Bruce Pon is the Founder of BigchainDB and Ocean Protocol, blockchain startups focused on bringing data and AI together since 2013. Previously, Bruce co-founded Avantalion, a consulting firm that helped to build 20 banks around the globe for companies such as Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Mitsubishi & Jaguar LandRover. He has an Advanced Executive Certificate from MITSloan, a B.Sc in Engineering from the University of Saskatchewan and has given guest lectures at Oxford, MIT Media Lab, Columbia University and the European School of Management & Technology.
In addition to being in the 2020 full-length documentary Cryptopia, Bruce was featured in Oxford University and Saïd Business School’s online Blockchain course as a guest expert.
Ocean Protocol is a decentralized data exchange protocol to unlock data for AI, launched in 2017.
Through blockchain technology and the OCEAN token, Ocean Protocol connects data providers and consumers, allowing data to be shared while guaranteeing traceability, transparency, and trust for all stakeholders involved. It allows data owners to give value to and have control over their data assets without being locked-in to any single marketplace. By bringing together decentralized blockchain technology, a data sharing framework, and an ecosystem for data and related services, Ocean Protocol is committed to kick-starting a new Data Economy that touches every single person, company and device, giving power back to data owners, enabling people to reap value from data to better our world.
In summer 2019, the production-ready mainnet Pacific Network was released, just four months after the delivery of the initial Nile beta network. Pacific Network features smart contract deployment on Ocean’s own Proof of Authority (PoA) network, ensuring a high-performance platform for data scientists. With the release of Pacific, Ocean Protocol is ready for the introduction of apps and integrations to facilitate the use of the protocol and grow the ecosystem. The next major product update is v2 compute-to-data, which allows AI models to be trained on-premise, ensuring security and privacy for the data owner and minimizes the need to have trust amongst the different parties. This V2 milestone is scheduled for Spring 2020.
Visit oceanprotocol.com to find out more.
*Disclaimer. None of this information is financial advice.
The following transcript was created using artificial intelligence. There will be some grammatical errors below.
00:00:32:02 – 00:00:43:16
Richard Carthon: Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of Crypto Current, your host here, Richard Carthon and today I got a very special guest all the way out in Germany. We have Bruce Pon with Ocean Protocol. How are you doing today?
00:00:44:07 – 00:00:46:00
Bruce Pon: Good, how are you doing?
00:00:46:03 – 00:01:00:26
Richard Carthon: Aw man, I can’t complain. There’s a lot of things going on in the world right now, especially here in the U.S., but you know, we can dive into that a little bit later. But you know, before we get into this conversation, how about you start by giving us a little bit of background on yourself?
00:01:00:28 – 00:01:19:29
Bruce Pon: Sure. I was born and raised in Canada, I went to engineering school and studied, got developed in business consulting and stuff and I worked in America for three or four years and I came to Germany about almost 18 years ago now. And I worked in the corporate sector and then I ended up somehow in blockchain.
00:01:20:01 – 00:01:35:27
Richard Carthon: Very nice. So give us a little transition into like you know, what was that first introduction into the crypto and blockchain space? Like what year was it? How do you hear about it? And then once you heard about it, what made you decide like this could be like a potential career that I make out of this?
00:01:36:19 – 00:02:35:21
Bruce Pon: So I originally heard about Bitcoin in 2010 and of course it was just something just on the radar. Back between I think 2004 and 2013, I had been building banks around the world and it came from this disgust from the financial system actually in 2008 when the banks caused all those problems and I set it upon myself to try to build banks. And as I was building banks, I heard about this Bitcoin thing, just tangentially and stuff like that, but it wasn’t until three years later in 2013, where after it hit a thousand or so, then a lot of my friends were starting to come up to me and say, “Hey, this sounds like something really interesting” and one of them came up with a business idea based on that and said, “Hey would you like to help me do something about this?” And at that time I had been building banks for about 10 to 12 years and I was kind of getting bored of it, so I said, “Hmm, this sounds like something really interesting and a new technology that we should take a look at.”
