Jonathan Manzi of Beyond Protocol On The 5 Things That Can Be Done To Improve and Reform The Cryptocurrency Industry

Authority Magazine
Authority Magazine
Published in
10 min readMar 9, 2022

Creating trade organizations and lobbies is necessary to ensure blockchain can make the most powerful impact possible on our world. There’s got to be advocacy to governments, educational institutions, third parties, etc. This is what trade organizations do for other industries, sell the public on certain ideas — same with lobbies and governments. Business people, educators, politicians, and all the associated administrative staff need to understand blockchain.

As part of my series about the “5 Things That Can Be Done To Improve and Reform The Cryptocurrency Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Manzi.

Jonathan Manzi is the CEO and co-founder of Beyond Protocol, the company developing a new internet based on a universal platform that enables inter-device communication. He is considered a global expert in frontier technology, specializing in building multiple successful businesses in divergent industries. Prior to Beyond, Manzi dropped out of Stanford University, where he presided as the Chair of Entrepreneurship and co-founded a non-profit for youth entrepreneurship, to co-found and serve as CEO of ink. Manzi has spoken extensively around the world about the implications of technology for the future of humanity at events such as the G20 Summit and the St. Petersburg International Forum.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “back story”?

I was born and raised 30 minutes north of Boston. Ever since grade school, I was passionate about creating new things and trying to bring them to the world — it started with painting rocks from my driveway and selling them in an art gallery. By fifth grade, I’d started a newspaper; and in high school I started an ad technology business which generated millions of dollars in annual revenue.

I didn’t know if I wanted to go to college initially — I was fortunate Stanford accepted me, and I eagerly went to Silicon Valley to immerse myself in the capital of tech innovation. I lasted only a couple of years in college before dropping out to start Ink, a startup which makes robotic versions of FedEx Office. I later started Beyond Protocol, an unhackable blockchain allowing smart contracts to be built on top of all devices.

Can you tell us the story of how you got first involved in blockchain and the cryptocurrency industry?

When building Ink, my co-founder and I got a reputation for being the crazy engineer and product guys of the space. We eventually got the attention of Enrique Lores, the then President and now CEO of HP. He was looking for a solution to one of their big problems — printer security.

So we developed a novel security solution for HP, which ended up being the foundation for Beyond Protocol. The solution was founded on two key technologies: of course, blockchain — a decentralized immutable ledger — and hardware signatures, a means of securely identifying all network devices.

What we’d built at the time enabled printer manufacturers to securely track each of their devices through its entire life cycle — from the original date of manufacture, through the duration of product use, and finally until recycling. It also enabled secure, automatic digital payments for printer supplies — for example, paper and ink — as well as genuine product validation for ink cartridges.

Having succeeded in creating a secure IoT solution for the leading target of enterprise infiltration — yes, printers — we began expanding on this foundation, and Beyond Protocol was born.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

One afternoon, I was doing work on my laptop at a bar in Tiburon, a city connected to San Francisco by the Golden Gate Bridge, and met a couple who were visiting family. I think they were intrigued when I was working from the bar, and asked me what I was working on. I told them I was in the process of dropping out of school to start a company — what I felt called to do. We had a fun conversation, and the guy gave me his business card. His name is Peter Boni, and he was the Chairman of a big nonprofit helping teach entrepreneurship called NFTE after formerly serving as CEO for several publicly traded tech companies and a VC. Over the years, he continuously supported me in my career and development, opening doors, encouraging me, and giving sage advice during challenging times. I will be forever grateful.

Can you share a story of a time when things went south for you? What kept you going and helped you to overcome those times?

Summer of 2018 for sure. We had just started to raise money for a Beyond Protocol launch when the crypto market crashed. We were unable to move forward with our operating plan and were scraping by, barely able to pay bills. We had to pare operations down to the bare minimum — no marketing or token launch, just gritty product development.

By doing this, we were able to survive in an environment that killed hundreds of other projects.

What kept us going was recognizing that the fundamental tech we were building was needed, so if we could just weather the storm, we’d be able to get Beyond Protocol out to the masses. We remained in stealth until we had enough tangible things to show with the tech and partnerships — building out exactly what we wanted first, then planning a launch, which finally came to fruition in 2020.

In your experience, what are the top strategies that blockchain companies should consider to have a stronger competitive edge?

In terms of strategies for sustainable success, I think it boils down to two things: the impact of the use-cases supported by the project — establishing its potential — then marketing to breathe life into it.

Firstly, how big is the problem you’re solving? Who’s going to care? Will the impact be felt immediately, or will it take more time for the use-cases to really materialize in the real world? Ultimately, the goal is adoption.

Which brings us to the second component — marketing. Many legitimate projects with the potential for great utility never really get off the ground, due largely to an inability to effectively communicate their value proposition to backers. There are so many projects to follow in this space — effective marketing breathes life into your technology and ideas via fresh attention and interest, and is crucial for adoption.

So with those two components — powerful use-cases and effective marketing — you really can’t have one without the other for very long. There are examples of projects who only checked one of those boxes for a short time, but you eventually need the other as well.

What are the 3 things that most excite you about the blockchain industry in general? Why?

The first thing that comes to mind is that it’s user-first.

