TiE Silicon Valley Blockchain and AI Summit, 2021

Prakash Narayan-


TiE Silicon Valley conducted a (virtual) Blockchain and AI Summit on October 14, 2021. The event was emceed by TiE Charter (and Board) Members: Mini Suri, CEO, Velmeni and Radhika Iyengar, CEO Barlea Corp and Founding Partner, StarChain Ventures. The Summit was intended to shine a spotlight on the convergence in technology between Blockchain and AI and the transformative power that both technologies have in various sectors.

Radhika Iyengar gave the opening keynote address where she framed the context for the panel discussions. She started by talking about the six aspects that are driving Blockchain:

  1. Secure source of truth. Given that we are dealing with a lot of fake things in today’s world, Blockchain offers a secure, single source of truth.
  2. Shared ledger across untrusting parties. The truth is shared across untrusting parties – people that do not know each other. Since everyone has access to the shared ledger and can see all the transactions a high degree of trust gets established.
  3. Automation of decentralized transactions. Here, information is spread across a network with multiple nodes, and everything is automated.
  4. Tokenization of everything. Here good behavior and honesty is incentivized.
  5. Open Source Opensea is a prime example of how developers build on each other’s work to build a powerful platform for NFT.

When talking about the value proposition of Blockchain, one can contrast with Web 2.0 Cloud solutions. Two of the central tenets of Blockchain are Security and Privacy. Even if audits exist in a centralized, Web 2.0 system, they can be modified. Another fundamental tenet of Blockchain is that the data is immutable. Records cannot be updated or deleted. They can only be amended – with the full audit trail.

So, Blockchain is based on three different attributes:

  1. Internet of Trust – it is a shared truth
  2. Internet of Value – with secure, rapid transactions
  3. Internet of Identity – where you have unique identifiers that are based on decentralized identifiers (DIDs). Since we own our data, we can provide selective access and disclosure of our data to any entity securely and privately

In a sense, this Digital Identity is the cornerstone of just about everything that we do

When talking about the convergence of Blockchain and AI, Blockchain brings the secured and trusted data element for the data, AI and ML provide intelligence, actionable insights and predictive analytics around the data.

Blockchain has already been adopted by major companies across the globe. Here is the Forbes 50 Blockchain – which includes many of the leading brands in the world:

The use cases and discussions around Blockchain and AI were focused around various areas:

  1. Financial Services – the value of DeFi alone is in 100s of billions. Central banks are moving towards digital currencies. Banks are engaged in Blockchain-based trade finance.
  2. Social Good – doing things for a better future for our planet with enterprises like Plastic bank and Agriledger.
  3. Health Care – pharmaceutical firms are reimagining their supply chains. Also, companies looking at improving patient case through Blockchain based systems.
  4. Supply Chain – the issues that the world faced in the global supply chain during the pandemic can be transformed and solved with Blockchain-based systems. The importance of the value of this is epitomized by Nestle and Carrefour placing baby milk formula in the Blockchain to prevent counterfeit baby formula. Knowing the provenance of where goods come from is important to consumers – especially given the salmonella outbreaks that we constantly hear of.
  5. NFT and Metaverse – there is now a brand-new way of engaging with digital assets and digital content. This is empowering the creator economy and artists to finally get their due. The essentials of ownership, authenticity and provenance that are key for artists are the cornerstones of Blockchain

Immediately following the opening keynote was a fireside chat between Prasad Rao, Chairman and CEO, Pridevel Group and Sandeep Nailwal, Co-founder & Chief Operations Officer at Polygon – a leading platform for scalable and secure decentralized applications.

For a person that literally rescued the Etherum platform (a decentralized public ledger for verifying and recording transactions), Sandeep came across as an extremely humble, down-to-earth person. Prasad Rao did a wonderful job in getting Sandeep to open up about his background and motivations for founding and nurturing Polygon – which is currently valued at $13.7b. Polygon is an Ethereum Layer 2 solution that has surpassed Ethereum by 7x in daily transaction volume.

Sandeep completed his undergraduate from SP Jain Institute of Management and Research (in Mumbai). He went on to do an MBA from National Institute of Industrial Engineering (also in Mumbai). His focus from the beginning was to build an exponentially scalable business. Towards this, he abandoned the e-Commerce startup that he had founded and started Polygon (formerly called Matic) towards the goal of building a generic computation platform in a decentralized manner. His co-founder Jaynti Kanani was a Data Scientist at a real estate company and saw the opportunity to join hands with Sandeep to build a layer-2 Blockchain platform. With a focus of building a platform that has a product-market fit and gets adopted, they were successful in achieving a series of firsts in the industry: more than 1000 applications running on the platform; provide an SDK for others to build their own Blockchain; cross-chain bridge; acquired a Blockchain (Hermez Network) – a ZeroKnowledge (ZK) rollups based Ethereum scaling solution.

The amazing fact about Polygon’s journey is that they accomplished so much without any VC funding. With all the attention that they are receiving, they are now in a position to “swing big”. Polygon still has competition from Cardano, Polkadot and others. Among many other accomplishments, Sandeep set up a India COVID-Crypto relief fund that got contributions from Vitalik Buterin (founder of Ethereum) and Balaji Srinivasan (serial entrepreneur and Coinbase CTO).

The closing section of this fascinating fireside chat focused on Enterprise Blockchain. When askd about Private Blockchain, Sandeep dismissed it as nothing more than a “glorified database”. He credited Ernst and Young in promoting Enterprise Blockchain. He added that Polygon is enabling Enterprise Blockchain with aspects of Privacy and Data Control while retaining the fundamental principles of immutability and transparency.

The other sessions in the Blockchain and AI Summit were:

  1. Beyond Fintech
  2. Amplifying Social Impact
  3. Reviving Healthcare
  4. Upgrading Supply Chain
  5. Closing keynote on NFT

We will publish separate articles on some of these sessions at a later date.