Jungle City Welcomes Seattle Startup ArcBlock
Author: Yuko Watanabe
Media: Jungle City
ArcBlock is working to become the Amazon Web Services of the blockchain industry
I hear about "blockchain" all the time, however most of the time it seems be about Bitcoin and whether the price is soaring, slumping or hacker attacks. There are a lot of people who think, "What is the true value of blockchain technology?"
To help us find the answers, we spoke with Robert Mao, CEO and Founder of ArcBlock. ArcBlock is developing a platform for developers and engineers who want to create products such as decentralized applications (DApps) on a custom blockchain. "We are challenging the most innovative efforts in the industry to create an interconnected network that can support multiple existing blockchains, and it is also called ArcBlock Blockchain Web Services."
In the digital world, doing anything today requires a user to login and share data with the services they are using. Just look at the average day for an internet user. You can go online and buy products on Amazon.com, you need to log in to your account to watch movies on Netflix, login to Washington States Ferry service to reserve a ticket, or to check bank account balances.
Each time you access those services you are using a login and sharing your digital data with those services in an attept to prove that you who you say you are. But, what happens when services begin to accumulate and use that same data you are sharing to advertise to you? Or to find the things you do during your day? Everytime you use Google sign on you are giving them permission to track you and store your data so that can add additional details to your profile. One of the biggest challenges is that all that data is centralized and becomes a prime target for hackers. With blockchain, that is all about to change. Unliked cryptocurrency, blockcahin is a technology that can provide real benefits to users and one of the near-term benefits is empowering users to control their personal data. This is what is called decentralized identity.
We can save the a description of how decentralized identity works for another article, but the primary concept is that decentralized identity uses the power of blockchain to allow a user to easily verify their identity and limit what data is shared to 3rd party services. Using decentralized identity gives every user a choice of what they want to share and is able to use the same security and technologies that powers Bitcoin to protect their personal data. In fact studies have show that decentralized identity could reduce data hacks, limit exposure personal data, and give users the ability to revoke access if they choose to.
In addition to simple online activities like logging into a website, blockchain can be utilized for other types of personal data such as confirmation of work history by hiring a hiring manager, or for management and renewal of fishing permits by a government office, etc. can be performed more efficiently as well as business scenes such as e-commerce it has been. These types of activites can be done in seconds and both sides to attest to the validity of the requests electronically.
So the power of blockchain can give users control, but for most of us blockchain technology has a reputation for being hard to understand and hard to use even for engineers. ArcBlock is creating a platform that makes it easier to understand and makes building services and applications that leverage blockchain much easier.
– By building ArcBlock, what did you want to start doing and change?
It means creating a network that connects many block chains and many services. If this is done, startups, large corporations, governments, etc. all over the world can easily create decentralized applications on the blockchain. The possibilities are endless.
It may be difficult to imagine, but I think this is like creating a completely new internet. Creating something completely new that doesn't exist is challenging and at the same time a very exciting task.
I have had three previous startups in China. The first company is a software company that started immediately after graduating from the university and can report the situation of the database. The second company is a business related to Voice-over IP technology. This was a very new technology at the time, but since I was the first to successfully commercialize the field, I became recognized as a pioneer in the United States. The third company, which is earlier than Facebook can do, has created the first social network platform in China. I mean, I am a rooted pioneer. There is nothing more fun than creating new mechanisms in society using new technologies.
– How did you start your company?
After successfully selling the third startup, Robert did research on Social Computing and Social Networking at Future Social Experience (FUSE) Labs from Microsoft. It was a very fun team, as all the bosses were startups. However, when the project I proposed was not approved, I thought, "I will quit and start myself." That is the catalyst for this start-up.
At the beginning of the company, I was thinking of starting a business to make products related to knowledge sharing. For example, how to use tokens on blockchains to solve fundamental issues in promoting sharing of knowledge and incentivize people for that activity. Through these activities we quickly began to see trends and issues related to blockchain technology. It was too slow, to complicated and inaccessible for most developers and user. Since I am an engineer, I thought that I would like to create a platform that addresses those problems and can empower users and developers by making blockchain accessible to anyone.
– When do you think it was good to start a business?
To be honest, there is still never a good time (wry smile). Entrepreneurship is a series of difficult things every day. This is the same in any city, in any field, in any number of businesses.
– What is the biggest challenge ever?
The lack of time is always the best challenge for me.
To start and succeed in your business, you need three things: technology, people, and funding. When it comes to technology, we must always keep track of the industry to see if our platform is heading in the right direction. With regard to human resources, it takes a great deal of time, such as team building, acquiring the talent and so on. Securing funding is also essential to expand our business without a break,but it is not something we can do soon. As an entrepreneur you don't have much time to do all three.
– What is the most proud point of your company?
After all, it is the point that it is trying the industry first. There are only two other companies in the world that offer similar platforms.
Because blockchains are a relatively new area, it has not yet been determined what technologies will become mainstream in the industry. In the past, certain mainstream blockchains, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, have attracted overwhelming attention. It is only recently that experts have begun to hear that a platform linking multiple blockchains, as we are working, will become mainstream in the future.
It is the most proud of us that we have always focused on this possibility.
– What are the features of the Seattle startup community?
From a global perspective, I think Seattle is a very good place to start up. Thanks to Microsoft and Amazon, there are many talented people.
The only difference is that the number of venture capitals is overwhelmingly small. Venture capital has not kept pace with the pace at which Seattle's entrepreneurs and startups have grown. So, entrepreneurs have to go to Silicon Valley and abroad to do fundraising. As there are many large companies and many wealthy people in Seattle, I hope that they will use their resources more and more and more venture capitals that have become more local.
-Which coffee shop do you go often?
I am a programmer, so I drink coffee anywhere as long as there is good wifi. But there are more things I drink in the office while I work than outside. You see (pointing to the kitchen at the corner of the office), there will be a good coffee machine. That is a very important initial investment for startups (laughs).
– Who are Japanese companies, business people and investors who want to work together?
There are many. I feel that Japanese companies are very interested in blockchains, and cloud computing is advancing, so I am actively looking for partnerships.
First of all, I would like to partner with startups who want to create products on our platform and companies involved in system integration. I would like to actively hold events etc. in Japan from now on to promote our platform.
CEO: Robert Mao
Number of employees: approximately 20 (as of May 2019) Headquarters: Bellevue
Year of establishment: 2017
Official site: www.arcblock.io
Published: June 2019 Interview: Atsuko Watanabe Photo: ArcBlock