Fujitsu’s new blockchain offering: really cheap or really expensive?

Fujitsu, the Tokyo-based IT conglomerate, has been long blockchain for some time. As early as 2015, the company was trialling the technology for cross-border settlements; in 2016 it said it had developed tools for securely sharing documents via the power of the distributed ledger; and in 2017, it built ConnectionChain, a blockchain system for connecting… blockchains.

Fujitsu has also filed almost 50 patents related to the technology in the hope that some day, these copyrighted blockchain-based inventions will generate cash. But much like most of the blockchain space outside of the magical world of ICOs, Fujitsu’s long blockchain position is unlikely to have yielded any real returns so far.

So now, Fujitsu is taking on a bolder approach to making some money out of the nebulous technology. For as little as 9,900 euros, the company is promising to develop a “blockchain proof of business” for any customers in Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, within just one working week!

From the press release last Tuesday:

Fujitsu today announces the immediate availability of a new, extremely rapid blockchain productization framework which enables the development of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in just five days. The offer is aimed at organizations wanting to jump-start new blockchain development or de-risk existing blockchain projects.

Don’t know about you guys but they had us at “extremely rapid blockchain productization.

Fujitsu says customers’ business plans will be put through a five-day-long assessment, during which the client and company’s “global blockchain experts” work together on creating “new business ideas based on blockchain or other Distributed Ledger Technologies”.

This “proof of business” approach, it says, will help firms avoid projects that are unlikely to provide any value, by testing them on the Hyperledger Fabric — a “blockchain framework” that Fujitsu is a paid-up member of — before committing to any kind of larger-scale trial:

This Proof of Business (PoB) approach, before committing to a Proof of Concept (PoC), avoids many common pitfalls of blockchain projects and focuses on creating business value. With the blockchain PoB assessment, stakeholders can create and validate the potential of an initial Hyperledger Fabric application while testing how it could work in an enterprise environment. The application is developed using MVP principles, which require that application to create enough value so that people are willing to use it, demonstrate enough future potential to retain the loyalty of early adopters, and provide a feedback loop to guide future development.

The PoB would presumably slot into to the usual blockchain development flow-chart somewhere around about the “blockchain ideation” mark (as illustrated below — screengrab from LeewayHertz).

But the idea that in five days, the application being tested would “create enough value so that people are willing to use it, demonstrate enough future potential to retain the loyalty of early adopters, and provide a feedback loop to guide future development”, seems like a rather tall order. How would they know which business models would fulfil these criteria, given that no such models yet exist in any meaningful way?

The promise that any given company can be told whether their blockchain-flavoured business plans are viable by a team of “global experts” for little more than $10,000 sounds like, well, a steal, doesn’t it?! But a steal for whom?

We weren’t sure, so we called up Tim Swanson, who now runs his own fintech advisory firm, Post Oak Labs, and who was previously head of market research at R3 — a company that leads a blockchain consortium and whose Corda platform is a rival to Hyperledger — to see what he made of it. He told us:

The pricing seems too low for what is supposed to be a full project analysis. There’s no way you can look at an entire use case and sit down with all the proper stakeholders and decisionmakers at a target organization in that time frame and get a detailed, in-depth view of how it would work. That’s what all the consultancies and systems integrators are trying to do and it takes longer than five days.

That’s kind of what we thought — there are whole industries out there offering blockchain consultancy, advisory, training and other services, and none of them offer anything as fast or cheap as this. So what’s this all about?

It’s about an upsell. It’s them saying: oh, you liked our $10,000 sweetener, well how about you come through and we’ll sell some more things at you?

So according to Swanson, this is about bringing customers in who buy into Fujitsu’s blockchain expertise and therefore will buy more of its related services. It’s also, from the buyer’s point of view, an opportunity to show would-be investors that their product is the real thing, by getting the Fujitsu stamp of approval. The company is thus able to monetise its blockchain work without a single distributed transaction taking place in the real world.

Fujitsu aren’t the only ones offering people the chance to get blockchain-certified for tidy sums of cash. Last week we wrote about a £1,800 six-week cryptocurrency investment course at the London School of Economics, and there are comparable courses on offer at Oxford and MIT, to name but a couple.

Swanson, again:

All these name-brand universities and institutions are doing the same thing with certificates for what they think is easy money.

But I don’t see what the Fujitsu stamp of approval will directly do. It’s not like you’re going to be able to go into a bank and say: hey, Fujitsu say we’re amazing and this use-case would save you guys money. It’s a non-sequitur.

We think businesses considering another step in the blockchain flow-chart could save themselves a lot of time, and money, by using a simpler one, like this one, from “ Nancy Nakamoto”:

Fujitsu weren’t immediately available for comment. We will update the story if and when they get back to us with a response.

Related links:
Fujitsu built a blockchain that blockchainifies other blockchains – The Next Web
The London School of Cryptonomics – FT Alphaville
Sell all crypto and abandon all blockchain – FT Alphaville

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don’t cut articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.