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The Blockchain Island

The Blockchain Island

What Malta has always lacked in natural resources, it’s always compensated for through a resourceful human potential – as illustrated by its thriving iGaming and financial services sectors. The island is now poised to be a pioneer in Blockchain and DLT.

Blockchain technology is being viewed in equal measures of interest and apprehension by the larger business community. Malta seems to have recognised its potential for disruption, and is positioning itself as a one of the primary jurisdictions in the field. The inaugural edition of the Malta Blockchain Summit is clearly riding this progress, but is also poised to accelerate it. It’s being organised by the same brain trust behind SiGMA, now a globally established name in the iGaming industry.

CEO Eman Pulis is spearheading efforts to make the Malta Blockchain Summit yet another successful event in the SiGMA stable. “I’m not going to sit here and pretend we invented Blockchain, or single-handedly brought it to Malta,” Eman concedes. “The government is making a concerted effort to make Malta the leading jurisdiction in Blockchain and DLT, and we’re looking to shine a light on this very exciting new technology”.

Blockchain, and Distributed Ledger Technology, promise to bring fundamental change to a variety of industries, bringing an unprecedented level of decentralisation to the way business is conducted. It might seem counter-intuitive for a national government – the classic example of central authority – to embrace a technology is essentially a catalyst for decentralisation. On the other hand there’s no fighting the future, and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has laid down a strong marker for Malta’s role in this burgeoning movement in tech, while calling on the EU as a whole to embrace the change it will bring about. "I understand that regulators are wary of this technology but the fact is that it’s coming,” said Muscat. “We must be on the frontline in embracing this crucial innovation, and we cannot just wait for others to take action and copy them. We must be the ones that others copy.”

This enthusiasm has been backed up by a very proactive legislative process to make Malta the ideal environment for the technology to thrive. This process has seen Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Schembri take a central role. “The purpose of these laws will be to provide legal certainty to a space that is currently unregulated,” said Schembri. “It will provide an environment conducive to this technology, and it will make Malta the natural destination for businesses working in this field.”

Malta’s overt interest in Blockchain and DLT is already paying dividends. Binance, a premier crypto exchange, announced its launch of an operational base in Malta in late March. Several more firms have expressed interest in doing the same. It turns out that investors are more than willing to spend money in jurisdictions where legal grey areas are no longer a concern. “It’s very heartening to see the powers that be take the lead on this,” says Eman Pulis. “Launching the Malta Blockchain Summit is a huge leap for us. Hosting this type of event in Malta, which has shown such a tangible commitment to the development of the industry, lessens some of the risk. We know that we’re tapping into something that has real potential.”

As things stand, the legislative process has not been completed. A consultation document has been issued, but the eventual law still has to go through several readings in Parliament. The level of interest and momentum that has already been generated at this relatively early stage shows that Blockchain tech can flourish here if it’s allowed to grow roots.

That’s where the Malta Blockchain Summit comes in. SiGMA has already made itself a key part of Malta’s iGaming infrastructure. It provides connective tissue that keeps the wider industry in touch and engaged with the Maltese scene, which now constitutes a significant portion of it. SiGMA is widely recognised to be a key part of the Maltese iGaming ecosystem, something that has been achieved by design. Eman Pulis is now looking to do the same for Blockchain. “You have to understand that there’s a cumulative effect to all our efforts,” he explains. “A big reason why iGaming has become so relevant in Malta is a sort of gravity. As it grows larger, it keeps on attracting more and more of a presence. Firms see value in being close to their partners, with an established pool of talent close by.”

Pulis elaborates on his plans – “We’re using a formula that’s now been proven successful. If we can promote the Maltese Blockchain scene even half as effectively as we’ve championed its iGaming sector, we’ll be in pretty good shape”. The Summit will host a veritable all-star cast of featured speakers that will provide the event with an unparalleled intellectual underpinning. These include Carla Maree Vella , James Catania, Max Krupyshev, Gordon Einstein, Alex Lightman, Joseph Cuschieri, Sally Eaves, Tugçe Ergul, Karl Schranz, Pavel Kravchenko and Vince Vella. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will also be delivering the keynote address during the event. A vibrant expo will take centre stage, and will be complemented by a competitive ICO pitch. A Hackathon is also being organised, and is expected to lure developers to the event in force. With multiple networking events built into the larger show, the Malta Blockchain Summit should be a springboard for numerous deals

Blockchain and DLT are definitely on their way in, and Malta’s growing participation in the revolutionary tech is going to continue to make headlines going forward. If past experience is anything to go by, the organisers of the Malta Blockchain Summit will not be outdone in their pursuit of networking nirvana. This event promises to be a strong catalyst for the next technological shake-up – with our island at the epicentre of it all.

20/08/2018 MEA
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