Review: 4th International Blockchain Congress

On February 6, 2020, I attended the 4th International Blockchain Congress (Blockress) – a day’s long event comprising of keynotes, panels, discussion, and networking for blockchain, cryptocurrency, and everything in between hosted by the IDF and Microsoft.

What is Blockress?

Per their handout:

Global blockchain leaders, C-level executives, key influencers, founders, serial investors, and professional speakers from 5 continents and 20 countries will come together at the Congress in order to take part in keynotes, panel discussions, case studies, a blockchain workbench workshop, interactive Q&A, fireside chats, and lightning talks addressing intersections of blockchain with healthcare, insurance, AI, IOT, machine learning, fintech, energy, real estate, regulation, and policy.

Blockress, 2020

Event Logistics

Before I get into the specific talks, I’d like to take a moment to review the actual event operations.


To start, I had trouble actually finding where to go. There was little signage to point me in the right direction both outside of the convention hall and within it. Luckily, I’m very comfortable asking for directions and eventually found my way to the event.

Following some panels after lunch, we were directed to head to the second floor to breakout rooms, but had to stop for hall passes in order to access the second floor. No signage or people to guide us to the next area either.

Welcome Reception

By the time I arrived (9:30am) the event was 30m under way; not terribly late and certainly not alone, but there was no one at reception to greet us, sign us in, check tickets, provide handouts, or any other general welcome. Largely it seemed that they had left to go handle other business or watch the keynote. Not a huge issue for me, just an observation. Luckily there were plenty of refreshments waiting. 🙂

Time Management

Throughout the day, talks would continually go over their allotted time slots and bleed into the next. Between panel moderators and event staff, time management was lacking. Hopefully all scheduled speakers were able to present, but a few got squeezed for over half of their time slots.


Lunch was provides as boxed sandwiches and cookies that were actually pretty good, easily accessible, and on time. They even had vegetarian options which is good to see.

Around 5pm, they brought in some pizzas and had additional refreshments for a wine reception. Domino’s is always a win in my book!


Ultimately, it was a very well-rounded, educational, and networking-worthy affair and I hope to attend next year. The event operations could use some ironing out – additional event staff, signage, and an iron grip on the schedule would easily elevate this conference to the next level.

On to the content!


The keynotes presentations were a great way to lead the event. Single-presenter lectures are always a fascinating way to investigate a topic deeply.

SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce: “Token Safe Harbor Proposal”

Unfortunately, I missed most of the first keynote by SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce when she introduced her 3-year safe harbor plan for token projects.

Her conclusion largely focused on the SEC’s commitment towards modernizing their rules to make room for cryptocurrency projects.

Founder of Ambisafe, Andrii Zamovsky: “Financial Inclusion through Fractionalization”

When he was introduced as helping create 100+ tokens launched on Ethereum, I couldn’t help but wonder if this guy just created a bunch of shitcoins. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

Andrii’s company Ambisafe licenses software to companies that need to tokenize their business. For example, one client needed to fractionalize real estate ownership on the blockchain. This feeds directly into his awesome talk on financial inclusion.

Specifically, he illustrated that there is a huge proportion of global population that cannot purchase an average US stock simply because their monthly earning does not come close enough to buy it, let alone any savings.

When you combine the fractionalization of digital assets to extreme decimal denominations (like owning 1/100,000 of a penny) with low cost smart contract substitutes for business operations (like lawyers or financial traders), you open up new digital markets to this low income population: financial inclusion through fractionalization!


Hosted by moderators, the panels were a great way to pick the minds of a few industry experts on common topics – even allowing the experts to debate topics among themselves.

Law & Regulation: New Asset Classes & Investment Products

Wulf Kaal led an engaging discussion on the intersection of regulation and new digital assets.

From the continued lack of progress with crypto ETF’s to the expectations around China’s upcoming digital CBDC (Dimension’s Katt Gu expects launch this year), the conversation kicked off a common theme for the day: crypto is moving far faster than regulation and fear of regulator enforcement pulls the wind out of many sails.

CFTC regulator Elizabeth Pendleton and crypto lawyer Justin Steffen agreed that when working on a new crypto project, it’s best to get regulators involved early to establish a relationship, rather than to have the first impression be an investigation.

