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NYC Meetup - Full Summary!

Following up on my other post which shared only a few high level points I thought people would be interested in, here's a more in-depth summary of the meetup. THIS IS VERY LONG! I don't really have a TL;DR beyond my other short highlight thread, but I think there are some other high level summaries. This is for those who want a very thorough recap of what was discussed. I'm happy to update this with anything shared in the comments which I remember and think is additive to the summary, definitely didn't catch every single thing.
I'm leaving out a few talking points/questions that either 1) I didn't totally catch, 2) provided no incremental information or 3) were just bad questions (there were some).
Sunny's Speech
Sunny began with a history of blockchain, from the bitcoin whitepaper to the first few alt coins to the advent of Ethereum. He then went on to discuss the extent to which these various stages involved meaningful/useful innovation: original alt coins did not, ethereum of course did, but is heavily flawed for enterprise use. He then went on to discuss what those primary flaws are and how VeChain is trying to solve them (scalability, governance, cost, etc.) He noted that technology is not blockchain's biggest obstacle, it's adoption. He talked about how, although some people will tell him to "get lost or something" he doesn't really believe in full decentralization. I think his point was that although it's nice in theory, it just isn't really practical, and it's a bad approach in particular for trying to get this new blockchain technology adopted in the mainstream. This goes back to something he said in another interview at some point - you can't just come in with totally new, radical technology outside the existing framework and replace everything that exists from the outside. You have to start within the existing framework, show people what's possible, and then change the system from the inside out.
He went on to discuss what he sees as problems with some of the existing projects. Talked about how projects in the top 20 have ecosystems worth 2 billion dollars, hold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of their own tokens to be used for the project's development etc., but they don't have a CFO. He thinks that should concern people.
I don't remember exactly where it fit in the narrative, but he discussed valuation/speculation. He pointed out that they have a number of their university research partners trying to work out token valuation models. He made a general point that more utility should equal more value, the implication being VeChain will have more real utility (and should therefore have more value) than any other blockchain. They had a slide showing some calculations and pointed out that if you look at the known metrics, the dividends, etc., the price of Google's stock is 85.7% speculation. Only $161 of it's $1,128 value (at the time they ran these numbers) can be tied to the current value. For Tencent, it's 93.5% speculation. He jokingly pointed out that in crypto it's about 99.99%, but I think one of the unspoken points here is that it's silly to think that on mainnet launch speculation about the future value is going to go away and you'll just have token value based on current Thor production. That isn't how markets or valuation work.
He then basically mocked people complaining about the code not yet being open source, and there being no whitepaper - the people who think these are red flags and that the project might be a 'scam'. As if PwC and DNV GL didn't do extensive diligence.
On this point, I'll quote GarzyWarzy from another thread:
"Sunny mentioned that the crypto community as a whole doesn’t seem to appreciate the level of reputational risk that these multi billion dollar enterprise partners take by publicly backing a blockchain startup (“what do people think would happen if PwC backed us and we failed in 6 months?”). As an investment banker who deals extensively with corporate governance issues and every type of business risk imaginable, I will add my two cents that this risk is massive and that is it a clear sign of extensive diligence and extreme trust in the VeChain team to execute their business plan for developing their ecosystem. Always remember, “it takes many years to build a reputation, and seconds to ruin it”."
I'm a corporate lawyer and couldn't agree with this more. The people who think a whitepaper (which they likely wouldn't even understand) is more reassuring than the endorsement by DNV GL, PwC, Draper and Breyer (who would never, ever make such an investment without extensive due diligence) have no idea how things work in the corporate world. DNV GL and PwC are recommending VeChain to clients, and Draper and Breyer have made investments through their funds, where they have a fiduciary duty to the investors in those funds. The amount of diligence that occurs before taking those reputational and legal (negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, etc.) risks is truly exhaustive.
Back to adoption, Sunny went on to compare blockchain to TCP/IP, as he's done in the past. Most people use email every day, but do they care about TCP/IP? Of course not. Blockchain will be the protocol infrastructure for things people use every day, whether they know it or not.
At this point, continuing to talk about adoption and use cases, he mentioned that they signed a top 3 insurance company in China as a client, and he also mentioned a CRM use case that's in the works.
He said the whitepaper will be out in a few days, and will explain a lot of what they're doing/what they're trying to do, and what some of the use cases are. They are focused on developing as many practical use cases as possible - this is how you get adoption. Once the use cases are defined, you can start "developing killer dApps" in relation to them. I think this is, to some degree, a subtle shot at Ethereum - his point here being that developing lots of dApps on a platform doesn't really mean much unless those dApps actually relate to a practical, defined real world use cases which ensures they will be used and adopted.
