Blog Article

A Look Back on Meridian 2021


Caroline Young

Publishing date


And just like that, Meridian 2021 is over! This week, members of SDF and the Stellar ecosystem reunited for our third annual conference and biggest event of the year, and it did not disappoint – we celebrated some big milestones, engaged in lively discussions, and left more resolved than ever to tackle the challenge of creating equitable access to the world’s financial systems.

We decided early on that the theme would be “Build Locally, Impact Globally.” If 2020 knocked us off-balance, 2021 gave us the opportunity to look all around us, identify the most pressing issues, and come up with a game plan on how to resolve them. With this renewed focus, we saw how builders on Stellar innovated within their communities to great effect and creativity, and how these solutions could lead to incredible impact once scaled globally.

Below are some of our favorite moments of the conference:

The intersection of economy, environment, and technology

Our keynote speaker this year was Josè María Figueres, former President of Costa Rica and international leader in environmentalism and equitable economic development. After serving as President and CEO of the World Economic Forum, Figueres currently serves as the Chairman of the Carbon War Room, reaffirming his dedication to fight against climate change.

“There is no place, no area of human endeavor where acting locally and impacting globally is more needed and more effective than at the intersection of the economy and the environment,” said Figueres. He dove into how Costa Rica (containing 5% of the world’s biodiversity) has prioritized developing strong environmental and economic policies that are closely intertwined, and how this process started at the local level.

Citing successful initiatives like the establishment of the National Parks system, ecotourism, and sustainable approaches to growing various sectors of the economy, Costa Rica has been able to situate itself as a global actor when it comes to matters of climate change and environmental economics.

Playing a huge role in this intersection between the economy and environment is, of course, technology. To fight global crises such as climate change and poverty, problems that have dramatically, the world will need the power of technology to better the lives of everyone, and especially the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Reimagining payments with MoneyGram International

The Stellar ecosystem and the blockchain, fintech, and financial services industries as a whole are realizing that the collaboration between MoneyGram and SDF is a transformational opportunity to bridge the fiat world to the digital world.

Denelle Dixon, CEO and Executive Director at SDF, and Lin-Hua Wu, VP of Global Communications and Public Affairs at Google (and SDF board member), joined MoneyGram International CEO Alex Holmes in Dallas, Texas for a deep dive into our progress on bridging assets and local currencies.

Denelle points out that, “Normally, to get into blockchain today, to get your cash converted into a digital asset, you need to be able to leverage either a wire transfer, credit card, or a bank account. [This initiative] will create the real opportunity to bring the cash world into blockchain, and to make it so that people can actually leverage their wallet for that purpose.”

With Stellar-connected wallets, users will be able to access a new cash-in and cash-out option via MoneyGram’s international retail platform. By cashing out, users can exchange Stellar USDC for any cash currency supported by MoneyGram in participating markets. At participating MoneyGram locations, users will be able to pick up that currency or exchange cash currency into a Stellar USDC balance in their wallet. By cashing in, users will have a new option to get cash onto their wallets and send internationally via Stellar USDC. Participating MoneyGram locations will effectively become new cash on and off ramps for the Stellar network.

And what will scale this solution’s impact dramatically is MoneyGram’s massive agent network. Operating in more than 200 countries with over 400,000 agent offices, MoneyGram outlets and agents can be found in your local convenience stores, big box retailers, and more. All these agents have their feet on the ground, and they know who their customers and regulators are – which is a huge boon to MoneyGram and SDF as they begin to leverage their complementary strengths of speed, scale, and compliance to introduce even more interoperability into the financial system.

With decades of experience and data under its belt, MoneyGram is able to pave the way for regulators to understand how safe and compliant payments can be conducted on the Stellar blockchain, with the additional bonus of all transactions being recorded on an immutable distributed ledger.

With the pilot of MoneyGram on Stellar now live and running, those interested can watch a demo of how this interface works below:

This pilot is currently available for friends and family, with a broader rollout planned for 2022.

Growing the Stellar ecosystem and how the ecosystem helped Stellar grow

The Stellar ecosystem is a vibrant place to build, with many businesses developing innovative solutions that serve their local communities and help connect the world’s financial systems. In several sessions, ecosystem leaders spoke about what brought them to Stellar in the first place, their experiences building on Stellar, and what Stellar has enabled them to accomplish.

The Global Impact of Strategic Investors

  • Andrea Lo (Sr. Director of Investments, SDF) facilitated an Enterprise Fund roundtable discussion between Amr Shady (CEO & Co-founder, Tribal), Ioannis Giannaros (CEO, Wyre), and Shivani Siroya (Founder & CEO, Tala). One standout benefit of the Enterprise Fund discussed was the opportunity to “co-create” from a strategic lens, a unique and collaborative approach that traditional VC funds have not widely adopted.

Investing in the Stellar Community’s Vision

  • Anke Liu (Community & Events Manager) gathered previous Stellar Community Fund winners Frederic Kyung-jin Rezeau (Founder & CEO, Litemint), Markus Paulson-Luna (Co-Founder, Script3), and Tori Samples (Co-Founder & CTO, Leaf Global Fintech) to update us on how their businesses have grown since winning their respective rounds.

