Web3 Innovators

Blockchain Innovators - Conor Svensson and Yorke Rhodes

September 15, 2021 Season 1 Episode 10
Web3 Innovators
Blockchain Innovators - Conor Svensson and Yorke Rhodes
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Blockchain Innovators, Conor Svensson - founder and CEO of Web3 Labs, talks to Yorke Rhodes - Director Digital Transformation, Blockchain, Cloud Supply Chain at Microsoft.

Yorke explains the path that led him to blockchain and how he co-founded blockchain at Microsoft. Conor and Yorke also talk about Yorke's work using blockchain in supply chains and digital identity and how NFTs have finally crossed the chasm!

Yorke is on the board for the Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition and is also an Adjunct Professor at NYU where he has taught Digital Marketing and Intrapreneurship and currently teaches Ecommerce with a healthy dose of blockchain.

Watch this podcast here.

Hi, it's Conor Svensson here, founder and CEO  at Web3 Labs. This is a conversation I had with   Yorke Rhodes. Yorke is a Director of Digital  Transformation of Blockchain and Cloud Supply   Chain at Microsoft. In this discussion, we talk  about the path that led him to blockchain and   how he co-founded blockchain at Microsoft. We also  talked about his work using blockchain in supply   chains and digital identity and how NFTs have now  crossed the chasm. Yorke is also on the board for   the Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition and  an adjunct professor of digital and e-commerce   marketing at New York University, so he brings a  great depth of perspective and knowledge to the   discussion. Yorke, it's awesome to have you here.  Yeah, great to be here, too bad we couldn't be in   person. Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. So what  I wanted to start with was kind of what pulled   you into blockchain in the first place and learn a  bit more about that. Especially because you're one   of the people who really made blockchain a thing  within Microsoft as one of the co-founders of the   initiatives there. So, I'd love to hear more about  how that came to be and your journey around that.   Sure, so I've been on a pretty much innovation  journey throughout my career, always on the   leading edge of various technologies. Actually,  going all the way back to when I started in   computers in the first place, I basically started  making these sort of decisions about what I would   do and what I didn't want to do. The first  one was after I took my first Computer Science   class in college. It was on the mainframe  and I was like 'I'm not doing that again!'   and I was very fortunate to be at the cusp and  the beginning of the IBM PC and the Apple era   and so basically decided that I was going to  spend all my time on PCs because they were very   accessible and open and as sort of a standard,  if you want to call it that. So that's what I've   been sort of doing throughout my career, just  looking at the next wave of technology. I was   pretty deliberately, I would say in the late  2010s you know for the next couple years looking   at what were the emerging trending technologies  going on obviously commerce. Everything about   e-commerce was was quite big by that time  and mobile, which is where I was working,   was quite big so it was always looking at like  what's on the cutting edge of what we should be   thinking about from a technical perspective that's  relevant to brands and consumers and that will be   transformative. So, I was quite fortunate to  be doing regular listening and research and   basically coming across my social feeds in early  2015 were all these weird computer science terms   that we know and love in the blockchain  space but, sort of intrigued me - why   I'm hearing about all of these very technical  protocol terms that I heard and dealt with in   college. That kind of woke me up. Eventually,  I realized that this was because of blockchain,   right? The distributed technology we're dealing  with and from there convinced myself over a period   of study that this was a transformative technology  that had many different types of applications   and in particular could have massive,   what I would call, sort of a humanitarian or  consumer or constituent centric value propositions   around the world depending on the particular plate  or thrive of a particular consumer constituent.   So, I happen to then also in 2015 be introduced  to my co-founder Marley Gray, who was on a similar   journey very specifically looking at the financial  services applications of blockchain technology.   So I was in the partner team. We basically split  up the work where I took on all the partner work   and he continued to focus on his client base  essentially. That was really the beginning   of our journey, very informally formed with  relatively new leadership under Satya Nadella,   really with an empowering statement from the  beginning of his journey about having a growth   mindset about what we think we should do as as  employees and really embrace that quite hard.   