DeFi, FinTech & Open Finance Panel: Decentralized by Design

Plagued by KYC, transparency, audit-ability, and liquidity issues, the DeFi conversation was a lively discussion led by Etana’s Adrian Kortez about where DeFi is today versus where it needs to be in order to engage with institutional investors.

Koine’s Phil Mochan deeply outlined seemingly built-in DeFi issues (outlined above) while Linus‘ Matthew Nemer and GRIP Investment‘s Tony Pettipiece spoke to the progress in these areas. Largely, they all agreed that DeFi projects need to work toward compliance with regulation. Particularly, they all expressed that the current KYC processes and lack of international digital identity are fundamental issues that can’t be solved by DeFi tech alone and require political solutions as well.

Digital Asset Exchanges 2.0: The Democratization of Trading, DEXs, OTCs & Custody Services

From Exchangily’s Dora Tang positioning her non-custodial decentralized exchange (DEX) within the bounds of the law to (ex) Kraken‘s Allan Stevo lively debate with ConveX‘s Chris Williams of the role of government in dampening the entrepreneurial spirit of blockchain developers, we were left with one of the most memorable moments of the conference, centered around the key question: can we govern ourselves?

The Convergence Revolution: AI, IoT, ML, Supply Chain, Healthcare, Energy, and Real Estate

The panel was missing some folks unfortunately, but Milliman‘s Julia Kong and Althash‘s Brett had enough experience between them to speak on everything from blockchain’s impact on healthcare to the tokenization of real estate.

Lightning Talks

As mentioned above, the lightning talks suffered greatly from lack of time management. Some presenters were unable to present and many were cut short from what was already an only 10m allotment. They would have been a great way to highlight individual projects or topics rapidly; better luck next year!

Presenters included Shehan Chendrasakera from CoinTracker, Wulf Kaal of Kaal Consulting, and Suji Yan from Dimension.

Fireside Chats

Staged as short, moderator-less discussions, the fireside chats were a low-key discussion of the panelists expertise and foresight.

Many thanks to Blockress‘ own Amy Kabaria, Nicole Kalajian, Aaron Winkler, and Julian Russo!


After the Fireside chat’s, the conference migrated to Microsoft’s offices for breakouts. At this point, many attendees took some time to network and take a moment to digest (and even nap!) – myself included.

I unfortunately missed the breakouts, but they did seem interesting:

  • Smart Contracts & Tokenomics 2020: The Evolution of Fundraising, ICOs, STOs & Stablecoins
  • Blockchain Workbench Workshop: Designing Blockchain Apps in 2020
  • Strategic Roundtable (invite only)

Wine Reception & Networking

Though I didn’t have the opportunity to stay for long, networking between bites of pizza was a great way to wind down the evening.

I had a great chance to catch up with Matthew Nemer on his new DeFi product Linus, charge my phone (live tweeting kills battery, who knew), and spare a moment for an interview with Amy Lee & Rich Napoli from BlockChain Radio before grabbing some slices of pizza on my way home.


In short, Blockress was a well rounded and diversely attended blockchain conference that touched on practically every facet of blockchain and cryptocurrency.

From SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce’s unveiling of her Token Safe Harbor proposal to Suji Yan’s demo of Maskbook, Blockress catered to all types.

Though the logistics of the event left something to be desired, I look forward to reviewing the conference next year (and you should, too!)

Ledger Nano S Cryptocurrency Hardware Wallet Review

Today is an exciting day: my Ledger Nano S has finally arrived!

For those that don’t know, the Ledger Nano S is a cryptocurrency hardware wallet meant to store your coins safely off the internet to keep them less prone to hacks, exchange theft, or software failure.

I bought mine because I don’t trust keeping my coins on an exchange and because my laptop has been acting up and crashing frequently.

So instead, I’ll keep my coins safe on this little USB stick.

Ledger Nano S – Money Shot

AND in case I lose or destroy it, it has a 24 word seed that I can use to restore my wallets on any other Ledger product.


This wallet was super easy to setup, intuitive to manage, built solid, and feels like an Apple product. I highly recommend it to investors of all calibers. Buy it now.

