ConsenSys’ Ajit Tripathi: ‘Rebellious Teenager’ Crypto Is Maturing

ConsenSys’ Ajit Tripathi: ‘Rebellious Teenager’ Crypto Is Maturing


Interviewer: Welcome to Blockshow 2018 Europe. I’m here and we’re speaking with one of the
members of ConsenSys, so my first question to you, Ajit, is if you could just talk to
us a little bit about what ConsenSys is and what your role is there? Ajit: Sure. So Consensus is a venture production studio
based in Brooklyn, now we have offices in London, in about 30 countries, including London,
[France] Paris, South Africa, Australia, Singapore – so we’re building teams all over the world
to essentially develop blockchain based solutions. And we create a lot of startups, so we’re
technology builders and we are creating tools, components, infrastructure and solutions for
a decentralized ecosystem so, if I had to put this in one line, we create technology
for N-sided marketplaces, right. So what that means is that today in the [whole]
world everything was dominated by centralized platforms, like banks or, you know, the likes
of Facebook – they all dominate either data or assets, and
start… become rent-seeking participants in the economy. We want to shift that to peer-to-peer paradigm
where the individual is empowered and we think technology, especially blockchain technology
has a big role to play in creating an ecosystem where we do not depend on these dominant intermediaries
in every single market for information and assets. I: So do you have any projects in ConsenSys right now that you’re really excited about that you’re developing, that are maybe close
to mass adoption? A: So it’d be very very difficult for me to
not be excited about some of our projects, so blockchain is early-stage technology, right? But at the same time in the enterprise space
we have seen a lot of progress, so we are actually working on a project with some very
large financial institutions that I can’t announce right now, but that’s tremendously
exciting, we are working on infrastructure components, like, you know, Truffle is the
most popular development tool in all of Ethereum development community, then Metamask has had
1 million downloads – it’s a wallet. Infura can support up to 12 billion transactions
a day which it’s for read-only transactions, and takes a lot off load of the Ethereum – the
public Ethereum blockchain. So infrastructure tools like that are extremely
exciting, my focus is on decentralized exchanges, and regulation and policy, so decentralized
exchanges are peer-to-peer marketplaces for exchanging digital and digitized assets, right? So let’s say… And what that means, is that historically
we’ve had centralized exchanges for the most part, right? Like, the things like NASDAQ, or NYSE, and
so on, and so forth, or Deutsche Börse and NESTOR, that are very efficient in terms of
providing liquidity, but then are not so great for low liquidity assets, so for a wide range
of digital assets, that need sort of this peer-to-peer discovery for exchanging – so
we are working on this next-generation decentralized exchange platforms. We are working on crypto custody, so Trustology
is our platform for an institutional great crypto custody that’ll be… that will go
live at the end of this year, so, I mean we have 40+ projects, we have a “blockchain for
social impact” project, we have venture capital arm now, we are creating a lot of ventures
in partnership with enterprise customers, so we are… in some sense our role is to
unleash this entrepreneurial spirit or energy of the whole blockchain community, whether
it’s the enterprise community or the crypto community, and these are all starting to converge. I come from the enterprise space, I worked
for Goldman, Barclay’s, UBS, PwC, so some of the most established institutions and the
kind of intermediaries I talked about, and I sort of bring the whole power and this innovation
in the crypto ecosystem to institutions and legacy – so my role is to help some of these
institutions understand what’s going on in crypto and how they can leverage this technology
to participate in this decentralization revolution, so to speak. I: Ok, so my next question is two parts, the
first one is – what made you leave working with these intermediaries and go to the crypto
space? And the second thing is – I notice that I
cover a lot of news that this Wall Street exec now works for Coinbase, this Wall Street
exec now works for Ex-Crypto company – do you think that’s like a theme we’re gonna
keep seeing in the future with you kind of being one of the examples? A: So I can’t speak for everybody’s motivations,
right? So on one hand some people are excited about
the growth of the crypto ecosystem and that’s perfectly honorable and great, and some people
are excited by the sheer amount of wealth that’s flowing into this ecosystem, and that’s
perfectly honorable as well. I’m an engineer, I came from technology and
did some work in consulting and regulation. In the process I met Joe – Joe is the CEO
of ConsenSys, and Joe has something about him, so… he, you know… Joe is an inspirational figure, he has this
ability to excite people about this future, like this decentralized Internet, and then
this decentralized insider marketplace idea, that we are building in so many different
sectors of the global economy, and this whole thing about being able to build something
– something that’s futuristic, and, you know, a lot of large institutions want to innovate
or companies want to innovate, but they have the innovator’s dilemma, they’re tied to
what exists today, and they are scared of disrupting their own businesses. With ConsenSys there is no such thing, right? ConsenSys exist to create new things, ConsenSys does a lot of experimentation, ConsenSys is purely focused on innovation, and that’s what
made me really excited about ConsenSys at this time, because if you have an idea and
if you have a team, and you can actually make things happen – then ConsenSys is a great
place for people to go – and we are hiring right now. I: [Laughs] The next question involves [this]
– I’ve noticed on your Twitter, you’ve been tweeting a lot about the new GDPR-EU privacy
bill… A: Yeah, I have strong views on that. I: Including a tweet of a refrigerator giving
a family privacy update notice. A: Right. I: What do you think about that? Could you expand on why you’ve been tweeting
all about that? A: So GDPR is well-intentioned, right? I mean, it was partly [that] our current privacy
regime is outdated, that we know, right? So that previous regime needs an update, you
know that as well, because now we have Facebook, and we have Google, and you have lots of these
data intermediaries – it’s central monopolies, that are taking everybody’s data and selling