The whitepaper took so long because, in Sunny's words, his "english sucks" and after he wrote it, his teams needed to double, triple, and quadruple review/edit/refine what he wrote so that it is in professional english.
Back to adoption, he stated there are around 13/14 crypto projects they are working with who intend to use VeChain (either porting over from Ethereum or launching an ICO on the platform. More on this in the Q&A section). One of them is a company that already generates $50 million/month in revenue and want to 'blockchain-ize' their business. He pointed out here this is a company that isn't just interested in padding their coffers - they have money, that isn't an issue. These are the types of projects they like to work with. They aren't interested in being a 'shitcoin generator' (this was said by Sunny in the Q&A and got a laugh and round of applause). Last point on this, he noted that BitOcean is taking so long because the "Japanese government are being assholes". That's a direct quote. Sunny is hilarious. I can't overstate how likable he is - he comes off as a down to earth, cool, funny and easy going guy.
Kevin's Speech
Next, Kevin spoke. This was a short update on authority nodes and the mainnet. He mentioned that most projects have masternodes as basically a marketing tool, they aren't that meaningful or necessary. VeChain's authority masternodes are essential to the ecosystem. You can not become an authority node if you can not meaningfully contribute to growing the ecosystem. There is no room for negotiation on this. They aren't interested in having random people running validating authority nodes for profit and nothing else. As far as the application process, they received over 100 applications and are expecting more (authority node application and monitoring process will be ongoing to make sure VeChain has the best authority nodes possible and that each node is continuing to fulfill all of its obligations). As far as the applicant pool, they were about 71% enterprise, 29% individual. About 52% China, 23% America, then a mix of HK, Singapore, Japan, and others.
He then addressed the mainnet. Internal testing is done, they are now moving on to the public alpha testing, which is by invite only and is not the open source phase. This phase starts today and includes a number of professional firms auditing the code: PwC's cybersecurity team, secureware.io, Slow Mist, and Hosho. They will also be putting a bug bounty on Hacken eventually, finding a critical vulnerability could get you up to 2000 VEN tokens. This private testing will go on for a few weeks, before the public testing begins in early June which involves the code becoming open source - as of now, they expect it to start in the first week or two of June.
Then, he announced the 1 VEN to 100 VET token split. The example he gave was talking to friends about buying Bitcoin - some responded "it's already $8000, I can't buy a bitcoin I can't afford it". Kevin would respond, well actually you can buy .001 bitcoin if you want... and then they'd lose interest. I think what he's getting at is they want to be prepared for years down the road when demand is enormous - they don't want people dealing in fractions. Yes, I'm also sure they are aware of the implications for this in terms of price and the attractiveness of a 5 cent token verses a 5 dollar token. I don't deny that. Look at fucking Tron.
The Q&A Session
Someone asked about how the authority nodes will be monitored. Kevin explained there will be a dedicated team for this. They are serious about having the highest quality authority nodes and holding them to the standards they expect. There will be a quarterly review process, and any issues will be brought to the Steering Committee, which may decide to remove/replace an authority nodeholder if they aren't contributing and fulfilling their obligations. He noted that the whitepaper will include a thorough section on their governance model.
Question about it being difficult, currently, for companies (especially in the west) to find out how to contact them and work with them. What are VeChain's plans in terms of a business development team, marketing, etc. Sunny explained that while obviously they'll have an internal BD team, and this is being built out, they also want to heavily leverage the resources of the community. In a way, the community will be a giant business development team, and they will create standard toolkits for the community to use to market/introduce VeChain to people in the first instance. The guy then asked what if I got you Pfizer - that's enormous, what's my incentive? Sunny responded there will be rewards in VET tokens for bringing them clients.
I don't remember what the exact question was, but it was noted at this point that although the private, consortium chain is an Ethereum fork, the mainnet was built from scratch and is not an Ethereum fork. They did intentionally use the Ethereum Virtual Machine, though, so that Ethereum dApps can be easily ported over to VeChain. It sounds like they expect this to happen quite a bit. They also talked about how they went through the web3 libraries and 80% will be able to work directly with VeChain. They want interoperability, compatibility, and ultimately, an easy transition for Ethereum developers and dApps.
