From bitcoin to Zcash, the world's cryptocurrencies are all built on blockchain – digital registers duplicated multiple times and distributed over a computer network to create a decentralized and reliable database.
While cryptocurrencies continue to be accepted by investors and consumers, Canada has emerged as a hub for their core technology.
"Canada is likely to be one of the three biggest blockchain hubs in the world," says Jason Cassidy, CEO of Crypto Consultant, a Toronto-based company that provides digital currency consulting and analysis services and the blockchain.
"We achieved this position by virtue of the fact that many young innovators entered the industry three to four years ago, and also largely due to the federal and provincial governments that were very pragmatic in working with industry. " Bitcoin is supported by blockchain technology.
Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
Who and what constitutes the country's blockchain ecosystem?
Mr. Cassidy is targeting a Canadian cryptocurrency startup network that includes Paycase Financial Corp. and the Coinsquare Ltd. digital currency exchange, both based in Toronto.
Hilary Carter, managing director of the Blockchain Research Institute, which was founded last year by Don and Alex Tapscott, authors of father and son behind the book Blockchain Revolution Canada is home to many pioneers of the blockchain.
Among them is the digital currency ethereum, which has two Canadians among its founding team, Aion based in Toronto, and Tendermint, whose co-founder and chief technology officer, Ethan Buchman, is in Toronto .
Ms. Carter also cites the large Canadian presence of blockchain leaders such as Cosmos, advertised as a sort of blockchain internet, and ConsenSys, a world-leading developer of applications based on Emereum.
"We have a very united and dynamic community blockchain community in Canada," he says. "We are also very fortunate to have thought that the blockchain leadership centered here in Toronto, with Tapscotts and Blockchain Research Institute – is very exciting."
Alex Tapscott states that the rise of Canada as a hub of blockchain can be attributed to a combination of factors, including a community of healthy startup, a transparent legal system, a solid sector of financial services and industry regulators open to innovation.
But they are blockchain entrepreneurs who have really driven the growth of the industry by starting businesses and then seeding other blockchain initiatives, says Mr. Tapscott. For example, he quotes Anthony Di Iorio, a co-founder of ethereum who has continued to launch and finance other companies in space.
"Another great example is the founder of Aion, who understood that there was the opportunity to build on what ethereum he did and try to do certain things better, such as climbing blockchain platforms and allow interoperability between different platforms, "says Tapscott. "Now Aion is one of the leading platforms in the world, with a footprint that extends far beyond our shores to every corner of the globe."
Canada could use its academic research and blockchain training, says Mr. Tapscott. While there is a lot of research in companies, universities need to step up their efforts in researching and offering programs to train the next generation of blockchain developers and entrepreneurs, he says.
William Mougayar, author of The Business Blockchain and managing partner and chief investment officer at JM3 Capital, based in Toronto, states that there is also room for improvements in the regulatory environment of the country. In particular, Canada's position on early coin offerings – the use of cryptocurrencies to raise money for businesses – put a brake on digital currencies and the blockchain market, he says.
"As a result, many companies leave and look for jurisdictions that are more welcoming to the phenomena of digital tokens," says Mougayar.
. Tapscott says that the growth of the blockchain industry in Canada has implications that go beyond the purchase and sale of cryptocurrencies.
"From a national perspective, Canada has been a resource-based economy for 100 years," he says. "While we are entering the second digital age – the first was the arrival of the Internet and the rise of computers – we have the opportunity to become a leader in the blockchain, which will power the new Internet infrastructure."  This new blockchain infrastructure will be a digital value medium in the same way that the Internet is a digital medium for information.
Mr. Cassidy provides examples of other blockchain applications: supply chain management systems where all parties can see where all the elements are in the system, "micro-payment" transactions between connected devices on the Internet and real estate transactions. "There's a litany of applications," he says.
To strengthen its position as a blockchain leader, Canada needs to do more to educate its citizens, Cassidy says. Government support for industry is crucial, he says.
"We need universities to start offering courses to young minds because the main problem with blockchain is lack of talent," says Cassidy. "We also need to create more pilot projects and we have to break bread with companies trying to push this narrative forward."