So that started our sort of as I said, informal  journey that became more and more crystallized   over time. Now we were very fortunate to be  working early on with ConsenSys in 2015 and   sort of trying to figure out what could we do  together that was productizable or meaningful   and this was when we fell into well, logically  where the market is, it needs developer tools   and we want to encourage more developers to come  in. So, this is when we basically started working   on the visual studio plug-in for Solidity along  with ConsenSys and Juan Blanco and others to   sort of get a Microsoft stamp so to speak, on that  capability. Bring it into the developer audience   of visual studio and this is actually before  VS code, right? Before Visual Studio code, so   fairly early in that journey as well but we  were able to essentially ship that plug-in   in march of 2016. So very early in our journey  we had something that we put into the market   as a statement, as a tool without  yet a proper engineering team,   right? We're still very early in the journey. So,  at that point, being so early on, as you said,   there was kind of this innovation remit that  was coming from the top of the company under   Satya's leadership but at the same time, it must  have been challenging to get people on board with   this thing that's happening, this decentralized  world? How did those conversations go because they   can't have been straightforward? Well I think I'm  grounded having been on many innovation journeys.   I'm very grounded by what an innovation journey is  and what that means for any technology regardless   of what it is, right, including blockchain and  decentralized technologies. So, on a journey   like that our, at least my perspective on what  does this mean for the next n years in terms of   what I will do at Microsoft, it was recognizing  that the ecosystem in which I was playing was a   Microsoft ecosystem, right? That in an innovation  journey, whether I was running an external startup   and or an internal startup, basically the  proxy for the external consumer adoption   and believers was the Microsoft community,  right, the Microsoft executives. So that   grounded me, knowing that like 95% of the  conversations were going to be not very positive,   right? And that literally is any innovation  journey, right? It's like you have   a small percentage of believers and  a high percentage of disbelievers.   Yeah. Is my video still running for you by  the way? Yeah, yeah it's all good I'll let   you know if there's any problems and obviously  we'll get this section cut out as well. Great.   So in those early days, I mean, the focus  there was on really empowering developers and   to build on it which I guess, is slightly  reflective of where blockchain was in 2016 in that   Ethereum was there but even before that point  where you'd had the ICO mania started bubbling   up that year and subsequently. But in terms of  the recognition and acknowledgement of where the   good use cases were and so on, prior to that there  were well-known things around like elimination of   reconciliations and things like settlements and  various other ones, but at that point in your   experience were there some clear applications that  you were really excited about? Or, has it been   gradual over the last few years that you've really  started to see these are the killer things that   are really going to work well? Which obviously is  reflected in the recent successes. So I identified   really I think from my perspective two areas that  were obvious for this type of technology early on.   One was consumer identity and how that could have  an impact in the humanitarian space. The other was   what does the supply chain look like and how  do supply chains touch the developing world and   therefore what could we do from a decentralized  technology perspective to enhance what's going on,   not from not just from an enterprise  perspective but also from a contractor and   a worker perspective in the very far upstream of  the supply chain. So those two areas really were,   in fact, I wrote about both of those  in 2016/ 2017 because I think they were   quite obvious for this technical approach and  that really began the journey of Microsoft's work,   along with others and the identity team, to  understand that there's something remarkable about   using a distributed public key infrastructure  that's not owned by any institution or   individual to actually be a root of trust.  Microsoft's Identity Team, which is a   entire engineering team that's focused on all of  our identity products including active directory   and authorization services and Windows Hello  and everything that you see from a Microsoft,   multi-factor sign-on capability exists within  the context of the identity engineering group.   So that's where basically  the identity work was landed   and really stewarded within that group through  product release cycles. Going a bit deeper on the   identity piece, that's something that this year  there's been some big announcements coming from   Microsoft and the whole decentralized identity  initiative. Active directory being such a   foundational there and for so many organizations  as well when it comes to identifying all the   different parts of the business as well  as the individuals working within it,   where do you see we are right now versus  where we need to get to? Because of course,   there's this notion of being able to remove these  centralized platforms but it's something that's   going to take time. Also you need the right  organizations there who are providing like   the claims verification and the... sorry,  providing the trust element of these credentials   that get issued to blockchains and so on. Yeah, so  the work both in blockchain as well as in identity   started out in Microsoft as incubations basically  explorations within an engineering group about the   technology, understanding it, what could be  things that are relevant to Microsoft to do.   In the identity space, I think it was probably  even harder than it was in the blockchain space to   understand where Microsoft had a role to  play and then also there's always a pressure   at some point for revenue so the question always  is 'why are we doing this? Is this a strategic   initiative? Is this a standards initiative? How  is this going to generate revenue on a product   basis? Or, Is this just something that  is a game changer and we need to do it?'   