Blockchain and Healthcare Innovation: A City, Academia, and Technology Firms Join Forces to find Blockchain Solutions to Address Public Health Challenges

As the excitement around blockchain technology continues to grow in the healthcare sector, there is an increasing realization that blockchain has the capability of addressing many of the data and information-related challenges that the healthcare world has been focused on for years – such as providing access to comprehensive interoperable electronic health records and ensuring data continuity for patients who receive treatment in multiple healthcare settings. As this realization has taken hold, healthcare stakeholders and constituents are seemingly trying to “make up for lost time” with new blockchain initiatives being announced on a regular basis seeking to turn theoretical applications into real-world blockchain solutions.

As further evidence that the healthcare industry is on blockchain overdrive, on June 3, 2019, the Austin Blockchain Collective, an organization that represents some 140 blockchain and crypto companies with a presence in Austin, Texas, announced the creation of the Austin Blockchain Collective Healthcare Working Group (the “Working Group”).

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Austin-based blockchain startups join forces to find health care solutions

The Austin Blockchain Collective is aligning with Dell Medical School at UT Austin and local blockchain companies to tackle national health-care issues.

By Guillermo Jimenez,

As Americans continue to struggle with the rising cost of health care, and service providers grapple with heightened privacy and data-management concerns, could a little blockchain be the cure for what ails us?

The city of Austin, Texas, certainly thinks so. And it’s bringing public and private entities to the table to find blockchain-based solutions to health-care-related problems.

On Monday, the Austin Blockchain Collective announced the formation of its Healthcare Working Group. The group aims to cultivate and promote the many ways in which blockchains can be used to improve the provision of health care in both the local Austin community and across the country.

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Blockchain How Collectives Aim To Make Cities Into Blockchain Centers


Blockchain technology is taking hold in the Southwest, with the help of organizations encouraging development in the space. A group called the Austin Blockchain Collective, for instance, is looking to establish the Texas city as a hub for blockchain innovation. “When blockchain technology is discussed, we want Austin to come to mind, just as centers like Silicon Valley, NYC, Toronto … are thought of,” Pete Harris, the organization’s co-founder and executive director, told PYMNTS in an interview.

Approximately 140 firms that are involved in blockchain technology and crypto assets have a presence in Austin, Harris said.


Link to the full article on PYMNTS website

April BlockTalk Panel: Show Me the Money

April BlockTalk Panel: Show Me the Money

On Wednesday, April 24, the Graduate Blockchain Society hosted their April BlockTalk on issues relating to blockchain. About 30 MBA and computer science students were in attendance for a panel discussion headed by Professor Cesare Fracassi. On the panel were Chris Clasen of Digital Asset, Jacob Cantele of ConsesSys and Gaurav Chawla of Dell Technologies.

The panel covered a variety of topics including: making money in blockchain (enterprise vs venture solutions), private vs public blockchains, the pros and cons of utility tokens, the self-sovereign identity use case, current pain points in blockchain mass adoption, how students can get involved with blockchain and where to look for resources.


(From left to right: Korey Wallace, Co-Pres GBS; Professor Fracassi; Chris Clasen, Digital Asset; Jacob Cantele, ConsenSys; Amy Lovejoy, Pres MBA Tech Club; Gaurav Chawla, Dell Technologies; Carlos Colon-Vonarx, Co-Pres GBS; Ashley Klepach, VP External GBS)

One of the most interesting topics centered around understanding how each company currently monetizes blockchain. The three panelists described a diverse mix of business models from consulting services, app development & integration services, licensing & support of embedded smart contracts engines to VMware, to blockchain platform as a service. At this time, the money appears to be in enterprise solutions.

“It’s all open source, with the exception of a few applications we have developed for our investors, stated Chris Clasen of Digital Asset, when referring to the company’s smart contract engine, DAML.

“Our old strategy to make money was we have a platform, it’s proprietary. Pay us for that. We will develop solutions for you. Pay us for that. It’s difficult to scale that type of business.

Our new business model has shifted to get our smart contract engine as wide as possible. The first way to generate revenue is through embedded, OEM-type models. That’s likely going to generate some revenue for the short term. We are biasing towards getting our it out there and letting people use it. We are not trying to squeeze every penny out of it. It’s really a land grab play. The longer-term revenue path for us is to monetize additional tools on top of the DA ledger.”

Gaurav Chawla of Dell Technologies added there are ways beyond building a platform for companies to make money.

“One is the consulting, services, integration side of the business. When you consult with the customer and you look at their use cases, are they trying to use blockchain for a ‘formal fear of missing out’? If so, then don’t use it, but [sic] if there’s a real value in using the blockchain?”

“Second, development skills are hard to find. So, consulting and development of apps for a particular vertical is a place to make money.”

The panel also shared various perspectives on public and private blockchains, with the notion that private blockchains may really be a short-term solution until mass adoption and maturity of public blockchains.

“Now it becomes a question of the storage backend you care about and pick the right solution for the job,” said Clasen. “Public chains are good for some use cases, traditional private blockchains are good for others. Distributed ledgers have other characteristics and tradeoffs. What we are seeing now is, blockchain had all of these bundled together. Now people are seeing the stacks modulize [sic] and people pulling out the parts that matter for their workloads.”

Jacob Cantele disagrees and believes the blockchain and distributed ledgers are important as a whole.

“The use cases of the Ethereum blockchain and part of why people use them is you have a decentralized system that’s immutable and that’s secure,” stated Cantele. “All of those things are amplified by having a further decentralized system.”

Business students often underestimate the importance of business contribution to blockchain development, but some of the most pressing issues facing blockchain now are surrounding business model generation, governance structures and financial products. These are all areas where business students can add value.

