Network Effects & Friendly Developer Moats

Crypto assets are unique in the sense that they are either natively baked into a network or exist on top of a network. There are many crypto assets but one, in particular, deserves your attention. The network is known as Ethereum and it has a native asset called Ether. Ethereum has the most daily users, daily transaction volume, the total number of assets built on top of the network and most importantly, the number of developers.

While Bitcoin is #1 when it comes to total network market capitalization and general market awareness, Ethereum will continue to gain notoriety in the space as it can do what Bitcoin cannot do; smart contractsprogrammable money and decentralized applications. Ethereum has developed an incredible network effect and developer moat during its past four years of existence. This will cause it to not only continue to grow rapidly, but with compounding effects as shown by Metcalfe’s Law.

Network effect is a phenomenon whereby increased numbers of people (developers, companies…etc) or participants (users, investors…etc) improve the value of a good or service. One way to judge a crypto asset’s network effect is to look at projects built on the network.

In the case of Ethereum, there are currently more than 2,600 decentralized applications. In comparison, its closest competitors are EOS.IO and BlockStack which have 297 and 250 applications respectively.

The problem for Ethereum competitors is that they are still building the primitive building blocks that are necessary to create more complex applications. Ethereum has been developing these building blocks over the past few years and includes things like decentralized exchangesoracles, and stable coins. These allow developers to build more complex applications through what is known as composability — the ability to leverage existing projects in order to build something completely new.

Ethereum Building Blocks — Source is Delphi Digital

Source: Delphi Digital

One great example of composability is Set Protocol. This utilizes Ethereum, a stable coin (Dai, built in 2017) and decentralized exchange (KyberSwap, built in 2018) in order to create automated asset management strategies which are sometimes called “autonomous money robots.”

Ethereum Composability — Source is Delphi Digital

Source: Delphi Digital

While there are already projects looking to compose Set Protocol into the next mind-blowing application, Set is just one example of many projects that were created through Ethereum composability.

The term network effect is not new and what we are seeing now is nearly identical to the growth of the internet.

“The internet was of relatively little value to anyone outside of the military and some research scientists at first, but as more users gained access to the Internet, they produced more content, information, and services.” — Wikipedia

This snowball effect that happened in the early days of the internet is happening now with Ethereum.

This network effect tends to create immense stickiness with builders which forms a developer moat. The majority of developers do not want to recreate an entire ecosystem just to deploy their new application successfully. This creates a chicken and egg problem for new networks as developers want access to the basic building blocks to create interesting and complex use cases, which sends them directly to the vibrant Ethereum ecosystem.

This post has only just scratched the surface of Ethereum, which is a constantly evolving organism and is nowhere near its final form. While it’s nearly a full-time job keeping tabs on this lush ecosystem, I do my best. If interested in learning more, feel free to reach out to me directly and I’ll be sure to point you to the best resources.

Blockchain “Potential Value” in the Healthcare Industry

BC in HC

Visualize the Healthcare ecosystem comprising of patients, payers, providers, pharma/bio majors, and medical device companies. The Blockchain Technology combined with other relevant digital forces can augment the right set of capabilities in the Healthcare Ecosystem. The blockchain technology alongside Electronic Health Records, IMoT (Internet of Medical Things), Healthbots, AI/ML, Cloud and Analytics can create the capability foundation for the healthcare industry.  The blockchain bundled capability engine thereby enables the four drivers as described below.

  • Consumerization: Transforming from wholesale to retail healthcare. The patient or consumer now can expect the same experience in healthcare like in all other parts of their “consumer life.” Blockchain can enable a radical change in driving patients to take advantage of connected technologies, social tools, and information activities in their own health and that extends further into the broader marketplace.
  • Personalization: Healthcare industry has historically treated patients en masse. But the move from the group to the individual is inevitable now. Blockchain empowers health players to build loyal relationships with consumers offering more choices.
  • Diagnosis & treatments: Blockchain can create a single source of medical truth of patient that can’t be tampered making the doctors better at their jobs – quicker, more accurate, and fact-based expediting the quality of diagnosis and treatment.
  • Communications: Enabling doctor’s effective and easy communication with patients for improvising care coordination is another pertinent role of blockchain technology in healthcare.

