“As a leader you have to be that bridge that brings everyone together, so that you can assemble in large numbers and scale sustainably.”
Block.one and the EOS blockchain are most well known for conducting a year-long token crowd-sale between June 2017 to June 2018 resulting in a total of $4 Billion in collected revenues. While, many of the other token crowd-sales such as Kik and Telegram faced tough regulatory persecution resulting in fines, termination of activities and even refunds to investors, Block.one was able to settle the U.S. regulatory charges against it in a favorable deal with the SEC, resulting in a civil fine of $24 million dollars, or only 0.6% of the crowd-sale proceeds.
Block.one maintains that its token sale was a revenue-generating event rather than a fundraising exercise, and that is most closely compared to selling virtual gaming digital assets. Prior to the token sale, Block.one on-boarded several brand name investors from Silicon Valley icon Peter Thiel, to Bitmain, Louis Bacon, Alan Howard, Christian Angermayer, Lansdowne Investment Company Ltd, and Galaxy Digital’s Mike Novogratz.
This mega successful revenue-generating event put Block.one in a very special position, allowing its executives to ask themselves a questions every start-up founder can only dream of – “What would you build, if money was no object?”
This week, I had the opportunity to sit down for an inspiring interview with Brendan Blumer, Founder & CEO of Block.one, to discuss his vision for the company, how to be an effective leader in an ever-changing technological landscape and what tools he uses to stay on top of his game.
Tatiana Koffman: Hi, Brendan. Thank you for joining us today! Blockchain innovation offers unlimited possibilities, beyond just a more efficient and secure way to share data. What is the future of this technology and how does it fit within your vision for EOS and Block.one?
Brendan Blumer: Thank you so much for having me.
Block.one has three core components:
(1) We have the EOSIO business, where we are focused on developing the layer one protocol and all the tools required to harmoniously integrate that architecture… EOSIO is a business unit that looks at the tools required to integrate private and public blockchain infrastructure within your business, holistically, and develop the support functions required.
(2) We have a private equity arm that is focused on investing in primarily EOSIO businesses… a lot of it is done through third-party GPs, so that way we can spread the capital to other experienced investors and extend the reach of the ecosystem, although we do make some direct investments ourselves.
(3) The last piece of our business…is realizing the potential of EOSIO by actually building businesses ourselves. Voice, our social media platform, is one of those projects.
[Last week, Block.one announced ‘EOSIO for Business’ a new suite of enterprise service offerings designed to help organizations integrate blockchain-based solutions into their operations. The four new offerings will leverage Block.one’s performance-focused EOSIO software and will include Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS), consulting, technical support, and training and certification programs. Block.one also announced a partnership with Google GOOG +0.6% last week, where Google will join as a block producer candidate with the opportunity to become one the EOS 21 block producers,building on Google’s ‘strong open-source routes’.]
Tatiana Koffman: The Google Partnership was an important announcement for the blockchain sector, because it was one of the first tech giants to recognize the space as legitimate. Do you see other Silicon Valley heavyweights joining next?
Brendan Blumer:Absolutely, I think all of them are exploring it in their own ways. Some of them have different risk appetites. Google is pretty far along in that process. It’s just a matter of time before others continue to enter.
Tatiana Koffman: You are based in Hong Kong and have a front row seat to the blockchain developments in China. What global impact do you foresee as a result of China’s digital currency DCEP and the Blockchain Services Network (BSN)?
Brendan Blumer: We see very aggressive adoption specific to blockchain technology happening in Asia and how you can create interoperability between public and private blockchain components. China is absolutely building a large private infrastructure. I think China is very savvy in terms of what blockchain is capable of. They have made it a cornerstone to revolutionizing their currency and increasing their currency’s prominence, particularly in emerging markets.
One of most incredible things about China, in terms of their economic growth, is how aggressively they pave the way for organizations to innovate with these new technologies, as opposed to America which impedes organizations with regulation.
America was built on the foundation of low regulation… what you saw is the human spirit set free, and an era of capitalism and innovation. Now there are too many rules, and it’s a constant battle…In China, you have the government blazing the way. And you really see that in the growth numbers…. They are poised to succeed on a policy level.
Tatiana Koffman: Coinbase’ Brian Armstrong made headlines recently by publicly stating that Coinbase will be a ‘mission-driven’ company and will no longer tolerate political discussions in the workplace. Will Block.one adopt a similar policy?
