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Bermuda on its mark for innovation sprint

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By Scott Neil, Assistant Business Editor, Royal Gazette

What has been hailed as a world-first for Bermuda gets under way today with the start of the Bermuda Innovation Sprint.

During the next two weeks a number of activities will take place on the island featuring innovators and leaders working in the fintech, blockchain and cryptocurrency industries.

Expected to take part are representatives from Ripple, one of the world’s top three cryptocurrencies, and AlphaPoint, which runs trading infrastructure for some of the biggest digital exchanges in the world.

Stan Stalnaker, founder of Hub Culture, which is hosting the event, said: “This is the first of its kind anywhere in the world. No one has done an innovation sprint with a country before.

“The idea comes from the technology world where you have developers who do a sprint, where they code really hardcore for a couple of weeks and then they build something really amazing.

“These sprints are like a very furious and intense activity and out of it comes something really valuable and real. So it’s not just talk, it’s about how do we get the work done to create something new?”

Everyone is invited to attend the events. A key highlight will be the Liquidity Summit on October 18 and 19, featuring a number of international speakers. The admission price is being kept low to ensure it is accessible to many.

Bermudian-based Hub Culture launched Ven, the world’s first digital currency, in 2007. Last year it held a three-month innovation campus and beach club at Ariel Sands, bringing to the leading innovators and influencers to the island.

While Hub Culture is driving Innovation Sprint, the collection of events includes some staged by other organisations, such as AM Best’s insurance market briefing on October 16, and the Bermuda’s Insurance Market Conference on Thursday.

Innovation Sprint gets under way today with a drop-in welcome centre based out of Utopia — formerly Muse — opposite the ferry terminal on Front Street, from 11am to 5pm. Mr Stalnaker said: “It’s very casual. People can stop by to ask questions or find out how to launch an event and about the events they can attend.”

A warm-up networking event will be held at the same venue on Wednesday evening.

Elsewhere there will be a meditation workshop, hackathons, a digital identity event, and an “unconference”. Explaining the latter, Mr Stalnaker said of the Ven World conference: “We start the day with a blank sheet and build a whole conference where people suggest projects and topics for the day.

“It’s a blank sheet for innovation to talk about what can be done. People will organise around topics.”

David Burt, the Premier, has been invited to cohost the community event.

Mr Stalnaker said many of the fintech and blockchain-related companies that are coming to Bermuda will gather around the Innovation Sprint events.

“It will be first time since the innovation campus that we have had a lot of these companies on island and looking at it as a place to invest or do business.”

When asked about the impetus for the activities, Mr Stalnaker said: “We were trying to build ecosystem in Bermuda. Last year’s innovation campus was very successful and was the spark that created the fire and catapulted Bermuda to having global recognition for its leadership in the digital space and fintech.

“We have developed Ultra, which is our digital asset exchange, based in Bermuda, and that was an idea that came out of the Bermuda innovation campus.

“So we thought, how can we bring everybody into the conversation where everybody can create — not just us?”

He said having an ecosystem for new technologies and innovation was important, adding: “If you don’t have a vibrant ecosystem in Bermuda then it is really difficult to be successful. And we need these companies collaborating and working together to scale opportunities.”

The spirit of collaboration is at the heart of the innovation sprint, and the door is open to others to get involved and stage events and gatherings.

“Anyone can launch an event into the sprint. It is co-ordinated [under one umbrella] so that if you are coming to Bermuda you know it is going to be worthwhile because there are all these things going on, and all the right people to connect with and meet.”

Certain days have also been set aside to allow business meetings to be scheduled, where new deals may be struck.

A beach bonfire is also planned at Ariel Sands next week, ahead of the Liquidity Summit at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. That conference will feature Kahina Van Dyke, senior vice-president of business and corporate development for Ripple, and Ted Pendleton, senior vice-president of business development with AlphaPoint. Among the other speakers are executives from Shyft, Hannover Re (Bermuda), iCash, Coala Foundation, and Athena Bitcoin.

Loretta Joseph, blockchain adviser at the OECD, and Lydia Dickens, adviser to the Bermuda Government, are expected to feature at the conference.

Innovation Sprint is being held in partnership with the Bermuda Business Development Agency, AlphaPoint, Ven and blockchain-backed loan provider Salt.

Mr Stalnaker said: “It is not just one conference or one hackathon, it’s a whole sprint of activities. We will see amazing things come out of it; big ideas, new thinking, new excitement about Bermuda as a place for innovation.

“We’re thrilled that everyone is working together. This isn’t about us, it’s about open collaboration and getting people focused on the big picture and what is possible.

“It’s not just a conference. The conference is important, but what is going to be really great is everybody mingling, mixing and meeting. It’s like the whole of Bermuda becomes the office.”

For more details about the events, visit https://bermudasprint.com/

This was originally posted on royalgazette.com on October 8, 2018.

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