Quick Timeline

I bought the Ledger Nano S for about $100 straight from the manufacturer in France.

Ordered – Dec 21, 2017
Shipped – Jan 2, 2018 (via La Poste Colissimo)
Arrived – Jan 8, 2018

This was before they announced a 3 month product delay, so pre-order now while you can.

The Physical Product

The product package measures 5″ x 3 1/8″ x 1 1/8″ and came shrink wrapped as a nice touch.

Ledger Nano S – Packaging

As expected, the Ledger Nano S is extremely light and is about the size of any USB thumb drive (~2 1/4″ long).

Opening up the package felt super satisfying in the same way it feels to unbox an iPhone.

Ledger Nano S – Unboxed

The wallet itself it smooth and shiny, but easily takes fingerprint smudges. Inscribed on the back is “Vires in numeris” – Strength in Numbers.

Also included is a small welcome packet including instructions on setting up your device, a note about device security, and a blank 24 word seed store card.

Ledger Nano S – Seed Card

Though I probably won’t be swinging mine around on a keychain, they do provide a small key chain and even a lanyard – and a micro-usb to usb connecting cable of course.

Ledger Nano S – Everything Included

Working with the Device

Once connected to my computer, the Ledger Nano S lit up and scrolled through some basic instructions on setting up the device.

The device itself only has two buttons on it, but the Ledger team made their app very intuitive even with just two buttons to work with.

Note: the device itself doesn’t turn on without being connected to your computer, so don’t go pressing buttons with hope.

The startup sequence was actually quite short.

First, you select a 4-8 digit pin for use in unlocking your device. This pin can be changed or even randomized in the device settings.

Then, you are taken through the seed generation process. One by one it shows you your 24 word seed. Make sure to write this down in triplicate and store them safely – these are your lifelines in case something goes wrong with your product.

After it takes you through the initial 24 words, it will prompt you to confirm 2 of the words’ orders – like “select word #19″. This acts as the final stage in setting up your device.

Then you’re all done with setup! Once authenticated with your PIN, you can navigate through to the default applications: BTC and ETH wallet.

I didn’t want to risk my BTC to start, so I opted to add Ripple.

Adding Ripple to the Ledger Nano S

Note: Though I don’t go over it here, you would take the same steps to work with BTC etc – download the Ledger Wallet BTC and navigate to the corresponding app on your device.

By default, the Ripple wallet app is not installed on the Ledger Nano S.

Luckily, it’s very straightforward to do so.

First, download the Ledger Manager app through chrome. It was a bit weird for me to do this the first time because it’s a chrome extension that acts like an application on your computer.

Open it on your computer, then connect your Nano S and unlock it with your pin. This should prompt the Ledger Manager to unlock itself and present the dozens of wallet apps you can install.

Ledger Manager

It took me a couple tries, but finally the one-click Ripple wallet install worked.

Now that my Ledger Nano S had the Ripple wallet app installed, I needed to download the Ledger Wallet: Ripple onto my computer.

This chrome application, just like the Ledger Manager, is installed on my computer and only unlocks once your device is plugged in, authenticated with PIN, and has the Ripple app open.

Once it’s unlocked, you can easily see your Ripple address, send coins, and check your balance. It even generates easy QR codes and allows you to print or even send via email.

Ledger Wallet Ripple

To confirm how easy it was, I downloaded Ledger Wallet Ripple on an entirely new computer, plugged in my device, and confirmed that my Ripple was safely stored.

Final Notes

I love this product!

It was sold to me for a fair price and delivered in a fair amount of time for an international shipment.

It has an intuitive UI, was incredibly easy to setup, and the Wallet apps are incredibly simple yet refined.

That being said, it does have some room for improvement.

It does not support every crypto wallet at this time – though new wallets are being created and rolled out. For me, that means my XRB and REQ are not compatible yet.

At this time, the Ledger Manager does not show a list of the apps I have installed or provide any settings for those installed apps – though I can select and manage settings for these apps on the device itself.

Vastly small improvements compared to the value you’re getting with the Ledger ecosystem.

Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to upgrade to a Ledger Blue.