How Centrality Became the Leading Blockchain Venture Studio Down Under
An interview with CEO Aaron McDonald about one of the most exciting blockchain studios in the world — and a major SingularDTV partner.
The development of SingularDTV over the past year has served as a magnet for exciting projects and individuals from all over the world. Names like Blockhaus and Gramatik are familiar for anyone watching the progress of the SingularDTV ecosystem, but New Zealand-based blockchain venture studio Centrality has also played a key role in bringing the SingularDTV vision to reality.
A team of 50 developers led by CEO Aaron McDonald at Centrality’s headquarters in Auckland is leading development on three SingularDTV modules: payment solution Paycheck, accounting widget Blockkeeper, and the decentralized exchange platform SingularX. In addition, Centrality is producing their own ecosystem of remarkable projects and recently completed a $15 million dollar pre-sale of their Centrality token.
We spoke with Centrality CEO Aaron McDonald about the company’s relationship with SingularDTV, Blockhaus, and their own growing ecosystem of dApps…
Centrality been referred to as ‘Consensys Down Under.’ Is that an apt description?
The comparison to Consensys is not a bad one, although a little humbling as these guys are really pushing the industry forward. They have a venture studio model themselves, across a number of projects at different layers. I think the main distinguishing factor is that we’re focused on mass market consumer adoption. We’re building a set of use cases around everyday things that a person does in their life. Many of the blockchain use cases are around financial tech and payment solutions, but we’re trying to make everyday processes decentralized — booking a restaurant, taking public transport, booking a ticket for a flight. Often, these applications are so well-written that the consumer doesn’t even need to know that the blockchain exists.
Can you elaborate on some of the projects Centrality is working on?
We have twelve applications in development at the moment, across ten areas of life. In the workplace, we have a rewards, recognition, and communications platform called Belong, which is helping employers provide non-salary incentives in the workplace. We have a travel-and-tourism project called Skoot that smooths out the international fiat conversion process when traveling, as well as bringing a more diverse set of experience providers into the tourism market — peer-to-peer for experiences. AI.MY is a health-and-fitness application we are building with Performance Labs ( www.arda.ai ) that provides you with a virtual coach we are working on a zero-knowledge-proof to train an AI which coaches you so your personal data isn’t stored in the cloud. All of our applications can talk to each other and work together. Any one of those applications, once they onboard a consumer, can then direct that consumer to other products or services on the Centrality platform.
Centrality has been working closely with Blockhaus, building out the tech for their standardization of the Token Generation process…
The thing about Blockhaus that interested me the most is: I think the decentralization movement is one of the biggest opportunities for the average person to right the economic equation in our world, and get back to a more sustainable state. But, that can’t happen if it gets shut down too early. If we don’t do things responsibly, this movement will get killed before it has a chance to be successful and deliver the outcomes we want. As a true believer in a decentralized economy, we have to lift the game of the community if we want this to be a long and sustainable path. Blockhaus is leading the way in developing the standards of what this should look like.
What in particular has Centrality built for Blockhaus?
We have been involved with the technology set up from the outset, Centrality is the “CTO” for Blockhaus. One application we built is the Token Sales Application that allows us to ensure that when contributors are onboarded, they are properly vetted, so we don’t risk any kind of money laundering or fraud activity — to make sure that investors are participating with a clear knowledge about the state of the investment, the risks, and what people can expect from the providers of that token in terms of output. It also deals with KYC — so you know who is participating in the sale and exclude certain contributors based on the legality of their region. The system is designed so that only approved investors can actually buy the token. We have a customized decentralized exchange that does the transfers, so we never hold the Ether, but we make sure that only approved buyers can participate.
After designing much of Blockhaus’ tech, Centrality is partnered with Blockhaus for its own Token Generation Event…
It’s an interesting relationship — we interact with Blockhaus as a platform, customer, and provider. I think you should always drink your own champagne. We wanted to prove that our tools worked and that we believed in them and could trust them to do the job. We volunteered to be the first customer to use them.
The Centrality Token pre-sale raised over $15 million dollars, so it sounds like the partnership is working!
It went really well. We learned a lot. We’re working out the timing now for the main sale event, but are expecting to get that kicked off in the next month or two, once we make a few big partnership announcements and tweaks to the system. We now have some other exciting Token Sales coming up which will be using the platform too. Real business with real technology and real customers just like Centrality and SDTV along with some great humanitarian use cases as well.
How does the Centrality Token work?
Our token is used as a connector between all Centrality applications. Say from Belong, connect to uShare, our ride-sharing application, to take a user somewhere — it all uses the Centrality Token to facilitate that process. The token is also used to obtain value-added purchases in the Centrality Network, things that you need to run your application and make it work. It’s also a reward mechanism for users. As the Token moves around the Network, it connects senders and receivers to the network — We like to think of it as a postage stamp.
It’s clear that the next generation of blockchain utility goes far beyond just currency…
We really have to push beyond currency to make this thing work. Like I keep saying, the power of decentralization in terms of its impact on society, is so big, that we can’t just leave it at currency. Like what SingularDTV is doing, you need to take the decentralization movement beyond FinTech, beyond those currency use cases. They’re a good foundation, but in a decentralized future, a tokenized economy, the value equation changes completely, and currency-for-currency’s sake may find itself having less utility. Like SingularDTV, we’re trying to tokenize industries outside of currency to create different kinds of value models that can exist in a decentralized world.
Centrality has also been working on some major SingularDTV modules — SingularX, Blockkeeper, Paycheck. Which ones excite you the most?
I think SingularX is going to be very cool. Providing the ability for artists to make themselves tradeable and fungible is one of the core tenets of the SingularDTV proposition. We’re hoping with the way that we’re building it out is that it will also appeal to non-blockchainers. Blockkeeper is going to be really interesting as well. As governments get closer and closer to forming their regulation on crypto, if you want to be sustainable and long-term, you’ve got to be able to comply with regulation, and tax is going to come first. Providing the economy in the blockchain space with the ability to stay compliant is a big thing for the industry. It’s been really good working with the team at SingularDTV. They’re doing it right — taking the time to build a sustainable economy and not just pushing tech out there for the sake of tech. I want to see more of that and we’re trying to take that approach ourselves.
With so much going on, how does your team keep it together?
If it wasn’t hard, anyone could do it! I have a team of around 50 engineers now. The reason why we can do so many things at once is because of the way that we’ve built the platform up. We have modules that can be re-used on different applications. Each application is made up of modules we already have, and new modules we develop. The new modules are then applied to future projects, so we have this library of lego bricks we can use to construct applications that we publish, rather than having to build from scratch every time. Centrality is a mathematical term used to find the areas around which to coalesce on a graph. While the Centrality name might seem a little odd compared with the notion of decentralization, but what we’re trying to do is create functional vertices around which we can coalesce in a decentralized world.
Find out more info at Centrality.io