ZURICH—A vibrant blockchain community has blossomed in Switzerland.
On April 27, 2018, Ozan Polat and four other founding partners opened Trust Square in the Swiss capital. The three-floor coworking space (they’re adding a fourth soon) boasts a central Banhofstrasse address and houses some 40-45 companies actively doing work in the blockchain space. It’s exclusive!
“We’re extremely startup-focused, and we do a little due diligence before we approve a membership here,” Polat told us when Modern Consensus visited for a tour. “We try to identify what these projects provide to the community. Some hedge funds want offices here, but they don’t make anything.”
As a center of gravity for innovation in financial technology, Trust Square’s location in relation to the Swiss National Bank seems meaningful: it’s immediately across the street, visible from many windows and the roof deck. While Trust Square occupants develop financial projects that have nothing to do with physical money, Polat and the other office occupants watch regular transports of paper currency to the country’s central bank.
“A huge truck drives up and there’s always a handful of cops with guns controlling the process,” Polat explained. “I like to compare it to recorded transactions on the blockchain. That only requires low transaction fees, but they need huge, expensive trucks and armed guards.”
We got a personal tour of Trust Square (with Polat as guide) and had a camera in tow. Here’s what it looks like inside Zurich’s downtown blockchain workshop.
Trust Square is located on a prestigious street called Bahnhofstrasse. This blockchain coworking community is adjacent to art galleries, fashion houses, and luxury brand stores.
This electronic art installation steals the scene in the reception area. Several Raspberry Pis dangle from the ceiling, running a closed bitcoin network.
The Raspberry Pis are mining bitcoin, but an adversary computer randomly turns off the electricity and causes fragmentation. The aim of this art installation is to observe how the nodes find consensus. “We want a more artistic dialog around trust,” said Polat.
Much of the public space in Trust Square looks just like this: a long hallway that leads to private office spaces.
We enjoyed this visual pun found inside one office. It’s a blockchain, of course.
Trust Square has a variety of multipurpose rooms to use for meetings and other gatherings as its members see fit. Here’s a large meeting hall for a conference or presentation, for example.
This room is fancier quarters for smaller meetings.
And Trust Square cofounder Ozan Polat even revealed the secret location of the coworking space’s Nintendo 64, for use when you need a break from work.
Here’s a view of the Swiss National Bank out the window. Although there’s a market of some sort running today, this is the space where the bank sends its armored trucks for currency transport.
Trust Square’s roof deck offers sunny views of downtown Zurich.
Back inside, we noticed that one company sprang for low-budget but memorable office decor.
B3i is a company that sits at the intersection of the blockchain and insurance industries. It’s one of the biggest companies that calls Trust Square home.
This is the office space for a blockchain think tank called Dezentrum. As co-founder, Polat spends much of his workdays here. Dezentrum seeks to bring holistic thinking to the emergent blockchain field, something of a liberal arts counterbalance to an extremely hyped technology.
The Dezentrum bookshelves exhibit more than a little bit of liberal arts thinking.
This satellite is a Dezentrum project: a computer that has GPS peripherals and houses its own smart contract. The idea is that the satellite will autonomously make financial offers for a human to transport it from point A to point B, paying out in cryptocurrency as soon as it reaches its destination. The satellite form factor suggests it might one day make it into outer space.
And that’s what it’s like at Trust Square!