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Presidential Lecture Series

Rob Christensen, the Vice President of Product Development at tZERO greets audience members before speaking as part of the new Presidential Lecture Series at Prescott Hall on Rocky Mountain College's campus in Billings on Thursday. 

The first speaker for Rocky Mountain College’s Presidential Lecture Series discussed a topic that is unknown to many now, but could become an essential part of everyday operations in the future.

Rob Christensen is the vice president of product development with blockchain technology company tZERO. Thursday evening he explained to a crowd in Billings how the technology is compared to credit cards. However, instead of just transferring money, it can transfer and store a variety of information. Integrated into multiple areas, blockchain technology is primarily used today as a distributed ledger for cryptocurrencies, a popular one being bitcoin. 

This technology could be implemented in Billings, the state, and the rest of the world through different industries using the blockchain network.

“You go and buy something with your Visa card, the underlying technology that facilitates the transfer of value between you and that merchant, that’s blockchain,” Christensen.

For example, the blockchain technology can be used to transfer business equities, similar to a stock on Wall Street. People, regardless of how much they can buy, can purchase a part of a company through tZERO’s security tokens through the blockchain technology.

It’s a way to help businesses raise capital.

“If I want to start a company, and I want to sell 30% ownership in that company and I want to do it through a Security Token Offering, I can take money in and sell (security tokens) to individual investors for ownership of my company,” he said.

Once people have equity shares of a company, they can sell them to someone else without being locked into the investment for a period of time. With security tokens, they can sell them to another investor quickly and without contracts.

“Rather than buying an entire share of Apple, you could buy a fractional share of Apple and then once Apple goes up in value, you can sell it, but you don’t need Apple’s permission to sell it,” Christensen said.

It adheres to regulatory requirements and can be used in many industries, including higher education, health care, and more.

Blockchain classes may be taught in colleges and universities in the future, similar to when computer software classes were initially introduced.

Individual health care information could be shared seamlessly and controlled by a patient via smartphone, Christensen said. Patients could choose to share and revoke access.

Individuals can even invest in movie development via blockchain. The possibilities are wide-ranging, Christensen said.

“The real linchpin of this whole thing is democratized access to companies that want to raise capital and investors that want to put money into companies they’ve never had access to before,” he said.

Bob Wilmouth, president of Rocky Mountain College, said he hopes the lecture series will bring experts to campus to speak on complex issues, like blockchain technology.

“Blockchain technology is relatively new, it is not completely understood, and it’s most likely a big part of the future for different industries,” Wilmouth said.

Audience member Colin Nygaard mines cryptocurrency at home; he said he considers blockchain a good idea because it removes third-party interference.

For example, blockchain can replace banks to store and transfer money, but that also raises some concerns, like rendering jobs obsolete.

“It’s a different way to move stuff around, whatever it may be, whether it's money, titles, medical records, things like that,” Nygaard said. “I don’t know if Billings will truly see it other than there will be companies that are going to have to change their business models in order to use this or do it a certain way.”

It’s too soon to know how blockchain will be implemented, but U.S.-based company tZERO and its technology have been used around the world. The company’s first publicly traded blockchain security token started in 2016, with the security token trading platform being introduced earlier this year.

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