A distributed ledger technology Hashgraph, was developed by Dr. Leemon Baird, the co-founder and chief scientist of Hedera Hashgraph. Hashgraph is a technology that can process quick parallel transactions unlike linear transactions. In March 2019, Hedera Hashgraph is planning to make APIs publicly available so that anyone can use them to built dApps.
I got in touch with Tom Trowbridge, the president of Hedera Hashgraph as we talked about his background, the platform, challenges they’re facing and how focused he is in building a governing council.
- First tell us about your background then we’ll come to Hedera Hashgraph.
Tom: I have technology background that is inclined towards the financing side. I started off as a technology and telecom investment banker back in 1996. That was during telecom deregulation in the United States when there was a huge boom in infrastructure spending in financing those companies. As bankers we were quite busy at that time and I did that for a couple of years. After business school, I moved more towards asset management and ran certain areas of hedge fund for a couple of years. Over that whole period of time, I continued to invest personally in technology companies. The last investment I made was in Swirlds, which is the current company and I’ve been researching distributed ledgers, blockchain and particularly bitcoin since 2013. I’ve been in this space trying to understand more and figure out what particularly more interesting in it and came across Swirlds. After investing, I spent more time with Swirlds, at that point we launched Hedera and announced public ledger as the whole team developed the public ledger business.
- What intrigued you to get involved in this particular space and for how long you’ve been involved with Hedera Hashgraph?
Tom: It’s been about 2 years since I’m involved with the organization and I’m the president as well. I’m not a computer scientist and it took me awhile to read the whitepaper multiple times to really understand it. I could tell how different it was and I introduced the team to people who are in this space. I knew enough to know everything and relied on experts to get the company better, that’s what attracted me initially but it’s not enough. The ultimate turning point is the personalities and experience of Dr. Leemon Baird and Mance Harmon. They are terrific people to work with as their hard work, honesty and a very clear vision of what they want with their willingness to leverage people in this space they’ve spent so much time on. It’s been an excellent work environment over this period of time that is only possible due to their personalities and vision. You can have this technology developed by a thousand people but you won’t get the the interesting experience without them.
- Great! Please tell us how do you came to know about Dr. Baird and Mr. Harmon, the two founders?
Tom: I met them via my connections at Swirlds, but I didn’t know them prior to that. We were basically introduced by our common friends, then I met them in New York and built the relationship from their on.
- Coming to Hedera Hashgraph, what are the challenges platform is facing currently?
Tom: The main challenge is the platform is not widely available, I can’t point to a thousand applications running on the platform currently, that I think is literally the last hurdle we need to overcome. We’ve demonstrated via speed tests of what we’re capable of and we’ve continued to grow the team significantly. We’ve raised a good amount of capital from some high-profile investors and I think the technology is at a very good place and we obviously continue to develop and test it. I think the real short-coming if you compare us, the main criticism people have is ‘oh it’s not tested’, ‘it’s not totally live’ and that is reasonable. I think the hurdle is just getting the tech fully deployed out in the market with thousands of applications that is in fact coming at us really fast! I think that’ll happen pretty soon which will address all outstanding issues.
- How stable the platform currently is? Let’s say will it be able to withstand a 100,000 users right now?
Tom: We continue to test and deploy the platform so we don’t have a fully functional setup right now which won’t be able to take 100,000 users at the moment. We’re deploying test nets in smaller environments for hackathon for example. So we’re continuing to deploy but we don’t have one big network as of now that 100,000 people are using. We’re deploying test nets that people can build on but it is not at that stage where 100,000 people could use it.
- When can we expect open access of main net and what’s the prime focus of the company at the moment?
Tom: We’re targeting March 2019 when the APIs will be publicly available for anyone to use and build on to. There are all kinds of challenges at the moment like we’ve to hire the right people, we may double or triple the team in a year, we’re building a governing council of organizations. The type of companies we are attracting are big firms and it takes a lot of time to get through legal and regulatory processes because this isn’t some standard or consulting body we are actually talking about US LOC that has a much higher standard of scrutiny for the businesses. We’ve terrific attraction from some very well known and interesting firms that have committed to it but taking the final step always takes time. March is a huge month for us because anyone will be able to use the network and it’ll be when the initial tokens will be released.
