In just a little under 2 years, a startup known as  “ConsenSys” crept up to become a global leader in the blockchain and digital currency space.

The company is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, with half its team distributed across the world including Toronto, Canada. Still a ‘startup,’ the organization is already regarded as a pioneer within the digital currency space.

The organization has three main arms that work in tandem with one another: ConsenSys Systems, ConsenSys Ventures, and ConsenSys Academy.

Founder Joseph Lubin is a Canadian entrepreneur whose claim to fame is co-founding the Ethereum Foundation. After helping to establish its base in ‘Cryptovalley’ in Zug, Switzerland, Lubin proceeded to build upon the Ethereum ecosystem. His vision for the work is “to create simplified and automated decentralized applications (dApps) to facilitate peer-to-peer transactions and exchanges”.

ConsenSys Systems

This division comprises of a hub-and-spoke model of blockchain software with over 30 products. Each product looks at a different way to expand, improve, and utilize Ethereum blockchain. 

The “hub”-based solutions or core components of ConsenSys Systems comprises of what they call “essential elements” of their business. They make general products such as a wallet called LightWallet, a platform-as-a-service called BlockApps, an infrastructure-as-a-service called Infura, digital identity platform called UPort, a development framework called Truffle, etc.

These products can also be considered as foundational work. There’s an explicit focus on using these products to improve the core blockchain technology. This is why each solution deals with technical concepts such as Know-Your-Customer (KYC), software libraries, clients and servers, APIs, and security & scalability.

The “spoke”-based solutions are more industry-focused, including but not limited to a music-tech product called UJO Music, a green-tech product called Grid+, and a gov-tech product called BoardRoom. There are also a few fintech products called Balanc3 (accounting & finance), Gnōsis (prediction-markets), EthereEx (an Ethereum-based digital currency exchange), EtherLoan (crowdloaning), and Weifund (crowdfunding).

All this wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for Ethereum as all these projects are built on top of it. From B2B to B2C, ConsenSys considers the entire professional world as a playground or sandbox for their work on the Ethereum blockchain.

ConsenSys Ventures

This division is the venture capital arm of the organization. Its express purpose is to finance breakthrough blockchain companies. Currently, ConsenSys Ventures possesses a $50 million fund.

Investment specialist Kavita Gupta leads ConsenSys Ventures, and believes that initial coin offerings (ICOs) still have a lot to learn from traditional venture capital. Gupta, who won the UN Social Finance Innovator Award of the year 2015, is particularly interested in blockchain projects with social and environmental inclinations.

Just three months after its launch, the fund has made its first four investments in Berlin, including a blockchain-based sweepstakes company (Pryze), a blockchain-based esports betting service (Unikrn), a lending platform to provide liquidity for digital currency investors (BlockFi), and a security project to protect crypto-applications (undisclosed).

Each startup that ConsenSys Ventures backed is led by seasoned entrepreneurs in the blockchain space. BlockFi founder Zac Prince, for example, is a serial entrepreneur. He previously founded a lending platform for the underbanked called Cognical. Additionally, esports betting service Unikrn already raised $25 million from Mark Cuban in its September token sale and is spearheaded by by former Microsoft Bing Ventures investor Rahul Sood.

Moving forward, ConsenSys Ventures aims to focus on Ethereum-based startups but could make investments on other blockchain platforms if it had scale.

ConsenSys Academy

This division is a blockchain education platform with the mission of bridging the Ethereum knowledge gap and revolutionizing education through blockchain technology.

Traditional education programs cannot keep up with the rapidly developing pace of Ethereum and blockchain as a whole.

Akshi Federici, executive director of strategic projects, believes that ConsenSys Academy will be a main driver for blockchain technology advancements. Perhaps this statement is aspirational as well, given the shortage of people who have a blockchain development skill-set.

Over the last six months, Federici and her team divided their curriculum in three main areas. A developer program focuses on immersive training for the Ethereum blockchain. A second pillar partners with top business schools globally to host an MBA Venture Plan Competition. The third pillar brings a CLE-certified “Blockchain 101” course for lawyers, which launches in December 2017.

2018 Outlook

Thessy Mehrain, a director of product and innovation at ConsenSys and the founder of “Women in Blockchain” New York, shares the following perspective:

2017 saw the rise of new tokens and funds, with the largest increase in global blockchain participants of any year. As 2018 approaches, there’s a need to continue educating new participants in the blockchain ecosystem.

ConsenSys’ focus for 2018 and beyond will be to uphold its growing responsibilities as a purveyor of this revolutionary technology.

For Mehrain, a more just future means that profit must expand to include both monetary and social gains. She will therefore aim to steer ConsenSys towards that better future.

 

Image credit: ConsenSys

 

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