I think what the realization in the identity team  was, it was pretty effectively a game changer,   right? You're basically flipping authentication  and authorization right on its head and when   you do that and this is really the revelation is  that, you unwind a whole bunch of very complicated   spaghetti federations that you don't need if  you put the identity trust in the hands of   the consumer and then have essentially claims  of what that consumer is allowed to do. And so   it's a fascinating area and Microsoft Identity  Team basically looked at that and said 'Well   does that help our our core problem set around  offer authorization? The answer was yes. Does it   do things that are remarkably different and better  from that perspective? And yes was the answer. So   then you started to look at well, to your point,  active directory is about in eighty percent of   institutions, government, private sector,  not-for-profit, commercial entities alike   and that becomes a huge lever of a vehicle,  essentially a ship vehicle, for capabilities   or features or whatever you want to call it where  now we could take our newfound belief and start to   fuse it onto a ship vehicle. So what's actually  launched now through a couple of years of   announcements and incubations is an ability for  a customer to flip a switch on active directory   which allows them to issue DIDs to their  employees and then verifiable claims that   say this is an employee and then this employee  is active and has an authorization to do things   within the context of active directory which is  your sort of your enterprise or your institutional   permissioning system and so that's  where we are. The foundational   way that was laid down from a blockchain  perspective was through the work we've done in   the decentralized identity foundation with all the  different organizations, small and large, working   on this type of identity and verification systems  is to say well we need to if we're going to   actually issue a DID and verifiable claims we need  a way to do that, we need a way to do it at scale.   So that's where the ION project emerged out of.  It's like how do we provide essentially a layer   to buffer for identity registration and lookup  and ION's sort of counterpart is called Element.   One is a specific version for the decentralized  bitcoin blockchain. The other is a   version for the decentralized  Ethereum blockchain. It's not   necessarily personally the way I would  have actually shipped the product. I   probably would have done it more with single  code base with options whereas these are two   separate code bases entirely that may change over  time. Then I think to the last point is that that   layer two, like any other layer two technology,  has to be run by essentially validators   and so that journey is really, I would say,  very quite nascent, getting people to run   those layer two nodes. But you know, everything  is there from a technical perspective to actually   realize the vision of delivering, registering,  creating DIDs at scale with verifiable claims,   leveraging the act directory asset as a way  to sort of push the market into the space.   Then in terms of for organizations, this notion  of having these identities linked to blockchains,   being decentralized in their nature and so you  don't have those same single points of failure,   granted there are various kind of failover  patterns and so on in enterprise architectures   that help kind of address some of this but  then there's something incredibly powerful   though about that resilient unstoppable  sort of infrastructure powering this.   Yeah, I mean if you look at the challenges  that the internet has today, it's basically   challenges associated with centralized services  and they might be slightly decentralized,   right? It might be three providers or five  providers. But those types of services,   to your point, you build up massive fortresses to  protect them because they are vulnerable points   of capability. DNS falls into this category as an  example among other types of constrained service   provider environments. If you take this to the  most logical sort of end state and you look at,   besides the example I just used which you could  bring down the internet by attacking a small   number of parties essentially, and that overcoming  that is obviously critical. Then secondly if you   take it to an even further end state which is -  now I've been issued credentials by my government   and my government becomes overthrown and  potentially a very bad regime comes into power and   can start to abuse the credentials and information  they have about people for many, many horrific   humanitarian nightmares and so that's where  these things sort of come together, right?   This is obviously a scaled-up technology but it's  also a scaled-up humanitarian problem around the   world. So I think obviously we're a long way from  adoption particularly on the second part of that,   but I think the tools that are in place and  so it's very bullish for the future. Yeah,   absolutely. With you talking as well about the  humanitarian angle, something that you're very   involved in, or on the board of, is the Blockchain  for Social Impact Coalition that's been going for   a number of years. What is it that kind of pulled  you in there because it's obviously something that   you care a lot about? Yeah, so the key thing that  I was looking for was a place really to sort of   consolidate my efforts in around blockchain in the  humanitarian space and so this was a vehicle to do   that. It was incubated inside of ConsenSys and  once it actually emerged out of ConsenSys, then   it became a place where I could be a board member.  