GBBC and Greater Omaha Chamber bring Blockchain to the Heartland


Global Blockchain Business Council

The Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC) and Greater Omaha Chamber have teamed up to bring an afternoon of curated conversations and presentations on blockchain to Omaha.

The New Kids on the Blockchain conference will take place Friday, May 5 at KANEKO and coincides with both Berkshire Hathaway Week and Omaha Startup Week. Organizers wanted to provide an opportunity for Berkshire’s 40,000 out-of-town visitors to merge with area residents and innovators.

“We’ve been wanting to have Berkshire week be a larger event for people in the community beyond those that are just shareholders to Berkshire Hathaway,” said Marco Floreani, Manager of Business Development for the Greater Omaha Chamber. “We thought [New Kids on the Blockchain] would be a great opportunity to align [Berkshire Hathaway] with our Startup week.”

The afternoon conference will also be featuring live music and food trucks in addition to their featured speakers and opportunities for conversation and networking across different sectors of Omaha’s tech and business communities.

“We’re going to have the corporate community there as well as a lot of the younger innovative entrepreneurs. We want them to cross-pollinate at this event,” Floreani.

What is the Global Blockchain Business Council?

The GBBC was conceived last summer during a global summit on Richard Branson’s Necker Island. After 3 days of conversations, industry leaders and innovators came to the consensus that there was a critical need for an umbrella organization whose purpose would be to educate business leaders on what blockchain technology is, and to advocate for improved regulation related to the technology.

“After this meeting last summer, a number of leaders in the ecosystem came together and created the Global Blockchain Business Council,” said Jamie Smith, President of the GBBC, Global CCO for The Bitfury Group and Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Future Council on Blockchain. “We were very honored to launch the entire organization in January during the World Economic Forum Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.”

The GBBC went on to launch chapters in Washington D.C., Beijing and Shanghai. They have 37 founding members from 28 different countries on the council.

Bringing blockchain to the Heartland

While the GBBC was growing globally, they were having discussions with the Greater Omaha Chamber to bring blockchain to the Heartland.

“We feel so honored. This is where true industry innovation happens, in the Heartland with real innovators and real industry folks,” said Smith. “I think sometimes there’s a perception that [innovation is] only happening out west. We fundamentally disagree and we’re excited to launch this event here in Omaha.”

Mercina Tillemann, Executive Director of the Global Blockchain Business Council, said that the Greater Omaha Chamber has been focused on connecting the GBBC with the leaders of Omaha’s tech industry.

“[We’re] particularly excited about bringing together this combination of leading-edge innovators who are creating these blockchain based solutions outside of the Midwest, with trusted local partners, including Union Pacific and Mutual of Omaha – who will hopefully be using them,” said Tillemann. “We are focused on both providing a thoughtful, digestible overview of the technology to make sure everyone leaves understanding what blockchain is, while simultaneously sharing real, practical use cases which will hopefully result in actual blockchain-based business solutions for the companies at this event.”

Putting blockchain to use in business

Brian Poppe, VP of Innovation Strategy at Mutual of Omaha says his company is honored to be involved with “New Kids on the Blockchain” and leaders at the company are looking forward to expanding the knowledge base of the technology here in the Omaha area and discussing how the technology could be put to use in the financial services industry.

“We believe the opportunity exists for Omaha to be a hub for blockchain technology, given our low cost of living, our city’s history with finance – including Berkshire Hathaway, FirstData and of course Mutual of Omaha – and the technology talent in the area,” said Poppe. “Applied correctly, it could transform a lot of processes across the industry. Right now, we’re brainstorming internal use cases, while keeping an eye on the industry developments.”

Smith said that people understand what blockchain is, but maybe need inspiration on how to put blockchain to practical use in their businesses.

“There are so many solutions that people are looking at from supply chain to digital records management, digital music to electronic health records. The possibilities are truly limitless, that’s what everybody in this room will be talking about,” said Smith. “There’s a lot of hype around this technology but it’s important for people to understand what’s real and what’s […] really happening in the industry. That’s why we are so excited to have these experts.”

Floreani said that a wide variety of industries will be represented at the conference including ecommerce, futures trading, insurance and agriculture.

“It’s so well representative of our clusters here in Greater Omaha. I honestly don’t know if I’ve been to an event that actually nails it this closely,” said Floreani.

Event information

Friday, May 5
12:00 p.m. | Lunch and music by CJ Mills
1:00 – 3:30 p.m. | Presentations and Panel Discussions

KANEKO, 1111 Jones St.

Speakers for “New Kids on the Blockchain” include Paul Brody, Global Innovation Lead for EY; Sid Siefken, Global Solutions Agricultural Lead for IBM; Jonathan Johnson, President of Medici Ventures; Sandra Ro, Executive Director of Digitization for CME Group; Valery Vavilov, CEO of the Bitfury Group; Jeff Main, Senior AVP-IT Application Development at Union Pacific; Brian Poppe, VP of Innovation Strategy at Mutual of Omaha; Tomicah Tillemann, Founder of Brettonwoods II at New America; Dante Disparte, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Risk Cooperative; and Marco Floreani, Manager of Business Development for the Greater Omaha Chamber.

Visit New Kids on the Blockchain for a full list of speakers and for registration information.

Christine McGuigan is the Associate Editor of Silicon Prairie News.