00:02:37:03 – 00:02:48:12
Richard Carthon: I got you. Okay, so your buddy is like, “All right here’s this thing that I’m building” and you’re like, “All right I’m in, let’s do it.” So tell us a little bit about you know, what that was and what was it that you are trying to create?
00:02:48:18 – 00:03:18:02
Bruce Pon: So I had been doing a lot of research on kind of wealth, the wealth of nations and how you bring people up in the world and such like that. I’d been doing a lot of research on welfare and poverty and stuff and it turned out that the number one way that you can bring people up is to give them their property rights, whether it’s land property or something else. And there’s a book called I think it’s Dead Capital and it’s by Hernando de Soto and it’s all about how you do that.
00:03:18:04 – 00:04:00:22
Bruce Pon: And the idea that my friend had was essentially putting intellectual property on the blockchain and giving people their kind of intellectual property rights on the blockchain. And that was the very first iteration that we started working on, which was Ascribe.io and nothing less than saying if the world’s land value was 70 trillion, can we make intellectual property the same amount of value in the world? Because you know, with artificial intelligence, with robotics, with just all the mechanization going on, the thing that people retain is their intellectual property, it’s their creativeness, it’s the ideas and all those things that make us uniquely human. And that was the idea.
00:04:00:24 – 00:04:34:29
Bruce Pon: So I said after I was building banks, I got bored of it, I said, “This is something that I could sink my teeth into for the next decade or two and let’s give it a go.” So that was Ascribe.io that transitioned. I mean we tried doing that, we tried putting intellectual property on the Bitcoin blockchain. I don’t know if some of your listeners might have remembered like all the stuff with colored coins and using the OP return for putting like snippets of information or claims on there, but that’s what we tried doing on the Bitcoin blockchain. And obviously, Bitcoin isn’t meant to be that type of transport layer.
00:04:35:05 – 00:04:35:20
Richard Carthon: Right.
00:04:35:22 – 00:05:33:12
Bruce Pon: It’s meant to be kind of a store of value, a means of exchange, that type of thing. And so Ascribe, we had to pivot away from that, but the idea that we got out of that was that, Hey, if you can have a global blockchain that stores data, metadata, database data, this type of thing, then you can mimic that same concept of giving intellectual property and making intellectual property transferable over the blockchain. As that became a big chain D.B. about three years ago, we realized that if you combined data with blockchains, that’s the perfect input for artificial intelligence because that is what data scientists need. They need to know that the data has a provenance trail, that the data is owned by somebody that they can take from, they have the ability to ask, Can I take this data? Are these your rights and stuff like that. And that has now become Ocean Protocol, essentially combining the best of blockchains, databases and artificial intelligence.
00:05:34:14 – 00:06:06:03
Richard Carthon: Thank you for explaining that. And it sounds like quite the transition between just the various companies and adapting to what is going on. And it sounds like a really nice blend to land where currently Ocean Protocol is and you actually also had a recent article that came out that was really, really interesting that I want you to expand upon Ocean compute to data which is allowing researchers to send their algorithms to data on premise training. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
00:06:06:05 – 00:06:56:18
Bruce Pon: Sure. So I think one of the things that’s very obvious to people is that there’s a lot of data in the world. We haven’t even begun to get started with the sharing of the data that’s going to happen. Yes, we have Google’s, the Apple’s, Amazon’s, Facebook’s and Microsoft’s having a lot of data, but that honestly is probably one twentieth, if that, of the data in the world. There is a lot of valuable data in supply chains, in pharmaceuticals, automotive, health care, government. There’s so much data that isn’t being shared because it’s not property value. Nobody wants to lose control. Everybody’s scared of their privacy rights being violated and the way to monetize it isn’t obvious and clear with the current system because you have this globalized world, but you have localized laws, intellectual property laws all that sort of stuff.
00:06:57:03 – 00:06:57:18
Richard Carthon: Right.
00:06:57:20 – 00:07:14:20
Bruce Pon: And so Ocean is a solution to that. It’s trying to be a borderless, decentralized solution where Ocean is just kind of the transport layer, just like the Internet, where nobody controls it, anybody can onramp to it. They can essentially put their data on there and then they can try to sell it or make it available for others and others can discover it.
