Look beyond crypto volatility to blockchain: VC

Lost by many in the latest cryptocurrency price volatility is the growing interest from the investment community not necessarily in the cryptocurrencies themselves but in the underlying technology making them possible – the blockchain.

That is what has caught the attention of Comcast Ventures, the venture fund of Comcast/NBC Universal, managing director Gil Beyda explained.

The founder and CTO of two tech startups and an investor and either board member or observer at more than one dozen others, Mr. Beyda is bullish on the blockchain.

“Our belief at ComcastVentures is irrespective of the price of Bitcoin, we still believe it is the fundamental technology around blockchain that has the potential to accelerate many of the initiates going around Comcast Ventures,” Mr. Beyda said.

It begins by understanding the workings of the underlying technology so you can look for innovative companies deploying it in exciting areas in which to invest, he said.

The attention paid to cryptocurrency pricing is both a blessing and a curse in this regard, as it attracts headlines but districts people from the importance of the underlying technology.

Mr. Beyda sees similarities to the internet’s early days, circa, 1994-95.

“The parallels I see to back then is people were figuring out what the internet meant. There was a bubble, but also sustainable innovation that came out when the dust settled.

“It doesn’t matter when the bubble bursts, we’re interested in the technology.”

The unique model of a consensus-driven ledger with no central authority enabling peer-to-peer transactions where participants don’t have to know each other is an attractive one that has the potential to foster new business concepts across a variety of sectors, Mr. Beyda believes.

There are several areas where Mr. Beyda sees interesting applications for the blockchain. Advertisers will benefit from innovations allowing them to plan and execute extremely targeted campaigns without actually sharing that data.

“Parties that own data want the ability to leverage and scale without actually sharing that data,” he explained.

Then there is the internet of things. Mr. Beyda sees the opportunity to create a unique blockchain-based ledger for each household that records data from all the devices in that home while allowing each device to enforce its own security and access. In that case, someone hacking into the webcam cannot access the rest of the home, just that device.

While there has been plenty of talk about allowing consumers to monetize their personal data, Mr. Beyda said while it is an interesting concept, he believes it is too early to tell if enough consumers will care enough to engage with the process.

Comcast Ventures recently invested alongside IBM, Boldstart Ventures and Galvanize in MState’s new growth lab for early stage blockchain starts to help them scale with Fortune 500 enterprises. Mr. Beyda said the concept of a blockchain-focused accelerator where companies are trying to solve real-world problems is an interesting one and is a great opportunity to find early stage companies, help them grow and develop solutions for issues facing Comcast’s companies.

“Venture capital, in general, can be a crystal ball,” Mr. Beyda said. “The earlier you look at companies, the further into the future you are seeing.

“Comcast Ventures has a unique role to play in this next generation of technology.”