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Digigram Newsletter of July 2019!

Thank you

Thank you to the more than 4000 of you who saw my first Digigram. I am surprised, delighted and very humbled. And I appreciate all of you who gave me your comments and feedback, I will try to incorporate them.

Please enjoy a wonderful summer, happy reading and ‘till soon, Gert

Hot Technology: Blockchain, look beyond the noise and it’s very real!

Every now and then a technology appears that is so intriguing that it spikes fantasies of what it is, does and all the things it might make possible: Examples are the Internet, GSM mobile telephony, or social media. And no doubt, Blockchain is such a technology, too: Oh, the hype and oh, the claims of all that it will do, and oh, the fears of all it will replace: Agencies, banks, currencies, jobs, “everything!”

Screenshot of the original Blockchain/Bitcoin white paper of May 24, 2009, the “birth certificate” of Blockchain (Source:

While the fantasies run wild with every up and down of cryptocurrency prices, these are just one use of Blockchain technology. I observe something completely different: Away from the noise and hype, Blockchain has matured into a solid IT technology that is used to solve previously unsolvable problems and produces increasingly novel applications.

And the Blockchain startup scene is alive and kicking. Here are two use cases of Blockchains that exemplify this:

SyraCoin, citizens crowd-fund city services in exchange for tokens. By City of Syracuse, NY and

Citizens of Syracuse, NY, can now donate money to help out other citizens in need, e.g. those in danger of being evicted from their homes. The donors receive “SyraCoin”-tokens in return, which they can use to buy city services such as transit or to shop at local participating businesses. This creates the first-ever “municipal token economy”. Vite Lab’s hosted Blockchain platform was used to create this ingenious solution to bring together parties, who otherwise would never meet and who have few reasons to trust each other: Citizens in trouble and landlords, city caseworkers and local businesses as well as ordinary citizens willing to pay for services in a new way.

I find the SyraCoin a beautiful example of how Blockchain technology enables completely new solutions.

For more information contact Luke Kim, CMO, at Vite Labs in San Francisco:

Oh, and the app is beautiful, too!

Screenshot of Vite Lab’s IOS App for SyraCoin users (Source: Vite presentation)

PlayTable, board games and trading cards reimagined

Products combining hard- and software have always been attractive to me because of my past in hardware and because this mix often lends itself to particularly interesting business models. Now imagine a very large tablet that can detect objects placed onto it thanks to RF-ID. And each of these objects is completely and unfalsifiably unique because each is one block of a Blockchain.

Screenshot of PlayTable’s game with an interactive tablet and gaming pieces (Source:

What results is a gaming platform where you can play in a virtual environment by using real playing pieces. Where playing pieces can be loaded with unique awards that can be bought, sold or traded with others. And where you can buy and sell the playing pieces. And no cheating possible! This is a new gaming category halfway between online-only computer games and old school offline-only board or card games. And highly social because it involves personal interactions facilitated by the tablet. I can see lots of interesting new games coming our way. Fancy a CryptoKitty you can pet and keep in your pocket? Now you can! And the principle can, of course, be applied to serious applications such as education, test-taking, simulations or professional training. What a clever use of Blockchain to reinvent traditional games, many of which have had a hard time since the arrival of electronic gaming! The combination of the different hard- and software elements results in a new level of interactions. 

For more information contact John Dempsey, Founder & CEO, at PlayTable in San Francisco:

New trend: XaaS stands for everything as a service!

A very common form of disruption is to “virtualize” traditional business models by moving them to the internet. Email sent letters with an electronic service, displacing the physical letter monopoly by the postal services, iTunes sold single pieces of music in a download service, displacing the CD records industry, Airbnb did the same to the hotel industry, Uber to the taxi industry, Netflix et al to cable TV, Amazon AWS to the computer server industry. Companies that escaped disruption by virtualized services realized that they needed to jump on the “as-a-service”-bandwagon before being displaced by yet another outside company: Microsoft’s Office 365 and Adobe’s Creative Cloud are such examples. Both were once sold as CDs in a box and now they are sold as subscription services and with features that can be activated online only. 

What is next for this trend? What comes after “software as a service”, “entertainment as a service”, “hospitality as a service”, “mobility as a service”? 

I believe that technologies today enable everything to be offered in a service model: The “virtualizing” of assets and packaging them as a service.

Even factories can be operated in a service model:

Machines need not be sold anymore – they can charge their users for the service of a unit produced. And machines can order spare parts that they need, just in time, when they need them. Machines can even check the authenticity of spare parts by using automated smart contracts. And charge for the spare parts at the moment when they start producing. And the tools used to install the spare part charge their owner for each use. The same for software updates, ordering & executing preventive maintenance and even for the financing of entire production lines. This is not a scenario for the future. Companies already deliver on this and the technologies that make it possible include IoT protocol standards, long-range low power wireless data, Blockchain, and supply chain solutions and providers.

I recently saw the Berlin-based startup ZkSystems pitch at the demo day of the University of California, Berkeley’s Blockchain accelerator and they proposed parts of the scenario above. They presented a use case of a nutrunner, a tool used to tighten screws in the production of cars. This nutrunner has a Wi-Fi connection and writes data to a Blockchain to track precise usage data used for quality and parts tracing purposes. And course to charge the car manufacturer for each manipulation and the parts used. And all this happens automatically and without adding any expensive manual labor.

When even a humble screwdriver can charge its user for services provided and at the same time record impermeable quality data, we have truly reached the age of XaaS, everything-as-a-service.

For more information contact Diana Rees, Co-founder & CEO, at ZkSystems, Berlin:

Top of the Month

Congratulations to Scoot, a pioneer in the electric moped rental space, for the acquisition by Bird, the electric scooter rental heavyweight.

Meet me here:

Meet me in Berkeley from next month. I am excited to have been appointed an Entrepreneurship Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley. I wanted to continue to teach part-time ever since moving back to California and I couldn’t be happier to do it in Berkeley. Check out my first course here!

What’s on my table?

Summer reading: “Make Elephants Fly. The process of radical innovation” by Steven S. Hoffman.

University reading in preparation for my course at UC Berkeley: “The Road to Mori” and “The Untouchables” by my co-lecturer, Prof. Solomon Darwin.


  1. Hi Gert,

    Great Newsletter, keep up the good work and innovation. Looking to catch up one of these days. Met up some ex-Nokia San Diego guy yesterday.



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