Unlike the status quo of today’s internet — centralized parties like your favorite social media platform controlling everything, and only providing you a menu of options they decide on — Web3’s design of forming consensus through smart contracts make it inherently user-first. You get to come together with others and decide how you want things — a centralized party doesn’t force a restricted menu of options on you and others. Web3 brings power to the people.

A second thing that excites me with blockchain is that it’s not only solving problems in more traditional business realms like finance, security, and IoT, but it’s also revolutionizing art, music, and collectibles. Non-Fungible Tokens — NFTs — have taken the concept and structure of verifiable ownership into the digital space, allowing for creative licensing in a multi-vertical global market structure.

Contributors to the blockchain space are so passionate and diverse — a global mix of people from all sorts of cultural, political, and economic backgrounds — different minds coming together in such a vibrant space has lead to innovation, and NFTs are one of those game-changing technologies the masses will continue to shape and mold moving forward.

Thirdly, I believe blockchain is the yin to AI’s yang.

It can provide checks and balances to “dystopian” AI getting iteratively more intelligent and spinning out of human control. Nodes must validate all activity on the blockchain before it is consummated, which provides a means for humans to throttle any sort of runaway destructive activity before it truly gets out of hand.

Even in more immediately possible scenarios that may involve just shades of a true worst-case, things could get really bad quickly in such an interconnected world, driven increasingly by automation. Imagine a sort of “ultimate virus” knocking out large computer networks — even if not the AI itself, human malfeasance is still capable of causing great damage. Blockchain, again, puts a check on this.

Another example to illustrate the powerful combination of blockchain and AI is networking and regulation of autonomous vehicles. Think of it this way — GPS software can display traffic in real-time and provide the fastest route to your desired location. Now, imagine taking that one step further: autonomous vehicles being able to drive in harmony, knowing where you’re at in relation to other cars in real-time with complete trust, and directing the flow of traffic with precision that’s not possible today — traffic jams would be dramatically reduced.

This is possible with distributed ledgers and AI. Smart contracts can be built on top to function in a regulatory capacity, directing efficient flow of traffic and getting people around quicker — the next evolution of Google Maps.

What are the 3 things that worry you about the blockchain industry? Why?

Scams are everywhere. It’s become almost a rite of passage to get “rugged” — a slang term for losing all your money due to theft — at least once before you learn how to avoid bad actors. While the profits possible in crypto can be life-changing, so can the losses if you’re not careful. This needs to change.

Beyond Protocol can help with this — identity verified by hardware means you are who you say you are. This prevents scams on multiple fronts.

Another issue is the hyper focus on unsustainable short term yields in DeFi, promising six-figure APYs creates a gamified ponzi and is essentially gambling. I’m a big advocate of DeFi with strong use cases that drive long-term yields, but tokenomic games that attempt to create monetary value out of thin air are damaging the space.

This sort of segues into my third worry — a lack of leaders advocating for righteous values. This is a really big one for me.

Technology can be used for good: charity, medicine, job creation, sharing art and music, etc. Usually there are stewards that advocate for new tech being something positive, even if they’re in for-profit business. I don’t know if we’ve seen that yet with the leaders in the blockchain space.

Ok, thank you for all of that. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share “5 Things That Can Be Done To Improve and Reform The Cryptocurrency Industry”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

My big five would be: regulatory frameworks, device-level authentication as standard, creating trade organizations and lobbies, creating think tanks, and building more crypto-centric societies and clubs.

Right now, various government regulations on crypto are vague, disjointed, and inconsistent. It’s clear that the financial structure of yesterday was not written for crypto. Agreed-upon, consistent global standards would benefit this space greatly.

In line with this, device-level authentication should be a global standard. This would prevent scams and ensure accountability for all.

Creating trade organizations and lobbies is necessary to ensure blockchain can make the most powerful impact possible on our world. There’s got to be advocacy to governments, educational institutions, third parties, etc. This is what trade organizations do for other industries, sell the public on certain ideas — same with lobbies and governments. Business people, educators, politicians, and all the associated administrative staff need to understand blockchain.

Think tanks are a hub for academic research and ideological movement, allowing for the development of new theory and discussion. Bringing order and framework to such an oftentimes chaotic space will be crucial for it to mature and develop in the years ahead.

This ideological refinement will lead to the establishment of more societies, clubs, and orders that center around a shared mission. Once the power of blockchain is more fully understood, the pursuit of goodness can be both streamlined and amplified.

Societies organize based on mission — something like our version of what the American Founder Fathers participated in. People who unite for a common cause, based on shared activities and principles.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

The Beyond Protocol Street Team has done much charity work, so far in the Philippines, Mexico, and Miami. Our focus to-date has been on providing a basic human need — food and clean water — to those who need it most. More initiatives are planned for the future as we continue to grow — bringing goodness to the world is central to my mission with Beyond Protocol.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Theodore Roosevelt

If you look at a beehive, each bee has a role. We’re no different — we all have a calling. Whatever this calling is, it’s work worth doing. Pursuing this work, in good times and bad, brings a tremendous prize: deeply seated satisfaction.

By coming to terms with my calling, the work that’s worth doing for me, I feel great satisfaction each day working hard to make progress, even when there are significant challenges and setbacks.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can stay up-to-date with all things BP on our website, Telegram, Twitter, Instagram, and Discord.

Thank you so much for this. This was very enlightening!

--

--

Authority Magazine
Authority Magazine

In-depth interviews with authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech