Voyager sat down with Bruce Pon, Ocean Protocol Co-Founder & Board Member. Continue reading to learn more about how he got involved in the crypto industry, what Ocean Protocol is all about, how it came to be, and more.
Voyager: How did you first get involved with blockchain and cryptocurrencies?
Bruce Pon: I spent over a decade building banks around the world to give people more access to financial services. In the process, I learnt about the banking system, money and understood that many people are having trouble adjusting to the fast pace of innovation. It was clear to me that AI, automation and robotics are going to drastically affect people in jobs and what we can do in the future to earn a living.
I had heard of Bitcoin in 2010 but didn’t take an active interest until 2013 when my co-founders came to me with an idea for putting intellectual property on the Bitcoin blockchain. This idea, that people could claim ownership of their ideas on a global scale, gave a clear path for people to add value in a future where driverless cars roam our streets, factories have robots and labour has been mechanized. I wanted to be a part of the solution and blockchain was a tool and a means to an end.
V: What led you to create Ocean Protocol and what is its mission?
Bruce Pon: Ocean Protocol is a logical extension of the work we did from 2013 onwards. We built a company called ascribe, that put intellectual property on the Bitcoin blockchain. This is essentially NFTs. But ascribe was 7 years too early. We realized this after meeting dozens of galleries, the big media companies in New York and working with vanguard artists.
So we pivoted to BigchainDB, which tried to solve one of the main problems we saw in working with the Bitcoin blockchain - and that is, that there’s no metadata storage. Everyone knows now that Bitcoin is meant to be a store of value but back in 2014, we thought that maybe with scaling, Bitcoin could transport more. We know now, that it can’t. Bitcoin’s best use case is it’s core use case, as a store of value. That’s why we have other protocols like Ethereum, Polkadot and Cosmos.
BigchainDB was a global database that is decentralized using concepts that are only now reaching scale and adoption. BigchainDB was one of the first Proof of Authority networks in the world. We had over 50 pilots and proof-of-concepts. We collaborated with Filecoin and other decentralized storage protocols. But in 2015, the concept of a decentralized database was also still too early because there weren’t enough users that were willing to deploy BigchainDB into production to sustain the project.
In late-2016, we realized that we needed to get more practical towards a use case that people could understand. From BigchainDB we understood that data provenance was critical for AI researchers to be able to develop accurate models. And blockchains are de facto data provenance engines.
And that’s where the idea for Ocean Protocol came from. We have data streams and data lakes everywhere in silos, so let’s create an Ocean where these data assets from the entire world can flow into. Once data is in the Ocean, AI researchers can make use of it. Underpinning this entire system is blockchain for security, provenance and access control. It’s the combination of AI, data and blockchain which I believe is a critical piece for the future. And it aligns to our original vision of giving every individual on earth, some sort of control over their data and to monetize.
V: Can you tell us a little bit about AI & big data in relation to Ocean Protocol?
Bruce Pon: Ocean is the interaction layer between AI researchers and data owners. Anyone can publish data and anyone can consume the data, no matter where you are on earth just by using an Ethereum address. It’s that simple.
Around this idea, we need to have thousands of marketplaces that gather the data. We need tools for people to discover data; ways for people to assess the quality of the data; ways for people to harvest and gather data; financial tools to help people monetize their data. There are a lot of pieces needed to build a Data Economy. Ocean acts as the interaction layer and many of the other pieces are being built as we speak.
V: Aside from Ocean Protocol, we know you also founded Avantalion Consulting Group, Ascribe, and BigChainDB, which you are also the current CEO of. What did you learn from building these other companies in relation to OCEAN?
Bruce Pon: With Avantalion, our goal was to help build banks. Many people lost trust in the banking system from 2006 to now. I went the other way. I put my energies into building bread-and-butter banks that increased the choices for consumers in Russia, China, Thailand and other countries. Today, these banks make billions in loans every year and I’m proud to have had a small role.
From ascribe and BigchainDB, we never lost our core mission - which is to give people more voice, more power and control in a world that is moving faster and faster. This ethos lives on in Ocean Protocol.
V: Can you give us a deep dive into Ocean Protocol's vision to tackle decentralization and the rising marketplace of data and AI, where you see the industry evolving, and how Ocean is positioned to usher it in?
Bruce Pon: We’ve moved into a world where individuals have less power and larger monoliths have more. The physical world is defined. The rules are in place with ownership of land and property, with governments, banks and companies all having their place in the picture.
Ocean Protocol is part of a larger movement to explore new digital frontiers and establish the rules and playing field so that they are tilted in favor of individuals. That’s the big picture.
Blockchain and crypto are enabling technologies to allow a re-balancing of power. Our focus is on data and AI, and other projects are working on identity, intellectual property, finance, supply chains, energy, etc. I think that this movement will integrate and disrupt all facets of society, economy and government, like the internet has - except this movement will impact 100 times more value. I’m excited to see how it plays out in the next 30 years.
V: How does the Ocean Token differ from other cryptocurrencies and what is its unique value proposition?
Bruce Pon: Tokens are simply tools for rallying a community around an idea. Right now, there is an explosion of experimentation on different types of token designs.
Our goal is that the Ocean token becomes the de facto token for the Data Economy - it is used as the means of exchange for data and AI services, people use it for staking on valuable data, it is used for governance of the network and people can earn it by providing valuable services.
V: What are some of the ways Ocean Protocol users can earn crypto on the platform and how does the ecosystem provide incentive rewards?
Bruce Pon: The Ocean ecosystem is very early but we foresee the following ways for people to earn Ocean.
- People can publish data for sale.
- Entrepreneurs can set up new marketplaces to gather data
- Curators can stake on data and services that they think will be valuable in the future.
- DeFi protocols can apply their tools to data, and allow for financialization of the asset class
- Developers can vie for grants and bounties, for maintenance and improvement of the network.
These are some of the activities where people can earn crypto.
V: What can we look forward to in the coming months on the Ocean Protocol product roadmap?
Bruce Pon: Our product roadmap was published in 2018 and updated every year. We’re now nearing completion of our initial goals and promises to the community as outlined in our whitepapers.
The next phase of Ocean Protocol is to focus on adoption. We will continue to build tools that meet the needs of developers. We will support new marketplaces. We will work to activate a community of data hunters so that the Ocean can be filled. 2021 is all about adoption and continuing to grind out small daily victories that can compound until we reach our vision to be the de facto standard to power the Data Economy.
V: What would you say to someone who is new to crypto, interested in the technology, and looking to invest or get involved?
Bruce Pon: There is so much experimentation going on, it’s truly inspiring. Go where your interests take you and try to find ways to add value.
V: Some people have an issue with trust where they don't necessarily trust 3rd-parties or want to lose ownership of their data. How does the blockchain-enabled infrastructure used by Ocean Protocol help solve this issue of trust?
Bruce Pon: We know that people want to have a choice to store their data under their control or use 3rd parties. Ocean Protocol facilitates data sharing without biasing towards one preference or another. When someone executes an operation using Ocean Protocol, the smart contracts do what they are supposed to.
As the tooling becomes more sophisticated, I believe that people will be able to sell, buy, and store their data in a completely decentralized manner if they want and Ocean will be a part of it.
V: In three words, explain blockchain.
Bruce Pon: General Purpose Technology