• Bianca Chen

2018 was the crypto bottom, 2019 looks very optimistic

The Cryptocurrency market has experienced its peak followed by a collapse over the short duration from 2017 to 2018. Last year has been the winter of digital currency, with many legends of the market crushed hard during 2018. One of the giants of the industry, ConsenSys, is also going through a problematic period, something which is apparent based on their recent decision to lay off anywhere between 50% to 60% of its employees.

Founder of ConsenSys, Co-founder of Ethereum - Joseph Lubin

However, the CEO of ConsenSys,Joseph Lubin,dismisses the belief that the age of cryptocurrency is drawing to its end. In a series of tweets, he claimed that 2018 was the crypto bottom, 2019 looks very optimistic, and the future of cryptocurrency is brighter than ever. Here, I would like to share an exclusive interview with Joseph, the founder of Ethereum and the CEO of ConsenSys, as well as a guest on my docuseries “Next: Blockchain.” In this piece, Joseph will discuss the story of the birth and growth of Ethereum and ConsenSys, as well as his expectation of the promising future awaiting both these companies.

Bianca: Before you discovered bitcoin, what did you do?

Lubin: I did many things. I had a career spanning technology and finance. I did about 10 years of work in robotics machine vision and AI neural networks research. I handled various software engineering projects in different fields. My last software engineering project was at Goldman Sachs. A good part of my introduction to the world of finance happened while on that job. I ended up in that world, building trading systems and running a hedge fund with a partner. And then I did a short stint in Jamaica playing around in the music industry.

Bianca: What led you into Ethereum? And what was your first impression of Ethereum?

Lubin: Back in 2013, wanting to understand more about the technology of cryptocurrency,I reached out to Anthony Diorio, another Ethereum founder, who was running something called the Global Bitcoin Alliance. He mentioned that this guy named Vitalik Buterin had put together a very interesting white paper and they were having a meet up on January 1st. So I attended that, spoke to Vitalik for a while, read the white paper that night, and kept a close eye on the project during the next few weeks.

We organized an event at the end of January in advance of the North American Bitcoin Conference. At that point, we rented a house with a bunch of people and conceptualized the project.

At variance with previous attempts to enable software developers to build new functionality beyond simply the money application by building new kinds of applications on blockchain systems. The Telex insight was to place a general-purpose computer at every node of a peer-to-peer blockchain network and enable every software developer to identify their own problems and create their own solutions. My first impression of Ethereum was that it was the first scalable way of bringing blockchain to everything in the sense that millions of software developers could get involved.

Bianca: Do you remember what was the most important functionality or feature you guys wanted to embed in Ethereum?

Lubin: There is no single feature that's most important for Ethereum. The platform itself is the essence. Without a fully functional decentralized application platform you can't build decentralized applications. There have been lots of upgrades over the years of Ethereum, and there are many more planned. There's still a very exciting roadmap towards scalability.

State channels are being built. The plasma system is being built. We've got trusted relay networks, private permissioning, public permissioning and other networks that can house different applications. We have proofs of stake being built, making the whole network orders of magnitude more efficient in terms of computation and energy use. We have Sharding being built, turning one Ethereum into hundreds of different Etheria that are all consistently connected to one another.

Bianca: What was your inspiration to start ConsenSys?

Lubin: We were getting close to a release and there were no people building applications in the space so I figured I would gather some people together and we would experiment with building applications.

We have done quite a lot of work in the energy, banking, insurance, supply chain, education and health care industries. On the government side of things, we built land title, and worked with the Monetary Authority of Singapore to build a real time gross settlement system, done some identity work in Brazil and in Zug, Switzerland. We built an identity system that has moved out of pilot into production and will enable the citizens of Zug to access government services.

Bianca: What kind of pain points do they want you to solve?

Lubin: Pain Points are different in different industries. Usually it's about being able to collaborate more effectively either within an organization or across organizations. Sometimes it's about transparency of data, sharing shared access to different systems, or non-repeatability of data.

Bianca: I heard ConsenSys is very decentralized. Is that so? And how do you manage it?

Lubin: We are decentralized in our nature at ConsenSys because people who were involved in the space were all around the world. We've been global right from the start. We are thinking of ourselves as an organism and the people as cells or neurons. People are collected into organs so we have different organs that our product organs called spokes, service organs called circles, and other kinds of groups like policy groups and regional offices.

All those functional units have application programming interfaces wrapped around them so that everybody knows not only what each different group can do but also how well they are doing it.

We also have teams that are installing emotional intelligence, helping all our members to communicate more effectively. We are doing our best to keep the mesh of ConsenSys projects and groups as flat as we can, as non-structurally hierarchical as we can, and imbue them all with as much autonomy as possible.

Bianca: Do you think this kind of management style can become the mainstream of the corporation? And in which industry do you think you guys have more opportunities?

Lubin: I think the power of the decentralizing technologies is profound and it is going to change the way business and other organizations deliver services to their clients. We're going to continue pursuing the many different business lines that we're operating and will expand into a lot of niches that are becoming relevant.

We have opportunities in any industry that involves people who need to communicate and collaborate with one another in some sort of shared or collective activity or if it involves information technology systems.