The Future of Decentralized Communication at Your Fingertips with Dorian Johannink
The Bit Podcast — Episode 22
This week on The Bit, we’re joined by Dorian Johannink, Co-Founder and Business Director of Sylo, to talk about the Sylo Smart Wallet, blue-chip NFT artwork, and how community nodes are geared to advance decentralized communications. SYLO was recently listed on Bittrex Global.
Here are the show notes:
[2:31] Speaking of Security
[5:20] Decentralized Workflow
[7:53] Privacy Grows with Community
[11:24] Bridging the Metaverse
[13:42] Blue Chip NFTs
Stephen Stonberg: Hi — Welcome to the Bit, the Bittrex Global podcast where we give you the inside scoop on all things crypto. I’m Stephen Stonberg, the CEO of Bittrex Global. One powerful aspect of blockchain technology is the fact that it is a foundational element for many game-changing use cases. We’ve seen teams use blockchain technology to develop smart wallets, better payment systems, and even more secure and decentralized social media platforms.
I’m excited to be talking to the Sylo team today, who are leveraging the power of blockchain technology to develop an ecosystem of decentralized apps that are interconnected through the SYLO token. From messaging to microtransactions to storing your most precious data, Sylo promises to be the intersection between convenience and confidentiality.
So, to join us for a stimulating discussion on Sylo is the company’s Co-founder and Business Director, Dorian Johannink. Dorian, welcome to the Bit. Excited to be chatting with you today from New Zealand of all places.
Dorian Johannink: Thanks, Steven. It’s good to be here.
Stephen Stonberg: Great. Really looking forward to discussing some of the trends shaping the broader crypto space and how Sylo is using blockchain technology to tackle the privacy and security issues the digital world is facing. But before we dig into that, we always ask guests this question. I wanted to ask you, Dorian, who or what got you into crypto in the first place? How did you hear about it? And how and when did you buy your first Bitcoin?
Dorian Johannink: Respectively, late to the game. So early 2017 was my first foray into crypto and my first purchase. We were working on peer-to-peer communications technologies for quite a while before that. And that was sort of the convergence where we connected the dots with blockchain, and it really sparked my enthusiasm to foray into blockchain.
Stephen Stonberg: Amazing. I mean, it’s been such an interesting market and ride. I’ve only been in this market for three years, and I feel like I’ve been in it for 100. You know, crypto dog years. I think you definitely age from it.
When I was doing research for this episode, I found that the Sylo protocol is a completely decentralized communications and storage network with a variety of apps and much more. For those in the audience who may not be that familiar with Sylo, could you please break down exactly what it does? And I have a ton of questions for you, given current privacy issues. In the US right now, the IRS wants to track any transactions over $600. This seems like a pretty timely app.
[2:31] Speaking of Security
Dorian Johannink: Yeah, absolutely. So, it probably makes sense to start where I came from. So my background — I used to work in the digital consulting space, helping people market through the Facebooks of the world, for years. Through that process, I got a really, really deep understanding of just what was going on behind the scenes in big data in terms of CAPTCHA exploitation and usage of user data. That formed the genesis of where we wanted to go with Sylo.
Essentially, all we wanted to do was develop a platform that enabled you to connect online. Without that and the Ethereum centralized middle layer, it seemed like we had all these supercomputers in our pocket. It must be possible to connect without sacrificing everything; passing all that information and data over to these third parties for the provision of those services. So what we did was build out version one, using direct peer-to-peer technologies, which was sort of the most direct communications route we knew to go with at the time.
And we linked up with one of the original architects of Limewire, a music file sharing service from way back in the day, who helped us with our version one; which was some really cool, rudimentary P2P stuff. We launched our first app in 2017, and then at the end of 2017, we embarked on developing a full-fledged protocol layer to enable additional applications or companies to build on the technology stack.
We rolled out our first application in 2019, which was the Sylo Smart Wallet and app you can use today. But in a nutshell, we’ve built out a fully decentralized communications protocol, which lets you do all the things you can do with centralized messengers. But without the third party set up, where you’re giving away information to progress towards a communication world online — which is a lot closer to what you can get offline. Having a private meeting in a separate room with someone is quite a rare thing to be able to achieve online these days.
Stephen Stonberg: Well, it’s interesting. I mean, you were very ahead of your time because all you hear now is that everyone’s freaked out about Facebook and WhatsApp. Everyone’s leaving WhatsApp to go to Signal because they don’t want their data shared. So I think maybe it was always being shared, and now people just realized it. It’s very interesting in terms of timeliness for your project. You gave us a bit of background about yourself, but maybe you can give us some more background on the whole Sylo team.
Exactly when did the whole project begin? Where is everyone based? Are the people decentralized, or just the protocol? What kind of growth have you experienced, and did you start with just one or two people? How big is the team now?
[5:20] Decentralized Workflow
Dorian Johannink: Yeah, so the Sylo project actually spun out of another project that was being developed by our founding company, which was in the entertainment space. We were looking to produce a next-generation platform that enabled users to interact with the entertainment property in real-time. Through that process, I realized we had to build out the core technologies a bit better. But the founding team was just a few guys with an interest in this space. The technologies that we were going into, you know, P2P; at that stage, they were still relatively rudimentary. They hadn’t been used in a full-fledged communications platform.
So we had to hunt around pretty heavily to find the right guys for this. The core was in New Zealand, but our team of 20 is 50% from countries all over the world. So I think we’ve got 12 different nationalities within that 20 man team. There are some remote members, but most of the core team are in New Zealand. Fortunately, New Zealand’s a relatively good place to live. And we’ve been able to attract a lot of talent to come down and base themselves here because it’s a pretty good lifestyle. But in terms of talent, expertise, and spread, we’re very diversified from a cultural and skillset background.
Stephen Stonberg: And how did COVID affect you? Or has it not affected you because the team was already decentralized?
Dorian Johannink: Yeah, interestingly enough, things have actually ramped up for us since COVID. You know, there was the initial hassle of moving to full remote work; moving away from the office setup. But if anything, it’s just gotten busier. You know, working around the clock, pushing people to use more tech, to use more software, and getting deeper into the world. We’ve just been trying to keep pace with it.
Stephen Stonberg: Yeah, I think that’s interesting. With crypto as an industry, I think we all were already working remote and decentralized. And then you’re already doing the COVID setup without knowing that’s what it was called; on Zoom. And then, all of a sudden, your crypto is booming. So it’s an interesting phenomenon, I think, all around the industry. So now, you have Sylo’s native token, SYLO, which is now listed on Bittrex Global. Thank you, by the way. We’re happy to be partnering with your team and serving a lot of use cases. Maybe you can talk us through the utility of the token within the Sylo ecosystem?
[7:53] Privacy Grows with Community
Dorian Johannink: Yeah, so the core element of the token is hooking into the incentivized node network layer. What we’ve developed underneath everything is a network that enables users and individuals to spin up and run nodes, which actually facilitates communications across the network. So unlike your centralized model with the Facebooks of the world, where they host the central server and route all the communications data through that, what we enable is for any user to spin up and run nodes that actually contribute computing resources to the network.
The more users running nodes, the better the network power and the better its performance around the world. And what we’ve done is tie the token to the node network. That’s actually something we’re super excited to be launching. The next phase, this side of Christmas, will go live and enable the staking mechanism behind the nodes to allow people to run incentivized nodes. Where the token works in relation to that is it works on a staking process where you can put that behind your node, and that enables you to provide services to the network. Users can opt to connect to your nodes, and you’re compensated in return for the computing resource that they provide to the network.
So it creates an incentivized economy to run nodes, keep them up, and keep them performant. Because with decentralized networks, they need to operate on a trustless basis. And that means we have to go beyond the tech enthusiasts that just want to run nodes for the sake of it but actually create an economy that incentivizes people to appropriately run these, have the performance up to par, and get punished for nefarious activity if they’re not providing those nodes or performing the right capacity. So that’s the fundamental piece of the token as it ties to the network layer. And then, that applies to any application that will be built on top of the network.
