COLUMN: Travel and the future of blockchain

While Bitcoin is conquering new highs in the $20,000 range, and the global public attention is glued to the charts of alt-coins of all types, the opinions have split: from elder baby boomer’s generation claiming cryptocurrency a gigantic bubble, to millennials hoping to hedge against political and economic fluctuations.

“If a new financial crisis hits the markets, having your money sitting in a savings account simply does not feel right! The interest rates banks offer are extremely low. Your savings account is actually slowly dripping out of money over time, yet banks keep silent about the devastating effects of inflation,” says Duke, 22, from Manchester, UK. Investing in altcoins is a new way of preserving shrinking value of fiat money.

Before ICOs gained traction as a valid way to raise equity, startup founders usually pitched their ideas to a limited circle of business angels or a few key venture capitalists. If both parties strike a deal, often the investors would be able to have the final say or interfere with the business side of a startup. Consequently, in fact, this may lead startups down the road to failure. Because, hell why not?

If investors become stakeholders, they have a direct interest in keeping things in check. A conflict of visions between founders and investors would quickly arise. Soon a founder would find himself following the lead of an investor instead of bringing his vision to reality.

Everything has changed since the rise of ICO fundraising method.

ICO is essentially a “crowdsourcing on steroids.” It eliminates the ownership of a company by few selected investors like in the situation mentioned above. It provides a relatively quick way to raise money and the investors are all interested people even with tiny amounts to invest.

“There’s a low cost for entry, you don’t pay a lot of fees and millennials are the most tech-savvy,” said Azim Kamryan, 22, a recent graduate from Canada.

But make no mistake: ICOs are a lot of work, and the project and offering have to be on solid ground legally, operationally, technically, in terms of everything from smart contracts, to targeted ads, to community management, to updating social media and blog content to show that the (usually) small team is doing all the right things.

“With great power comes great responsibility” – Spiderman

Wrong.

“With great power comes great potential.”

This is what the digital currency world has in store for companies.

Digital currency has offered never-seen unimaginable superpower to companies of all size:

  • minting your own money
  • governing it
  • even allowing customers to mint it for something in return

What could be this valuable thing users have?

Hmm…

Their tastes, preferences, aka data.

Cryptocurrency makes it possible for any company to create its own form or representation of value! Rather than relying on banks processing payments and moving value around between customers and companies (meanwhile charging fees for this), a company can build their own user-driven active community. Beyond its potential long-term financial rewards, many holders of cryptocurrency view it as a vehicle for social change. While many coins have no value beyond serving as a potential alternative currency, at least two other major coins – Ether and Ripple have meaningful real-world utility and are being adopted by banks and financial institutions.

The speculative and financial gain of crypto is fun, but it’s really about improving the world, improving the financial system, transparency, cost, increased speed. In this regard, launching a token, a coin for a company can be a game-changer and allow for wider adoption of other significant functions. Much like in video-games where you buy items, except that you also decide and take part in administering, voting on how & who should run your little universe. In entertainment, this is particularly useful: empowering and rewarding customers based on how much data they let companies know about them.

An ideal example is sharing preferences about what places one wants to visit or has visited and overall satisfaction and experience with trips. Imagine having a single, secure, transparent and decentralized repository of travel preferences of all interested or potential travellers. It can boost up the efficiency of ad campaigns within the travel industry and beyond. A deadly combination would be a powerful AI predictive machine that elegantly predicts and pulls out customer-tailored smart trip deals for each customer! AI will have to fill the void and become the main value generating part of this plan.

When a token from a specific industry becomes the defacto standard replacement of fiat money and means of exchange in a particular business or domain–only then the true potential of digital currencies and their advantages will become obvious and get wider adoption worldwide. In our example with the travel industry, a travel token would become not only means of exchange for users data but also an investment instrument itself. How could this happen you ask? As more and more companies recognize the benefits of their own standard currency, the value of this token would rise substantially. This may attract lots of speculation, e.g. traders.

This travel token would also serve as the index, or rather a benchmark for the entire industry, e.g. what bitcoin has become for other crypto coins. Think travel token as the S&P500 of the travel industry.

It’s the end of 2017 and the dawn of new era. It’s about the time for the enterprise to level up and break free from traditional mindset of everything-has-to-be-centralized. Cryptocurrency will be the missing link in this new chain of business models. The chain of value and the chain for people, but before this happens, digital currencies will have to go through the typical stages of wild west and gold rush that it is now.