I was already working quite closely with them and   really enjoyed the work that they were doing and  I was supporting that. So becoming a board member,   there was logical from that perspective  and then secondly, it gave me a very good   place to just consolidate my efforts around  blockchain in the humanitarian sector.   The organization has focused on things,  we did it on Earth Day last year,   we had already actually gone remote from an event  perspective so we were well set up and planned   to hold a remote Earth Day event. This is  early in the pandemic, Earth Day is in April.   That was a huge success, it's on our  YouTube channel, all of the content that we   delivered there. Effectively we run  incubators, coach startups, connect   the various communities in the humanitarian space  around different types of initiatives with the   hardcore blockchain developer community to really  create new interesting patterns and help companies   get founded and things like that. So it's really  bringing together two communities, it's one of   the primary successes of the organization. It  takes a lot of work. It's basically 100 volunteer   at this point and so we rely heavily on our  volunteers and their interests really to drive   what the organization wants to do and focus on.  So if we looked at one of this year's focus,   not surprisingly is what's going on in the  NFT space and DeFi space. Last year we did   a lot around climate and Earth Day. I think this  is one of the other things that often people don't   talk so much about is how big an opportunity  DeFi presents as well for some of those nations   where there are significant numbers of unbanked or  just they have currency, local currencies, and so   on that are subject to things like hyperinflation  because of the regime that comes in and how it   levels the playing field for these people in that.  Yes, there's regulation that needs to be put in   place around DeFi but there's also the equitable  access it provides too in that if someone wants to   get a return on their, I don't know... whether  it's like a USDC stablecoin for instance,   if they've got a hundred dollars worth of it or  a hundred thousand dollars they still get the   same return. It's not like the existing financial  markets where there's people that don't have that   global access to the same office and economies  of scale serve people quite differently. I think   generally the crypto asset space and the  payment space around crypto assets is   it's a hard to navigate space because you're  dealing with different financial regulations   in different states in the United States for  example and then at the Federal Government level,   different financial regulations in the European  Union and across different parts of the world.   By definition, the underlying technology of  crypto is a global phenomenon and I think the   closer that regulators get to understanding that  and the value of that actually, I think the better   obviously. I think the work that a lot of  people are doing in the crypto and DeFi   space is really trying to help educate  and we've seen good examples of that.   In the United States, the pipeline hack which  resulted in a cryptocurrency traceability   case study by the FBI is a great example of  'okay, it's not a a black market', right? You   can actually follow the transactions appropriately  and then use tactics to coerce people who hold the   private keys to actually give them. That's a good  thing. That means that the government is realizing   that they can track what's going on on this  financial rail and I think to your point,   people have been looking at various methods  of financial inclusion for many years   because of the potential humanitarian value  propositions. I think the combination of,   to your point, DeFi and stable coins in  emerging markets is a very powerful combination   along with a transaction and an economic  transactional history for folks whether they're   smallhold farmers or other types of local economy  transactors. This all will provide significant   value to those constituents and give them  ways to have stable value independent of   potentially massive local currency fluctuations  which is not necessarily a great statement   for central bankers but in some cases, it's a  reality. Also to your point, look into various earning protocols around savings, earnings,  whatever you want to call it, loan protocols   around that value is extremely important for  those markets. One of the early examples that   I talked about in my blockchain journey in the  humanitarian space was about smallhold farmers   and how smallhold farmers particularly in this  case could benefit from an economic history and   the potential loans associated with that economic  history to acquire equipment that would let them   actually be more efficient with their crops  - therefore get more value for their crops,   therefore improve their economic situation.   