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Innovation

«Switzerland ranks in the world's top three countries for Blockchain technology»

Explanations of Vincent Pignon, Blockchain advisor to the State of Geneva and founder of WeCan.Fund.

«Switzerland is extremely well located on the Blockchain map», explains Vincent Pignon, Blockchain adviser to the State of Geneva and founder of WeCan.Fund.

Le Temps: Today, a lot of people talk about Blockchain, is it a sustainable innovation or a fashion effect?

Vincent Pignon:

This technology is going to revolutionize all transactions; it is the 2.0 version of Web. The first information revolution happened with the Internet, now Blockchain technology is going to transform transactions by removing intermediaries. Take financial transactions for instance: it will soon be possible to bypass intermediaries such as MasterCard, Maestro or PayPal, through the use of crypto-currencies in peer-to-peer mode. This evolution is fundamental.

As a result, one can imagine that many major actors will disappear...

Yes. Take the case of Uber for example. This company wants to replace a highly centralized system, taxis, with another system that organizes the market and levies commissions. However, in the same time, new players are emerging and are threatening Uber or AirBnb by allowing transactions without a central player. AirBnb smelt the lurking and recently decided to hire several Blockchain specialists.

How is Switzerland positioned?

Switzerland, and more particularly Geneva, is one of the world leaders in this technology. The first factor is that both public and private sectors are taking many initiatives. Dubai and the United Kingdom have developed Blockchain strategies, which Geneva is also working on. I think Switzerland ranks in the world's top three countries for Blockchain technology. In addition, many major players are coming to Switzerland to obtain financing through ICOs [new means of raising funds, halfway between the IPO and crowdfunding, ndlr]. One third of the ten largest ICOs took place in Switzerland, which is a very fertile ground for Blockchain. We have to maintain this position of world leader, I am very optimistic.

Will Swiss companies disappear because of the Blockchain?

What we see today are actors who want to adapt themselves. The commodity trading sector examines Blockchain to optimize transaction flows: this sector still works with paper documents sent by mail, resulting in very long delays. These contracts are now digitalized and financial flows become much faster. I think Swiss companies are adapting quickly.

Are companies making money with Blockchain, since intermediaries tend to disappear?

Vincent Pignon: Take the case of Arcade City who attacks Uber with Blockchain technology. It does not know yet how it is going to monetize this service. It is a bit like Google in the beginning: it did not know how to make money. We know what happened next... Blockchain creates jobs in Switzerland. But eventually, many tasks will be robotized.

Are all sectors concerned by Blockchain?

I would be tempted to say yes. Of course there are variations, but the finance and real estate sectors, in which transaction costs are high, are directly affected. As the Health and trade sectors. In Geneva, several watchmakers already accept to be paid in Bitcoins. In the medium and long terms, Blockchain will interfere in all economic sectors. Under the political impulse of Pierre Maudet, Blockchain recently made its debut in the Geneva administration through the commercial register.

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