RALEIGH – An IBM executive and expert on blockchain technology has a clear message to startups: Get educated, or risk getting left behind.

“While we believe there is a lot of hype around blockchain, there’s a lot of reality, too,” Sharon Cocco, IBM’s director of blockchain technology, told a 200-strong crowd gathered for the CED Tech Conference on Monday afternoon. The conference concludes today with the CED Life Science event beginning this afternoon and concluding Wednesday in Raleigh.

Speaking from the main ballroom of the Raleigh Convention Center, she laid out her case, pointing to companies like CLS Group and True Tickets, which are already using the emerging technology.

Sharon Cocco, IBM’s director of blockchain technology, speaking at the CED Tech Conference on Monday afternoon.

For the record, blockchain is essentially a shared digital ledger. When transactions are made, they cannot be changed, creating a permanent record.

“It’s transforming the market now,” she said. “There’s a lot of real production use cases today.”

Cocco added: “It saves time, it reduces risk and it increases efficiencies. But more importantly, for you as a startup, it actually changes business models, transforming numerous industries.”

IBM aims to be blockchain industry leader

IBM is positioning itself to be an early leader in this space.

As Cocco reported, the company already has 1200 blockchain networks running in the cloud in industries like food safety, insurance and healthcare, among others.

“We believe at least 100 of them are in production and live today because transactions are running on the blockchain everyday and increasing,” she said.

Case in point: IBM recently sealed a deal with Dole Food Company to join its IBM Food Trust, a modular solution for food distributors built on IBM Blockchain.

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IBM is also leading the charge to educate the public about blockchain. It has its own Blockchain Youtube Channel, with more than 16,000 subscribers and 1.5 million views and counting. It also offers an 8-week accelerator program for later-stage growth companies to help founders scale their company’s blockchain applications.

In addition, IBM has also forged partnerships with institutions like Columbia University, launching a similar accelerator program for pre-seed, idea-stage companies.

“I would advise you, if you don’t already know about distributed ledger technology, get educated,” said Cocco.

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