For those interested in learning more, ConsenSys provides basic knowledge and tools for ethereum via Kauri ( and provides blockchain boot camps at various times throughout the year via its academy ( Digital Asset also provides a download of DAML developer SDK app and tutorial walkthroughs to start creating your own smart contracts (

How to explain blockchain to your customers. Short answer: don’t. Here’s why.

By Guillermo Jimenez

Just dropping the word blockchain in your pitch might have worked wonders during the race for fast cash in the ICO boom of 2017. But times have changed.

Crypto companies are struggling to attract customers—real, living, breathing humans to use the thing they raised millions to build. So what’s the problem?

Well, in business, much like in politics, if you’re explaining, you’re losing:

“The battle should be fought and won by looking at what the advantages are of the product for consumers, instead of any fancy words about the democratization of finance or enabling a trustless society,” says Cesare Fracassi, associate professor of Finance at the University of Texas at Austin and director of the school’s Blockchain Initiative.

Link to full article on Decrypt Media

‘Deathmatch’ panel on private versus public blockchain heats up at South by Southwest: Arguments over what it means to be truly decentralized

By Omar Gallaga

A panel over the future of walled-garden blockchain nodes versus so-called “permissionless” blockchain stopped short of getting personal, but was still more contentiously vocal than most talks at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

The featured SXSW panel “Blockchain Deathmatch: Permission-ed vs -less” Thursday afternoon was part of a “Blockchain & Cryptocurrency” track at the conference and festival. It included IBM OpenTech’s Christopher Ferris, a computer scientist and author of the company’s Blockchain Pulse blog; St. Mary’s University School of Law professor Angela Walch, who is also a research fellow at the Centre for Blockchain Technologies at University College London; and Jimmy Song, a venture partner for Blockchain Capital, Bitcoin Core developer, and author.

It was moderated by University of Texas at Austin associate professor of finance Cesare Fracassi.

No sooner had introductions for the panel concluded than arguments over what it means to be truly decentralized began in earnest.

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Ripple Adds 11 New University Blockchain Research Initiative Partners To Fund Research And Education

By Rachel Wolfson

Ripple, one of the most mature companies in the blockchain space, is currently helping lead development for blockchain-focused academia and research.

The blockchain based global settlements network launched its University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) in June of last year to accelerate academic research, technical development and innovation in the blockchain, cryptocurrency and digital payments space. Ripple has committed over $50 million in funding, subject matter expertise and technical resources to UBRI’s first wave of university partners, which includes 17 prestigious institutions from around the world.

Announced today, Ripple has added 11 new universities to the UBRI program. The company is now supporting a total of 29 partners to accelerate academic research.

The new institutions include:

Carnegie Mellon University
Cornell University
Duke University
Georgetown University
University of Kansas
University of Michigan
Morgan State University
National University of Singapore
Northeastern University
University of Sao Paulo
Institute for Fintech Research, Tsinghua University

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Blockchain Gains Currency in Higher Ed

By Lindsay McKenzie

When he was in graduate school and working toward a doctorate in computer science, Arthur Carvalho made a life-changing decision.

“It was 2012, and my friend suggested that we invest some money in Bitcoin,” he recalled. At the time, one Bitcoin was valued at around $13. At its peak valuation in late 2017, the price had jumped to almost $18,000.

“I would be a millionaire now,” Carvalho said. “But I told my friend, ‘I don’t trust this thing.’ I thought it was a scam.”

He didn’t get rich from Bitcoin, but he did become interested in cryptocurrencies and how they work.

Even as private industry is increasingly supporting blockchain research, very little government funding is being made available, said Cesare Fracassi, associate professor of finance at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.

Many of the companies providing financial support are small start-ups, but more established blockchain companies such as Ripple are starting to step up. Ripple announced last month that it would be distributing $50 million to 17 university partners, including UT Austin, for blockchain-related research of the institutions’ choosing.

Fracassi called this a “big deal” and noted that companies don’t often hand out unrestricted gifts in underfunded research areas. The money will allow Fracassi and colleagues to hire additional staff and “jump-start” blockchain-related research. A call for proposals will open this fall.


Link to full article on Inside High Ed

Blockchain Conversation Needs a Change

Why we should stop talking about blockchain ideals and start talking about economics.

By London Gibson

Blockchain has been a buzzword in technology and business circles since the rise of bitcoin several years ago — but Texas McCombs Associate Professor of Finance Cesare Fracassi thinks people may be talking about it all wrong.

Discussion about emerging blockchain technology is too wrapped up in ideals and doesn’t focus enough on economics, Fracassi says.

People talk about ideals — decentralization, trust, transparency — instead of talking about what really matters to people,” Fracassi says. “The discussion has to be framed around economic variables.

For people new to the discussion, a blockchain is a decentralized digital ledger, used to record economic transactions with networks of computers.

Link to full article at Medium

On Campus: Professor Cesare Fracassi on University of Texas Austin’s Expanding Blockchain Initiative

On Campus is a new Ripple Insights series that highlights the institutions, people and research that make up Ripple’s University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI), launched earlier this year to promote greater understanding of blockchain, crypto and digital payments through deeper engagement with academia.

Institutions like McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin with its campus-based Blockchain Initiative and annual blockchain conference are at the heart of this UBRI effort. We sat down with Professor Cesare Fracassi, the director of this initiative at the University’s new Center for Analytics and Transformational Technologies, to learn more about the work underway at UT Austin and the impact of UBRI on the program.

Professor Fracassi’s ultimate goal is to leverage UBRI to accelerate what he sees as lagging understanding of blockchain in academia. By expanding its presence on the UT Austin campus and building an interdisciplinary approach to its study, he believes students will be best set up to advance blockchain innovation after graduation.

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