You might have been unaware that Drexel University, as of one month ago, boasts a premiere club bringing students from a variety of backgrounds together based on a common interest — blockchain technology.
Heck, you might be unaware of what exactly blockchain is. That’s OK. Drexel Blockchain is aiming to research, educate, communicate and consult around this digital phenomenon in a way that both elevates Drexel and helps the student club’s founders leave a lasting legacy.
Here are 10 things about Drexel Blockchain — or blockchain itself — that you likely didn’t know before:
1. Drexel Blockchain is a group of students from diverse ages and backgrounds (not just computer nerds).
The founders of Drexel Blockchain range from majors in computer science to finance to graphic design, and its members range from first-years through fifth-years. It’s this diversity that is not only the club’s seminal building block, but also a key foundation of blockchain itself.
“The trust lies in the community, and that’s how Drexel Blockchain operates,” said co-founder Adit Gupta, a fifth-year software engineering and math student. “It’s very community-driven.”
Having surpassed the kick-off phase of the club with a few events under their belts, Drexel Blockchain is looking to expand in all areas — from its tech department to HR.
Don’t even know what blockchain is? No problem.
“We don’t target it to a specific audience in terms of starting to talk at a meeting and no one understands,” said Dean Blank, co-founder for the club and a finance and computer science student. “We make sure everyone is on the same page at first because there might be people that don’t know too much about [blockchain]. We try to make everyone feel comfortable and make the club more inclusive that way.”
2. Blockchain is more than just a buzzword.
For the record, blockchain is “an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way,” according to this Harvard Business Review article.
According to the Drexel Blockchain founders, it’s a technology that’s losing its reputation because it’s being used more for its buzzworthy-ness than its actual principle.
Marius Garbea, a co-founder of the club and a second-year computer science and math student, said a lot of businesses are trying to build around blockchain “just to ride the wave.”
“There are some use cases where blockchain is really good and it makes sense to use it, but there are others where it doesn’t make sense,” he said. “For example, I just saw recently a barbershop using blockchain. Like, what’s the point of that? There’s no reason why anyone else would want to know when you got an appointment to the barber.”
3. Blockchain technology is useful for more than just cryptocurrency.
Rather than with the local barber, blockchain is more readily associated with its use in cryptocurrency — most notably, with bitcoin, for which it was created.
That said, it’s not the only use case for the technology, according to the members of Drexel Blockchain.
“There’s plenty of projects out there, like in healthcare where a lot of data leaks and hacking can be prevented, and other projects in supply chain management where things can be much more efficient,” Gupta said. “People are thinking out of the box and trying to use blockchain for applications other than cryptocurrency.”
In this vein, some members of the club founded the VyB app, an online rating platform that would consolidate websites like Yelp and Foursquare by making reviews real-time, measurable and social, and use blockchain technology to make fake or solicited reviews a thing of the past.
“It incorporates blockchain as a core fundamental feature of a database because Vyb provides verified and trustworthy feedback,” Gupta said. “That’s one of the value propositions of blockchain itself – it’s verified and it’s trustworthy.”
4. Blockchain could revolutionize business.
The stopgap for blockchain being applied to countless more fields of business is a lack of understanding, the Drexel Blockchain members said, and that’s exactly what they’re trying to counteract.
“I think it will be a case where it will tap into almost every industry,” said Tom Falzani, a Drexel Blockchain committee director and third-year graphic design and software engineering student. “The consumer won’t really know they’re using it but it will still be present, kind of like most software today. … This technology will make the whole experience a lot easier for the business and the consumer.”
For Blank, blockchain has already become a hot topic of conversation on co-op, specifically for him in the financial industry.
“I started realizing a lot of the banks and financial institutions are investing heavily in this technology,” he said of his first co-op experience at BlackRock. “I knew it was associated with cryptocurrencies, but the reason that I actually grew interest in it was because of the other implications. … Ultimately, I can see it be used in the finance industry because that’s what I’m interested in and that’s where I see it especially growing.