Yeah. Certainly, especially when you  talk about these more remote regions,   things as well that are kind of crossing over  and coming from big initiatives like Microsoft's   push to net zero for instance, and the whole  offsetting carbon markets and creating these   technologies making use of IoT and blockchain to  actually provide more accurate measurements of   where these initiatives are happening  because often it is in these more remote or   smaller communities you might be planting  whether it's trees or reducing the amount of   emissions they're doing through more efficient  cookers, there's so much happening in these other   applications of the technology. Yeah and I think  there's a great point. There's so many areas of   remote emerging economies, local regions that a  large enterprise touches whether it's because of   the supply chain, in the fashion industry going  down to cotton and other raw materials, in the   high-tech industry it's going down to the raw  materials that make up silicon chips, right? So   the question then becomes, I mean, take a classic  example problem set in the high tech community is   the origin of cobalt. About 20% of the origin of  cobalt comes from what are identified as conflict   sources. This means that they're coming from mines  which oddly enough are called artisanal mines,   which sounds like a cottage industry, but it's  not, it's essentially small hole miners who   are mining without appropriate tooling protection  and etc and then not getting the value out of the   goods that they're mining in the ground, not doing  anything to protect the local environment which is   creating havoc in those regions. Then how  does a company, a responsible company,   that is very involved in responsible mineral  sourcing like Microsoft actually incentivize   change in that market, right? What can a global  infrastructure of payment technology actually   do to allow a large enterprise to affect change  in remote regions of the world? So I can clearly   see that there's obviously an incentive change  needed in the local artisanal mining regions   of the world right to get children back into  school and out of the mines, right? That's just   an incentive problem, but how can we do that at  scale from large enterprise corporate headquarters   that today for Microsoft largely exists in  Redmond, Washington? A technology like this   that is globally accessible with all types of  payment and savings and earnings mechanisms   makes it quite easy assuming you have minimal  technical capability in region. For example,   a mobile device that can hold those things, a  wallet and applications, to actually impact change   in that market, this is very different than how  you think about what's been going on for the last   n number of decades in the humanitarian sectors  where you had to, and you still have today,   local NGOs who work on the ground , who work with  the small farmers or the smallhold miners or what   have you, to help educate them about what's  possible and what change could happen and   the tooling that would allow that to happen but  the ability then to actually facilitate the scale   of that through a globally accessible technology  that has globally accessible assets and protocols.   It's a remarkable difference to where we've  been before and even just a classic example is   why did M-Pesa have such success in the region  where it existed but didn't have success anywhere   else in the world, right? So that's a scale  problem and it tells you that one, you're   dealing with a single provider problem and two,  you're dealing with a local government problem and   so if you move those things out of the way  you've effectively got global incentive rails.   You can then leverage. Yeah, it is an amazing  thing in terms of that anyone really anywhere   if they just need a computer and internet access,  they can create something that can have so much   impact. Or, in a lot of cases, just mobile now.  Yeah. People are operating off of, primarily   off of, mobile in most regions of the world.  Absolutely. So, moving on to supply chains because   this is an area obviously that you're passionate  about. It's been a big year as well for Microsoft   in that respect because the company, and this was  obviously something you were very involved in,   won the top award for supply chain breakthrough  of the year as the sub category for process or   technology innovation of the year and that  was from Gartner I believe? Yeah, so that's   an unexpected and remarkable milestone in the  blockchain journey. To have the top award in a   category and supply chain obviously, but to  have the top award going to this technology   which is still very much on the innovation curve  and I think it's really about how the technology   was applied, what's the thinking behind what  we've done, how are we looking at it from a   global scale perspective and what's the impact  of the organization doing to work, right? So   if you summarize all those things, the Microsoft  Cloud business is a $60 billion a year revenue   stream, it's a very large business for Microsoft,  one of its largest and the reason for the   blockchain award was because we took blockchain,  looked at the multi-company collaboration problem,   thought about the mining problems and the  incentives that we were just talking about   in the cobalt mines, and thought about the  end-to-end opportunity of creating genealogy for   essentially silicon-based products or any kind of  high-tech products and then figured out how can we   actually step through that, how can we start to  impact change in that category. So we selected,   and this is our high-value commodity supply chain  and high value commodities in high tech space,   our things like CPUs, GPUs, SSD, DRAM hard drives,  all of the expensive electronic components that go   into a consumer device like a surface or they  go into a rack in a data center right and so it   makes up a very high percentage of the value that  runs our cloud in terms of those products. It's a   relatively constrain... I don't say constrained,  it's a relatively finite market. There's not   that many providers in CPU, GPU hard drive et  cetera, et cetera and so you can quickly get to   a high percentage of penetration in that market  which then drives other interesting opportunities.   