Web3 Innovators

Blockchain Innovators with Conor Svensson and Todd McDonald

July 21, 2021 Conor Svensson Season 1 Episode 2
Web3 Innovators
Blockchain Innovators with Conor Svensson and Todd McDonald
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Blockchain Innovators, Conor Svensson - founder and CEO of Web3 Labs, talks to Todd McDonald, R3 Co-Founder, Chief Product Officer.

Todd has deep rooted financial industry expertise. He was Head of America's State Street Bank before becoming interested in Bitcoin and founding R3 with David Rutter in 2014.

Conor and Todd talk about the origins of R3 and its evolution to releasing products like Corda and Conclave.  Todd also talks us through the key drivers behind the current interest from institutions in crypto, blockchain and DLT technology.

R3 has made a significant impact to enterprise blockchain and this podcast is a fascinating insight in to their progress over the past seven years.

You can also watch this video on our YouTube channel.

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Get Conor’s latest thoughts on Web3 and where we’re headed.

Hi, I'm Conor Svensson, founder and CEO of Web3 Labs. We're a blockchain technology company. The following is a conversation I had with Todd McDonald, co-founder and Chief Product Officer of the enterprise blockchain technology company R3. During our conversation we discuss how R3 came to be and how they've evolved as a company with their products including Corda and most recently Conclave. We also discussed some of the key drivers behind the current interest from institutions in crypto and blockchain and DLT technology. Todd's financial industry expertise runs deep having risen to head of FX for America's State Street Bank before getting into Bitcoin and subsequently founding R3 with David Rutter in 2014. Given the impact that R3 is having on enterprise blockchain I'm sure you'll find it fascinating to learn just how far they've come in the last seven years, I know I did. Okay so Todd McDonald, co-founder of R3, great to have you here. Thanks Conor. So on a recent talk with your CTO Richard Gendel Brown, you spoke about how you liked hearing origin stories. I'd love to hear what yours is with R3 and how it all came about back in 2014 and what you did prior that brought you there. Yeah sure, so I guess in some ways it's a typical one you know - boy meets Bitcoin and then from there he kind of progressed down the rabbit hole. So I guess part of it was I had been in trading for a while and working in FX and it was a very exciting industry for a long time and then it started to become a little bit less so. So I started looking around and I remember stumbling upon an article. I was at my in-laws house and I was trying to find somewhere to hide quite frankly and they had a big stack of New Yorker magazines which are always great to pick up and leaf through. I started reading this article about 'Who is Satoshi?', this was I think it's in 2012 sometime like that. And I mean, speaking of origin stories there's no better one than that to get you hooked to learn more. So I sort of filed it in the back of my mind and then when I escaped the traditional financial world I was looking around a bunch of different stuff in 2013 and Bitcoin popped up again. It was trading all over the place and coming from an environment where regular assets were moving a few pips at a time, to see Bitcoin flying around was quite interesting and exciting. A few months later, I was down the rabbit hole. Back in 2013 it was a little bit harder to talk about blockchain at cocktail parties than it is now! Yeah. I was able to finally after about six months convince a business partner of mine at the time, David Rutter, who's the co-founder of R3 and our CEO to pay attention to this. That took a few different sessions and I think importantly back then for us, we just started to talk to people and try to figure out - are you paying attention to this? Is this interesting to you? and incrementally that's how both I got involved in the space and also how R3 got started. I think probably the biggest thing was how interesting obviously the technology is but for me it was more than just that. When I started to meet people back in say 2014 and we still have some of this today, the crypto space back then was very optimistic and I think that was a really nice change of pace from the less optimistic sort of financial markets I was coming from. I think that's definitely something that you really feel, especially when you deal with people who are into the public blockchain protocols. It's like you get such a mix of people from all sorts of different walks of life, which is fascinating in itself right? When you're used to dealing with you know, finance attracts certain types of people and it's just fascinating who you see in these, the more broader blockchain space. So, casting back to then though, Bitcoin in its early days, there was the distributed ledger concept. It was one of the key things that came out of that but it obviously took a little while before it became popularized in terms of the opportunity as such certain things like Ethereum coming along, Ripple as well. You know, they were really capitalizing on the technology but at what point when you started R3 were you thinking about that aspect of it or was it more weighing into people about Bitcoin and it evolved from there? Yeah, when