Today we are joined by Dr Gideon Greenspan of Coin Sciences Ltd. They are developers of the MultiChain private blockchain platform and they will be attending the Innovate Finance Global Summit in London next week.
Our questions are in bold.
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Who are you and what’s your background?
Alongside academic degrees in Computer Science, Management Studies and Philosophy, I’ve always been a full-time entrepreneur, having begun as a teenager selling my Macintosh software over the Internet (“shareware”). In the last ten years I’ve been more focused on web development, creating, in collaboration with others, the most popular Sudoku website on the Internet (Web Sudoku) and the market leading plagiarism search engine (Copyscape). It was the frustrations I experienced in accepting online payments for these businesses that originally got me interested in the blockchain area.
My co-founders Michael Rozantsev and Simon Liu are both accomplished developers, with a great deal of experience in back-end and front-end respectively. Michael originally joined Copyscape 5 years ago, rewriting the entire back-end for greater scalability. And I’ve known Simon since my days at Cambridge University, where we studied Computer Science together. Since then Maya Zehavi has joined the company in a business development role – I met her through the local bitcoin/blockchain community and she knows the space and players extremely well.
What is your job title and what are your general responsibilities?
As the CEO my most important jobs are driving the product vision, writing content (great way to do marketing), and talking to users and customers. I’m also responsible for administrative aspects of the business, keeping everyone happy, fundraising, and the occasional bit of coding. An important goal is to let our developers focus on their work, because distractions kill their productivity.
Can you give us an overview of your business?
We provide a popular private blockchain platform called MultiChain, which is being used by a ton of companies, large and small, for their blockchain pilots and beyond. MultiChain’s key selling points are: (a) it’s actually available and works (no small thing in the blockchain world!), (b) it’s very easy to install and use, (c) maximal technical compatibility with bitcoin, which makes developers’ lives much easier. In less than a year we’ve seen very rapid growth in every metric, and are about to hit 10,000 downloads. Our long-term goal is to make MultiChain one of leading blockchain platforms (there will be more than one!)
Tell us how you are funded.
So far, we are seed funded – the three main investors are Mosaic Ventures (a London VC), Zohar Gilon (a prominent Israeli angel investor) and myself.
Why did you start the company? To solve what problems?
I started the company to build CoinSpark, a protocol which leverages bitcoin transactions for asset transfer, messaging and more. But after 9 months it became clear that bitcoin’s adoption had slowed, and it would be many years before real companies are willing to become dependent on public blockchains, if ever. At the same time we saw many companies, especially financial institutions, tinkering with blockchains to try to make them more suitable for their needs, adding permissioning, native asset support, and so on. So we decided to develop an off-the-shelf platform to save them all the hassle – this is MultiChain.
Who are your target customers? What’s your revenue model?
Any company which is developing blockchain-related projects, and doesn’t want to develop their own blockchain engine from scratch, needs a platform to build on. It’s exactly the same logic as behind developers using relational databases such as Oracle or MySQL, rather than creating one themselves. I don’t want to get into naming individual users, but MultiChain has been built on by some of the largest banks, consulting firms, financial technology and IT companies on the planet. Our business model is a combination of consulting, formal support packages, and (in future) a premium version.
If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change in the banking and/or FinTech sector?
The length of time it takes from when management get excited about a new technology, to when its genuine advantages and limitations are truly understood.
What is your message for the larger players in the Finance industry?
Every technology decision has its trade-offs, and blockchain is no different. So blockchains should be evaluated for each use case based on their strengths and weaknesses, rather than based on the hype or a reaction against that hype.
What phone are you carrying and why?
Apple iPhone 6s, bought very recently after many years of using an old iPhone 4. It had got to the point where nothing worked any more, and my wife insisted.
Where do you get your industry news from?
Hacker News (from Y Combinator) and Twitter.
Can you list 3 people you rate from the FinTech sector that we should be following on Twitter?
Apart from the usual suspects (Dave Birch, Simon Taylor) I find both @lang_fc (Ian Grigg) and @ofnumbers (Tim Swanson) from R3 to be insightful on Twitter.
What’s the best FinTech product or service you’ve seen recently?
I can’t think of any FinTech product or service I use, which I guess makes me a Luddite!
Finally, let’s talk predictions. What trends do you think are going to define the next few years in the FinTech sector?
I don’t know that much about the FinTech sector in general, but in terms of blockchains, I think the finance world and beyond will come to understand that blockchains are simply a new type of database, which can be safely shared across trust boundaries. This will be useful for all sorts of purposes, and help drive efficiencies in inter-company coordination. However it will not be as transformative – in a business sense – as many are making out.
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