So for Microsoft, we chose a journey. We focused  on a specific set of inventory, SSD and DRAM,   the inventory represents about  50 percent of the rack value   or the cost of a rack, so it is a very impactful  place to start. It involved a set of nine   suppliers in our commodity supply chain including  SSD and DRAM providers, manufacturers, as well as   our warehouse hub provider, as well as a set of  systems integrators and most of those are actually   represented in the first blog that I wrote on the  topic. So, you know, we've been on this journey,   the first conversation was February 2018. Yeah.  So it's been a while on the journey but in terms   of like implementation, we are in production  since last fall on some percentage of the   SSD and RAM volume that flows through from our  manufacturers to the hub into our data centers   and we are now basically iterating on that  journey for the next phase to bring on the   rest of the high value commodity supply chain  and also to layer in financial controls in our   supply chain. That's basically the next  12 plus months of this particular journey   and so we have great partners on board  that are quoted in the blog, Lenovo, Arrow, SK Hynix, CT Systems, Micron and others. I think  from what's happening, what's the impact of it,   how have we thought through it,  what's the technical approach,   you know all those things sort of went into 'okay  well, clearly this is something that could win the   innovation award in a category'. We felt our  chances were at least 50/50 in that category   and there's an interesting, a sort of what I  would call collaborative judging process, where   Gartner weighs in, a set of industry judges weigh  in, and then a set of Gartner (quote, unquote)   'community members' which are all the paying  subscribers or partners weigh in and so from a   validation perspective there's something there  for an innovative technology like blockchain.   It's really crossing through a number of  different communities that I think is a   really important milestone for blockchain in any  industry including supply chain. Also, just one of   the details there too is that it was two and a  half years from inception to actually being in   production and serving the nine, well you're just  nine, providers. That in itself is impressive   given that the historical complexity of getting  these larger organizations to talk to one another   going from a prototype to production in within  one organization typically can be looking at   a multi-year time horizon in some cases and so  to actually achieve that degree of coordination   around them is a very impressive feat as well!  Yeah, I mean effectively you're taking nine, and   nine large, enterprises on an IT transformation  journey, not just one, right? So that is a huge   coordination problem and requires weekly calls  with each supplier partner that we work with   to go through test development cycles on every  sprint feature upgrade and so our partners have   been on this journey with us. Everyone has has  worked really hard to achieve this, it's not   just Microsoft, it's nine parties working hard  together to achieve this and some of the folks   in this particular supply chain have done other  great work in blockchain like Lenovo has done   quite a bit of work in blockchain and others  as well. So it also speaks to the technology   is beyond the proof of concept stage. People  are actually doing things with it and this   is a great milestone to highlight that point  and we're incredibly grateful to our partners   for being on this journey with us and from my  personal perspective, I'm incredibly grateful to   the leaders in the cloud organization. Again, it's  a $60 billion dollar revenue line to have belief   in what we were doing and belief in me to be  able to achieve it. Yeah, absolutely, it's huge!   So, moving on to one of the other areas that  has exploded this year but been around for a   couple of years, NFTs. Where do you see...  well are you excited by them? What are the   areas that you see them having good potential?  Yeah, so NFTs are just such a great example   of a technology crossing the chasm into the  realm of zeitgeist consumer mindshare moments. Different types of consumers, consumers meaning   creators and artists and musicians to  global brands, they're creating new assets,   interesting assets for campaigns and other  reasons, to collectors and speculators, right?   If you look at all of those, the ones that  are the most risk-averse are the brands,   right? Because the brands are always scared  about their reputation, anything they do, how it   could impact their reputation and so the fact that  we've gotten so far in such a short period of time   with this NFT phenomenon is a crossing the  chasm moment, right? Yeah, yeah. Almost   all of the people that I just spoke about  are not doing the type of due diligence that   you and I understand is necessary from a protocol  perspective coming from the protocol space,   but brands generally are doing a better job of  that because they have the reputational aspect,   right? So they're thinking hard about what is an  NFT, right? What does that mean? What does it mean   for my books? What does it mean for my consumer  and customer? How does that impact me from a   carbon footprint perspective? How do I communicate  that in a way that makes sense? Am I giving the   true promise of NFTs to a consumer when I'm  telling them I'm giving them an NFT, right?   And that's, certainly for our Microsoft brand,  we've been approaching it. So I have to assume   that other large brands with similar size are  probably approaching it with very similar lens.   Because that's all on the positive side, right?  