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Meet the team behind this blockchain startup in Tampa

By Lauren Coffey — Reporter, Tampa Bay Business Journal

Nov 13, 2018, 6:56am EST Updated Nov 13, 2018, 7:25am EST

As startups and businesses try to keep up with ever-evolving technology, one company has stepped up to teach.

BlockSpaces is an organization that aims to educate individuals, startups and enterprises on blockchain technology. It hosts educational workshops, including one this weekend specifically focused on the legal aspect of blockchain.

“Legal was the most obvious one to start with because there are so many very specific things that have happened just recently around cryptocurrency,” BlockSpaces co-founder Rosa Shores said. “We’re also trying to make sure we have all our policy makers and anyone in the legal profession extremely educated on blockchain and cryptocurrency just because we feel like it’s very important for the state.”

The workshop, at a cost of $299, is open to lawyers and is certified through the Florida Bar, providing 9.5 CLE hours. The workshop is 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 17 and 18. Workshops and events range in cost, with some priced at $10.

Co-founders Shores and Gabe Higgins said blockchain allows blocks of information to be stored, which has a built-in consensus mechanism and is censorship resistant, meaning it cannot be corrupted.

“It’s a foundational technology that is being supplied in conjunction with many other emerging technologies,” Shores said. “Then it basically removes the need for third party intermediaries to validate information.”

“You can think of them as very slow expensive databases, but they come with things that the databases we’re used to don’t have,” Higgins said.

While one of its uses is cryptocurrency, the duo said the possibilities for blockchain are far reaching. IBM is currently using it for supply chain management, but it can also be used in the health care industry and even voting.

“It’s still a relatively small space as a whole,” Higgins said. “But we are finding out the kinds of things we’re doing pop up all around the world.”

BlockSpaces just this month moved into the Tampa Bay Wave building in downtown Tampa, while it awaits the opening of the Embarc Collective building. Its main objective and arguably biggest challenge is educating the community about blockchain.

“Merchant adoption isn’t the problem; the problem is education,” Higgins said. “And I foresee that being the problem for the next decade.”

Floridians have found an interest in blockchain, which BlockSpaces hopes will grow.

“Florida is interesting because we don’t have a lot of restrictive regulation,” Shores said. “This state is a beautiful state with low taxes and low cost of living, comparatively. I think there’s going to be possibly a big influx of people from other states that are looking for a more friendly environment with a good cost of living, so I think it sort of makes sense for Florida to be on the edge of technology.”

In addition to education, BlockSpaces is working in Tallahassee to work for regulation that allows blockchain companies to flourish.

“In the state of New York where there’s very restrictive regulation, companies just move out,” Shores said. “Or in Wyoming they’ve really rallied for reasonable regulation and more companies are moving there. So we want to make sure companies are continue to be attracted to us.”

As for the future of blockchain, BlockSpaces will continue to see where the market takes it.

“It’s really difficult to look toward the future and imagine how this could be utilized, because we can only think in terms of society and how we transact with each other and how we always have,” Shores said. “In the same way, it would be difficult 20 years ago to say all the ways we’re going to use the internet. We couldn’t possibly imagine Facebook, couldn’t possibly imagine Google search. Right now we can try and apply blockchain to how we’ve always done business — it is hard to say how it will be used, but it’s exciting.”

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