ads back to them, and might even… And as we found out from Edward Snowden, might
be giving their data off to the government for surveillance, so… And the NSA using public data for surveillance
was a major political issue in various parts of Europe, especially in Germany. And to some extent the GDPR was a well-intentioned
response to that. But if you look at how the regulation has
been written, then it has some significant flaws or at least, you know,
that regulation needs a little bit of adaptation to the technology that’s emerging, because
what we don’t want to do is… because privacy isn’t the only need, right? So privacy is a very very important need,
but then there is also… The Europe needs to remain competitive against
other jurisdictions, we need to create great technology, we need to make sure that our
economies are competitive against China, and India, and the US, and so on, and so forth. We need a technology ecosystem in this continent
that’s competitive. So now GDPR runs the risk of being too restrictive,
right? And so the disincentivizing innovation, whether
it’s innovation in AI, in big data [unintelligible] and machine learning, blockchain, and so on,
and so forth – so the way the regulation is written is very confusing to a lot of technologists
today, and there is no legal precedent, right? So, for example, we have a right to be forgotten,
now what does that mean in practice? So I used to be a consultant for banks, right? I did a lot of consulting for banks, and at
PwC, and now if you try to actually delete a customer’s data from, bank because of the
GDPR, there are ten other regulatory requirements that prevent you from doing that, right? So in theory it sounds fantastic, but in practice
implementing GDPR is really hard now, and it can actually make people very concerned,
so Parity, who have a KYC utility PICOPS, which is very popular with the ICOs, had to
stop its service, because now they are really concerned about GDPR, right? Now on one hand you have KYC and AML regulations,
and you definitely want to have KYC and AML regulations, ICOs comply with all of that,
and now suddenly we have to stop a very useful service called PICOPS because of GDPR our
concerns, because there is a lot of legal and regulatory uncertainty, these guys don’t
want to be in legal trouble because they are offering a great service, right? So because right now there is a lot of uncertainty,
there is no legal precedent for GDPR, we don’t know how the various courts will rule, and
GDPR doesn’t protect you from government, so the UK government has cameras on every
street, and there is no protection for that from GDPR, there is a bunch of derogations,
right? Or the governments might enforce a backdoor
on encryption, and there’s no protection from that, there’s no protection from surveillance
by governments, so GDPR has significant limitations, it may actually not be able to protect privacy
of individuals to the extent that it aspires to – but it is definitely well-intentioned
and its response to the… So, I think what will happen, is that over
a period of time policymakers and regulators and technology providers will all work together. So we are working on a project with the European
Commission, it’s called the EU Blockchain Observatory, and we invite ecosystem, you
know, all the blockchain ecosystem participants to engage in that process, and at some point
policymakers and regulators will adapt GDPR to this new and exciting technology that’s
coming up, but until then there is a lot of confusion and and uncertainty in the marketplace. I: So going off of that – the regulatory uncertainty
that exists has led to a lot of confusing regulations that have, you know – in China
there’s been a lot of bans that have caused companies to move to Hong Kong, in India the
Central Bank ended all crypto dealings, and then it’s been sued, and it’s been going back
and forth – could you comment on any of that? I mean you mentioned the Blockchain Observatory,
what other steps could be done to stop these kind of [issues]? A: Yeah, so regulatory approaches around the
world are rooted in their culture, right? So I wrote a little bit of a humorous article
about this on Finextra, so, for example, when we talked to kids at the dinner table in the
US, we tell… when they’re not behaving, in the US we tell them to go to their rooms. In China, in India we might actually hit them. So crypto is like this kid growing up, and
regulators are like these parents who behave in ways that are attuned to their culture,
right? Now some of these are knee-jerk responses
from regulators around the world because, for example, in China there was a Communist
Party Congress, just before Bitcoin was banned, right? And the government didn’t want social instability,
and there was a very bullish market that could have caused a lot of problems for individual
investors. So a lot of these things that regulators are
doing are well-intentioned, but part of the challenge is that the crypto community hasn’t
really engaged with policymakers – we haven’t tried or invested in educating, so initially
the Bitcoin came out of a bit of a revolution, right? We were rebelling, the crypto community was
rebelling against the “Chancellor Bailout”, and Occupy Wall Street was the theme, but
now that kid, rebellious teenager, has grown up a little bit, and it’s time for us as technologists
to engage with the other processes of the society, such as regulation and policy, and
work collaboratively, help regulators understand what’s going on, help governments understand
what’s going on, educate ourselves on why the rules are the way they are, why the securities
laws are set up the way they are, and then maybe find this ground where we can… the
technology can develop and create the fairer world, but at the same time without causing
some of the issues that might occur if we are not responsible in using this technology. I: Great! That was my last question, so thank you so
much for coming, for attending the Blockshow! A: Thank you so much, it was my pleasure,
thank you.

6 Comments

  • Jill Jill Adventure

    July 11, 2018

    Iam missing , she cute smiling face, Catherine rose I love you😍😘

    Reply
  • Arnel Macariola

    July 11, 2018

    I like the things what Consensys would like to do in this industry. It is very encouraging to know that we have teams/people like these working all over the world.

    Reply
  • Teo

    July 11, 2018

    Good man👍

    Reply
  • O

    July 11, 2018

    always good to listen to Ajit

    Reply
  • Crypto Crib

    July 12, 2018

    Great content. Guided relevant questions. Incredible insiders perspective.

    Reply
  • Mei Miraballes

    May 6, 2019

    Consensys is still not worthy after all this time!

    Reply

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