The Big Interview

Kadena’s Will Martino: Blockchain players lack the right tools

Coin Rivet meets Will Martino who, along with Stuart Popejoy, founded Kadena in 2016 after leading JPMorgan’s blockchain group

Coin Rivet: Tell us about yourself.

WM: I’m Will Martino, Co-Founder and CEO of Kadena. I started Kadena with Stuart Popejoy, who hired me at JPMorgan to be part of the nascent blockchain technology group. We researched existing blockchain platforms, discovered their numerous limitations and worked on a prototype enterprise blockchain for JPM that eventually became the foundation for Kadena’s private blockchain.

Our goal was to give people a platform that was secure and strong enough for a financial institution like JP with simple and open-source tools to empower them to start realising blockchain’s true potential.

Coin Rivet: What have been the highlights and biggest issues/challenges thus far?

WM: Kadena has always been tackling problems we believe are necessary for blockchain to gain widespread adoption. Last spring, we launched Formal Verification for our open-source smart contract language, Pact, which allows Kadena smart contract users to mathematically prove their code doesn’t contain bugs that can cost millions of dollars when someone finds a hack or, in the case of the Parity/multisig bug, accidental exploit.

We raised $15 million for our public blockchain project, Chainweb, which aims to launch this year, and grew our core team from four to around twenty five. In our advising team, we bring together the famed cryptographer Stuart Haber, the forefather of blockchain and one of the most cited authors in the original 2008 Bitcoin paper, with open-source leaders like Alex Pinchev, former President of Marketing at RedHat. I personally feel incredibly fortunate to be working with such an amazing team.

The challenge we have is addressing a lot of technical misconceptions about how blockchain and its underlying consensus mechanisms work; the tech space is so new that people are constantly proposing new untested methods as if they are a foregone fact. Kadena is ambitious about changing the world but we stick to the fundamental, proven aspects of the technology and iterate from there.

“Critics of blockchain technology probably haven’t worked back office at a major financial institution. Some of the most pervasive problems in large industries are efficiency and reliability of data, things that blockchain is unparalleled in addressing”

Coin Rivet: Your platform is now available on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Marketplace. What’s the significance of this announcement?

WM: One of the many obstacles to private blockchain adoption is the upfront cost of evaluating and deploying a blockchain-based solution in enterprises, both large (complex) and small (fewer resources). Kadena is tackling this issue with a frictionless private blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) made available on AWS marketplace for free.

Rather than all the complication and expense associated with buying hardware, installing it in a datacentre, buying expensive licenses and figuring out how to install the software, we will enable everything in three clicks and at no cost.

The AWS version of our private chain will also support secure channels, trustless escrows, pluggable encryption, contract governance, and automatic bug detection via formal verification, a feature set unmatched by other private blockchain products in the market.

It’s also important to remember that “side chains” (aka private blockchain) are a well-known scaling and privacy solution for public blockchains, so now for the first time, public chain users have an enterprise-grade side-chain solution.

Coin Rivet: There are many high-profile critics who argue that blockchain ventures are offering solutions to problems that don’t exist etc. How do you respond to them?

WM: Those critics probably haven’t worked back office at a major financial institution. Some of the most pervasive problems in large industries are efficiency and reliability of data, things that blockchain is unparalleled in addressing.

Moreover, I’ve met some amazing people who are in blockchain because they want to take on those moneyed, centralised monopolies by offering a safer, cheaper and more humane alternative; consider our partner Alteum (alteum.io), who uses blockchain to address financial inclusion in Latin America.

They want to take on the standing order of the world because they both see the suffering it causes and they have personally felt that suffering as well. The problem is, they don’t yet have the tools they need to enact this vision for the future. What drives me at Kadena is to create a place where we can build them the tools they need and be part of how the tools are designed.

“The challenge we have is addressing a lot of technical misconceptions about how blockchain and its underlying consensus mechanisms work; the tech space is so new that people are constantly proposing new untested methods as if they are a foregone fact”

Coin Rivet: ConsenSys’ Andrew Keys recently predicted that 2019 will be a significant year for the blockchain space. What are your thoughts on his predictions and is there anything you feel he left out?

WM: Blockchain predictions often leave out (or maybe are reluctant to admit) that smart contract usability and security is going to be the real litmus test for adoption. Things like UX/UI are obviously important, but I have talked about the power of smart contracts before and my prediction for 2019 is that features like automatic bug detection via formal verification baked into the contract language will become absolutely necessary if serious financial and enterprise institutions want to use blockchain in a meaningful way. Smart contracts that are understandable by executives, and robust enough to trust your wallet with, will change the game.

Coin Rivet: What else can we expect from Kadena in 2019?

WM: You can expect our testnet of our public blockchain project Chainweb (and the subsequent launch), as well as more updates to our open-source language Pact and the expansion of the private blockchain listing to other platforms beyond AWS Marketplace.

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