Nyala Magazine
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Nyala Magazine

Getting to know our Head of Product and Digital Assets Expert Didier Goepfert.

Didier joined our team in January to support the development of our blockchain service. In the interview we discuss his personal way of becoming part of Bloxxon and talk about blockchain innovation and our role in the blockchain ecosystem.

Can you introduce yourself and what you do at Bloxxon?

My name is Didier Goepfert and I am currently head of product in the Bloxxon blockchain department.

From a small village in France to Berlin. How did that happen?

About myself, I was born and raised in Alsace, France near the Swiss and German borders.

I studied mathematics and economics in Strasbourg and then moved to Clermont-Ferrand (famous for its rugby team and for being the headquarters of the tyre manufacturer Michelin) where I was awarded with a Master Degree in Financial Markets.

Following that I had my first start-up experience (believe me at that time the term start-up wasn't so fashionable) in Bordeaux in a small and independent asset management company, called Gestion 21.

Then I worked as an Investment Advisor in Luxembourg, for BGL BNP Paribas. There I managed the investment portfolio of expatriates, mass affluent and high net worth individuals.

I moved to Berlin in 2014 to pursue a full-time MBA at ESMT Berlin to broaden my horizons towards other industries. I always liked Berlin. Having spent a few weeks in Berlin in 2010 I was glad having the chance to come back for a longer period. Part of our program was to provide consultancy services for various companies. That’s when I was introduced to Raisin. At that stage the company had less than 20 employees. Once graduated, I started working with Raisin where I was in charge of their market launch in France.

About two years ago I decided to dive into the crypto rabbit hole. During that time, I had the opportunity to work for Streamr, a Swiss-based blockchain project. They developed a decentralized P2P network and blockchain-powered data marketplace…or simply put — a solution to control and monetize the data someone generates.

Now, at Bloxxon I’m heading our blockchain project and the positionning of Bloxxon products. Its always exciting to start a new project from scratch. The potential here is big.

Buzzword blockchain. You’ve been working in private banking & the fintech industry for a few years. How did you get in touch with blockchain?

It happened many times. First, during the late 2013 bitcoin rally. At that time some of my customers in Luxembourg were interested in purchasing bitcoin. Even if it was not in our product portfolio, I started to learn more about Bitcoin and other crypto assets.

Didier giving a guest lecture at TU Berlin

During my time at Streamr I had my first intense time working with on the technology. I find their project and their team brilliant and when the opportunity arose of joining their partnerships team, I didn't hesitate. Working in the industry allowed me to sharpen my understanding of the various blockchain solutions, to identify and design new use cases involving blockchain or Distributed Ledgers and to extend my network within the blockchain ecosystem.

„User First, Technology Second“. Steve Jobs incorporated this philosophy when it came to developing new products and Apple’s user experience. The relationship between technology and user certainly influences your daily work. What are your thoughts on that?

I totally concur. In a world in which our time is more and more precious and limited, the usability of a product and the experience created for the customers is what will make a product successful. Remember that Apple wasn't the first company to launch a smart device and probably hadn't the best product in terms of technology when it launched its smart phone, but what it definitely provided was a better customer experience. Some products can be truly extraordinary with a noble cause associated to it but if they miss a great user experience, they’ll be likely to fail or not be as successful as they could.

When you talk about blockchain many people fear a change in user interfaces and complicated products. Is that the reality or not at all?

I would say yes and no.

Yes, because as of today, the usability of most of the blockchain-powered applications is insufficient. For instance, a non-early adopter, will probably find the steps to set up and use its own crypto wallet overwhelming. But on one side that is normal, blockchain is still a new-born technology.

No, because if you talk about blockchain outside a certain circle of early adopters, people simply don’t know what it is, or don’t have a basic understanding of it….and that is totally fine! People don’t need to understand a technology in its detail to adopt it. Most of the internet users do not know the protocols on which the internet is built, ultimately blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies should be similar and simply enable new applications to be built on top of it with very little implications for the customers to know which blockchain it is based on.

The most successful project will be the one nailing the User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) challenges. An example tackling those challenge is mobile bank Revolut which integrated a crypto function allowing its users to buy bitcoins in two clicks without having to care about storing private keys or registering on an exchange.

More recently in France it became possible to purchase bitcoins in tobacco stores, tackling particularly the mistrust in online crypto exchange.

Of course, we always have to be aware of data security and privacy policies when developing a product. That doesn't mean user experience has to suffer.

Bloxxon is developing a platform for business transactions & investments. Why diving into blockchain? How is the technology beneficial for the Bloxxon use case?

We think that the technology might be a tool that we can leverage. In particular the smart contract functions which make a digital asset programmable or automated can bring tremendous values for business founders looking for different sources of financing or investors looking for more portfolio diversification. Our use case around luxury goods and private business shares also leverages the main advantages of tokenized assets: liquidity and tradability: soon you will be able to own a fraction of a Ferrari or a Rembrandt smoothly, from your sofa, in a few clicks and with limited costs.

Thinking years ahead you will be able to build a truly diversified portfolio as imagined by Harry Markowitz in the Modern Portfolio Theory.

There are a few other companies already developing Security Token Offering (STO) platforms for startups and trying to realized business financing via blockchain. Why reinventing the wheel?

It’s a good and valid question and we have to be very rationale about it. Some projects have been out for years and developed high-level expertise which doesn’t make sense for us to challenge. In that sense we will try to build strong technological partnerships with recognized industry players along our product development.

Regulation is still unclear and supervisory authorities like the BaFin still lack in providing definite guidelines. How is this influencing your product development process?

Indeed, it is still unclear at that stage. We are considering various options but of course want to be 100% compliant with the guidelines provided at that stage. Even if that requires more time, I think that the most important step for the European blockchain ecosystem is an EU harmonized framework.

In this uncertain time, having a flexible and small structure will make us more responsive to the upcoming regulatory changes. Our top-priority is to provide a product within a strong and clear legal set-up.

The UK has already welcomed a regulatory sandbox for blockchain businesses. Singapore and Thailand have also launched similar models. Do you think this could be applied in Germany?

Regulatory sandboxes have proven to be very useful tools for both innovative start-ups and regulators. Sandboxes not only allow start-ups to innovate in a less constrained environment but also allow start-ups and regulators to jointly learn from each other. The Netherlands has followed the UK example. More EU regulators expressed interest, and saw the benefits of those sandboxes, so why not in Germany where the BaFin has already been be attentive to innovative Fintech business models (e.g. Raisin, N26 etc.)

Last but not least. What do you say to people who think that blockchain is dead after the crypto market bubble bursted last year?

The crypto market bubble was in many ways very comparable with the 2000s dotcom bubble: a new technology, and on the investor side excess liquidity and greed. When investors expect a ten, twenty or hundred time return on investment in a short period of time we enter the irrational world.

Besides, the dotcom bubble burst didn’t put an end to the internet-powered business. The crypto bubble burst won’t end blockchain-powered innovation. And believe me, on the enterprise level the interest in using blockchain technology didn’t vanish because the price of cryptocurrencies went down.

Then as always do your own research…and that takes time!

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