Community On the Go: Stephen Dalton from Techspace

Kicking off the Community on the Go initiative is Stephen Dalton!

Steve is the Founder and President of Gold Coast TechSpace, a Makerspace based in Mudgeeraba where people can come together and experiment, whether it be software, hardware, robotics, networking, advanced manufacturing or anything else that is on the cutting edge of Technology.  He is also the founder of the Secluded.io sensor platform and Refactor.

Steve recently visited Malta where Blockchain startups are becoming increasingly popular thanks to a supportive government – watch the video and learn more here:

“Malta is a small island nation in the Southern Mediterranean Sea – close to Italy and Africa, in a very strategic location which has made it a constant place of conquest and battle throughout history. For 268 years is was ruled by the Order of Knights of St John and this is where are lot of its current fortifications and architectural beauty comes from – however the island is one of the most continually inhabited places in the world with Neolithic temples going back to 5000 BC.

This long history I won’t go into here – but makes an interesting read – but where Malta ended up was connected strongly to the Commonwealth and a member of the EU. It was a British colony before 1964 independence, remaining in the Commonwealth after 1974 move to a republic, and later joined the EU in 2004.

After a period of economic downturn in the later part of 20th century, Malta is now somewhat of a financial services and IT hub in Europe. In particular many online gaming and casino companies base themselves in Malta as it is somewhat of a Tax Haven for them and provides a very easy gaming license regime.

More recently there has been something of a 2nd revolution around blockchain and the local community and government has embraced the technology in a big way – vowing to become a “Blockchain Island”. Steve Tendon is one of the architects of this policy and I’d recommend you have a read of  his article to understand the big picture here. More recently 3 bills have been introduced to the Maltese parliament and are currently being debated just this week:

I look on all this with interest to see what happens next. One effect of this embracing of Blockchain by the Maltese government is that Blockchain companies are starting to flock to Malta, most notably in recent months Binance, one of the biggest Crypto-currency exchanges in the world announced it would set up a base in Malta. With Malta having a good banking system with easy access to EU and the world, everyone speculated that this is when Binance would start providing FIAT exchange but this not happened yet as far as I know.

Following Binance we have a whole swathe of smaller companies moving to Malta and a burgeoning Blockchain startup scene. So much so I would expect to see IT skills shortages on the Island only get worse.

Malta has a lot going for it, it’s a small enough size to be able to make big impact fast, but also is a EU state with strong links to UK (soon to not be an EU state) and the Commonwealth. Shipping is excellent (a lot of European shipping passes through Malta) and it’s a reasonably cheap and nice place to live (just don’t buy a house!). The Airport has great links – I traveled there through Athens which I’d highly recommend too.

On the negative side the island is very “scrappy” in places. After being heavily bombed in WWII, there’s still a lot of rubble around with half constructed old buildings out of town which makes it look messy. The roads are also totally atrocious quality and people sometimes drive (albeit slowly!) like maniacs – so driving is not for the faint hearted. Having said that I didn’t see any accidents while I was there – so I think, despite the craziness… people are actually pretty alert and they do watch out for pedestrians even if it might not seem like it.

The government, while being hailed as progressive on economy always seems to be being accused of corruption in some way and it seems to be a very contentious issue on the island with locals – particularly around property development (sound familiar Gold Coasters?). Recently the influx of immigration has forced a development frenzie (including 2 very contentious tower blocks) and this seems to have somewhat polarized the island as property prices hikes force developers and government to build, but risk ruining the nice haven that the islanders are used to. Other infrastructure problems do exist – I’ve mentioned roads, but there is also not really any sort of river system or drainage so when it rains – water just flows all over the place, taking with it a lot of rubbish (another problem on Malta).

Enough of the negative though, Malta is an awesome place to be, it’s beautiful (mostly), a great location and the local people are warm and friendly when you get to know them (but somewhat direct and to the point – order your meals at restaurants fast!). I’d encourage fellow Aussie who might be reading this check it out – there is great opportunity on this little (blockchain) Island in the Southern Med!”