we first started, so back to the R3 side, our very first meeting that we ever hosted was September 2014 and it was a small group of these banking executives, those that were investing in the space from their seat at the bank and initially it was getting just an understanding of what is Bitcoin initially and then getting into the technology underneath it. I think we had a series of meetings about two or three and I remember the second one was in December in Palo Alto 2014, and we were able to have presentations from Biology from at the time Andresson Horowitz and Chris Larson from Ripple and Adam Ledman from Chain and a bunch of other folks from that early crypto era and it was helpful to start from the crypto lens but then look at the technology. Pretty early on we recognized there was a promise here that needed some work to be realized and I think interesting. You fast forward to where we are today and the explosion and say the DeFi world, you're starting to see some of this come out both on the traditional capital market side and a lot of stuff we're working on and also still in the crypto side trying to redesign the underlying infrastructure for financial markets. And that's what we saw back in 2014 and 15. That was like taking certain folks on the journey that usually are a little bit harder to get on that journey when it comes to traditional financial institutions and so we put in that hard work back then, tried to build that community. Then I think that that hard work back in 2015 and 16 on the community side and also in the technology side has paid off for us to be where we are now, which is really to make it through a few different hype cycles and downturns and still be swinging. Yeah and it wasn't like you guys launched and then came out with Corda straight away either, you were putting out thought leadership pieces in the early days and working with organizations doing proof of concepts, prototypes and so on right. So I guess it all kind of presumably grew from the expertise and what you were seeing with the work that you were doing there? Yeah it was, I give a lot of credit to our early technology hires which were our technology leadership. So you have folks like Richard Gendel Brown who's probably everyone's favorite blogger! I would love for him to write more stuff. I get so annoyed at how lucid his prose can be at times and Mike Hearn and a few others that we hired early days, they came in and they did the amazing job of talking to customers pretty early on and getting the right folks in the room. So we did a lot of work with the initial community that we had built on this bank side and these were people that have lived through lots of different eras within sort of middle back office infrastructure within CIO offices. But also, it was a handful of sort of dreamers within the banks themselves and that was really important too, trying to imagine what might be possible. So we've kind of dialed it back to what kind of problems can we solve and you look at something like Bitcoin, which is an incredible sort of mix of different things into a singular creation right, where at the time potentially was creating unstoppable digital cash. It's sort of turned into unstoppable digital gold but it's an amazing achievement. It was sort of solving a problem that's almost the inverse of what the banks were trying to solve and so that's why we ended up taking a slightly different path and from that, Corda as a thing, it was not on our day one agenda when we started the company. It emerged from the what we saw as a need or a gap in the market because as you know building platforms is hard work so, it wasn't something we took on lightly. We were, I think, fortunate to have the right folks around the table both on the R3 side and the community side. I think also we were fortunate to open source quite early. I mean open source back in, I think it's November 2016. So, we've had it out in the public domain for quite a while, which is super scary, but incredibly important. Also, I think the open source piece as well, that's kind of a key thing too because really there was this whole movement of open sources eating the world but with blockchain protocols, they were very much all about it being developed in the open. So yeah, it was fascinating because of that. I think seeing that Corda was open source as you say early on, Bitcoin and blockchain, I can't imagine you as a company would have adopted a similar strategy if that precedent hadn't been said as such right, and you must have had lots of hard conversations? Yeah, it's been a journey because what we're doing, we're part of a couple different ecosystems. We're part of you know fintech, we're part of the blockchain space and it was there's a couple things going on, there's a a growing acceptance or resignation in some cases on the banks side to open source but I think it was funny, from day one there was never any doubt about the path we would take. We were going to be an open source company from day one and interestingly I give our initial backers the credit, they were giving us that direction from the beginning. I think it's important on so many different levels because what I mean, what are we in the business of? We're in the business of trying to architect digital trust in a lot of ways and to have a digital trust type platform that is proprietary, closed source, it just doesn't jive very well