The above drivers collectively are positioned to deliver the following outcomes to healthcare ecosystem.

  • Patients: Improved experience with better care coordination
  • Payers: Shift from B2B to B2B2C models
  • Providers/ISVs: Better usability enabling on-the-go services and health predictability

To better contextualize Blockchain Technology in Healthcare ecosystems, the relevance of technology for Patients, Payers, and Providers is discussed below.

I. Blockchain prominence for Patients:

Patients can benefit from improved experience from better health coordination. With blockchain technology, patient health records can be cryptographically secured and shared among healthcare stakeholders, increasing interoperability in the ecosystem. Use cases for blockchain are getting started with projects that reduce duplicative work but eventually shift to a system where the patient’s control access rights to their data. The following is one of the paths of evolution of blockchain in healthcare,

  • In short term it is more of a closed consortia, PoCs, managing providers information, bringing drug supply chain on the blockchain, but not really porting patient data on the blockchain.
  • In the medium term, systems can scale with permission of stakeholders and handle some patient data. Applications include claims management, payments, and prior authorization, health information exchange & research data, and trial design data etc.
  • But over a long term, a patient-driven blockchain system with master health records and access rights in the hands of patients is a definite possibility.

To design a robust blockchain solution, the architecture should store and scale voluminous transactions, urgent data, and more on a blockchain, while larger data storage needs could be met by private repositories. The bundled On-Chain and Off-Chain solutions can be built to solving both scalability and data sensitivity needs. A typical blockchain solution for healthcare patients’ data can be described as follows.

Data is generated about a patient, a doctor’s visit occurs etc. Transactions are recorded on a public, view-able blockchain, which also designates the location of the data. The data is stored “Off-chain” in private data repositories. Patients give a third-party access to their records via public/private keys. Data is located, decrypted, and retired from storage on-demand.

Blockchain could bring patients to the center of the healthcare ecosystem by giving them the power over one of their most valuable resources – data

II. Blockchain driven Improvements for Payers:

The blockchain is driving the transformation in Payers and/or Health Insurance space to reimagine business models progressing from BB to B2B2C channels. As per the analyst reports, 5 to 7% of claims are denied due to inaccurate or lack of information. Imagine blockchain technology offering an opportunity to automate the claim process and simplify the administrative processes to reduce transaction costs and minimizing frauds.

How Blockchain technology does this is by leveraging the consensus with smart contracts, maintaining a benefits database, determining patient insurance for self-execution with SOPs driving terms and conditions. This will potentially bring in a discipline of pay for outcomes and incentive-based behavioral health programs that offer peer-to-peer insurance models. Imagine a day where patients have a peer-reviewed and/or a peer-adjusted claims system.

III. Blockchain-based Collaboration for Providers:

Healthcare providers could be hospitals, medical device companies, pharma or bio majors and many more. Let us examine the following opportunities.

  • What if blockchain enables a multi-fold increase in medical device makers ability to bring their devices onto a medical IoT platform solving the current data privacy and security concerns? Blockchain can enforce medical device identity management by promoting IMoT and as well cryptography techniques can offer an additional layer of trust to minimize cybersecurity threats for medical devices. Blockchain also ensures patient privacy by proving secure and selective access to their health data.
  • Serialization and counterfeiting are few of critical issues pharma supply chain faces today. It is a multi-billion dollar problem to solve. Blockchain ability to create a chain-of-custody log of a pharma value chain can enable drug manufacturers to track each step of the supply chain at the source by raw martial or constituents and their origins. Blockchain also offers the technological feasibility to automate serialization process across the pharma supply chains

Blockchain technology has the potential to exponentially add value to the healthcare ecosystem offering significant cost savings, enforcing privacy and security, creating a chain of custody for pharma value chain, improving collaboration, and simplifying the claims processing.

I welcome further discussions on this topic via email kishor.akshinthala@gmail.com.

