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The dust has settled on Paris Blockchain week, Europe’s largest gathering of thought leaders, innovators, and experts from around the world. They discussed all-things blockchain and Web3, and this year 8,500 people attended.

As the agency of record, the Cognito Amsterdam team ran the PR and comms for the event, so we had a front-row seat for the proceedings.

The consensus? The blockchain space is maturing.

One of the points attesting to this fact were the caliber of attendees. There were many c-suite and executives from major companies that aren’t blockchain or Web3 nativesCoca-Cola, Mercedes, LVMH, Deutsche Bank, UNICEF, World Economic Forum, Harvard, Goldman Sachs, Google, Reddit, and Reuters engaged with those denizens of the space you would typically see at events. But even here, the companies were industry-leaders, like Coinbase, Circle, Binance, and Ripple. This gave a feeling that well-respected companies were starting to take the technologies seriously.

So, what type of things were they talking about?

Big brands are deep into Web3

With big consumer brands were in attendance, a notable conversation was around fashion in Web3 and the metaverse. LVMH discussed the launch of the Aura blockchain consortium in 2021 with Prada Group and Cartier (Mercedes joined later). The group is developing blockchain for luxury brands.

Cocone, a company that creates digital avatars and fashion items, shared how it has sold 16 billion digital fashion items by honing in on the user experience and fostering experiences with “identity, connectivity, and empathy,” according to its CEO, Suk-Jae Chang.

eBay spoke on how they are moving to serve the needs of Web3 customers, and how their users want to collect digital items that can enhance what they purchase in the real world.

This was very much of the center of the discussions on brands and Web3: how it can be used to make unique offerings for customers, whether this involves NFTs or localizing or enabling consumers to become creators themselves.

For NFTs, F1 driver and star of Netflix’s Drive to Survive, Pierre Gasly, spoke on how he was the first driver to do an NFT drop. The US’s National Basketball Association and its partnership with game marker Sorare won the Web3 brand initiative of the year award. The winning game consists of digital trading cards and an NFT-basketball game.

Digital Assets: Alive and Kicking

The news around the digital assets space lately is one of a beleaguered market, yet the sentiment at the conference was one of optimism. It focused more broadly on the penitential of not only crypto, but digital finance. To give you an idea of the topics here, things like institutional custody, investing, fund management, digital finance strategies, tokenization, infrastructure, ethics, and regulation were discussed.

Speaking of regulation, MiCA, Europe’s coming digital regulatory scheme, was favorably looked upon, with the consensus being that it will play a critical role in increasing transparency around regulation of the assets, especially going a long way towards preventing collapses like FTC, Luna, Celsius, and 3AC.

On the investor side, there was an entire investor’s day, which included a panel of investors managing over $10 billion judging a competition for the best Web3 projects. The sentiment amongst investors, who are still enthusiastic about the space, was calculated. Investors are making fewer deals and raises currently stretching out over months whereas they used to be oversubscribed and gone in 60 seconds.

On the institutional side, Coinbase said they were still seeing significant demand for digital assets from institutional investors over the past three months.

The future of the payments industry was also discussed. The emphasis was on network banking, a seamless and robust banking solution.

Blockchain for good

Another highlight of the event was demonstration of blockchain’s utility for humanitarian purposes. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was awarded Best Impact Project of the Year for its work in Ukraine using blockchain. UNHCR used blockchain to deliver payments to those displaced by the war in Ukraine.

This program’s utility was perfectly summed up by Carmen Hett, UNHCR’s treasurer, when she said, “Blockchain can help improve the delivery of humanitarian aid. UNHCR is committed to continue exploring innovative and alternative solutions to deliver life-saving cash assistance in a faster, more efficient, and transparent manner.”

If I had to choose one word to describe the week, it would be “serious”, because everyone focused on how the sectors and technologies are maturing and have real-world application.

I’m excited to see what they come up with next year.

Richard Neve runs Cognito’s Amsterdam office