right? Yeah. So I think it's on the macro level, what we're all trying to do is we're trying to speaking of the journey, we're trying to pull large corporations and financial stations into a slightly different way of implementing technology and doing business so that's part of it I think. That whole thing of being able to get these organizations on board, I know that you had yourselves and the leadership team, you'd all come from the corporate world in terms how enterprise worked as a business but presumably given the decentralized nature of the technology though, it must have been tricky to convince people that this is going to work? You're going to have these applications that open yourself up to other members in a consortium setting? Yeah so I mean, probably the number one thing that we had going for us early on was if you look at something like David Rutter, he's been part of like half a dozen big bank consortia previously and it's a mix of art, science and magic right to get competitors that have a common problem to be aligned well enough to try and solve that problem. I mean, it doesn't matter what the technology is, you can be using anything, what does matter? That's hard work so step one is acceptance that it is hard work. I think that's the biggest one. So going in knowing that you're gonna have to put that work in but it's also it's around leveraging existing relationships because it's gonna, whenever you start any project, whenever you try to start a new network or a new consortium, there's gonna be dark days - there's gonna be really tough times - there's gonna be infighting and squabbles and misalignment. So, you have to be able to lean on relationships, be able to get through those and you have to always be like delivering that incremental value as you go which is really, really important. I think the biggest thing I didn't realize when we started the company which is kind of dumb in retrospect, is we started the company as a single kind of bank consortium and then we realized really early on that wasn't the role we were meant to play. That's obviously a great start, but it was really about powering many networks and not a single network because that's really where the power comes from. That there's all this energy out there to be able to try and create these sometimes new networks or to be able to modernize existing networks and so that's really where the big shift happened for us. Where we kind of flipped things in our head, starting with this initial consortium but then flipping around to be able to support multiple consortia, multiple networks, I think that was probably the biggest mind shift that we had to have as a company early on. And presumably in those earlier conversations within a banking consortium environment the inefficiencies of back office, middle office functions and all the reconciliations like security settlement all these sorts of areas, are kind of the classic things but back then were there other areas that you were thinking a lot about and you really felt that there was a lot of opportunity? Because of course, now the landscape is very different in terms of how much more it's grown than back then. But it would be great to understand how your thinking evolved really. Yeah so on the use case side, it's kind of funny. So a couple things happened. One, we got pulled in some areas we didn't expect to be pulled into and then the areas we thought would get very, very busy early on, I think the use cases weren't mature enough and now they're coming back around again. So when we first started it was all about capital markets and payments. Those are the two big things. So there's so much in the middle back office for cap markets to be able to modernize and then payments you know, cross-border payments, obviously everyone knows what the challenges are there. Those are both big problems and also kind of somewhat served by the industry now. Not that well in some cases, but there is at least some infrastructure there. So we got fairly early on pulled into areas that were a little bit less served by something, like a central utility or market infrastructure. So, think about global trade supply chains, trade finance that was a really big area back in 2016-17 that we've continued to progress in and I think it really lends itself well to a more peer-to-peer multi-party network. So that's been a really fertile ground and then I think, we and others are seeing success there. Then things like insurance as well where systems haven't been modernized there's not really that much of a cohesive industry so there's a lot that can be done there. Then recently what you're seeing is the use cases we got started on payments in cap markets have come back around again and they've come back around because I think we're understanding the problems better. I think we're improving and also the pressures on modernization have increased from different areas. You know, you look at the payment side, as I mentioned before, Bitcoin was interesting but never seen as a threat. Our friends at Facebook really introduced a really nice credible threat for not only commercial banks but central banks to be able to try and get their act together so that's really spurred the sort of digital currency payments things on the institutional side. Then I'd say on the capital market side it's been really incredible to see especially in the last two years in the DeFi space, it's really put a lot of pressure on the cap markets arena to get their act together as well. You're starting to see a lot more investment there on sort of traditional market infrastructure and it also helps that you have pretty high profile, sort of public consciousness examples of things, like what happened with Gamestop earlier this year, that really is a great microcosm for the challenges we're trying to help fix with not only the ability to access investments but then for them to settle in a way that makes sense in a credit efficient way. So, all that together, like having Gamestop leading the front page of Reddit and Twitter and the nightly news, is a pretty good sort of microcosm of how far we've come. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So certainly as well as you say, getting the right balance there because one of the examples you gave previously, was how you don't necessarily need like t-zero settlement right, it's about what is right for the specific use case there. Just bringing up DeFi though as well there in terms of the wider interest that it's brought up, do you feel that it's been kind of like almost a threat that's been perceived by a lot of established players, that cryptocurrencies and what's happening in DeFi has really kicked them into gear a bit more with respect to moving forward with DLT and blockchain type initiatives? Yeah so, and I'm not going to claim that I came up with this analogy, I read it on the internet somewhere but a lot of people can classify crypto and I think in for the banking world DeFi is probably a better example, of being a bit of like Pascal's Wager. So, sort of the bet of whether god exists or not. What's the risk reward for where you fall on that on that two by two matrix. Bitcoin initially was seen as somewhat of a potential threat to banking when it first came into the gaze of financial institutions back in 2013-14. But in investigating it, it went a much different path. There was a lot of potential back then, back into sort of the block wars with Bitcoin, that it might have taken a different path to try and become a cross-border payments type network but that didn't happen. I think what you're seeing with DeFi is it's trying to, it has much more of a potential to be an existential threat to financial institutions and insurance companies than Bitcoin was for cross-border payment, correspondent banking as an example. So if you look what's happening now, you know this latest boom in DeFi, the last two years, it's starting to show the aspects of banking in a way where I think it's more understandable to those that are within the financial industry. I don't want to overstate this, I don't think if you ask the average bank executive are they spending much time thinking about DeFi? So far the answer is 'not that much' but I think that's increasing because you're starting to see that the core building blocks of what a bank does being replicated and there's the credit lending and that relationships starting to be replicated now. Of course, going back to the Pascal's Wager aspect, there is some percentage chance that all of DeFi is just BS and created on the back of a global zero interest rate policy, right? And a lack of regulatory oversight, that is definitely a probability. I don't know what the likelihood of that probability is. My view though is that it's like much of what crypto is, which is also not an original thought, but it's crypto is an incredible thing of really trying to re-running financial history in sped up time, right? So the chance to be able to experiment with thousands and tens of thousands of different projects all at once where the large majority of them will end in tears but there will be some that emerge as being quite interesting. I think you're seeing some of that on the DeFi side now and I do think it's inspiring some of these financial students to take a second look. And then back to the Bitcoin side, the animal spirits of speculation are definitely still there where existing customers of traditional institutions are looking for access or exposure to that asset class. So those two things happening are getting hearts a flutter at the custody banks of the world and and the investment banks of the world and so that's definitely spurred a lot of investment across the board. Also, you know what we work on which is a ton within digital currency digital assets, from a traditional regulated market it spurred a lot of activity in our end too. I think it's also for us you know, we're quite actively looking at what's happening in the DeFi space and what are the ways that that a regulated entity could potentially interact with that world but from a more secure sort of regulatory footing, I think you raise a really fascinating point there as well when you talk about the experimentation angle of it because with today's fiat currencies in the developed economies anyway, there is simply no way to kind of play around with monetary systems. There's so much regulation there for a reason and having the decentralized cryptocurrencies that aren't governed by any, well there are regulations in place in terms of whether people can engage with them or not but, the actual things that can be done just couldn't be possible with fiat currencies. You know, if you want to capture credit card details, there's all these checklists you need to go through and so on and so forth. Yeah it's an