Introduction Maarten van Essen to Stephen P. Williams


Good evening. My name is Maarten van Essen and I am the program director of the John Adams. A special word of welcome to our guests from the US: Stephen Williams, author of ‘Blockchain: The Next Everything’ and Stevie Conlon, Vice President responsible for bank regulatory advisory services at Wolters Kluwer in the US.

Wolters Kluwer is one of our main sponsors, and we have worked closely together for many years now. We are grateful for them to making this evening possible. It is a pleasure to work with you!

Also many thanks to Stephen’s Dutch publisher AtlasContact. If you speak Dutch, please do support the publisher by buying the Dutch translation by Wybrand Scheffer, ‘Blok voor blok: Een gids in blockchain voor iedereen’. It’s important that this kind of book continue to be translated.

Blockchain. How many of you would feel comfortable explaining to someone at a birthday party what it really is and how it really works? Would you feel comfortable stating – as if you knew what you were talking about – that this is THE technology of the future, and that we will all soon be using it? That it is transparent, democratic, unhackable and therefore trustworthy? Well, let me tell you right now, one of tonight’s guests, Stevie Conlon, says it IS hackable! And how many of you would quickly change the subject at this birthday party? I hope you’ll come away from this evening knowing more about blockchain and about one of its most widely discussed applications, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple.

Stephen Williams writes about technology for The New York Times and Newsweek, and in 2015 he founded a company called MOR that helps social entrepreneurs to produce more sustainably. He also heads a sustainable fashion startup which uses blockchain technology to manage distributed manufacturing. And in the meantime he found time to write this book. You may not be surprised to know that he is a fan of blockchain.

This evening’s moderator is Wouter van Noort, technology editor at NRC Handelsblad. He also has a newsletter called Future Affairs that you can subscribe to – I highly recommend it, it is a valuable window onto the world of tech.

Who else is joining the party tonight? Especially for this occasion, Wolters Kluwer has flown in Stevie Conlon. She helps financial institutions comply with regulatory requirements. She is also a leader with the firm’s Investment Compliance Solutions line of business, where she oversees tax regulatory issues. In other words, she knows what it means for business to actually use blockchain – and what its weaknesses are.

We also have with us someone who has a personal story to tell us about blockchain: Tey el Rjula, founder of the startup TYKN.  I met him at an NRC Live event recently where I was the moderator and where he won an award. Tey was born in Kuwait and had to flee during the Gulf War to Iraq and later to Dubai, but after government buildings in Kuwait were bombed, he could never get to his birth certificate. Having experienced himself how difficult it is for displaced persons to access their identity documents, he decided to set up a system using blockchain where they are accessible everywhere and cannot be tampered with.

The program is as follows:

  • Stephen will talk about his book,
  • Then Wouter will interview him
  • Tey will give a brief talk about his personal experiences and his company
  • Then Wouter will have a conversation with Stephen, Tey and Stevie Conlon, and with YOU
  • And finally, Stephen will sign his book.

So here we go! Stephen, the floor is yours.