The Big Interview

Adrián Calvo: Developing countries ‘will benefit the most’ from blockchain technology

Adrián Calvo, CTO at Madrid-based Icofunding, answers a few questions about blockchain from Coin Rivet and explains how developing countries will develop the most from the technology

Icofunding was founded two years ago by a team of four including Adrián Calvo. They believe in the potential of blockchain to democratise fundraising and investments and to empower innovation and entrepreneurship. Although from different backgrounds, they say they share the “same passion for new technologies and blockchain.”

How did you first become enthused by blockchain?

I first heard about Bitcoin in 2010 when my brother told me that some people were talking about a new internet coin on IRC. I found it very interesting, as I saw it as video game money but for the whole internet.

When I really started to follow it and when I got involved in the ecosystem was in 2013, after trying to explain it to a friend. Most of the information back then was about how to make money through mining or trading. Very few people were talking about the technology itself. So I decided to focus on that and research by myself to share my findings.

What and who inspires you in the space?

I admire a lot the people that are constantly researching new ways to improve the technology either through layer 1 or 2. Right now it is one of the most exciting open source projects to get involved with.

What are the opportunities in blockchain in terms of improving peoples’ lives?

Those who are in developing countries are the ones who can benefit the most from blockchain. When you don’t have easy access to financial services or cannot trust your government to manage your national currency, having a way to actually own your money and be responsible of it is very important.

Is this altruism something that inspires you in your work?

As a developer, it is really inspiring seeing how everyone in this community is so open about everything they do. It not only started as an open source project with the launch of Bitcoin, but now most companies building applications are sharing they code and their research.

Even companies such as JP Morgan and ING have been sharing their projects and research with the community.

Why are there so few women in blockchain?

As the technology is still immature, the usability is a pending task. Most people involved in blockchain right now come from a technical background or have very strong interest in new technologies as early adopters. Those are two traits usually associated with men.

What can be done to correct this?

As long as there are no barriers and no discrimination to any group, the community will become more diverse once it moves on from the early adopter phase. This will happen after improving the usability and finds actual use cases.

How do you feel about the wild fluctuations in the cryptocurrency market during 2018? Early reports seem to suggest the Bull-ish conditions could be returning. Is this premature?

Wild fluctuations in the price are always a problem as they either move the focus from the technology or make it hard for developers to predict revenue and expenses.

Do you think there will ever be mass adoption of the technology?

So far the adoption has come mostly from techies and speculators. If we want to achieve mass adoption we first have to find use cases that people are interested in. To be honest, I don’t think the technology is ready yet for mass adoption, but scalability and usability are one of the main areas of focus right now, so maybe in a year or two we can start to see that growth.

What will 2019 bring for crypto and blockchain?

It looks similar to 2015, so steady growth and a lot of work without too much distraction at the protocol layer, while the application layer may suffer from lack of funding and users.

We will probably see more people losing their jobs following the trend of these last months, some companies and team closing due to lack of funding, and more mergers and acquisitions from bigger companies.

Have ICOs had their day after all the problems with projects not coming to fruition and people losing money on them?

I have been working at Icofunding for the last couple of years helping other people with their ICOs, so this is something I have seen closely. People thought that investing in ICOs was only about making money, but the truth is that you can lose it too.

Most projects were launching an ICO due to the promise of easy money, and the people buying the tokens didn’t do too much due diligence as it looked that everything was a good investment. Because of that, the quality of the projects doing an ICO decreased enormously during 2017.

I don’t think that we have seen the end of ICOs, but they will be different in the future. People need more warranties before buying tokens of a project from a team they have never heard of before.

What will replace them? How can that trust be restored?

The two trends that I’m seeing right now are security tokens and governance. With security tokens you have the same investment products that we already had but with easy transferability and more transparency. Having those assets on a blockchain such as Ethereum also lets you create applications that interconnect them.

Governance solves the problem of trust, as it reduces the amount of trust that you have to put on a team. We have been developing for more than a year Coin Governance System (CGS), a governance mechanism for ICOs, which allows investors to withdraw their contributed funds in case of scams and bad execution.

The CGS holds the funds raised in an escrow smart contract, releasing it gradually to the project, and providing a mechanism for investors to recover their funds if it isn’t performing as expected.  The solution is completely functional and deployed on Kovan testnet (https://testnet.cgs.vote).

Does there need to be more regulation in the space?

It depends on if we want more people joining the ecosystem or not. If not, then we are fine. But if we want to create tools for more people and let bigger players to be an active part of the ecosystem, then yes. Another question is if we want that regulation now or if it is better to wait a bit more until the technology is more mature. Regulation is not always bad, it can also be done right.

If so, doesn’t this go against the original vision of Satoshi?

It depends on what it is regulated and how it is done. Some tokens are already touching regulated markets so if you want to do something with them, you have to follow the old regulation, which adds a lot of friction for a technology like blockchain. A new regulatory framework that takes into account these new technologies could improve the usability.

There are also banks and companies who have been testing the technology for a few years through PoCs, and now they are not sure if they can launch that to production and how it has to be done.

Obviously you have lots of different interests – but what do you spend the majority of your time working on?

I spend most of my time working with security tokens and adapting what we have to new regulations. But what I follow the most is the development of Ethereum 2.0 and the adoption of Lightning Network.

Who are the unsung heroes in the world of blockchain?

Those who spend hours and hours looking at the code looking for bugs to fix and small optimisations are probably not getting enough attention. There are many, one of the names I can think of right now is Alexey Akhunov. I also like how the team behind Solidity works, specially Christian Reitwiessner and Alex Beregszaszi.

Does the technology need more time to mature before there’s mass adoption?

Absolutely. During 2017 we already saw scalability problems in the very few applications that had some traction. That is a technological limitation, so it will take some time to fix. Maybe a couple of years. By then, we will probably have better tools for the final user to make it easier and more secure to use the different apps

Was there anything else you wanted to talk about that I’ve not asked you about?

Yes. As mentioned before, this is going to be a slow year in terms of adoption and there are going to be lots of changes in the ecosystem (team reorganisations, companies closings, acquisitions, etc).

Many teams that entered the ecosystem during the ICO gaze are probably going to leave due to financial problems. This is not new, we already went through something similar a few years ago so there is no need to panic.

Every day there are new developments in the base layers in the right direction. Many people are working hard to solve the problems that we were able to spot during the last period of intensive testing in order to adapt to the new waves of users.

Related Articles