amazing experiment with other people's money. Yeah, and also to your point as well about where there's those bridging opportunities. A piece of news a few weeks back that really caught my attention was the lending platform Aave, well decentralized lending platform Aave, because they are opening up pools to institutions and so they're saying you're only going to be dealing with other people in these lending calls who we've onboarded by using traditional KYC processes and so, yes it's happening in the DeFi space, which is great but then it also starts to look kind of similar to a lot of the services that banks already provide. Banks they have these private networks where they'll provide liquidity for different types of financial instruments for instance that already exists. Yes, it might be geared towards wholesale markets rather than retail, but there's still a lot of this infrastructure there and you start seeing some of it replicated. Yeah, I mean and so that experiment's incredibly interesting. I think there'll be more. There's definitely a chance that if you introduce certain things like KYC and other things, then the whole value prop of DeFi falls apart. There is an argument to be made that the extra territorial nature of DeFi is what is the killer proposition of it. So that it's outside of the regulatory perimeter. So if you try to introduce a regulatory perimeter it might all fall apart. I mean one thing I've realized many times over the years is, I don't know what the future holds or what the right answer is. So I think it's important to try and explore this and there's going to be more of that. On our side it's a lot like I mentioned before, it's a lot of work and effort to build up a platform and build up a community and obviously build an enterprise software business to what we have so we've been quite focused on that, in a bit of a 'heads down mode' in serving our customers and building a great enterprise product that is secure and fits in and is approved by those that have to have high availability etc etc. We've also I think, come back around to looking out a little bit more into the sort of broader ecosystem and also within just in the DLT world, there's always been this push for interoperability right? We've been kind of waiting for the right moment to invest in that, when it's useful to customers right? Yeah, I remember the first panel I ever did. People asked me about interoperability and I was like well we just have like three lines of code so I mean what are we going to interoperate with? There's nothing really that's in place yet. But now, I think there's a much bigger pull for where you see these these consortium networks coming in online. You see the digital currency work being done with central banks and also into the DeFi world, there is a more of an appetite for these bridges to be built and we're doing a lot of work on these, in particular cross-network, cross-platform atomic swaps or in effect the ability for people to be able to conduct business across two platforms and it's kind of a big push on the enterprise DLT world. Also if you look at what's happening in crypto, whether it's parachains or cosmos hubs and all this other stuff, it's kind of coming back around as a really big topic and in terms of the driving forces for that because certainly a number of these large corporates now especially where they've got wealth management divisions, are starting to provide services for their clients who are just saying 'we know we want exposure to this asset class'. But then there's also just, as you mentioned earlier on, seeing what's happening in DeFi more broadly, and so you feel it's kind of the convergence of those two things which are starting to push that interop agenda a bit higher up, rather than these companies just saying we want to work on this consortium but wouldn't it be great if we can also link with this stuff too because we've got people now investing in these products because we've got a client need for it. I mean one example that could tie together is, we have a partner and customer we work with in Six Exchange in Switzerland and their their approach crosses the spectrum of I think, all of what we've been talking about. They're looking to create a new digital asset exchange right, but within their existing sort of regulatory framework. They want to be able to tokenize debt and equity that looks and feels like a regular financial asset today and they want to be able to settle that into central bank money that's tokenized as well. So that's incredible, that's sort of like the enterprise DLT side and the other end they want to be able to list and allow for exposure to crypto assets to this customer base but have it fit somewhere in the sort of the Swiss financial infrastructure. Now, they're going to do all this at once, it's going to take time, but you can start to think about a traditional and doing it the Swiss way, they're doing it very properly. I'll be able to implement something that goes from five days a week, seven days a week, to be able to bring more financial assets into an exchange than it happens today and then potentially bring these things from outer space, these crypto assets, into an exchange so that those that want exposure to it can fit it into the box they need to fit into with either their investment mandate or how they have to custody or account for these assets. I think it really ties