Liquidity: AMM Functionality on Stellar

  • Justin Rice (VP of Ecosystem, SDF) was joined by Phil Meng (Head of Markets and Liquidity, SDF) and Dima Gmyza (Co-founder and CEO, Ultra Stellar) to discuss how AMM functionality on Stellar enable cheaper, faster cross-border payments in addition to democratizing liquidity provision. Ecosystem participants such as Ultra Stellar, Stellarport, and Settle collaborated with SDF early on to build products such as application layer interfaces that leveraged AMM functionality ahead of the vote on Protocol 18, ensuring that end users would be able to use these products once validators voted to accept the protocol upgrade. Never done before, this serves as an outstanding example of what the ecosystem can accomplish on Stellar when different parties work together.

A day of debates

Day 2 of Meridian 2021 was devoted to debates between some of the blockchain industry’s most renowned experts as they answered the pressing questions. How are governments and regulatory agencies handling digital assets and finances? What is the future of digital currency? CBDCs or stablecoins? What’s next for Stellar? And crypto and blockchain in general?

Spicy opinions and sharp points-of-view kept us glued to our seats and screens, but don’t take our word for it. Verbal sparring is best observed up close:

National Approaches to Regulation

  • Seth Hertlein (Head of Policy & Government Relations, SDF), Kristin Smith (Executive Director, Blockchain Association), Erik Bethel (Distinguished Fellow, Chamber of Digital Commerce), Olayinka David-West (Professor, Lagos Business School), and Oleksandr Bornyakov (Deputy Minister, Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation)

Public and Private Digital Currencies

  • Alex McDougall (President & COO, Stablecorp), Dante Disparte (Chief Strategy Officer & Head of Global Policy, Circle), Josh Lipsky (Director, GeoEconomics Center, Atlantic Council), Simon Chantry (Co-Founder and CIO, Bitt), and Candace Kelly (General Counsel, SDF)

Growth of Stellar: What Happens Next?

  • Patrick Campos (Chief Strategy Officer, Securrency), Meinhard Benn (CEO, SatoshiPay), Mary Saracco (CFO & Co-founder, Settle Network), Boris Reznikov (Director of BD, SDF), and Seth Melamed (Chief Operating Officer, Liquid)

Crystal Ball: Predictions for 2022

  • Amit Sharma (CEO & Founder, FinClusive), Santiago Alvarado (VP, Bitso for Business), Matthew Castricone (Director of Ecosystem, SDF), Ruben Galindo Steckel (Co-Founder & CEO, Airtm), and Lisa Nestor (Strategy Consultant)

Growing global networks for maximum impact

In the penultimate session of Meridian, Tomer Weller, VP of Tech Strategy at SDF, gave an overview of the technical accomplishments of 2021 before diving into what lies in store for Stellar. Building on recent advances in interoperability and cooperation by trusted parties, Tomer discussed the possibilities for Stellar as it expanded its reach into scale, bridging, and DeFi initiatives.

Denelle then concluded the conference with her final remarks, pointing out how “Build Locally, Impact Globally” isn’t just a theme – it’s a learned experience. Communities all over the world have their own unique set of rules, culture, and challenges; thus, solutions can’t be one-size-fits-all. Rather, local solutions must be afforded a global platform in order to unite the financial world.

To help these local solutions scale and fulfill the mission of “creating equitable access to the global financial system,” Denelle laid out SDF’s 2022 strategic objectives:

  1. Drive utility: To increase scalability and throughput by supporting innovations like SpeedEX, improving Stellar core, and continually assessing potential updates to AMMs. SDF will also create new engagement models to partner with businesses and apps that offer high-demand services and useful, feature-rich solutions tailored to local markets.
  2. Activate participation: To engage with the world in new ways, and for more people to know about all the amazing things happening on Stellar. This can range from producing a future-forward facing roadmap, expanding Stellar Quest, and activating people as advocates and ambassadors from within the ecosystem.
  3. Fuel ecosystem growth: To fuel the growth of the Stellar ecosystem by expanding the Enterprise Fund’s investment reach, collaborating with meaningful partners in the venture capital space, and focusing on local relationships to identify areas of impact that might otherwise be overlooked in emerging markets.
  4. Demand inclusion: To provide direct support of developers and communities, improve financial access in emerging markets, fund specific research to identify local needs, and prioritize growth in underserved regions.
  5. Impact policy: To make meaningful connections and have conversations with policymakers that drive toward regulatory clarity for all. To be more vocal, taking a position publicly on important issues and working to advance an agenda that is consistent and equitable, and fosters innovation.

Of course, we can’t close out a conference without an inspiring message:

All done!

If you attended the conference, we'd love to hear about your experience. If you have a moment, please take the post-Meridian 2021 attendee survey. Your feedback will help us make the next Meridian and future events better than ever.

Miss a session? Don't worry, you can find and watch all the sessions on demand here. Check out our tech talks and demos too while you’re at it!

From all of us here at the Stellar Development Foundation — thank you for helping make Meridian 2021 a success!