VIDEO: Decentral CEO Anthony Di Iorio on Cryptocurrency and Blockchain
Decentral is an innovation hub for fintech, blockchain, cryptocurrencies and decentralized technologies. They launched Canada’s first two-way Bitcoin ATM and a multi-platform — or wallet — called Jaxx.io that allows customers to move digital assets. CEO Anthony Di Iorio talks about the company’s technologies and the future of online currency.
James West: Anthony, thanks for joining us today.
Anthony Di Iorio: Glad to be here.
James West: Let’s start with an overview: what does Decentral do?
Anthony Di Iorio: So Decentral is my company. It’s a community hub and software development firm that focuses on decentralized technology, so technologies like Blockchain, technologies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, anything that’s evolving out of decentralized tech.
James West: I see. So you were a cofounder of Ethereum, if I understand correctly?
Anthony Di Iorio: Correct, yeah.
James West: Okay. And so, is it through that experience that you’ve moved on to Decentral, or is Ethereum a product of what you were doing at Decentral previously?
Anthony Di Iorio: So Ethereum came out of Decentral. Decentral was first started in 2014 in January; about a month after, we started putting the idea of Ethereum together, and that was previously at the hub at King and Spadina downtown that Ethereum was basically born out of. So I took a bunch of my team, accountants, lawyers, and we became the first team of the entire Ethereum project.
James West: Wow.
Anthony Di Iorio: So that was the first hub, that’s where I’ve been doing meet-ups and events out of there, over 100 events since 2012 in the Blockchain and Bitcoin space. And through that network that I kind of built up, kind of became a centre of gravity for the space in Toronto and in Canada, and that’s where everything started flowing, ideas and business opportunities, and that’s where I got connected with the Vitalik Buterin back in 2012, cofounder of Ethereum with me, and a few others, and we launched this project that’s hit a market cap of upwards of almost $40 billion at one time, and really doing well right now, and is the second technology adjacent to Bitcoin in the Blockchain ecosystem.
James West: Sure. So what is the primary project of Decentral at this point?
Anthony Di Iorio: So, our flagship software offering is called Jaxx, and Jaxx is a multi-platform, multi-cryptocurrency Blockchain interface, or wallet. If you think about what the browser did for the Internet, unlocking and unleashing the Information Age, right, so anybody that has a browser can see what’s going on with the Internet; but before that, the masses really wouldn’t know what to do with the Internet, and that’s what the interface browser came about.
So in the Blockchain ecosystem, the wallet is really the interface for the technology; it’s a way that you can manage digital assets, move digital assets. I’ve identified that that’s really that browser for this technology, and since 2013, I’ve been building wallets. And we don’t just focus on Bitcoin or Ethereum, we focus on the entire ecosystem. So we’ve got dozens and dozens of currencies that we support inside the wallet, and what’s really interesting is that the users are in full control of their keys, meaning that we never hold or manage or take custodianship of anything; the keys are actually in control of the user. The Blockchain holds the assets, and we just provide this interface, a way for you to experience this new value age that’s emerging, and we’re creating that browser for this technology that will really open the door for the masses to start using this amazing technology.
James West: Interesting. So our audience is not very well versed in Blockchain technology, so when you speak about a wallet, I’ve heard the wallet is a component of the entire crypto experience that is key in that, for example, what happened with Mount Gox was a case of probably a corrupt wallet or a misconceived wallet. So when you describe a wallet, I now understand that the Blockchain is essentially the software and the ledger and the system through which cryptocurrencies are established and maintained.
Anthony Di Iorio: Yep.
James West: Bitcoin and Ethereum are cryptocurrencies that exist on the Blockchain, and the wallet is the place, is that like, so, my wallet in my pocket holds my credit cards; if I own Bitcoin or Ethereum, is this the virtual version of my wallet that holds my cryptocurrencies?
Anthony Di Iorio: That’s exactly it, and something like Mount Gox as you mentioned was an exchange; they weren’t a wallet, but they were holding people’s money on their exchange. In order to facilitate trading, you deposit money from your wallet onto a service, at the time that was Mount Gox, and people were using it to trade bitcoins, and that got hacked. So that was a centralized service that was holding people’s money.
The great thing about our products is that we don’t hold people’s money. You’re holding onto your own stuff. And that’s really what the amazing thing about this technology is: you can be your own bank. You don’t need to rely on third parties.
James West: Wow.
Anthony Di Iorio: This is disintermediation technology that enables you to move value from one person to another without needing third parties. That’s really the breakthrough that’s happening. If you think about what the Internet did for information, and the disruption that occurred with postal services, media outlets, everything, due to the flow of information is what the Internet disrupted. It enabled anyone around the world now to communicate globally, instantly, very fast, sending emails instantly now.
Now you can move value. You can now move value without needing these third-party intermediaries. And that’s the breakthrough that Bitcoin brought about in 2008. For the first time ever, you could have a digital asset, prove ownership of it, and not make a copy of it. That was the major breakthrough. Before that, anything digital could be duplicated. So for a currency, it doesn’t really make much sense if you can take something, create multiple copies of it…I send it to you and you can create – it doesn’t work as a currency. Bitcoin solved that problem, and that’s where this disruption is coming.