all this together. We're seeing that all over the place, where on one side it's investing and modernizing these new sort of digital custodians, digital securities depositories, digital exchanges and on the other side, how do I credibly but regulatorily allow access to an emerging asset class encryption. Yeah, I know it's incredible to hear about these companies that are really bringing it all together like that. So moving on to some of the recent things that have come out from R3, the Conclave, that was a massive announcement a few months back now. It would be great to talk a little bit more about that and what kind of drove yourselves onto that. Yeah, it's interesting you know, when we started on Corda back in the day, there was this concept around trusted execution environments and in particular Intel's SGX that we had been looking at and trying to build capability around for Corda itself. That's really led to what what turned into our second platform which is Conclave. So in some ways you know, Conclave and Corda, they are all about the ability to get into these multi-party networks and to have some assurances within the software level around the rules of the road right? So within Corda, the promise is what I see is what you see. With Conclave, it's sort of turning that on its head so it's the ability to really prevent me from seeing and you from seeing what's actually happening underneath the covers but then to be able to trust the computation that comes out of the back of that. So, it kind of falls into this multi-party computing, confidential computing area. But, I think more relevantly, if you think back to like financial markets, it all fits into this trust theme where all financial markets is around some level of trust with your kind of parties but it's not a hundred percent explicit trust right? Trust but verify in some ways, and so what we're doing with Conclave is it's a narrower slice than we have been going after to address with Corda which really is an end to end. But, you can imagine the ability for those that are hosting data platforms to not have to be able to convince their customers that they're actually not doing anything nefarious with the data that's being sent in to then produce something like a credit score or produce something like the best bidder offer. So that's the types of use cases that Conclave is going after where it helps to really eliminate the questions of trust and especially trust of what's happening with the data that's being provided and hopefully allowing for all the participants, including the service providers and the end users, more ability to be able to sign up to these exciting exchanges or these exciting data exchanges. So it's early days, but the technology side, you know if you think of just this whole general space, what we've been trying to do on the blockchain side is the same thing we're doing on the Conclave side. We're trying to take something that's super hardcore and low level, and present it to developers and also business people in as simple and simplified a way as possible but still maintaining some of that core capability underneath. And presumably, although as you say it's more of a kind of emerging technology, it's almost like an easier sell as well though because it's like everyone's worried about data privacy and leaks and so on and these hacks that happen. So I would imagine that you see it as long term, being a very significant market for your business? Yeah definitely, I mean we've invested quite a bit of not only our time and effort, but the skill within R3 to be able to bring this to market and it is a different type of go to market or approach than Corda. Corda is a very much a broad platform but I think you see with both, you know you learn things after you're trying to run a company over the years, sometimes you learn them more than once but you know for Conclave, it has the ability to address a sort of a tighter scope and also specific. One of the things with any sort of DLT platformer network, you really need to have probably two or maybe three institutions say yes at the same time to something so you have that bootstrap problem or challenge to overcome. Now of course, if you get that bootstrap to happen it's quite powerful and so with Conclave, it can be a little bit of a different approach but I think we're also pulling that approach into what we're doing. Broadly on the DLT side, we're starting to build more specific capabilities for things like digital currency, to allow for it to be you know, you kind of can think of the platform more as a black box and just focus on - how do I issue an asset? How do I redeem the asset? How do I get it? How do I ensure that it gets from a to b with the amount of privacy that I need? So we're trying to draw lessons from both of our two platforms to be able to try and make it easier for customers as well. What you mentioned there about with the bootstrapping process too, so you have the Corda mainnet initiative and no doubt that kind of came out of the fact that there are challenges with organizations trying to link up with lots of others and that's something that's been going for a while now. How's the reception being? Do you feel that really long term is, you're going to have have this huge Corda network and that's going to be where you put clients or do you think there's going to be still that plus lots of segregated consortia? So