Interestingly by the way, I've been teaching about   blockchain and NFTs and supply chain in my  e-commerce class that I teach at NYU. It's   a grad program specifically on e-commerce and  I've been teaching about blockchain and have   often gotten flack about why am I teaching  about blockchain in my e-commerce class. I'm   not teaching about protocols, I'm teaching about  interesting things like NFTs and impact and how   you use the technology and this is such a great  example. NFTs represent essentially the future of   e-commerce from a digital asset perspective for  sure. I think that to me is fascinating. Now,   on the blockchain engineer, decentralization,  euphoric protocol geeks, a lot of people sort of view these crossing the chasm  moments as dumbing down the technology or   very dumbing down the audience of who's using  the technology. It's inevitable. It's happened   in every technical revolution that's been  out there, including the internet itself. So,   protocol engineers need to keep doing what  they're doing and not worry about what the   consumers are doing with the technology so much.  Yeah. This goes back to that whole saying that   people don't care about how things  work, they care that they work right.   A great example of that is there's a great  speaker who talks about the Steve Jobs   approach to the consumer value proposition.  It's really exactly what you just said,   which is start with 'why?'. People don't care what  you did, they care why you did it, right? Yeah,   I think that insight is alone this crossing the  chasm moment where brands are actually looking   at NFTs, I think that's such a crucial insight.  Something that I don't think people are talking   about as much as they should be because that has  really enabled this technology to move into an   entirely different domain that I think a year ago,  yes people would have appreciated that this was   possible but they didn't think it would have had  so much impact just 12 months later. Yeah, I mean,   the value proposition there is huge. You cannot  ask for a better motivator than brands seeing   the value proposition of the awareness campaigns  that NFTs are driving and that's just scratching   the surface. There's a lot of marketing people  who are just fascinated like, 'I want to do that   NFT thing', because it created a moment and I'm  like 'that's awesome but you could also do this,   you could do that, you could do this', right? It's  a programmable asset. There's so many things you   could do with it that you're not thinking about,  the world is endless if you have the right brands   involved and it's a particularly interesting lever  in large brands. Whether it's a brand in the music   space or entertainment space or a brand in the  high-tech space like Microsoft or Apple or others.   Yeah. I mean, it'll be amazing to see really  what happens in the future as the space grows   because I'm sure there's going to be so many more  innovations that we just don't see coming. It'll   also drive the back end. What NFTs represent is  not only crossing the chasm but scale problem   to this technology. So any large brand  that gets engaged is gonna have to   understand what the scale problem is that they're  going to create by just doing what they're doing.   So that then drives what they do from a technical  approach perspective, which then drives the   market to provide the services necessary  to that technical approach. One of the   most amazing things about NFTs is an NFT really  doesn't meet the promise of what an NFT is if   it's not registered in a public blockchain that's  decentralized enough. So I think there's pretty   wide recognition that one of those foundational  technologies is Ethereum, that's decentralized   enough and therefore meets the promise. It's  where 90% of the NFT work is being done anyway   and so that's both a risk for brands, as well as a  risk for consumers and protocol engineers because   if you go back to the statement I made earlier,  which is consumers purchasing goods are not   looking at the underlying protocol, you never do  that, it doesn't doesn't happen generally when   you buy things off the shelf right which is  what an NFT represents in the digital sphere. So   not knowing if it's really meeting the promise of  what's on the label, it's an NFT, does it really   meet the promise of what an NFT is supposed to  be? Is it an open ecosystem? Do you really own it?   Who are the central parties controlling it? Is  it really decentralized such that there isn't   a central party? Those are all not questions  that a consumer is asking and that actually   creates a risk to the underlying protocols  because how do you communicate that message?   Frankly it's an opportunity for a lot of  organizations to enter the market that   have not achieved the decentralization that  Ethereum has achieved and say they are doing   registering NFTs but maybe not meeting the promise  in the way that Ethereum meets the promise.   Yeah, yeah. Hopefully it will continue  to stay that way and there will be   that recognition of the importance of staying true  to that openness that we need to have there. Yeah,   Yorke it has been absolutely fantastic  to talk today. If people want to   find you, I know that you're very active on  Twitter and LinkedIn, are they the best ways   to reach out to you or just going to follow what  you're up to or are there other ways? So those   would be the best ways. I've been toying with  the idea of a reading list because I do a lot of   reading but right now, Twitter and LinkedIn  and YouTube are places where you'll find   content and things that I'm interested in so  that's the best place. There are a number of   Microsoft blogs that I've written but they don't  get the coverage that you get on social media.   So it's great speaking Conor, thank you for  hosting us. Yeah, awesome, see you soon, thanks.