By IOHK Director of Education Lars Brünjes
Amid rapid economic expansion, heightened investor interest, and unprecedented developments in data protection, 2017 was the year of cryptocurrency. In just 12 months, market capitalization increased by a staggering 3,363%, and the total number of cryptocurrencies and exchanges increased from 617 to 1,335, according to a recent report from research firm Investment Bank (1).
As cryptocurrency loyalists and Wall Street heavyweights alike grapple with understanding the intricacies of the underlying blockchain technology, the market faces a unique problem: With such high demand, there is a noticeable shortage of education programs that will foster the next generation of global talent within the space.
The discrepancy is expected only to widen. In 2017 alone, more than $6 billion USD was raised by over 380 Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) over the course of the year(2) — each representing a different startup with its own unique value proposition. As companies continue to diversify in the potential market applications of cryptocurrency, finding experts that not only understand the industry, but can also anticipate future trends will be increasingly top of mind.
So where do we go from here? As the public eye begins to recognize cryptocurrency for its impact on the modern economy, interested students and faculty would be wise to capitalize on this momentum to advocate for the inclusion of the subject in their curriculum.
This is already happening at some top-tier business schools internationally, such as the New York University Stern School of Business, and has proven to be an effective tactic in furthering blockchain and cryptocurrency research and building student skill sets.
For instance, in response to a letter from students arguing for the importance of blockchain, the Stanford University Graduate School of Business will now offer its first course on the technology this spring.
In addition, students from Harvard Business School recently founded the Blockchain, Bitcoin, and Cryptocurrency Club to provide a forum where interested students can congregate and discuss advancements in the greater crypto community.
While initiatives like these are certainly a step in the right direction, it’s short-sighted to believe that a college or graduate-level education does not need to be regularly reinforced by tangible, practice-area focused guidance. Companies using blockchain should consider taking the lead here, and provide training on the technology to both students and staff on an annual or semi-annual basis. Again, creating these programs will require a bit of self-motivation, but the results will undeniably pay in a stronger market overall.
IOHK recently conducted an eight-week course at the University of the West Indies in Barbados with the goal of training 10 interested students in Haskell, a complex programming language used to develop blockchains and cryptocurrencies. The program mutually benefited both parties: For the students, hands-on learning experience in creating blockchain applications, guided by world-class professionals. For IOHK, the program provides the company with a pool of interested candidates that can further contribute to industry development. The education initiative joins IOHK’s blockchain research and development laboratories within the University of Edinburgh, Tokyo Institute of Technology, and the University of Athens.
In order to ensure that 2017 isn’t the only “golden year of cryptocurrency,” the importance of education should not be underestimated. With the U.S. Federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sending a clear signal that it intends to consider potential avenues for regulating the space, the need for an influx of talent who can navigate through an increasingly uncertain regulatory terrain will be essential to ensuring longevity.
The sky is truly the limit for cryptocurrencies and other blockchain applications, but to ensure that growth isn’t fleeting, industry experts will need to lay the groundwork for future success in the industry.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.