as a whole, make sure to stay on top of new developments. There are a number of go-to resources for the latest cryptocurrency news and trends, including:

PYMNTS – Bitcoin Tracker
Business Insider – Finance
CNN – FinTech News

bitcoin thought leaders

3. Are your thought leaders prepared?

Get the most out of interactions with the media by thoroughly training thought leaders ahead of their moment in the spotlight. Helpful resources such as Q&A documents or suggested talking points can go a long way toward ensuring your company’s messaging is understandable and consistent – no matter the thought leader.

If time permits, consider conducting a mock interview before the big day. Not only will it help calm any nerves, but it may also give you the chance to answer questions and simplify key messages.

Stay tuned for part three of our bitcoin and blockchain series!

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