Refer to related blog posts below:

https://akshinthalakk.com/2018/02/10/counterfeit-combating-with-blockchain-technology-2/

Disciplined Innovation

InnovationCan we practice innovation as a discipline? The answer is YES. The process of moving from idea to innovation can be practiced as any other discipline. Scratching the surface unveils the structure from past occurrences of innovations and how we can evolve a disciplined mindset. What makes us progress is the not the mindset of “all I know”, but “learn from the team” mindset. Disciplined innovation is a paradigm shift. I will discuss the framework of disciplined innovation with observations made from how some of the world’s leading innovators made great impressions including unicorns like Google, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, and Netflix and the apparent demise of several long-standing established companies including Blockbuster, Nokia, Kodak etc.

First comes the mindset. Move from “Knower to Learner mindset”. Knower leader may play the game well, but Learner leader can change the game with the possibility of thinking and collaboration. Don’t limit the possibilities of ideas to take a diverge first and then converge to Core Idea. Practice “power of the pause”, which offers a moment to reflect on a particular situation at hand, to listen to other and blend with your own intuition to react. Expand the options and cultivate the mindset of possibility. Remeber what pioneered entrepreneurial leader Henry Forst said 1 century ago, ” Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right”.

Second, develop start practicing innovation right now mentality. Don’t wait for that golden moment knock your door, start doing a little more of what you were doing already, a little faster and a little more inclusively. Focus first on problems, not solutions. You cannot solve exponential problems with linear mindset. Exponential mindset is incrementally progressive and pursued practicing a right-now approach.

Third, invest upfront and invest in a staged manner. Innovation and investments should go hand in hand demonstrating the efficiency and effectiveness of the process. Staging lets innovators and entrepreneurs abandon ventures with low early returns sorting out good projects. With based idea tested in a “Minimum Viable Product”, it is efficient to invest more in later stages. Innovation project stages might be deterministic, in a reality financing stages simply mimic the development process of the project with trade-offs.

Fourth, is fail fast and do quick iterations to evolve the idea. Cultivate design thinking and learn as you make a progress on the idea of innovation. Failing fast not only save from catastrophic end result with a bing-bang approach if the outcome is not positive but also promote a culture of incremental learning. Designing low-cost experiments to test options fast and evolve the core idea in pursuit of landing with a successful innovation.  The product design company IDEO is the best example of practicing this principle.

Lastly, don’t put all eggs in one basket. There is not sure shot approach to innovation. Properly weigh the chances, apply decision sciences leveraging statistical models to gauge the probabilities in the innovation continuum. One way to tackle is to spread budgets across multiple ideas and develop a knack of moving ahead with the idea of the highest chance to become a successful innovation.

Based on the above 5 core principles of practicing innovation as a discipline, offer the following framework for executing innovation projects,

  1. Practice innovation as a discipline with a phased investment following an iterative approach and learning from failing fast.
  2. What is important in the pursuit of disciplined innovation is transforming from a Knower to Learner mindset with an appetite for an incremental gain of insights or gain a better understanding of the context/situation. Alongside self-transformation to learner mindset, promoting the learner mindset in teams and organization-wide definitely improve the decision making across the board.
  3. Define an objective in an innovation effort is the first step in the process. Be divergent in gathering ideas, converging to find the core, defining the success criteria to maximize outcomes, and identifying the practical constraints will aide in achieving the real results.
  4. understand the importance of defining key assumptions. Develop an open mindset to trigger and invite ideas from broader teams, thinking from others point of view etc. in making the underlying assumption and success criteria robust.
  5. Master the development of a Learning and Action Plan. Pinning on the critical assumptions, dig deeper to identify and preempt risks and failures, and find ways to share risk and maximize business outcomes by building and complementing the right partner ecosystem are some of the techniques.
  6. Find ways to conduct low-cost experimentation is an art testing innovative ideas faster to hit the success at a reasonable cost
  7. Lastly, create an open-mindedness and developing habits in maximizing learning strategies for better outcomes.

In summary, build the traits of innovation leading from the front and nurturing innovation culture with values like making others successful, fostering meaningful conversations, learning from failures, embracing ambiguity, being optimistic, collaborating and more importantly taking ownership.