Blockchain technology has emerged as a hot topic within FinTech and the business world in general. Toronto-based investor, thought-leader, and author William Mougayar knows this landscape well. In his latest book, The Business Blockchain (Wiley, 2016) he explores the expansion of blockchain and its growing role in the world of industry and commerce.
In addition to his book, Mougayar is also a major contributor to the cryptocurrency arena, serving as an advisor to some of the world’s leading blockchain organizations, including Ethereum, OpenBazaar, Coin Center and Bloq.
In an interview with CoinCap News, Mougayar discusses his book, his definition of The Blockchain, as well as emerging trends tied to the future of this technology
How did you come to write The Business Blockchain?
Much of this book’s context is marked by the historical perspective I hold, which is based on 34 years of experience and roles in the technology sector, including global sales and marketing executive, 3-time startup entrepreneur, author of 2 previous books, consultant to Fortune 500 companies, researcher, and analyst. In 1996, I wrote one of the first business books covering Internet business strategy, Opening Digital Markets. It has many parallels to The Business Blockchain, this first book of mine that explores the blockchain’s impact on business.
Describe your first orientation to Bitcoin and Blockchains?
In 2013, when I first became oriented to these terms, I began to recall the excitement of 1994-95, when it first appeared that the Internet was going to be transformational. This was coupled with flashbacks of the early Peer-to-Peer technology days of 2001 which I also participated in. So I had the good fortune of seeing how fundamental P2P was to Bitcoin and Blockchains, well before 2009 when this whole bitcoin/blockchain movement took its first breath.
What role did Ethereum play in all of this?
Although Bitcoin itself was where I gathered my initial learnings, it was really Ethereum that opened up my mind to the world of decentralized applications, decentralized governance and the new business models that are enabled by it.
Did you initially experience a learning curve with all of this?
I’ll admit to going through some great pains initially in terms of understanding the many facets of the blockchain. Many of the early blockchain visionaries were technically inclined people who didn’t focus on succinctly explaining its business implications or intersections. My early quest to understand the blockchain required a lot of teeth pulling and reading tea leaves in order to connect the dots and find clarity. It was an agonizing encounter and part of my impetus for writing this book. I was determined to make it less dreadful for others who are trying to understand this technology and its ramifications.
How do you define The Blockchain?
To fully understand the blockchain, you need to look at defining it simultaneously from a business, technical and legal perspective. Technically, it is a back-end database that maintains a distributed ledger that can be inspected openly. Business-wise, the blockchain is an exchange network for moving transactions, value, and assets between peers, without the assistance of intermediaries. Legally, the blockchain validates transactions, replacing previously trusted entities.
So if you see it as a technology, then you will implement it as a technology. If you see it as a business change enabler, then you will think about strategic business processes. If you ponder the legal implications, you will be emboldened by its new governance characteristics. The challenge (and the opportunity) is to execute on all three aspects simultaneously!
In your view, are there any common misconceptions with respect to the term?
A common misconception is that it is often seen as this “one” thing, like just a ledger, or a cryptocurrency, or a different kind of database. In reality, it is those things but a lot more as well. Like how the Internet represents several facets and means different things to different people or companies. Is it a publishing platform, a social media application, a communications medium, or a remote transactions enabler? The Internet is those aspects and more.
One day, the blockchain will be seen via the eyes of the many killer apps that it will enable, but that landscape is still quite foggy today.
In your book’s introduction, you remark “The Blockchain cannot be described as a revolution. It is a marching phenomenon, slowly advancing like a tsunami….” Can you elaborate a bit on this?
What I meant here is that because the blockchain has many facets in motion at once, it will take time for all of them to unravel. Only the passage of time will reveal how the blockchain will get interpreted, deployed and implemented across the world, inside industry, and by startups. Just as it took a long time for the Internet to infiltrate our world (and it still is), the blockchain will spread slowly at first, then gradually thereafter.
Is the blockchain safe for consumer and business applications?
Blockchains don’t have a choice but to become ultra secure and trusted, just like databases are today. Blockchains will need to guarantee a level of transaction finality with the utmost of assurance. We tend to forget that banks, financial networks, and personal accounts get hacked all the time unrelated to the advent of the blockchain.
More than one hundred years after the days of the famous Wild West bank robberies, modern-day bank robberies continue to take place (up to this day), although with less frequency. I offer this as a backdrop to encourage us to think about whether we should accept blockchain robberies as a fact of life, although each time one of these hacks happen, public confidence for the blockchain is lowered.
What significant trends around blockchain’s advancement do you believe we’ll be seeing in the next 12-18 months.
For starters, the movement of financial assets on the blockchain, in my opinion, will grow to become a large market. Blockchains clearly aren’t just for moving cryptocurrency. They are a rail for moving any asset (financial or non-financial). I predict we will soon begin tracking the dollar value of blockchain-based assets that are being transacted on it, just as we track the volume of e-commerce activity on the Web.
Second, I believe we are still in the infancy stages in terms of fully-fledged applications that are native to the blockchain. I believe we will see more of them in coming days, including ones where the user may not have a clue that there is a blockchain behind it, such as in Steemit or OpenBazaar.
Finally, I think we’ll begin to see more vibrancy in cryptocurrency trading markets. We should think of cryptocurrencies in the general sense as the underlying technology that can morph into a number of “digital tokens” that will represent a new form of value. This will be an exciting development for fueling economic activity and new wealth creation opportunities around the world, via new blockchain-based business models that are being tested right now. The blockchain-based economy is going to get big, just like the Web economy is a big deal today!