Private vs. Public Blockchain: A Conversation with Jon Matonis

By November 16, 2015Bitcoin Business
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By Stacey Mankoff for NewsBTC

Recently we sat down with Jon Matonis, Founding Board Director of the Bitcoin Foundation and an e-Money researcher and economist focused on expanding the circulation of nonpolitical digital currencies. Jon currently advises startups in Bitcoin, iGaming, mobile and prepaid and with all this experience and knowledge, we had some questions to ask him:

NewsBTC: What is it about blockchain that has drawn such strong interest?

JM: From my perspective, it’s definitely coming on the heels of bitcoin from 2009, 2010. We’re now 6.5 years in bitcoin and the banks are trying to show progress in innovation and they’re looking at bitcoin and blockchain technology to do that.

What’s exciting about it to the traditional banking industry?

Let’s take for example two firms: Epiphyte and Abra Global – both of those companies leverage the capital – public blockchain – using it as a value transfer protocol. If you look at what is most exciting to investors in this space, particularly VCs, they see the bitcoin core protocol as a value transfer similar to HTTP and SMTP for email. These are globally accessible protocols. We haven’t had a standard protocol for value transfer before. This is what getting investment community excited.

What about all this talk about a private blockchain? What’s the issue there?

When you make the switch over to initiatives in R3 CEV and other consortiums in creating private blockchains, there are a number of things that change about that. You can make the comparison between the Internet vs. the Intranet. Public blockchains are seen as untameable Wild West and financial institutions look to develop private blockchains , bringing it in house and standardizing it. But then they strip out one of the most valuable and cost-savings features which is removing the intermediary. The private blockchain needs the intermediary to define the permissions.

If they’re creating these private blockchains, will they still be able to censor participants block transactions and reverse transaction in the same way that SWIFT does that today?

When I was on a panel before, the Bloomberg panel, the same topic came up and I asked them why not just have SWIFT, an already existing player, come up with the blockchain standards? And they didn’t know how to answer that. None of them would say they were building to route around SWIFT – but the underlying message is if these private consortia already exist, and the forms and venues are already there – all you are doing is adding a private blockchain to something already there.

You’re speaking at The Mankoff Company’s After the Bell Event in London on 24 November on a panel entitled Disruptive Innovation – how do you define Disruption when it comes to this space?

Disruption: I’m from the banking world, from the VISA world and the software tech world for encryption. It is almost impossible to have disruption to come from within. Disruption comes from the outside – from an area you don’t see. Ironically, an employee of Kodak came up with the digital camera and they made him hide it and we all know what happened to them.

Same as the taxi industry – blindsided by Uber – it wasn’t the taxi industry having a meeting or a forum or AirBNB and the hotels coming up with that. I posit to you that the disruption will come from the outside. Bitcoin blockchain firms will look and feel like a bank but come from the outside world – what we see today with Abra and a few others.

Thank you, Jon, for your time and we look forward to hearing more from you on 24 November in London.

Jon Matonis is the Founding Board Director Bitcoin Foundation. An e-Money researcher and economist focused on expanding the circulation of nonpolitical digital currencies, Jon advises startups in Bitcoin, iGaming, mobile and prepaid. A columnist to Forbes Magazine and CoinDesk, Jon is also Editor of The Monetary Future, a leading economics blog at the intersection of free banking, cryptography, and digital currency. Previously CEO of Hushmail and Chief Forex Dealer at VISA, Jon has also held senior posts at Sumitomo Bank and VeriSign.

Stacey Mankoff is the Managing Principal of The Mankoff Company, a full service marketing consultancy specializing in the financial industry with a concentration in the FinTech space. Ms. Mankoff formed The Mankoff Company in 2009 after 13 years of experience creating, executing, and marketing events for the pharmaceutical, IT, healthcare and financial services industries and a prior career in new business development at a number of global financial firms.


After the Bell Panel Discussion: Disruptive Innovation: Blockchain: Applications & Challenges with a Game-Changing Technology

24 November, 2015 • The Washington Mayfair Hotel • London:

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