Eight Takeaways from The Trading Show Chicago 2021
As certain as daffodils and tulips, The Trading Show Chicago (TTSC) from Terrapinn has been held at Navy Pier each Spring for a number of years. That is until the advent of Covid 19, which drove the 2020 version of the event online and pushed the 2021 gathering from the Spring to the Fall. No matter because everyone — and I mean everyone — seemed ecstatic to be back to meeting in person and the ideas and energy on exhibit were as new and exhilarating as fresh blades of green grass emerging after a winter slumber.
Here are my eight takeaways from TTSC:
- TTSC has changed and evolved along with the industry over the years, with an emphasis that shifted from product to connectivity to hardware and beyond. At this point, fully half of the panels and an even greater share of the conversations has shifted to all things crypto: data, regulation, NFTs, defi, services and more. Given the current trajectory, TTSC 2022 might be “CASC” instead: Crypto Asset Show Chicago.
- We have yet to witness the tidal wave of institutional investment that was all the talk a couple of years ago but the more prosaic pursuit of building crypto infrastructure continues at a strong pace. Examples included Michael Moro of Genesis who recounted that they were hard pressed to establish any banking relationships when they started eight years ago and David Easthope from Coalition Greenwich reporting that their research finds that 50% of crypto exchanges now offer private FIX API connectivity in addition to the typical — and much maligned — websocket APIs. The good news is that crypto market infrastructure might be up to the task when the wall of money comes crashing down. Might.
- Every show seems to have it’s own “buzz brands” and this year’s selection had to be Copper. They are providing the infrastructure solutions that the crypto markets need and they were mentioned by name by three or four different panelists during TTSC. It’s often said that the greatest beneficiaries of the California gold rush were those who sold picks and shovels (along with Levi Strauss) and Copper is one firm that is providing similar services in crypto. Others to watch include Hxro Network, B2C2 and the aforementioned Genesis Global Trading.
- DeFi is one area where I feel that the more I learn the less I know. A roundtable that was hosted by Kenny Estes of Diffuse and featured contributions from Justin Chuh, Christina Sciotto, Matt Leisinger, Asher Corson, and Mariana Danilovic was both insightful and baffling. I suggest following them all.
- I had the pleasure of moderating a panel on data latency with Jim Creighton of Creighton AI, Michael Gorbivitski from Morgan Stanley and Diane Saucier of Pure Storage and my takeaways were not quite what I expected going in. The panel delivered diverse perspectives on data latency, making me realize how important infrastructure like storage has become and how the battle for edge has moved beyond the fastest connectivity to the matching engine to include things like the fastest / most efficient AI operations.
- I also had the honor to conduct a one-on-one conversation with Bobby Zagotta, the new North American CEO for Bitstamp. Zagotta is among the ranks of noted industry veterans that have made the leap from traditional (CME Group in this case) to crypto (first at Kraken and now at Bitstamp) and he seems ready to inject his prowess for strategy and execution to what is the longest running cryptocurrency exchange. Should be interesting.
- Respondents to a person were like a broken record when asked what the next year or two holds for cryptocurrency, cryptoasset and defi markets: regulation. And when current SEC Chairman would have been as welcomed at TTSC as Voldemort was at Hogwarts, it was heartening to hear from enlightened elected officials like Margaret Croke, who is helping to shepherd legislation through the Illinois legislature that would put the state at the forefront of crypto regulation, and Bill Foster, who’s only flaw seems to be that he can’t be cloned to fill the other 434 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. We may be about to face crypto Winter in terms of regulation but the likes of Croke and Foster will assist when it comes time for Spring.
- A personal and professional highlight for me was sitting down for a one-on-one keynote conversation with former CFTC Chairman Chris Giancarlo. Giancarlo led the CFTC with distinction, putting it back on a solid course following the excesses of the Gensler regime, earning the well deserved Twitter handle of “crypto dad” for his wise handling of the agency as the CME and Cboe first introduced bitcoin futures contracts. He is now a leader of The Digital Dollar Foundation and an advocate for the introduction of a U.S. central bank digital currency (CBDC), particularly in response to the deep and aggressive approach by China in this arena. His new book, Crypto Dad: The Fight for the Future of Money, will be officially published on October 26 and is available for order now. Buy it. Read it. You won’t be disappointed.
That’s it for now. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments and I’ll be back on the blog-o-sphere when the next opportunity or event comes around.
Chuck Mackie is a principal at Fathom Communication. Fathom provides thought leadership strategy and content that delivers both depth and understanding for financial services and technology innovators.