Hope Liu is the Co-Founder and CEO of Eximchain, a startup founded in MIT focused on transforming the global supply chain industry.
For Hope Liu, Co-Founder and CEO of Eximchain, blockchain was the solution to a problem she had seen and experienced for years.
Born and raised in China, a country with deep roots in the manufacturing and global supply chain industry, Hope could both see and feel the inefficiencies in the system. After going to work at UBS, and working her way up to Authorized Officer for the APAC Cash Equities Settlement, the problems became even more apparent.
“There were huge inefficiencies in handling cross border transactions,” Hope explained. “There were so many manual processes involved, and it didn’t make sense to me.”
In 2015, Hope quit her job, determined to make a change in the global settlement industry. She entered MIT Sloan as an MBA candidate, looking for a technology that could change the paradigm. She was in a Media Lab class when the idea of blockchain was mentioned. To her, it was the answer to the global payments issues she had been tackling. Hope said she could smell the potential.
“I literally stopped going to classes,” joked Hope. Instead, she would spend her days brainstorming with professors and reading up as much as she could on blockchain. “There was no textbook on blockchain.”
Only months later, she joined Eximchain (which stands for exports-imports on the blockchain), founded by her senior in Sloan, Can Kisagun. The team decided to use blockchain technology to tackle the global payment problem in the supply chain industry by creating a public blockchain network that helps enterprises to connect, transact, and share information seamlessly.
“If you think about supply chain, it is source, manufacture, deliver. The way you do that has changed tremendously over the past few years, but the way we manage it is still through centralized agents,” Hope describes. “Supply chain has the issue of information, financial, and goods flow — if we can reach consensus and remove manual work, we can replace a lot of the inefficient layers without going through any trouble.”
At the beginning, the idea didn’t take off as they wished. Despite winning the Legatum Seed Grant and getting into the Plug and Play Accelerator, Hope found it difficult to persuade supply chain users to adopt a blockchain solution. The idea was totally new, and even early stage investors were skeptical about the future, let alone people from a more traditional industry like supply chain.
While struggling to get the idea across, her current CTO and co-founder, Juan Huertas came into the picture. A computer science talent who shared the same passion about blockchain, Hope says Juan appeared at just the right time. In 2017, the new team made it to the final of the MIT 100K Competition, Accelerate, and continued working on their idea with funding support from the MIT Sandbox Program until they graduated. Since then, they managed to scale the team from 2 people to 12 across 3 countries and have raised $21M in total funding.
“I wanted to go big or go home,” explains Hope. “Supply chain touches everyone’s life. I am looking at changing the way everyone interacts with information because none of us can live without supply chain.”
The Boston blockchain ecosystem has been instrumental in Hope’s journey to build Eximchain, in large part due to the incredible talent hailing from MIT and other Boston universities. Hope found both her original co-founder, her current CTO, and other developer talent from Boston.
“For us it was never a problem finding good blockchain developers,” explains Hope. “The [Boston] environment is understanding and adapting to the tech.” This gives Boston companies a leg-up when competing with other companies struggling to find talent.
But it isn’t all about talent, Hope says Boston has given her the resources needed to continuously keep learning, from companies willing to partner with MIT students, to the constant stream of Boston blockchain events. “I want to be seen as a leader in the space. If I had not come to Boston this would never be possible,” Hope reflects.
Hope’s goal Eximchain’s future? “We want our blockchain to be the blockchain for global supply chain in 5–10 yrs,” Hope says. “What we want to build is an open source environment for SDKs to actually build supply chain applications, because the problems are really complicated. We want to give people the toolset and infrastructure to build that.”
After receiving $20M in funding earlier this year, Hope and her team are now off to the races launching their public blockchain, built on Quorum, the permission fork off of Ethereum.
“We decided to build on Quorum because of the privacy layer for our enterprise clients,” explains Hope. “I think we are the first public blockchain that supports privacy, scalability and security. These are the things people have never seen.”
But to Hope, the most exciting upcoming development will be the launch of their mainnet in 2 months’ time. With the launch of their mainnet, the team will be the first in the field to implement a quadratic voting governance mechanism through blockchain. Quadratic voting was initially invented by Princeton Professor Glen Weyl for democratic voting, and was recently highlighted by Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum, as a possible solution to governance issues.
Quadratic voting works as follows: If a participant has a strong preference for or against a particular decision, additional votes can be allocated. However, the cost of additional votes increasingly becomes more expensive quadratically (1 vote — $1, 3 votes — $9).
Eximchain was the first in the blockchain field to publish a whitepaper about implementing a Quadratic Voting governance mechanism through Ethereum-based smart contracts in 2017, and is now launching the protocol live on a public blockchain.
At the end of each governance cycle, all tokens cast as votes are redistributed evenly between the voters. Having users sign up via a KYC (Know Your Customer) process, the protocol prevents a single group from quietly taking it over for guaranteed network security and achieves wealth re-distribution. Hope believes this will provide an even greater level of network security, as it would take a bad actor many cycles to take gain meaningful power.
“We are really excited about it,” says Hope. “This is the beauty of blockchain.”
To learn more about Eximchain, visit their website: https://www.eximchain.com/