Stephen Stonberg: Do you know how many users, or can you track the number of users operating nodes? How big is the ecosystem?
Dorian Johannink: Yes. So in terms of nodes running, I think we’ve got around 500 active nodes around the world separate from Sylo. If you get into the application, you’ll see we’ve got a range of core nodes set up there, which are primarily spun up by Sylo, the entity, to get things rolling — to bootstrap the network. And we’ve seen around 500 independent nodes pop up around the world. Once we roll out the incentivization, we’re expecting to really push that side of things, pick up adoption and move from that “enthusiast” to an “economic factor,” moving into the next year.
In terms of actual usage of smart wallet applications, for example, there are over half a million users on that application. But being a decentralized platform, obviously, their data and analytics are very restricted. But we can see through the app stores, you know, with how many installs we’re getting and which regions they’re coming from.
Stephen Stonberg: It’s good to know that you don’t know. That’s what people are counting on. You have a rough idea of how big it is, but you don’t exactly know. So, let’s shift gears a bit — and this is everyone’s favorite topic or a lot of people’s favorite topic — NFTs. Let’s talk a bit about NFTs in the metaverse. What are your thoughts on the NFT craze we have going on right now, Sylo’s plans for NFTs, or the metaverse?
[11:24] Bridging the Metaverse
Dorian Johannink: Yeah, absolutely. So we recently launched NFT support for a range of popular NFTs within the smart wallet application to engage users. We had a lot of requests from the existing user base to start adding support for those specific functionalities. We’ve recently also gone a lot deeper with the FLUF World project. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with that. That was actually developed and launched by another company we were associated with. They’re doing some really unique things. We’ve got deeper collaborations with them in terms of what you can do and how you can interact with their community with NFTS coming out in the coming months, which is super exciting on that side.
On the metaverse side, we actually have a pretty big development under the hood that we’ll be looking to bring to life over the next one to two quarters. So it was actually a project that was developed at the earliest stages of the company’s development. It was put to the side. It was an entertainment property that bridges the futuristic post-apocalyptic world and lets people engage in decisions, like the results of the decisions that we’ve made in terms of the environment, climate change, and the health of the planet; a really unique capacity. And we’ll be bringing that to life through collaboration, which bridges NFTs and the metaverse in a really exciting way. So once we’ve got that and it’s ready to publicize, we’re excited to bring that out. That’ll be sort of a right arm to Sylo, but it’ll connect into the Sylo network for communications, right across the board.
Stephen Stonberg: So when I think about post-apocalyptic — isn’t that the world we live in now? We don’t have to wait for the future, especially if you’ve heard about what’s happening in certain parts of New York these days.
Dorian Johannink: Absolutely, yes. It accelerates us 900 years into the future.
Stephen Stonberg: A bit more post-apocalyptic than that. 2021. Just before we shift gears, I did read on your website about music NFTs. Is the platform you mentioned you’re partnering up with working on that? Did you want to talk a bit more about that? I think that’s interesting.
[13:42] Blue Chip NFTs
Dorian Johannink: Yeah, so we’ve linked up with a group here in New Zealand; a bunch of top talent, including one of the most well-known athletes down the side of the world and Australasia. It’s a platform called Glorious, and that’s going to be launching its first drop next month. And that is a collaboration with a range of high-profile musicians, artists, and athletes, throughout Australasia, initially, with some international talent coming into the mix. They are platforms focused on the high end of NFTs; what we’re calling “authentic digital masterpieces.” We’re bringing in artwork from really well-known artists that are producing specific content to be launched on this platform. But it’s designed to bridge that gap between —
Stephen Stonberg: — Digital art, but not just three pixels that some non-artist created and sells for $10 million, which seems to be the theme of NFTs.
