ETH Tokyo 2023 (aka Pragma) felt like a breath of new life for the Ethereum community. Coming in, there were some people who just didn’t have the same excitement or conviction that they had a couple years ago. Many had become jaded by the hits of the bear market, and grown tired of the negative rhetoric around web3. However, after three days of hackathon immersion, it’s safe to say that the attendees left with renewed hope and energy.
The timing of the conference could not have been more serendipitous. Hosted in the heart of Tokyo, the bustling energy of the city definitely gave the conference a boost, with builders showing tons of enthusiasm about the endless possibilities of web3. While most ETH Global events are based around hackathons, Pragma featured curated speakers offering up insights on the current state of the industry and where it is headed.
It seemed that as the cherry blossoms were showing off their beauty in the streets of Tokyo, spring had also sprung in the infinite garden of Ethereum.
The East’s Invitation for Progress
The crypto community has begun to look beyond the United States as a hub for innovation and growth. Since 2018, the proportion of crypto developers based in the U.S. vs. the rest of the world fell 26%. Regulatory action continues to stifle progress.
In contrast, Japan actively supports the vision of web3, going so far as to release a web3 white paper to bolster the industry’s progress. Tokyo, with its striking duality of a cyberpunk spirit and serene natural landscape, perfectly embodies the essence of the Ethereum community. It's no wonder that ETH Tokyo 2023 rejuvenated the community with a newfound sense of inspiration and drive.
Pragma: Something New
“This is not a conference,” is ETHGlobal co-founder Kartik’s ritual opening line at every ceremony.
ETH Global hackathons are known to be the purists of hackathons. The addition of Pragma, a 1-day ‘conference’ of quality talks and discussions, ignited the momentum for the following days. The speaker line-up was eclectic. Aya Miyagotchi divulged on the ever-growing “Infinite Garden” of Ethereum. Juan Benet shared valuable insights on how to start a web3 company. Stani Kulechov prophesized on the future of web3 social and decentralized media with Lens Protocol.
Product announcements from Secured Finance, Safe and Push Protocol shone a limelight on the leading projects in the Ethereum ecosystem. This was a day dedicated to talking-the-talk. The following days would be for walking-the-walk.
Beast Build Mode
The charts may look down bad, but the build market is truly thriving. The air of the hacker room was rife with an energy I hadn’t felt in a long time. Over 1070 hackers were burning the midnight oil for a $375,000+ USD prize pool.
Companies are clearly capitalizing on this tension. Over a third of attendees were new to web3. The outstanding build themes were account abstraction, sybil resistance, public goods, and DAO tooling — the foreseeable future of crypto will be user-friendly, secure, and achieve positive-sum effects. The builders of ETH Tokyo left the conference with a newfound thirst to water the infinite garden.
A Convergence of Continents
ETH Tokyo 2023 drew attendees from more than 59 countries, making it truly international and reflective of the global nature of the Ethereum community. Diversity is a hopeful sign, as it signals a range of perspectives and experiences. As a mentor, I had the opportunity to meet and greet hackers from all corners of the world, from Bengaluru, India to the outback of Sydney, Australia. Each conversation was a look through their window, providing unique insights into the potential of blockchain in different parts of the globe.
Feeding The Future
Hackathons are a holistic experience, where various factors such as venue, logistics, and food contribute to the overall quality of the event. In this regard, Japan is a haven for exceptional cuisine. ETH Tokyo treated its builders to an array of mouth-watering dishes, from bottomless ramen to (literal) piles of French-inspired baked goods. After all, nourishment is fuel for quality hacking and an industry-shattering hackathon like ETH Tokyo deserves nothing less than the best.
ETH Tokyo achieved the fervor of a religious gathering while introducing the technology of tomorrow. The inauguration of Pragma, a generous prize pool and mouth-watering catering fueled the energy of over 1070 hackers.
As the crypto industry branches out beyond the US, the global potential of blockchain is becoming more evident. ETH Tokyo was truly a convergence of continents, a celebration of progress, and a reaffirmation of the endless potential of the Ethereum community to water the infinite garden.