we definitely believe in a multi-network approach right. So it's one of the things we've worked on for a while is we can see these existing networks being able to be activated or modernized or these net new networks within a consortia that they do the hard yards to be able to create a network and of themselves. But, in some cases they need to be segregated in private. I like to think of Corda network really as the ability to offer a bit of a more democratized sort of network approach where, instead of those networks that either have the regulatory imperative to be separate or potentially the one or two sort of operators of the network that are really trying to drive the success of it, Corda network allows for a little bit more of an organic way of being able to create networks within that are trying to be able to solve problems or really use applications. I think of it like, we deal with a lot of very large companies, Corda network is a way, I think, to be able to extend that reach into maybe the sort of SME segment. But as far as how things evolve, it's very hard to say, I think that's also why it is critical, one of the things we try to ensure is that we want to enable a world where any Corda network can be able to do business within any other Corda network out there. Then it would be amazing as well, to be able to find a way to facilitate that same sort of ability to get business done across any arbitrary network. Yeah, yeah that's the goal. Yeah, and then certainly, seeing some of the other innovations that you're working on too, I mean, the Marco Polo trade finance network that's been around for a while and is obviously very focused on that industry. But, you have a bill of lading platform as well coming out I believe, and did you see that as you know, there's more and more use cases that you get this deep expertise and you'll start to almost build these value-add stacks on top of these different networks so that you've not only got the platform but you've also got a lot of the more business focused pieces that they need. So these, as you say, SMEs and so on, can actually come on to these platforms without the much higher cost that say an enterprise might face where they've got to build out a lot of the infrastructure to get it to actually support their specific use case as well. Yeah, we've been very purposeful with how we've been trying to move with capabilities up the stack over time because when we got started, we wanted to make sure that we were fulfilling some of the promises at that protocol level with Corda in particular, and also when we got started, there were some domains we really didn't know enough about to be able to feel that we can offer value to customers by building something in there and bring it to market. But, over time as we've gotten deeper and you mentioned Marco Polo and Contour and we're working with lots and lots of different companies. DLT ledgers as well, we're looking at these. A massive amount of activity around the trade finance space and within the documentary credit as one example and so, an electronic bill of lading has always been an exciting one for us that now, is the right time for us to invest in because, if you think about it, it's really an example of a digital bearer asset where it helps to sort of facilitate this which is already existing peer-to-peer financing right? So it's really a key ingredient where it's fairly narrow, it's fairly bespoke. You need to be able to do it where it's not just done right on the technical level, but done right on the network and regulatory level and so I think that's why we're investing in that. And that's what we're investing in our work, in digital currencies because you know we are working with the right players in the space, we're working with the central banks and the CBDC side, we're working with all the big players on the trade finance side so we have a higher conviction that we will actually be able to get it right. I think we're going to start to do more and more of that but it's always been the case as the industry is maturing, as any industry matures you know, the ability to look across at a bunch of activity in the market, a bunch of customer requirements, to be able to fill the gaps for our customers. Yeah, absolutely. And then speaking on some of the other initiatives as well that R3s involved in. You've got the R3 development fund where you're investing in a number of different startups too which you've made over 30 investments today. Yeah I mean, and I have to say that not only is that an important activity for us, it's fun and exciting because there's nothing better than to play some part in supporting the hard work and the goals of entrepreneurs. When we committed to Corda as a as a protocol and also as a platform, it was incredibly important that we try to help with the success of those that are betting, not only they're betting on Corda, they're really they're betting their whole company on our platform, on R3 to be able to be a good partner. So to be able to support them on the funding side as well as on the sort of the traditional partner and technology side, it's been amazing and it's also been great to see because our startup ecosystem has only grown over the last few years and partly it's with the support we give them. Not just on the investment side but, we have an incredible sort of infrastructure built up where we have a venture