Dorian Johannink: 100%. Because what was happening is we were getting approached by traditional artists, and they were sitting and going, “Well look, how can we engage with these technologies? We’re sitting here with really enthusiastic existing communities interested in these two technologies.” You know, where does that convergence happen? We’re not bastardizing the content that we were already producing. What we’re doing is bridging that budding technology with some really high quality, existing content, you know, well-known names and artists, to bring some really unique stuff to play. In some instances, it’s stuff that’s designed to actually display on smart TVs on your wall, almost like traditional artwork, which is some really interesting stuff.
Stephen Stonberg: Great, really interesting. So I guess, again, I would encourage people to go to your website and read more about that. So, shifting gears again, I know projecting ahead in the crypto space is hard to do, and hopefully, it’s not the post-apocalyptic future of the game. But seeing as things are moving, just so quickly. I think in the last three months, it’s moving even faster. Like, you can’t even keep up. The last few months feel like six months or a year have passed. But I’m sure our audience would love to know what you think the price points are — and again, this is not a business recommendation or forward-looking information — What do you think Bitcoin and Ethereum are going to be? Or any other popular asset classes. Do you have a price target for Bitcoin and ETH on your end?
Dorian Johannink: Yeah, I mean, it’s been an incredibly volatile year, but I think we’re getting back into really bullish territory, where there’s a lot of positivity. There were a few shock waves coming through with possible regulations coming in. But I think we’ve moved through that phase now and looking at all the indicators. I think we’re looking to be in a really healthy space in the next one to two quarters on both of those. I mean, putting a price on it is very, very difficult.
Stephen Stonberg: Are you 100,000, are you 200, or are you 500 in Bitcoin? This is just a guesstimate, but no one’s holding you to it. We’re just curious.
Dorian Johannink: I’m getting behind fresh all-time-highs coming into play in the next one to two quarters. It’s obviously dependent on a few macro factors, but the level of adoption and interest you’re seeing coming into the market seems…
Stephen Stonberg: So above 60, 70, or whatever. You’re somewhere in that kind of price range, but you won’t commit to a number. I guess with ETH, it would be the same, above 4000.
Dorian Johannink: I’ll look into my crystal ball. But yeah, I’m pretty confident we will be pushing into strong territories.
Stephen Stonberg: Okay. Then just to wrap things up, are there any other projects, blockchains, or cryptocurrencies besides Sylo? Anything else that you find interesting or you think people in the audience should be paying attention to?
Dorian Johannink: Yeah. So there’s a project that we’re going to start more publicly collaborating with in the coming months called Altered State Machine, which was actually based out of New Zealand, as well. It was an actual collab. They work on some really interesting stuff around intelligent entities in AI, where NFTs are actually able to learn, train, add characteristics, and compete with each other in a full metaverse-styled setup. It’s obviously going to start and then bridge into a full metaverse play, but you know, if you get a second ASM, check them out. They’re super interesting. We’re looking forward to doing some work with them and breaking that into the Sylo network as well.
Stephen Stonberg: Great, super interesting. I wish we could come to New Zealand, but you know, until COVID’s done, I think all these places are kind of locked down. I’ve been there, it’s amazing, and it sounds like there’s a pretty interesting crypto community there too. But thank you so much for coming on the podcast, talking to us about a project that is now firmly on my radar, Sylo. We’re definitely looking forward to hearing more exciting news coming from the Sylo team in the future. So, thank you again for listing SYLO on Bittrex Global.
Dorian Johannink: Thanks, David. Appreciate it.
Stephen Stonberg: Thanks for listening to The Bit, the Bittrex Global podcast. Our guest today was Dorian Johannink, Co-Founder and Business Director of Sylo. To learn more about Sylo, visit sylo.io that’s S Y L O dot I O. To learn more about Bittrex Global, visit global.bittrex.com and please make sure to subscribe to our podcast. You can find us wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening and making The Bit one of the fastest-growing podcasts in the world of crypto. I’m Stephen Stonberg, CEO of Bittrex Global.