Since the initial development of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin in 2008, cryptocurrencies and the underlying blockchain technology are widely regarded as major technology trends. Although there seem to be numerous applications for blockchains in particular and distributed ledger technologies in general, ranging from payments via registry to identity management, the blockchain technology has not yet reached a wide-spread dissemination in the corporate world. One reason for this is that the technology is not complementary to existing database systems, but renders existing systems redundant. If there is a trustworthy intermediary administrating a central data base, switching to a blockchain system of distributed ledgers is neither necessary nor worth the cost. The other reason that this technology has not yet been widely adopted is that rules and regulation need to be adjusted first, so that the blockchain technology can be applied legally watertight.

An analysis of blockchain companies

The described legal impediments and substitution effects of the technology with respect to existing systems lead to the question whether there is a lack of start-up activity in the field of blockchain. To address this, we take a look at a dataset on blockchain start-up companies in Germany.

Identifying blockchain start-ups for a statistical analysis is demanding because there is no economic sector that comprises blockchain companies. One way of identification is to collect those companies in databases that mention the technology in the information they have supplied about themselves and about their business model. Applying this strategy to the Crunchbase database, we identified 275 companies that we define as blockchain companies.

Crunchbase is a company database that contains information about public and private companies, initially with a focus on start-ups and tech companies. Within Crunchbase’s dataset, we searched for companies headquartered in Germany that used one or more of the following words in their company description: blockchain, cryptocurrency, bitcoin, ethereum, ripple, distributed ledger. This search strategy dives deeper than to use the industry groups associated with the technology which Crunchbase provides. Our company sample is larger because in addition to pure blockchain companies, it also contains businesses that focus on other products or services and conduct blockchain activities additionally. While our sample is not representa-tive for German companies working with blockchains, it allows a more detailed analysis of these companies.