Internet disrupted information; Blockchain and its technologies are disrupting value transfer, and that’s going to have impacts on financial institutions.
James West: Okay. And Jaxx is an element of that evolving ecosystem in that it’s going to provide a physical point of interchange for people to transform cash into crypto or crypto into cash?
Anthony Di Iorio: Correct. Yeah, so right now Jaxx enables you to hold the keys to your digital assets. So you actually can manage your Bitcoin, your Ethereum, these different currencies, yourself, in Jaxx, where we still don’t hold anything, we don’t take custodianship. Therefore we’re not regulated, because we’re not holding anything, right? So we enable users the ability to be in control of their whole new digital world. They can be in control of their money. They can be in control of their identity. They can be in control of their communications…all by owning the keys themselves – no one else is having any access to it. That’s really the breakthrough there, and the wallet is really that hub or cornerstone of Blockchain technology, and we allow all these different cryptocurrencies and their users to manage those assets and move them directly inside of Jaxx, convert them between different ones, and eventually, yes, we move FIAT throughout our integration partners.
James West: Interesting. So the element of trust and certainty of transaction, which are the two key components, I understand, of the entire crypto universe – that’s really extended by what Jaxx is doing at this point?
Anthony Di Iorio: Yeah. We allow people – so, I never want to hold onto people’s money.
James West: Right.
Anthony Diiorio: And in order to do that, we created a system which is called a wallet just for the terminology, but in general, it’s a wallet that doesn’t hold onto people’s money.
James West: Right.
Anthony Di Iorio: You hold on to your own money. We connect you to all these Blockchain back ends; we connect you to the Bitcoin network.
James West: Exchanges.
Anthony Di Iorio: Exchanges as well. So we have third party integrations inside of our wallet, almost like apps or integrations where we enable people to manage the asset and move the asset, and then through our third parties, there’s all these other facilitation of things that can be just like an app store. So right now we have a service called ShapeShift, and through there, you’re able to move between Bitcoin and Ethereum. It uses the company ShapeShift in order to facilitate the exchange, and we still don’t hold on to anything; ShapeShift, you send money to the ShapeShift API and it sends a different currency back, whichever one you want, right back to your wallet, without us standing in the middle or actually having to take anything there.
James West: Wow. Increasingly in the current context of the global discourse, they’re talking about Bitcoin, and I’m changing the subject a little bit here, but it’s obviously going to have an impact on what Jaxx is doing – Bitcoin is increasingly, and cryptocurrencies are increasingly referred to as having all of the characteristics of a bubble, meaning that the valuations are going way higher than they should and they are inevitably going to come crashing down. Do you feel that’s the case with Bitcoin, and by extension, Ethereum or Litecoin?
Anthony Di Iorio: Yeah, I think the whole industry is, we’re seeing the same thing we saw in the dotcom bubble. It’s been happening for a while; who knows what’s going to happen with it, but it’s the same thing. You get people who have that fear of missing out, and you have now ways for people to crowdfund projects. So someone comes up with an idea, the masses can put money in to fund it, they’re given a token in return, those tokens get traded on exchanges, the values increase, and but it’s all about execution of ideas and actually creating value. And there’s a lot of projects coming out here that aren’t creating a lot of value, and there’s ones that I believe will have and contribute value to the ecosystem. Over time, the ones that don’t provide the value will diminish or disappear, just like we saw with the dotcom bubble.
James West: Right.
Anthony Di Iorio: And then over time, the ones that are really creating that value will emerge as a leader, just like we’ve seen over the last, you know, 17 years after the dotcom bubble, with companies that are, you know, social media companies, or the Amazons, all the guys that are creating that true value, will emerge. But you’re in that hype cycle now, definitely.
James West: Sure. Okay. And so, let’s leave that aside for now – that was kind of the answer I was looking for – but, when will it be that I can actually go to a Jaxx machine in Toronto, for example, plug in my debit card, and buy some Bitcoin?
Anthony Di Iorio: Well, I’ve had an ATM in Toronto since 2014. I actually started the second one in the world. So it’s been operating at King and Spadina, King and Adelaide area there, it’s in a convenience store. You go in and put cash in, and it sends Bitcoin to your wallet. Or you send wallet to the machine and it just gives you cash. So I’ve been doing that for, it’s my fourth year actually right now, with that machine. So that’s been happening for a very long time with the cash machines. There’s exchanges all around the world where you can hook up your bank account, send a wire in and then start trading, and then withdraw it out. It’s very, very easy; the only thing right now is, there’s so many people getting verified through all the verification processes that there’s a lot of backup on a lot of these exchanges. So sometimes things like ATMs, even though they’re more expensive, are easier ways for people to get into it and try their first Bitcoin and see what it’s all about.
James West: Right. Well that’s great, that’s a great introduction. We’re going to leave it there for now, Anthony, but I would like to invite you back in the near future and we’ll see how Jaxx is making out. Thanks for joining me today.
Anthony Di Iorio: It would be my pleasure to do that. Thanks for having me.
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