Pioneering crypto investor and blockchain evangelist Eddy Travia — CEO of Coinsilium, venture builder, investor and advisor — always keeps an eye on ICON.
The Korean blockchain platform ICON was one of the first projects Coinsilium advised, dating back to their ICO in the fall of 2017.
“One of the things I bring to ICON is my network,” says Travia. “I have been in blockchain since 2013 and I travel to many countries and to many events so when I meet people in the blockchain sector and I feel it could be interesting for ICON to be connected or there could be some synergies between them, I introduce them. When I communicate with my contacts at ICON I may highlight some projects I have seen that are interesting, or some accelerators, events or hackathons.”
Startups, not coins
When Travia first started getting active in the blockchain space, he began by looking not at coins, but at startups that could build tools for the emerging ecosystem such as wallets and exchanges. In 2013, he founded SeedCoin, the first global incubator for blockchain startups, in Hong Kong.
The following year, he moved to London to create a new structure, Coinsilium, which became the first company of its type to do its own IPO, getting listed on London’s NEX Exchange in 2015. This move earned the blockchain space a great deal of legitimacy and further educated the public regarding the emerging technology.
Travia was introduced to ICON and its foundation chief, Min Kim, through a former Korean employee of Hashed who attended a blockchain event in 2016. When the relationship between ICON and Coinsilium officially began in 2017, there were very few ICOs and just a handful of DPoS projects.
“Being in the space for a while, we naturally get solicited for being advisors on different ICOs,” he says, “And ICON was one of the first projects we advised in Fall 2017.”
A fresh approach
As an advisor to ICON, Travia speaks a lot with the project team to discuss strategy, the market direction, what ICON can do better and how it can communicate its message more effectively. He’s also brought a large staking company onto their program and introduced to the platform some staking-as-a-service providers.
He says, “It’s always good to spread the word.”
Travia likes ICON’s dynamic approach to the blockchain. “Their approach was quite fresh and innovative,” he says. “They always try to bring something new such as ICONLOOP’s ‘my-ID’, a digital identity authentication service built on blockchain technology.”
He also liked how ICON was already getting people to use their technology. “All blockchain protocols are striving for adoption,” he says. “ICON already has use cases where people use their blockchain. And of course when you’re in mainnet, as they’ve been for a while, it is always reassuring that everything seems to work fine.”
A fine balance
Travia says that most blockchain companies experience similar problems, at least as far as messaging is concerned. Since the technology is so complex, your messaging can easily get too technical or too simplistic.
“In terms of message, you want to keep the attention of the tech guys because DApps are important. You want developers to build on your blockchain,” he says. “But you don’t want to create a distance with the end users, because they should be the ones using the applications. So it is a hard balance to keep.”
In Travia’s opinion, ICON does a bit better communicating to the tech guys than with end users. Many of the articles he sees about the platform tend to be quite technical. “In that regard, ICON also has to convey a message which can be understood by a larger amount of people who don’t know much about blockchain technology.”
More generally, he advises blockchains to focus on particular markets or industries. He says, “My suggestion is to focus on a few verticals and communicate extensively on specific use cases; that would help a lot in terms of getting awareness and exposure.”
Blockchain projects also need to go around and meet people and host events such as hackathons, he says. And they need to do this all the time, not just around the time of their ICO. “At the end of the day, it’s still a numbers game,” he says. “You have to meet a lot of people, and out of that, some opportunities emerge.”
Blockchain will take time
Travia says that within the blockchain space, there appears to be a gap between the expectations of token holders for short-term gains and the need of blockchain protocols for time to show positive gains in adoption.
“People didn’t anticipate the size of the task, how much work needs to go into moving towards adoption; the future was a bit blurred by the speculative bubble of late 2017,” he says. “We since learned that the number of token buyers does not equate with token users or supporters of the blockchain.”
He says that in the blockchain industry, when people ask about exit, he always talks about three to five years, not a single year. Indeed, one of the most difficult things about investing in the blockchain space, he says, is understanding that you may not make money as quickly as you think you will.
“Most of the crypto and blockchain businesses that are doing well today were built in 2013 or 2014,” he says. “So it always takes longer than expected to go into a mode where people may qualify a project as a success.”
The future of data management
Travia says that just as it will take time to develop blockchain protocols, it will take time — and education — to get users to adopt the technology.
Though we know there are serious problems with centralized databases, it’s nonetheless unsurprising that the move to blockchain is taking a while. And that’s not just because it’s blockchain.
“Moving to a new technology often requires the acceptance of a different ideology and mentality,” he says. “I was an entrepreneur in the 1990s. It took time for people to understand the potential of the Internet. And then there was a valuation and stock market bubble, and after the bubble popped it took another few years for people to accept that these new technologies were here to stay and whole industries had to adapt to the Internet.”
And when blockchain finally does achieve acceptance, ICON could be in a good position to survive and flourish.
“We all know not every blockchain is going to make it,” says Travia. “ICON, because they started early, have completed a successful ICO and are committed to their roadmap, I’m confident they can be one of the select few to dominate this industry.”
He says we’re five years into blockchain, and we’ll probably need another five years to see the technology grow in scale and permeate all layers of business and society. Still, he believes we’ll get there — the arguments in favor of it are simply too strong.
He says, “But I’m confident we’ll get there because there are many arguments in favor of blockchain adoption, we are in this great inflection point where we start moving away from these massively centralized databases, the Facebooks and Googles of the world, these behemoths have too much data and power not to be dangerous.”
He thinks blockchain offers the world a much more sustainable model of data management.
“This system of having independent nodes validating transactions and working for the good of the network and getting rewarded in a transparent way, that makes so much sense on so many levels,” he says. “The massive infrastructure needed to handle the data off currently siloed data centres cannot go on forever. I think decentralized services are more sustainable, more agile, and more sound economically; they represent the future of data solutions and data management.”