development program where we work with companies, entrepreneurs to be able to connect them better into our ecosystem, connect them into mentors, connect them to other investors. And as well you know, sort of tying it all back together, we started life back in back in the day as this bank consortium with all of these very large potential customers and so as a fintech startup there's nothing you need more than some increased chance to be able to land your product into one of these large organizations. On the flip side, these organizations want to say yes to fintechs but sometimes they don't do a very good job of it. So, anything we can do to facilitate that has been great. We have a lot of companies in that portfolio I'm really excited about. I'm not 100% sure which ones I can talk about publicly that we invested in but, it's been really cool because we were able to get deep into areas that we're focused on which is like cap markets and insurance and trade. We're also invested in companies that are doing digital rights management in media and a little bit farther afield in real estate so it allows us to be able to expand in some areas like healthcare and others that we're not active in the company side but we're helping support startups in. So yeah, I know that opens your eyes as well to some of the other opportunities that just haven't necessarily crossed over yet. Yes, something else too I saw that R3 has been passionately supporting, is Give India, the charity, as well to boost oxygen supply to those desperate in need and it's great, fantastic to see you getting behind that initiative given all of the challenges that are there. Yeah I mean, it's so heartbreaking on so many levels to see what has been happening in India and we're a fairly young company, we're almost 400 people now but even from day one we started as a global company from just the way that we accidentally came to life in some ways and we've had a presence in India from very early on. Not only just from an employee base but, a community there. We have a very strong developer community within India, with it around Corda. Corda was sort of very early on adopted as something that enterprise developers in India could really sink their teeth into and so it is nice to be able to do a little bit to try and help. But man, I mean, you just feel so helpless, so far away with all that's going on so it's great to help. Yeah, yeah definitely, definitely. So to wrap up, one thing I did want to ask you about was on your Twitter profile, you've pinned a tweet with a quote from Charlie Munger, he's one on incentives which I'm a fan of Poor Charlie's Almanac and all the mental models that he talks about but this one is "Never ever think about something else when you should be thinking of what you should be thinking about is the power of incentives." Yes. I 100% agree with Charlie there, I mean well incentive. So I think you can take that from that lens in a few different ways, it's been really, really fun to be part of a company where you go from three people sitting around the desk you know, hustling around New York City, now at every stage of that you realize that trying to help run a successful company is very, very hard and you have to realize like what are the incentives around all the people that you're working with. And, I think one of the things around on the incentive side in working with people is money, is actually what people always default to when they think of incentives. But a lot of times it's not just that. So it's always trying to get to that level below and then of course you know, you think about building networks, building consortia incentives, is so paramount there because it in my very short experience in working on this, you always have to be aware of what is the incentive for participants to actually make something successful or to actually make it a failure. Yeah, it's good to keep in mind and then of course, going back to the crypto side, I mean what is what is Bitcoin if not an incredibly clever system of incentives. Yeah. Right, so it's sort of incentives and game theory if you're not into that stuff then the whole blockchain space is a pretty tough year. So it is a lot of fun but, and I think for me, going back to my incentive has been to be part of something that's dynamic and also be part of something where honestly it's impossible not to learn something new every day. So that to me, that's the biggest incentive and knock on wood you know, seven or so years in, that's still the case so I think I'm pretty fortunate in that regard. So that's awesome to hear that it continues to excite you day-to-day even after you've been doing it for this long. Yeah, definitely. So if people want to reach out to you Todd, are there any ways where I guess, you put your thoughts out there? Or, how you connect with people who want to just follow what you're doing? Yeah so one of the things I have been planning on is to get a little bit more active again on Twitter now that it's been out there a little bit more so I'm at @Mcdtv on Twitter and it's probably the best place to reach me. Awesome, all right well, Todd it's been an absolute pleasure to have you here today and thank you so much. It's been really eye-opening to hear about your journey and also all of the great work that R3's been doing in this seven years. Yeah, Conor thank you very much for having me, it's a pleasure, thank you. you