00:07:14:24 – 00:08:42:29
Bruce Pon: Compute to data is a specific kind of feature of Ocean Protocol on top of the kind of the core technology we built and it goes to the main problem that people have when they share data, it is when I expose my data do I lose it? Because the Internet is all about digital, which has unlimited copy ability, it’s zero cost to store, zero cost transport. As soon as you expose your data, it’s gone and that’s why something like blockchain and Bitcoin is the perfect antidote because the beauty of something like for instance, compute to data, is that somebody can make their data available and the Ocean Protocol will help manage somebody else assessing that data, so that data isn’t exposed. And so we have this sophisticated activity in the background where the algorithm is accepted into kind of the data provider’s environment. There’s various checks that go on and then the algorithm can run on the data and then the only thing that leaves is the results. So it’s not necessarily there’s no way that you can reverse engineer the data and that protects it, so that is kind of the feature that we have just released and we’re really excited about. There’s a demo that’s coming out in a couple days. I think on the 3rd of June that people can sign up on an OceanProtocol.com and just learn more.
00:08:43:06 – 00:09:04:21
Richard Carthon: Yeah and sounds extremely interesting and something that people should be looking into because just as you said, the use cases for this almost become endless of how powerful this can be. Can you kind of paint a picture of like some of the initial other use cases that you want Ocean Protocol to be able to provide?
00:09:06:12 – 00:10:12:12
Bruce Pon: Sure. So number one, Ocean Protocol is a protocol and so we need developers to be able to come on and quickly launch their data marketplace using the Ocean tools, libraries, etc. But then on top of that, I can use a specific example, healthcare. Right now, we have a lot of healthcare data that’s floating around, particularly in trying to solve this coronavirus problem and there’s not one central pause, nor should there be. Every country has got some very, very valuable data and even in, for instance in America, you’ve got very valuable data spread across the cities at health networks, universities, etc. Is there a way that some scientists could go from, like a honeybee, go from dataset to dataset and try to get insights based on that? Whether it’s the spread of this disease, whether it’s types of symptoms, whether it’s cures, whether it’s treatment methods, these types of things. And so that is a use case on top that we could foresee using this technology, but it spreads to other things.
00:10:12:14 – 00:11:10:15
Bruce Pon: So one of the areas that we’ve been working a lot on in the past was automotive. Everybody wants to see driverless cars come out as soon as possible because they are fundamentally going to be safer than humans, if they can avoid the objects, the edge cases you know, some ball you know, getting kicked onto the road and stuff like that, so you know all that kind of stuff. And so automakers have a ton of data, they’re all scared to share it and the ones who are going to win are the ones who currently have the most data, but it doesn’t have to be just one winner. You don’t have to just have way mode being a winner or Tesla being a winner, everybody can be a winner the sooner that we reach a minimum threshold where everybody feels safe no matter whether it’s a Mercedes, it’s a GM, it’s a Toyota or a Tesla on the road knowing that they have this kind of data set that allows their autonomous driving to be completely safe. So these are just two small examples.
00:11:10:17 – 00:11:35:10
Richard Carthon: Yeah and really great examples that I think people can resonate with. Just what people probably aren’t thinking about is what is necessary to make these successful is A. Just having access to all the data, but then being able to do something with it and to do something in a very quick and repeatable way. And it sounds like that is what Ocean Protocol is aspiring to be able to create in this environment.
00:11:36:16 – 00:12:49:03
Bruce Pon: Yeah, I mean so I think you know, at the core of this, we’ve been in the blockchain space. I’ve been in the blockchain spacenow since 2013 and I’ve seen all the different narrations and this is the promise, it’s the promise that you have borderless commerce where it’s completely trustless. I mean we’ve heard that word over and over again, but it truly is that you’re not reliant on Ocean in the sense that Ocean is like a Google that can like, turn off your feed or do anything like that. You rely on Ocean, but because you can look into the open source code, you know that it’s going to run exactly the way that you want it to and then anybody else can start discovering this and finding out different things. So that’s what we’re trying to promote where we have developers coming on building a new business on top of that exposes data that has kind of new features that allow people to do this and then you can have some kid from like Mongolia coming in and taking this data, but paying you for it and using it in the way that meets the conditions that you find. And so that type of thing when we go back to the original idea that we started from, this financial inclusion, this inclusion of anybody on earth. You can have some kid in Africa, some kid in Alabama coming in for a school project and accessing data that they wouldn’t normally be able to access from Silicon Valley.
