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A Practical Guide to ETH Denver 2020

ETH Denver is bringing together blockchain stakeholders to find real-world use cases for the emerging technology


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Photo by Austin Wright.

Colorado has been rapidly evolving as a hotbed for technology companies. From Denver and Boulder to Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, tech startups are popping up as fast as international tech companies (like Google and Twitter) are opening up offices. And as such, the state has become a hub for emerging technologies such as blockchain. 

For this reason, ETH Denver — pronounced eeth or ehth, and short for the cryptocurrency Ethereum — started in 2018 to bring together blockchain stakeholders to find real-life use cases for the promising technology. The event was born out of a meetup, where “the enthusiasm and interest for the emerging technology [blockchain] was pretty amazing,” says John Paller, founder and executive steward of ETH Denver. 

This year’s free event kicks off Friday, Feb. 14 (and carries through Sunday, Feb 16) and is expected to bring together around 3,000 developers, technologists, makers, crypto-economists, coders and designers for a hackathon weekend, to cement Colorado as a thriving hub of blockchain innovation. At past ETH Denver events, there have been attendees from over 20 countries and over 25 U.S. states. 

ColoradoBiz sat down with Paller to get the inside scoop on the weekend including tips for attending, must-attend panels and sessions and ways to get the most of ETH Denver. 

What is ETH Denver?

ETH Denver, while having many components of a conference, is not a conference, Paller says. 

“If I were to say ETH Denver is anything, community gathering isn’t even really a good description. That's probably halfway there,” he says. “I would say it’s a Web 3 or futuristic experience of blockchain technology.” (Web 3 is the internet software that is required to interact with applications built on blockchain and other decentralized technology.) 

The event (or experience) is also referred to as a hackathon due to the purpose of the event. Over the course of the three days, attendees are encouraged to contribute to the global blockchain with a “hack,” which refers to a rapidly prototyped project that you put together in a short amount of time. These hacks include building centralized applications, contributing to infrastructure development projects, writing documentation/tutorials/white-papers, designing user interfaces/user experiences (UI/UX) or infographics. 

Past ETH Denver participants have taken their event prototypes and turned them into actualized projects and products. This includes two projects that have come back in 2020 as sponsors: Pool Together, a decentralized savings lottery system/game, and Proof of Attendance Patch (POAP), which gives both digital and printed proof of event attendance. Another project that was initiated at ETH Denver and has returned as a usable product is Burner Wallet, which is an end-to-end crypto payment system for food trucks (the event itself has a dozen parked outside). 

Attendees are invited to participate in any way they want, but to help guide the projects ETH Denver has four event tracks, though participants can engage in any combination of the tracks. 

The four event tracks

Photo by Austin Wright. 

Open Track 

“The open track is sort of ‘build what you want,’” Paller says. “We have technical experts and judges that are influencers from all over the world that are going to come and review projects. The community this year will also take part in voting on the winners for the open track.” 

Impact Track

The impact track focuses on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Projects on this track are directed at solving one of the global problems identified by the UN with a blockchain technology solution. This track is for “thinking about the future of humanity and how we can improve it by using tools like blockchain to better organize and optimize outcomes for all people,” Paller says. 

Exploration Track

This track was created new this year to involve new participants, or the crypto-curious, more efficiently. According to Paller, at past year’s events, there were a number of attendees who were interested in the technology and community, but not quite ready to work on a project. With the new Exploration Track, attendees can “accelerate their learning [about blockchain] in a more structured way,” he says. 

Bounty Track

As a free event, ETH Denver is completely funded by its sponsors. The Bounty Track allows the sponsors to engage the ETH community in building projects and solving problems (for cash prizes). “It’s a win-win-win for everybody,” Paller says. 

New this year

While the days will be filled with a lot of technical workshops, panels and keynote speeches — all culminating with a day of project submissions, judging and exhibitions on sunday (complete with an award ceremony)  there are a few things new this year that you don't want to miss. 

The State of Colorado came on as a presenting sponsor for ETH Denver this year. According to Paller, this is an indicator that the state government wants to make Colorado a “destination of choice for blockchain innovations,” modernizing the state to “better handle data, identity and other related public goods that actually create a better ecosystem moving forward.”  As such, a number of state legislators, influencers and policy makers as well as attorneys and investors will be participating in the Saturday afternoon panel series. 

Plus, don't miss a speech from Gov. Jared Polis himself on Friday, Feb. 14 from 5 to 6 p.m. Gov. Polis previously established a blockchain caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives and will speak on the possibilities for blockchain in Colorado. 

Also, throughout the whole event, participants will be encouraged to participate in a live video game application (made by, you guessed it, blockchain technology) where you gain experience points (used to get extra votes in the final competition) based on your participation at the event. 

Need to know

Event attendees should bring their laptop, phone and willingness to learn. “My encouragement is just come and explore, don't be intimidated, don't be scared, no one expects anything from you, no one 's going to try to sell you anything,” Paller says. “Bring your learning cap because we have over 100 hours of free educational content.”

Plus, if you’re unable to attend, ETH Denver will be livestreaming the panels and keynotes on their website. 

ETH Denver is taking place Friday, Feb. 14 through Sunday, Feb. 16 at the Denver Sports Castle (1000 Broadway, Denver). A full list of ETH Denver’s speakers can be found here. To register for the event’s waitlist, click here.

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Ali Longwell

Ali Longwell is the digital editor at ColoradoBiz. She has also written for SDxCentral, a B2B online technology publication, as well as Denver-area lifestyle magazines 5280, Denver Life Magazine, Avid Lifestyle and more. She can be reached at alongwell@cobizmag.com

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