Brendan Blumer:I have a lot of respect for what Brian Armstrong…I think it’s a touchy subject, but I understand the stuff Brian has to go through, and I understand it on an intimate level… When you want to make change you can take two routes: cooperation and confrontation. A lot of people in the space tend to be more anarchist… but I’m a big believer that the way you bring societal change is to first show that you can comply with the existing framework… Legal frameworks have been the biggest catalyst for the evolution of human rights over a long period of time… I do think that major organizations in the space like Coinbase and Block.one…we can’t sit down… and accomplish every change we want to see…now… We can’t make ‘perfect’ the enemy of the good… Coinbase understand[s] what they are bringing to the world…through making digital assets accessible… but there is a lot of compliance that they are going to have to follow to safely operate for their employees.
Block.one is committed to compliance as well…We are focused on bringing as much of the advantage of the space to the public as possible. We want to earn the trust of the community and abide by legal frameworks…Then we want to engage in intelligent conversation on how we can make change…In order to make change, you have to play by the rules [first].
Tatiana Koffman: There is an active debate on monetary stimulus in the U.S. Do you think adding more stimulus is the correct path to recovery?
Brendan Blumer:Stimulus is just another form of tax. When you deal with global prices that asymmetrically affect the population, you are faced with tough choices. So how are you going to fix it? We do look to our governments to step in when those things happen. We pay taxes. We expect them to be there in times of need like today. And there are only so many options and tools that governments have… I think stimulus is the right way for governments to be addressing this problem… the problem is money gets allocated in the wrong way. One of the most frustrating aspects of this pandemic is that it really has made the wealthy wealthier…. Policies are being implemented in such a way that they are driving asset prices up for the wealthy and not properly redistributing the subsequent value back to the people that need it the most.
The reality is, fiat is not a good investment. It is not designed to be a good investment…Governments are responding to the crisis the way you would expect and the way they probably should…but it’s also very powerful marketing for crypto…where you can rely on supply integrity.
Even in absence of the stimulus, Bitcoin’s and crypto’s value proposition is similar to gold, and the integrity that it brings.
Tatiana Koffman: With negative interest rates and active pursuit of inflation, we now have companies like MicroStrategy MSTR -23.4%, Square SQ -0.2% and Stone Ridge allocate funds into Bitcoin. Does Block.one utilize Bitcoin as part of its treasury management strategy?
Brendan Blumer:Block.one holds just under 10% of EOS in treasury and we also hold a very sizable position in Bitcoin. As loyal ambassadors of this ecosystem, we keep our value in Bitcoin… we have for a long time… and I’ve been quite public about that…We are very much aligned with that mentality. I think you are going to see other organizations follow suit.
Tatiana Koffman: Let’s fast-forward 5 or 10 years. Where is Block.one? Where is Brendan Blumer? Will you still be running Block.one or does the dream get even bigger?
Brendan Blumer: Block.one is a holding company, and see different business emerging but technology projects take a long time. One of the hardest demands to meet in this space is the expectation of speed by the community. And it’s great, it keeps you alive and keeps you focused!
I hope in 5 or 10 years I’m still doing this. I do love what I do.
Tatiana Koffman: You mentioned some of the pressures you face from the various stakeholders, investors and employees. You started this journey relatively young. What are some of the challenges you’ve had to face as you stepped into the shoes of a leader?
Brendan Blumer:Blockchain is challenging in its own way…We are in a regulatory landscape that’s evolving…[You need to] have a holistic picture of who your market is and…make sure you are operating with compliance, building a practical route for delivering innovation at the intersection of something that works for your users but is also able to deliver a competitive advantage. That’s a really powerful but also very difficult thing to land on.
The other thing is just building the right kind of culture. We live in a world where so much of it is through remote collaboration…and understanding the bleeding edge of remote collaboration and productivity and culture…is becoming fundamental to building transformational blockchain organizations.
So that’s one of the big transformational shifts that I’m focused on. We recently brought on an incredible advisor Marty Chavez, former CIO of Goldman Sachs GS +1.3%. One of the reasons I was excited to work with him is his experience in corporate governance. We spend a lot of time talking about how I can be a better leader in terms of actually applying best practices of scaling organizations and the things you don’t think of when you have 10-15 staff. How do you bring 3000 people together and get everyone to appreciate the different components of what each one is building and what still needs to be built? You have to build a team that can harmoniously operate and institute strong culture.
As a leader you have to be that bridge that brings everyone together, so that you can assemble in large numbers and scale sustainably.
Tatiana Koffman: Thank you for joining us Brendan!
Originally published on Forbes.com