Someone asked about them building out their own IoT business or letting others do the IoT work. Sunny talked about how he believes IoT is the way to connect blockchain to the physical world. There was a story not worth sharing about why they initially acquired an IoT team, but he gave this example: when Apple first released the app store and the ability to develop, nobody knew how or used it. So, Apple built the apps themselves and basically showed everybody what was possible and how to do it by example. So too will VeChain take this approach. They are partnering with IoT manufacturers and developing some of their own IoT solutions, and they'll continue to do this, but the point isn't to dominate IoT. They are showing the world by example what can be done in terms of IoT on the VeChain platform, and they ultimately want people/enterprises to be able to create their own value and their own IoT solutions on the VeChain blockchain. Anyone who wants to do so will be able to.
Question about enterprises buying once the enterprise pool runs out - what happens if enterprises aren't comfortable doing what all of us have done (wiring money to a fiat gateway exchange, buying bitcoin/ethereum, moving it to binance, buying in the market, transferring out of binance, etc.). Kevin isn't really worried about this. They are talking to exchanges and service providers about it, they're talking to Circle about fiat pairing, etc., but realistically Kevin can see that exchanges are becoming more advanced and that ultimately they will be institutionalized in a way that basically just mitigates this concern.
Question about storage of VET tokens after mainnet. There will be a mobile wallet launch at the exact same time. This mobile wallet will 1) facilitate the token swap from VEN to VET (most people will probably do this on exchanges, but eventually you'll be able to do it in the mobile wallet if you missed doing it on an exchange), 2) have a module that shows you what kind of node you are, 3) automatically receive your generated Thor, and 4) eventually allow you to hold other ERC-20 tokens. They also mentioned that although they're talking to ledger, etc. they are developing their own hardware wallet. Kevin explained this is essential for enterprises serving as authority nodes or holding large amounts of VET. They aren't going online and ordering a ledger and setting it up. VeChain needs to be able to provide this service and assurance for them, and they will. This is why these guys are lightyears ahead in terms of enterprise adoption. They've thought about these things.
Question about 'competitors' like Waltonchain. First, Sunny goes "who?" and Kevin goes "what's Waltonchain?" But then Sunny went on by saying the "right" thing - there are no competitors in such a fledgling industry. He would love to hold hands with the other blockchain projects trying to do good things, and walk into the future together. He thinks projects can learn from each other and help each other. They aren't trying to crush competitors or beat anyone or anything like that. However, Sunny also jokingly asked "Seriously, why do people think Waltonchain is our competitor? We are what, 15th biggest project, and they are...?" He also went on to say that he is judging some competition or tech demo later this month on the 26th-28th, and that Waltonchain is the demo product. He thinks this is sort of funny, but also said if their product is great and the demo is good, there is no reason he wouldn't support them, vote for them, etc.
Question about Breyer and Draper relationships. Draper is invested in many cryptocurrency projects and many companies, has tons of connections, and he gives VeChain a way of talking to all of those projects/companies. Breyer was the one who set them up with the research team at a Chinese university, he was the link to Circle to discuss fiat onramps, etc. The connections these guys bring are tremendous. I should note here that in a small group conversation with Kevin during the networking portion after the speeches, which was initiated by GarzyWarzy (perhaps he can elaborate further), he confirmed that Breyer and Draper are both meaningfully invested in tokens, not just equity of the technology portion of the company.
Some clown actually used up time to ask "is CCK here?" Sunny said someone asked him this at Harvard also, and he was absolutely adamant that he doesn't know who this person is or how they are getting the information they have. He did not comment on it beyond that. He clearly thought it was a dumb question and said seriously that once and for all, he really doesn't know who it is.
Question about how many projects will be running on the mainnet day 1. Sunny said it's hard to say for sure, but that there are currently between 20 and 25 use cases deployed on the consortium chain, all of which will be moved over in the first few months. He also mentioned the 15ish crypto projects that will be moving over to or launching on the platform, and the fact that their client pipeline is now over 250. He transitioned a bit from this point to discuss how they "don't want to be a shitcoin generator". If you come to them with a project that is just an ICO with a whitepaper and no product, no proof of concept, etc., they're not going to want you to launch that. They would rather invest in you if they think you're a good project, help you develop those things, prove out what you're trying to do, then help you launch a serious ICO or dApp with a real use case. Again, they are all about practical use cases, this is the path to adoption. That said, the project will be open source ("you guys asked for open source, so") there will be some shitcoins, it's unavoidable.
I think that covers most of what I remember. Hope you all enjoy!
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