Gil Beyda, managing director of Comcast Ventures, tells PYMNTS’ Karen Webster what he looks for when investing in a blockchain startup, and why blockchain needs a killer app to really take off.
Even as a telecommunications conglomerate, it’s hardly surprising that Comcast is jumping into the world of blockchain. Via the firm’s Comcast Ventures, the company led a nearly $3.3 million funding round for blockchain startup Blockdaemon, solidifying Comcast’s presence in the distributed ledger scene.
Gil Beyda, managing director of Comcast Ventures, is among the growing list of investors convinced that it is bitcoin’s underlying distributed ledger technology – not cryptocurrency itself – that has the real potential for market disruption.
“Right now, a lot of folks are enamored by the fact that bitcoin went from $100 to $20,000,” he recently told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster. “That’s great for speculators and gold-rushers, but that’s a narrow part of the population. As an investor, at this point, I’m less interested in cryptocurrency per se, but I still believe the fundamental blockchain technology has value.”
Blockchain has its own gold rush starting up, though, and Beyda warned that one of the biggest mistakes the market can make is to assume “that it can solve every problem – or many problems, for that matter.”
Despite the growing hype – and an endless list of experiments and pilot projects – blockchain has yet to emerge as the disruptor its backers claim it to be. So what must happen to get blockchain out of the gate?
“We need that killer app,” Beyda said. “It has to be a new service, a new business model, a new value proposition so that the consumer says, ‘Wow, that’s new, that’s different, I want that.’ Most folks are going to look for a killer application in order to move that adoption needle.”
For investors like Comcast Ventures and Genacast Ventures (for which Beyda serves as managing partner, and which also participated in the Blockdaemon funding round), cutting through the noise will take patience. In Blockdaemon’s case, investors were sold on the company’s Blockchain-as-a-Service business model. The company facilitates the deployment of nodes to scale blockchain and DLT-based applications.
Beyda told Webster that it’s this focus on infrastructure that caught his eye.
“In order for blockchain applications to mature, there need to be tools for setting up blockchain, monitoring solutions, updating them – and today, blockchain technical experience is difficult to find,” he said regarding the Blockdaemon investment. “If there is a service that can be provided, like Blockdaemon’s, to automate all of that, it’s something that developers and DevOps folks need. It’s part of our overall strategy to provide tools and automation to help enterprises and developers quickly come up to speed in this environment.”
The ability to actually manage and work with blockchain applications will be critical if and when blockchain apps emerge from pilot testing and into the real-world market. Beyda sees significant potential for blockchain solutions in a variety of markets.
“We’ve been looking at the technology in a number of initiatives as they apply to the Internet of Things, advertising, loyalty,” he said, adding that in the communications industry in particular, there are a few ways blockchain could go.