- Right! Please tell us how big is Hedera Hashgraph’s team and specifically what is the proportion of the developmet team?
Tom: We’ve about 62 people and there are three categories and one of them is the development side. In terms of overall development resources we currently have is about 25 and half of them are outsourced that are not internal. On top of it there are sophisticated team that check dApps usability on our platform. That team is not part of the core code development but serve as a liaison to the community. Even that team is not directly involved in development of the core code, but they’re added to the development team because they are doing things to facilitate the core development team.
- Being president of Hedera, what is your role and responsibilities in the organization.
Tom: I initially joined to build this council so that the council is the core part of the strategy. Then my responsibility grew to cover financing which also expanded to a whole variety of areas primarily internal. There are 5 major verticals of the organization, I cover financing and raising of the capital that also involve exchanges, market makers and everything related to token going forward. Then there is everything related to the council as well which is recruiting and structuring that whole dimension.
There is another area that I’m heavily involved and that is the regulatory side. We’re a US. based company and have a lot of U.S. nationals, so our engagement with the regulators is something that we take quite seriously, I’m very proactive about and spend a significant amount of time on.
- Being a highly experienced professional in the space, how do you see the future of blockchain?
Tom: I use a different historic analogy to look at it. If you look at the launch of the internet, it took about 11 years to go mainstream. In 2002, if you look at the top 20 most visited websites, the average launch date is of June 2002 which is about 11 years after the initial launch of the web. But in 1999 the broadband became available so I think we’re the broadband of this space because you need to have this speed, level of security and this level of low cost in order to catalyze the progress of distributed ledger. Launch of our and other platforms will really accelerate the development and deployment of new applications so I don’t think we’re 10 years away, I believe it’ll only take 2-3 years of significant number of really useful applications.
The other component is the regulatory, I think if ETFs are permitted in the US. which is inevitable, you’ll see a whole another level of capital going in to this space that’ll only fuel more interest. I think the security token market is potentially vast market as well. The deployment of some of these very fast base layers like us and potential regulatory clarity will be the two components that’ll catalyze the process of blockchain adoption.
- Talking about ETFs, when do you expect ETFs will be approved by SEC?
Tom: It was April or May when commissioner Pierce wrote about the SEC refusal for bitcoin ETF. It is incredibly rare to see a commissioner talk like that. We also have the appointment of another commissioner who I think is more open to this space. I think that pretty soon we’ll have commissioners more open to the idea of ETFs which will help a lot. But I have no idea of what exact time will that be.
- How do you see blockchain incorporating in other fields?
Tom: One of the misconception about blockchain technology and what people say is that “jeez this is a network that in steady state can only take about 5000-10,000 tps or 50,000 at max. Why on earth would you need anything that’s not even close to the VISA network.” This shows a lack of imagination in terms of the scale of what can actually be built on this technology. This technology can actually do payments to 100th of a penny which just dwarfs the existing credit card industry. This is just financials, you can see supply chain, loyalty programs and many more.
- You see Hedera as the industry standard in the near future?
Tom: I won’t go quite that far but I think that we have a very compelling offering and a very compelling technology, I don’t think there’ll be just one winner but multiple. I don’t think there’ll be a hundred base layers that ultimately survive, I think there’ll be 80-20 rule where we’ll have a handful of layers that’ll dominate the market. I see some of specialized layers that’ll be more IoT, others can be micro payments and so on. I believe there’ll be multiple winners.
- So what latest developments/news shall we expect from Hedera Hashgraph in the near future?
Tom: We’ll announce our first council members in next few months, our fingers are crossed as that’ll be interesting. We’ll be doing some development and testing programs for developers in our community and we’ll be launching hackathon with programs. We are also developing university certification program which once completed will be another way for people to engage with the technology and help the developers community. These are just handful of things but there are many more coming as we are majorly focusing on March open access of the main net.