5. Learning about Blockchain could give you a professional leg up.
Just like it helped Blank on co-op, it’s clear that a knowledge of blockchain could be a necessary skill for many professionals, and in many industries, in the future.
“I think it gives me a different perspective and I can see how people on the business side might find it useful to understand blockchain,” Blank said.
Not only is the knowledge useful, but the club is also working on connecting its members with industry professionals from the Philadelphia area — connections that also couldn’t hurt for future job searches.
“The opportunities are endless, really, with this club,” Blank said.
6. Drexel Blockchain has both University and industry connections.
Drexel Blockchain already has a robust list of University advisors and industry supporters, with ample plans to expand this reach.
Current advisors include: Chuck Sacco, assistant dean of the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship; Amy Campbell, assistant Coulter Program director for the Coulter-Drexel Translational Research Partnership Program in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems; and Jeff Salvage, a teaching professor in the College of Computing & Informatics.
Campbell met Gupta in a class at Drexel, and has been excited to support the establishment and growth of the club from its inception.
“I’ve always been very active in student-run groups and when he came and brought this [idea] I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’” Campbell recollected.
Gupta said the club plans to eventually have at least one advisor from each college at Drexel. Microsoft is also acting as the club’s official partner, providing gift cards, sponsored food and other monetary and programming support.
7. Joining Drexel Blockchain could help you flex your consultancy muscles.
Ultimately, the goal of Drexel Blockchain, according to Gupta, is to operate like a startup group. This includes providing consulting services to companies in Center City and beyond — and give students the opportunity to learn these consulting skills through direct experience.
“We are trying to consult for businesses in Philadelphia because we as a group, we have the technical knowledge that executives and other people in companies don’t have,” Gupta said.
These skills will be useful seeing that most people end up being consultants in their life at some point or another, Gupta added.
8. Drexel Blockchain is already creating a local network of blockchain enthusiasts.
Unlike other clubs at Drexel, Drexel Blockchain is also making connections with fellow enthusiasts at neighboring universities, including Penn Blockchain.
“It’s that kind of tight-knit community for blockchain that we’ve become a part of at Drexel,” Gupta said. “People at Temple are already starting to emulate the club that we have at Drexel, and are trying to make one of their own.”
Because of its connection, Drexel Blockchain members have access to Penn-exclusive events related to the topic.
9. Drexel Blockchain has big plans (and events) for the future.
Drexel Blockchain has big plans for events of its own, as early as next term. In March 2019, the club is planning “the biggest blockchain conference in Drexel’s history,” according to members.
“The difference between a small workshop like we’ve hosted now with five executives vs. a conference is just duration and organization,” Gupta said.
The group is ready to put in the work, and rely on their advisors and partners — as well as their past mistakes — to make it a success.
“We made a lot of mistakes this term because we just didn’t have an idea, because it’s our first time starting a new club,” Gupta said, “but come next term we’ll know how to solve them.”
10. Drexel Blockchain wants YOU!
Although they have big plans for the future, the current Drexel Blockchain leaders know they can’t accomplish them without more diverse, curious, dedicated students like them.
“Whether engineering or graphic design, whatever you’re interested in, there’s an aspect or an area in the club that you can be involved in,” said Blank. “I think that just makes it unique.”
“We’re talking about this awesome technology that people might not get, but we are very open to people who might not know about the technology and beginners, not just people that are interested in blockchain specifically, but if you want to learn about it,” added Falzani.
All in all, the leaders of Drexel Blockchain are excited to expand the club and, in turn, leave a legacy — especially for current seniors like Gupta.
“It really drives us to know that we created something that’s going to last. … There’s no other opportunity to literally leave a part of yourself as a founder on campus,” he said.
If you’re interested in learning more about Drexel Blockchain or attending an upcoming event, contact DrexelBlockchain@gmail.com .