00:12:49:09 – 00:13:28:17
Richard Carthon: I understand like why this is important and like everything that can be built from it, I think it just goes back to the main point that you were making of getting the people to come on and starting to build on it and starting to show the different ways that this can be utilized and you’re not just the central entity that’s controlling it all. This is just like you said the trustless word that like, definitely has been abused in this base, but like actually just you come on, you built this thing and you’re trying to be the bridge between a bunch of islands that have been made and this sounds like you’re just trying to be a connector of data so that everything flows in a very seamless fashion.
00:13:28:19 – 00:13:29:19
Bruce Pon: Exactly.
00:13:30:25 – 00:13:42:21
Richard Carthon: And on that point you know, you’ve said you’ve been in the blockchain space since 2013 and you know there are all kinds of crypto and blockchain projects that are going on right now. What are some that are on your radar that you’re paying attention to?
00:13:44:05 – 00:14:50:11
Bruce Pon: I think the number one that I’m looking at is the DeFi space. So all these new, very thin tools, you can even just say plug ins almost, that allow for the extension of the capability of ethereum for the like, reconstructing our financial worlds that you don’t have what’s happening on Wall Street in and in London and stuff, so that financialization of any asset, whether it’s data or cash can be done from anywhere in the world. The beauty is that financialization isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Like I said, if you can give people title to their property, you can give them something like loans. They can securitize it, they can use it as you know, a collateral for something else. This is great stuff, so what happens if you could do that for data? And the DeFi tools are the tools that can allow this to happen, if you can allow for collateralization of intellectual property or a data stream or something like that, this is exactly Internet and blockchain native type of stuff that’s happening.
00:14:50:13 – 00:15:32:16
Bruce Pon: A couple other things I’m looking at are things like governance. So you have various governance type of projects going on, ones like Aragorn, where it shows kind of the important stuff about how you have governance and the decentralized world because everybody is still learning how to do it. But you know there’s got to be some trailblazers who are working forward on that. And then there’s a project that just released, it’s called Lukso, L-U-K-S-O.io, and that reminds me of Ascribe. What Lukso does is they’re trying to put digital collectibles, a little bit like, what do you call it? There’s virtual worlds, right?
00:15:32:18 – 00:15:33:03
Richard Carthon: Like Decentral Land?
00:15:33:05 – 00:16:27:08
Bruce Pon: In the lockdown inside everyone’s been playing a lot more video games. Decentral Land, this sort of thing, right? And so Ascribe was actually kind of like the original thing, whereas like what kind of digital collectibles can you have also? And Lukso is one of those that’s working on this area and they just came up with a very innovative concept which is a Rico, R-I-C-O, which is anytime over the next year, any contributor can take back their contribution pro rata if they don’t like what’s happening. And the reason why this project is kind of interesting, is not only just because of the idea and the Rico, but because the guy behind it, is the guy who helped design the ERC 20 Standard. He wrote the first browser, he helped create the first wallet for ethereum, so this guy’s got pretty serious chops so I’m pretty excited about these three types of ideas, DeFi space, governance, as well as going back to the original idea of how do you give property value in a digital world.
00:16:27:21 – 00:17:13:10
Richard Carthon: No doubt. And I think those are really three great things everyone who’s listening to it to look into and to expand upon, just because it’s going to be very important as the future of crypto and blockchain space continues to develop and it actually is a good transition into our next question. You know, with everything that’s been going on in the world, 2020 is starting off with a bang in a lot of ways and is definitely shaped like, set the tone for what the next decade could look like. You know, in a lot of ways, I was expecting a lot more attention to be brought into the crypto, blockchain space in the next five to seven years and I think that timeline has been expedited for sure. What are some things that you think people should be paying attention to?
