If you’re not a techie, you probably haven’t heard of Blockchain. Even if you are, Blockchain might not be on your radar. It’s one of those futuristic, mind–boggling concepts that hasn’t quite become a buzzword...yet.
A blockchain is an online database of transactions. Anyone can add to or access it, but no one can change data once it has been stored in the database. Drew Stone (E ‘17) explained, “Blockchain allows us to decentralize trust. We have the ability to solve problems of corruption and inefficiencies in society [with blockchain]. We can decentralize voting, fundraising, product authentication and data provenance.” At Penn, Blockchain is just starting to take off.
Last semester, Cole Pergament (W '20), Evan Hochhauser (W '20), Nate Rush (W, E '20), Daniel Thieberger (W '19) and Matthew Swickle (W '20) founded the Penn Fintech and Blockchain Club. They spent a semester finding their footing and building a 70–person general body. Now, the club runs two "project teams": small groups of students whom they teach to build Blockchain applications.
Since the club is so new, these teams are still getting off the ground. Eventually, they hope to work with actual companies, using Blockchain software to solve problems and make life easier.
Drew is a self–taught Blockchain guru, who found out about the technology his freshman year. He learned how to build applications and even interned at a Blockchain company. Now, he’s bringing the Blockchain twist to his own startup, Source Networks.
Along with Dillon Chen (W '18), Joe Farned (C, W '18) and Jeff Wang (C '17), Drew’s startup works to provide a service for individuals to sell their wifi to other people. The technology creates a “marketplace for buying and selling internet access," he says. The payments use the blockchain, so Stone says his team “isn’t responsible for controlling the payments,” which makes their lives a lot easier.
Since Blockchain is still a growing field only two Penn classes even deal with Blockchain material: one CIS class and a half credit Wharton class. Drew says, “Penn doesn’t really embrace [Blockchain] technology at this point as a legitimate thing to teach. It’s still pretty application–focused, so [...] it isn’t the best for core research.”
Stone is sure that Blockchain will continue to grow at Penn, and in the world at large. He says, “I hope it'll become more pervasive."