Anne Connelly has been in the blockchain space for the past 5 years. After first learning about bitcoin on Twitter in 2012, she became involved in the Toronto blockchain scene.
She’s since been involved in numerous blockchain projects. Connolly is currently the ixo Network Lead, where she manages the growth of ixo and their network through communications, partnerships, and fundraising.
You were selected by Singularity University as 1 of 80 participants in their Global Solutions Program. How do you see blockchain technology as a solution to the sea of problems facing the world?
Singularity is focused on solutions that leverage exponential technology to solve problems that impact 1 billion people or more. By using an exponential mindset to tackle grand global challenges, you look for solutions that will achieve 10x the impact.
Blockchain technology gives us that same ability – to disrupt the systems we have in a way that can eliminate whole problem sets, instead of seeing 10 percent improvement. Blockchain is able to add trust in ways that will remove corrupt centralized actors and add transparency to the world.
What are some of the projects you’ve been involved with in the past?
I’ve always been passionate about blockchain applications in developing contexts. One of my first projects in the space was a remittance corridor from Canada to the Philippines that used bitcoin from the sender’s side but delivered cash to the recipient.
You’ve worked on a project to provide smart-contract insurance to African farmers. What are your views on blockchain’s potential in third-world countries?
This was an idea from the Consensus Hackathon earlier this year. We looked at how we could leverage smart contracts and data from NASA satellites to insure smallholder farmers in Kenya. We were one of the winners of the SwissRe prize but didn’t take it farther from there.
I think blockchain’s greatest impact will be seen in developing countries. Many companies who are working on deeply transformative initiatives – like decentralized judicial systems or governments – are testing their models in locations where these systems are already broken. It’s much easier to build an innovative system from scratch than to try to replace an existing one.
Adoption of cryptocurrencies will be high in developing contexts as well because their financial systems are often broken and corrupt, meaning there are real problems that cryptocurrency can solve; whereas in many Western countries, people have access to a relatively well-functioning financial system.
You’ve served as Head of Business Development at Ledger Labs, Canada’s leading blockchain services firm. What key industry observations did you make during your time there?
It was wonderful to work with the incredible team at Ledger Labs – they are truly at the forefront of the technology and building some transformational innovations in the space.
The key thing to know about the blockchain industry is that it changes at an unprecedented pace. If your business isn’t investigating how the technology will change your industry, it’s almost certain you’ll be disrupted.
And if you’re building in the space, the regulatory environment can change drastically, communication channels adapt to community needs, and competition pops up out of nowhere. You will not succeed if you are not agile.
In the 5 years you’ve been in blockchain, how have you seen the industry change, and what are your thoughts on where it’s headed?
Before, it was easy to know everyone in the space and what they were working on. In the past year, the industry has absolutely exploded. There are dozens of ICOs every day and we’re seeing more industry incumbents looking to incorporate the technology into their operations.
In the coming months, I think we’ll see demand for a higher level of crowd-sourced diligence in the ICO space. Investors will no longer throw their money at any coin on the market. We will also see an influx of talent as people realize the market gap for human resources we have right now.
What excites you about the work the ixo Foundation is creating?
ixo is using blockchain to solve one of the world’s most significant challenges – access to trusted data. What excites me the most is that we’re applying our technology to the impact sector. More than $1 trillion is spent on the sustainable development goals every year, but that’s less than half of the funding we need to actually achieve them by 2030. Access to data through ixo will enable organizations to optimize their impact and bring more impact investments into the space.
In your opinion, what will it take for blockchain to go mainstream?
Blockchain developers need to keep ordinary people in mind when designing applications. UX/UI is important and needs to be friendly enough for the average person to easily use.
Are you personally invested in blockchain technologies?
Of course. I’ve invested my time, my money, and my brain into this space since 2012. I prefer to spend my time building blockchain businesses rather than day trading, but I’m in it for the long haul.