Blockchain entrepreneur speaks to PSU faculty and students at TechfestNW
Author: By Katy Swordfisk, PSU Media & PR
Posted: April 10, 2019
Allison Clift-Jennings has blockchain fatigue.

It’s used so often, and in inappropriate or exaggerated ways, the blockchain startup entrepreneur said that she wanted to clarify and highlight few things about it during TechfestNW 2019 at Portland State’s Viking Pavilion at the Peter W. Stott Center last week. 

 “Blockchain does many things poorly, and only a few things well,” Clift-Jennings said to an audience that included fellow techies, tech reporters and PSU School of Business (SB) faculty and students.

Blockchain is essentially a public ledger that records transactions. Each block contains records in chronological order and creates a chain of information. While blockchain can be viewed by anyone, only a user with a specific key can add information to the chain or modify the data. Because blockchain is decentralized, it’s a more secure way of storing information.

Clift-Jennings, who founded the blockchain startup Filament, said she’s pleased that SB is launching one of the nation’s first blockchain certificate programs this fall.

“We’re just starting to understand the impact of blockchain, and you’re all going to be a part of it,” Clift-Jennings said to a group of business faculty and students during a blockchain-themed luncheon. “It’s an exciting time.”

SB’s three-quarter, six-course program is available as a standalone credential or paired with a degree for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Ketan Sampat, an adjunct SB professor for the blockchain program, said it’s designed to create a new, trained workforce for the region.

“Blockchain adoption by a broad range of industries and business functions is ramping up fast,” Sampat said. “There is a growing demand for well-trained professionals who understand both the technology and its business applications.”

PSU students will learn how to apply blockchain to industries including finance, health care and real estate.

David Bikman, an SB faculty services coordinator, said he wants to be one of the first students to graduate from the certificate program.

“It's a chance to do a deep dive into real world applications of the technology, rather than focusing exclusively on the particulars of the blockchain technology itself,” Bikman said. 

Blockchain is a potentially revolutionary set of protocols and ideas, and the surface has barely been scratched, he said.

“It's going to take more than engineers and computer scientists to get the most value out of blockchain, and I'm so excited that PSU is starting to lead that bigger conversation in a sustained way,” Bikman added.

Clift-Jennings also discussed using blockchain effectively, her company Filament and launching a successful startup with PSU business students and faculty. 

She believes blockchain should be considered on a more philosophical level as it becomes more integrated into business and everyday life. 

The ability to establish trust without a centralized network is where blockchain shines, she said.

The most important capability of blockchain, she said, is its ability to solve value and trust problems that are becoming ubiquitous with society.

“We can use these tools, just like the Internet, for positive things or we can use it to exploit each other and extract value from each other unfairly,” she said. “At the end of the day, like any major technology, it really does come down to it being up to us.”

Photo captions
Top: Filament founder Allison Clift-Jennings speaks about blockchains at TechFestNW 2019.
Bottom: Allison Clift-Jennings speaks to PSU School of Business faculty and students about blockchains.