Decoding Blockchain for Enterprise: In conversation with Tongtong Gong from Amberdata
In this series, we talk to the amazing founders who are part of the SAP.iO Foundry in New York — Women-led Enterprise Tech Program. This 16 week program launched April 19th provides access to SAP technologies and tailored mentorship to help these incredible startups scale. Current SAP.iO Foundries are in major startup hubs, including Berlin, Tel Aviv, New York City, and San Francisco.
Tongtong Gong is Co-founder and COO at Amberdata, a platform for monitoring, searching, analyzing public and private blockchain. Amberdata enables operational intelligence for blockchain infrastructure, transactions and Dapps. Prior to co-founding Amberdata, Ms. Gong served as VP of Engineering at Unified. She led the build out of the company’s core business intelligence SaaS offering in cross-platform data attribution, analytics and reporting for social advertising with more than $1 Billion under management.
Prior to Unified, Ms. Gong held a variety of engineering and leadership roles at Acxiom, where she most recently established a Global Service Center in China. Additionally, she led an innovation and advanced development team for the CTO office at EMC/Dell.
With over 15 years of experience, Ms. Gong has extensive background in building and managing distributed systems at scale for enterprises, and has led advanced development teams focusing on incubating new businesses for major software players. Her teams have successfully built high-performance computing platforms and marketing analytics software for both offline and digital markets.
Tongtong, Let’s talk about your journey as an entrepreneur. What inspired you to start Amberdata?
Working for both large enterprises as well as growth stage startups, I really enjoyed the “freedom and responsibility” allowed within startup culture. It turns out, I crave more freedom and more responsibilities where I can fully spread my wings. Seeing the potential of blockchain beyond cryptocurrencies, I believe there is an opportunity where I can leverage my background and also take advantage of the immense growth prospects. I took the leap of faith and co-founded Amberdata with two of my trusted colleagues/friends.
What was your previous experience in Enterprise tech and how did it prepare you for the role?
Prior to founding Amberdata, I have held various engineering leadership roles with focus in distributed computing, distributed storage and big data analytics. When I was at EMC CTO office, I had the chance to evaluate and incubate strategic ventures and innovation. This experience taught me that a mature ecosystem is vital for any emerging technology to truly become disruptive.
At Acxiom, I was lucky enough to be part of the team that built the in-house “Grid Computing” in early 2000’s, which was pioneering in many ways for Cloud Computing as we know it today. I have spent many long nights troubleshooting and supporting production systems where I learned first-hand the challenges of running large scale distributed systems and the importance of having the right tool in place. Coming from building and running distributed systems at scale, it’s very instinctive for me to understand blockchain technology and the challenges ahead for Enterprise adoption. My goal is to eradicate the gap in the enabling technology ecosystem and empower Enterprises to operate production systems on blockchain.
Blockchain is probably the most talked about and yet the least understood emerging technology. How do you think its impacting Enterprise tech now — and do you think companies are keeping pace?
I do see Enterprises embracing blockchain and DLT. Keep in mind, there is no such thing as “the blockchain”. There are many protocols and consensus mechanisms each has pros and cons. Enterprise use cases, scalability, throughput, privacy and permission are also important. I believe the key to success is selecting the right technology for a concrete use case and innovating not only the technology, but also the on the business model.
As COO and founder, what do you think, have been the most challenging aspects of building an Enterprise tech startup?
Since blockchain is still new to many Enterprises, understanding overall strategy and navigating across multiple internal organizations can be difficult. As an early stage startup, we have received overwhelming interests and partnering opportunities, forming mutually beneficial relationship and remain focus can also be challenging.
What advice would you have for other women entrepreneurs out there who are thinking about venturing out on their own?
I like this Chinese proverb ”厚积薄发”, hard to translate literally, but I will try: “raring to go based on its accumulated strength”. Whether it’s the project that you are working on now, the book that you are reading, or the difficult office politics that you are navigating, they are all preparing you for the future. In the meantime, seek and seize opportunities, execute without hesitation.
As a parting shot, what’s your favorite part of being in the SAP.iO Foundry in New York?
Working alongside the world-class SAP.IO team and the supportive cohort founders! It’s inspiring to see fellow founders thriving, and I also learned a great deal from sharing our struggles. Oh, did I mention the 48th floor 360-degree view of Manhattan? ♪♪ Concrete jungle where dreams are made of; There’s nothing you can’t do; Now you’re in New York ♪♪