The Big Interview

Daniel Gouldman: Blockchain is ‘going to be great but it’s a tremendous weapon’

In a disarmingly honest interview, Daniel Gouldman talks of his hopes for the future of blockchain technology and mass adoption and who he admires in the space

Daniel Gouldman has had a fascinating journey from being homeless at 17 to his current role as founder and the CEO of Ternio, based in a suburb of Atlanta.

Ternio’s built a scalable blockchain architecture and its first-use case and industry is digital advertising, which requires tremendous scale. It helps advertisers and publishers get more out of the digital advertising industry.

In a previous interview, he explained he wasn’t embarrassed by being homeless in his teens as he showered every day at a local gym and slept in his sleeping bag at night. He never did drugs or alcohol and was regularly woken from his slumber by cops.

He tells me how he first became enthused by blockchain and how he sees the opportunities to improve peoples’ lives through blockchain technology.

Bitcoin

He explains that his first interest in blockchain was “not unlike so many people, in that I learned about it because of Bitcoin.”

“As I started to understand the technology more, I realised that it was so much more than Bitcoin,” he says. “In an age where so much of what we do has to do with data and databases, I grew to understand the amazing ways that the technology will be applied to the future. And it’s exciting because we’re still in the very early stages of blockchain’s history.”

He is really impressed by Jeffrey Berns at Blockchains LLC. “He’s a visionary,” he explains. “He’s demonstrated that he’s interested in something much bigger than himself. He’s putting everything on the line to build something very special, just outside of Reno.

“If I had to give someone an award – it would be that guy. I’ll say the person who’s inspired me the most is a guy named Jose Arrieta in the US government. There’s a lot of smart people in the US government, but it’s a fairly conservative institution. The last place I expected to find inspiration was in the US government. He really gets it.”

He says there are “a lot of smart people in blockchain, but they are struggling to find real world applications that aren’t connected in one way, shape or form to Bitcoin.”

Consumers ‘will benefit’

Blockchain will “someday cut out unnecessary intermediaries in transactions,” he believes. He says: “I think we’ll have more information on where our food and products come from. It’s going to give people more control over their data if they want it to. It’s going to change enterprise for the better and consumers will benefit from that indirectly.”

“I’ll say this – blockchain is going to be great for the world. But it’s a tremendous weapon that will be used for many evils as well; make no mistake about that. AI is going to sit on top of blockchain – AI is amazing, but also frightening.”

He says it would be “dishonest” to say that altruism inspires him in his work. “There’s a philosopher who believes – and I agree with it – that everything we do in life is based on selfish desires/wants. If it makes you feel good to help others, you do it because you get some happiness from doing good (or so the idea goes). For me, I don’t have an altruistic view of the world, but I do have a passion for the technology.”

“My work is my passion. I get fulfilment from seeing our little seed of an idea grow into something very special. As a startup, it’s not without our own challenges, though. We have to earn every single step of the way.”

Lack of women

He describes the lack of women in blockchain as “bulls***.

He adds: “Tech is already a male-dominated industry. Blockchain is even worse and my company is just as bad as the industry-standard relative to the ratio. So, I’d like to give a shout out to the women in blockchain whom I’ve found utterly amazing. Linda Goetze, Jennifer Greyson, Natalie Ra, Clara Florey, to name a few.”

He says he does not know what can be done to correct this gender imbalance.

As for the state of the cryptocurrency markets currently with the wild fluctuations of 2018, he says: “I certainly hope that it doesn’t get any worse because lord help us all. I think the fluctuations are hard to deal with and create tremendous stress on everyone.

“I’m optimistic about the future of the overall marketplace. it’s going to take money being spent on actual applications of technology instead of paying for promotions of ICOs with YouTube influencers and paying exchanges $500k to $1m just to have your token traded.

“For all the good that exists within blockchain technology, there’s this seedy place that reminds me of an old skit from Dave Chappelle called ‘If the internet were a real place.’ That’s blockchain.”

If we do it right – blockchain’s going to be “the thing that you don’t even know about. It just happens in the background,” he adds. “Blockchain is a bunch of servers and systems; it’s just going to work. And people won’t know it’s blockchain because it’s not going to be just cryptocurrency.”

More adoption

He feels there will be more adoption during 2019. “I think enterprises are going to finally start to see some real use-cases. We’re basically in the 2nd inning of a nine inning game. For crypto, I’d like to see people using their Blockcard to buy groceries. I think we will see some major companies issuing their own tokens, too. Maybe not in 2019, but I think that’s coming.”

There needs to be a better process for ICOs, which are great because of the crowdfunding element. “Whether it’s an STO or something else, I think it will still exist in some form. But as we know it today I think ICOs are out of the picture, at least until the next wave of unbridled enthusiasm.”

“ICOs will be good. There needs to be governance and aligned interests. People were focused on whether or not a token would 10x or something. But it was a house of cards. I never believed in that kind of marketplace; it was all built on speculation. Someone once told me to spend our money on social media metrics so we could raise more money and not to worry about building our product.

“Well maybe we didn’t raise as much that way, but we built two products. Trust will be restored when people start to deliver. But it’s a hard road to take something from an idea to reality. It’s very hard and if you’re undercapitalised, it’s nearly impossible.”

Fear

He’s a fan of more regulation, which means certainty. “The biggest problem with the SEC hasn’t been the actions they have taken against ICOs, the problem is the fear of the unknown. And that fear of the unknown is the thing that makes doing business very difficult for people.

“All that ends up happening is that project who aren’t even companies have to spend a lot of money on legal services they shouldn’t need. Secondly, there’s a lot of slimy stuff going on in the space and I hope it comes to light.

“I do think there’s is going to be an event that’s going to make Mt Gox look like child’s play and it’s going to change the world. And then regulation won’t be friendly. It would be better to set some reasonable standards to promote fair play, competition and entrepreneurial innovation.”

“I enjoy working. When I’m not working or spending time with my family or thinking about work – I like to watch the news or TV. I really have allowed blockchain to completely immerse itself into my life. Jeff Bezos said it right; it’s not about work/life balance because that implies that you have to give up one to get the other. It’s about work/life harmony. On my birthday, my wife got me a cake that said Ternio on it. That’s harmony to me.”

The biggest problem is that companies “don’t know what the hell to do with it [the technology] outside of crypto. And that’s a huge disservice to the technology that’s going to change so much. When they figure out the use cases, it will all come together.”

Related Articles