Blockchain Bonanza: Solution Providers Say The Technology Behind Bitcoin Is 'The Real Deal'

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Dan DiSano felt like a rock star.

Standing in front of hundreds of people, the president and CEO of New York-based solution provider Axispoint was pitching a new blockchain development practice to potential investors at a South by Southwest event earlier this year in Austin, Texas.

The response that followed told DiSano he was on to something.

"It was literally like a Beatles concert. There was a stampede of people waiting in line to meet with us," said DiSano, noting that the company plans to raise a round of financing from investors later this year. "That made it real because there were real investors there who said, 'When you're ready, please send us all of your documentation.'"

Blockchain, frequently talked about in the same breath as Bitcoin, is the distributed ledger technology that powers cryptocurrencies. It quickly gained buzz over the past year as hundreds of cryptocurrencies went online and the value of one Bitcoin surpassed $20,000 last December (today it's closer to $7,400). But some enterprises have been plotting out blockchain's second life: as a transformational technology that could bring more trust and transparency to businesses.

Solution providers and other industry observers say the applicability of blockchain goes far and wide, with the potential to impact banking and financial markets, insurance, retail and consumer goods, health care, government and transportation, among other industries. A report by research firm Gartner last year estimated that blockchain's business value-add will grow to $176 billion by 2025.

Today, the technology is still nascent. A recent Gartner survey showed that only 1 percent of more than 3,000 CIOs already have blockchain deployments within their organizations while another 8 percent were in short-term planning or experimentation with blockchain. More telling were the 77 percent of CIOs who said they either have no plans or no interest in deploying the technology.

To the channel, that's just a sign that businesses are only starting to understand blockchain's potential impact, which is why solution providers are making early investments and launching new practices around the technology now.

Global IT consulting firm Accenture started exploring blockchain a few years ago, and it now has multiple projects that have been publicly announced with the United Nations, Microsoft, the Canadian government and AB InBev, among other big players.

Joseph Francis, a principal director at Accenture, No. 2 on the 2018 CRN Solution Provider 500, said he can't think of a time when dozens of clients haven't been asking about blockchain over the last year and a half.

"I haven't had a single customer who hasn't had a conversation," he said.

For Axispoint, No. 296 on the 2018 CRN Solution Provider 500, the benefits of launching a blockchain development practice a few months ago already are starting to show. The company is in various stages of discussions with 10 customers, according to DiSano.

In one project, Axispoint is providing $30,000 of up-front consulting work to produce a report on the customer's strategic direction so that it can go out and raise funding. Axispoint also is working on a $400,000 contract for a larger $10 million project to build a platform for a financial services client.

"You definitely do see the hype in the market, but blockchain technology is the real deal," DiSano said.

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