The biggest typhoon in 6 years couldn’t stop blockchain enthusiasts from gathering at Startup Grind Seoul last week. More than 50 people came to meet JH Kim, CEO of ICONLOOP and ICON Foundation council member. The interview lasted almost an hour, longer than expected thanks to enthusiastic ICON fans at the Q&A session.
The main subject of the interview was how ICON’s long term goals and open culture have driven the team to become one of the most successful blockchain projects in Asia. He also shared his entrepreneurial insights regarding startup spirit and regulations in Korea.
Throughout the interview, the most important keyword was ‘consensus’. Consensus to hyperconnect the world is not only ICON’s motto, but also a great feature that every blockchain community possesses. “Decentralization, distribution, transparency… So many terms are used within this industry. But what I believe, and what ICON believes, is that the true value of blockchain lies in consensus,” said JH.
He also asserted this strong faith in consensus has helped his team grow, both externally and internally.
“By delivering blockchain technology wherever it is needed, we are supporting multiple areas to realize the value of blockchain and to connect with each other. Strategically, we are very open-minded to new partnerships. Cooperating with all kinds of projects is our tactic to build the community now, whether it’s a DApp or has a mainnet,” explained JH.
When asked about his role as a leader, he defined himself as a considerate communicator, not as the kind of ‘big picture’ idealist often witnessed in the blockchain scene. “It’s very important to have an open attitude. You need to be modest—admit you’re wrong sometimes and listen to opinions. You also need transparency of information and a strong will to accomplish your goal together with your team. These are three elements that our company culture is based on,” he added.
The conference continued with a discussion of the current regulations in Korea concerning blockchain and cryptocurrency. Since the ICO ban in September last year, Korea has not been a great option for blockchain startups and investors. However, JH pointed out that the wind is changing. Recently, the government authorities and congressmen he’s met are “doing a 180° in favor of blockchain and cryptocurrency.”
That is why JH asserts now is the right moment for a working product to emerge, and why his commitment to his project is stronger than ever. “Once actual use cases and products are displayed, there will be a better chance to clear up uncertainty about blockchain technology,” he added.
Later on in the Q&A session, Henry Lee, the Head of Global Business of ICON, joined as an ad hoc translator for non-Korean speakers in the crowd.
Regarding ICON’s key performance indicators of success, he impeccably translated JH’s reply: “As a blockchain project, the single most important key performance indicators are whether or not you actually achieve all the visions you laid out in your white paper. The same applies for ICON. Our number one performance indicator of success would be realizing and materializing all the items we have in our white paper’s roadmap. Number two would be using the technology in real lives: real use cases by real everyday people walking down the street. That would be our second most important indicator of success.”
JH was also asked about ICON’s stance as an ecosystem builder / investor. “We are a blockchain platform with many opportunities to collaborate with DApps. When assessing a project, we look for the value within the product, the feasibility for it to be implemented, and its usability for end users. We want to know how it change the user’s life. If the project meets these conditions, we offer assistance.”
As an industry pioneer, ICON has more experience than any other blockchain startup in the country, perhaps in Asia.
JH explained: “We do have experience in enterprise blockchain and ICOs, so to share these experiences, we recently announced the ICX-station to be launched in San Francisco and soon in Korea. Also our accelerator Debloc is supporting projects in Korea, Japan, Singapore, and more.”
In the same context, when asked about hiring blockchain developers, he pointed out that “there aren’t any ‘blockchain experts’.” It’s too soon for anyone to be a true expert. That’s why ICON’s HR strategy is to look for developers with great potential and an open attitude to build the team together.
JH recalled an incident when a developer uploaded a buggy smart contract file to the net: “The bug was just a simple typo. We were surprised because we had tested the code internally over and over again. But the developer had uploaded an earlier version. It was really just a human error, and people make mistakes, of course. We didn’t suffer any loss, actually, so we were lucky. It was a valuable lesson for us, that we need to be careful to minimize human errors.”
He also mentioned: “We are educating and learning at the same time. Once we’re set, we want to share our education programs and know-how with others.”
Another question about the mass adoption of blockchain technology intrigued the crowd’s interest. At the same time, we could also understand the core of his entrepreneurship. “The true value of a technology shines the brightest when it’s actually used by people,” JH said. “Its concept or philosophy may not be appealing to everyone, but once people actually use the product or service, its value lives. That’s why we want something tangible, something ready to meet the customers. Something people can use without even noticing it’s based on blockchain. It needs a smooth delivery, shall I say?”
Delivering value—this is what every future entrepreneur should keep in mind. In the case of JH, that value was focused on consensus, and of course, on hyperconnecting the world.