Kauffman originally discovered blockchain when he sent his first Bitcoin in 2013. He became fascinated with the idea of virtual currency and decentralized technology, reading up as much as he could on the topic.
Kauffman remembers a transcript he read on a conversation between Julian Assange, the famed WikiLeaks editor, and Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google at the time.
The three hour conversation between the pair discussed both Assange and Schmidt’s ideas for the “The New Digital World”. This section on Bitcoin and DNS caught Kauffman’s eye.
“So this Bitcoin replacement for DNS is precisely what I wanted and what I was theorizing about, which is not a DNS system, but rather short names… short bit of text to long bit of text tuple registering service. Cause that is the abstraction of domain names and all these problems solved. Yes, you have some something that you want to register that is short, and you want to couple that to something that is unmemorable and longer… And that then means you have a structure where you can tell whether something has been published or unpublished, you can… one piece of human intellectual information can cite another one in a way that… can’t be manipulated, and if it is censored the censorship can be found out. And if one place is censored, well you can scour the entire world for this hash, and no matter where you find you know it is what you wanted precisely!” — Julian Assange
“It spurred my thinking,” Kauffman explained, “I couldn’t stop thinking about it.” And as every good entrepreneur knows, when you can’t stop thinking about something, it is time to build a business.
Kauffman set out to create a blockchain enabled platform with a global catalogue of digital content — now called LBRY. “We build LBRY because we’d rather let individual users maker their own choices than have people like Mark Zuckerberg make choices for everyone.”
Kauffman and his team were certainly correct in their anticipation, with Facebook and other social media companies coming under fire just earlier this year for treating people as the product. The Cambridge Analytica scandal caught global fire, exposing that Facebook sold personal data on more than 50M users to the political data firm without users’ knowledge.
LBRY was created to give the power back to the people. Built on it’s own LBRY protocol, the marketplace functions similar to YouTube, but the platform is controlled by the participants themselves, rather than a large tech company. Users are able to control themselves by acting on incentives built into the system with LBRY’s LBC (LBRY Credit) token.
“Interestingly, our strategic advantage is tying our own hands,” explains Kauffman. “We can’t change the rules without the user’s permission.”
LBRY first came onto the blockchain scene in 2016. After months of working through the initial design with a good friend from college, Kauffman got to work building the protocol. He made slow progress at the beginning, growing a list of over 600 alpha testers for when the initial blockchain went live.
That day finally came in July 2016, when Kauffman and his team first emailed their alpha testers about the launch. The platform immediately took off, with a ton of buzz and hype surrounding the platform and the LBC token.
“There was a much larger influx of people that came in right after the launch that I did not anticipate,” explained Kauffman, “People are looking for a coin to find and hype. I felt uncomfortable with all of it. The ICO stuff wasn’t why I started [building LBRY].”
However, the users who genuinely understood the technology and the mission remained. “We have over 20 people on the team, hundreds of community members contributing regularly, 300k pieces of content, dozens of popular streamers (10 with 1M+ subscribers), feature films, and over 10k people using the platform regularly.”
The strength of the LBRY community has proven to be a tremendous asset to LBRY. Kauffman recalled one of his favorite days building the company. “There were over 20,000 college lectures that were going to disappear from the web. The LBRY community mobilized to save them all, download them, and upload them to LBRY.” The community truly rallied together towards a cause they were all passionate about.
Kauffman credits the Boston blockchain ecosystem as a contributing factor to LBRY’s success. In addition to securing funding from Boston-based VC firm, Pillar, Jeremy says Boston’s focus on building real blockchain companies has been a great way for him to meet peers working on similar issues.
“Boston has one of the best blockchain ecosystems around,” explains Kauffman. “There is a lot of uncertainty when you build a blockchain business, and when you face uncertainty, informal relationships and conversations can help you resolve and understand some of that uncertainty.” Kauffman highlighted Boston companies Sia Tech, Poloniex, First Blood, and others as contributing meaningfully to the ecosystem.
But despite loving his Boston roots, Kauffman says one of the coolest parts about building LBRY is that it is an open source protocol, giving him access to developer talent across the globe. “Interesting people discover what you are working on. Some of these people have become our best team members and are from India, Nigeria, Brazil, Switzerland, and more,” Kauffman explains.
Kauffman has a busy few months ahead of him, as he and the rest of the company gear up for the launch of a few new initiatives. In just the next few months, LBRY will open a beta for their mobile app, and launch a tech hub website specifically for people working on the LBRY protocol.
The company will also be ramping up their LBRY.fund projects. The LBRY Community Fund is taken from a portion of the premined LBRY credits and is used to provide grants to those working on projects that further the LBRY protocol. The team is specifically interested in projects that fit the intersection between freedom of speech, education, and technical projects.
Interested in learning more? http://lbry.fund/