00:17:14:22 – 00:18:13:21
Bruce Pon: I think Dow is something that is going to be a lot more important in the future. So many of these projects were started by one central team and they lived and died by that, the weaknesses and the strengths of the founders, the positive and negative. I think Dow’s decentralized autonomous organization is an angle where we can get out of this kind of circuit loop. You can have projects where the core team who kind of initiates the idea gives power and gives more control to the community sooner and faster and so the resources of the foundation or the project get spread out faster. I think this is something that was unintentional with the ethereum project and that has worked out fantastically well. I’d be interested to see how other projects engage with Dow’s and actually activate Dows, multiple Dows, so they can have this true decentralized ecosystem so that it’s not going to be dependent on the central team because too many projects are dependent on that central team.
00:18:14:14 – 00:19:53:20
Bruce Pon: Another thing specific to kind of what we’re doing and I talked about kind of Ocean as the transport layer for sharing data, talked about kind of one of the features, which is privacy preserving compute, the compute to data. One thing that we can give is kind of data tokens. Data tokens are essentially access tokens, just kind of like a digital chip that you can use to access data and why that type of feature that we’re working on for V3 is so important is imagine you’re watching kind of like a boxing match. I remember back in the day, when everybody wanted to like, be able to see a match, like a really big boxing match in Las Vegas you know, something like that and it was always pay per view. Well with data tokens, you can still have pay per view, but you can actually make it so that data token is bought and sellable, transferable, there can be an open market for it. So you can make it so that a boxing promoter could have like a million data tokens or a million people million screens can be showing this and then that data token can get bid up in a liquid market using a bonding curve or what have you, or just a plain auction. And then the real market price for that data token or that access token can be found and that is a really interesting use case financialization that we’re using specifically for Ocean protocols to start with, but it’s going to have much broader applications, right? You can use this for an online course, you could use this for financial information, you can use this for I don’t know, access to the Crypto Current podcast. Actually, these types of things and it’s a way for anybody around the world to monetize their data.
00:19:54:20 – 00:20:18:05
Richard Carthon: That is very unique and a very interesting concept and I definitely see how that could play out. And is this something that’s on the immediate roadmap or you see this coming in? I know you said this is more in the pipeline but that is a really, really powerful concept that I definitely keep. Keep me posted on that because I think I can already see how useful that could be.
00:20:18:07 – 00:20:19:25
Bruce Pon: Will do, happy to.
00:20:20:05 – 00:20:31:10
Richard Carthon: For sure. Well, man you’ve dropped a ton of knowledge on us. You’ve given us a lot to think about and I really appreciate your time. But what is a final thought that you want to leave with all of our listeners here today?
00:20:31:12 – 00:21:07:25
Bruce Pon: I think the crypto space is still young, so if you’re just joining in, there’s a lot of room for you. There’s a lot of space for anybody who’s listening to this to make a difference, to join a good project, to test out your ideas. We’re always looking for ambassadors, we’re looking for interested people who want to be with us on this very tough journey. And finally I’d just like to thank the community for their support, the entire Ocean community. We have well over 10,000 backers around the world, we have a couple hundred ambassadors, we have a whole bunch of people on Twitter who are rooting for us. And we’ve got people like you, who are just kind of spreading the word. So thank you very much.
00:21:08:00 – 00:21:14:07
Richard Carthon: No doubt. So I really appreciate that Bruce and what are some different ways that people can connect with you and learn more about Ocean Protocol?
00:21:15:07 – 00:21:28:20
Bruce Pon: OceanProtocol.com and then from there you are Blog.OceanProtocol.com, Docks.OceanProtocol.com that you can be an ambassador. There’s a whole bunch of things you can do, but just go to OceanProtocol.com and you’ll find all the information you need.
00:21:29:12 – 00:21:37:10
Richard Carthon: Excellent. Well, again Bruce extremely, extremely grateful for your time for us today and all the knowledge and for everyone listening. Stay Crypto Current.
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