Welcome to Inside Blockchain Interview series.
Inside Blockchain Interview series was created to give the public a special look into what happens in the blockchain space behind the scenes. It’s a birds eye view of what it’s like working and being a part of the blockchain industry. Here we ask the questions that give insight into how leaders have gotten involved in the industry, their day-to-day within the space, and what kind of future they see for blockchain and DLT..
Today we have a special guest in our studio, Art Malkov who is currently the Chief Strategy Officer at BlockchainDriven (BCD), a consulting and development blockchain agency with its HQ in New York and offices across Asia, Latin America and Europe. Art has worked at BCD since 2016, and tells us how he got involved and how his background within digital strategy has helped him navigate the space. He is one of the leading figures in the New York City blockchain community, being a core part of its development during the foundation and early growth of the space.
Our objective with this article is to raise the curtain on what happens in the everyday life of a busy blockchain executive. Lets jump right in.
PL: Welcome Art, pleasure to have you here. So, why blockchain? How have you gotten into the space?
AM: I was working on a digital project for BCD as part of NeedGrowth, this was in early 2016. Around mid 2016 the team at BCD realized that, the blockchain space was rapidly expanding, and they needed somebody with a skill set to help them communicate the BCD value and to capitalize on the upcoming projects they had in the pipeline. It was the right time and the right place; they needed my set of skills and I wanted to explore the blockchain space to the fullest. No one expected the sudden growth in the blockchain space to come so fast and so rapidly, but it was quite clear in 2016 that something big was on the horizon.
PL: Blockchain space is growing rapidly, what have been some difficult projects that you have dealt with?
AM: One project like this would be AxionV, a crypocurrency hedge fund that was doing an ICO in the summer of 2017. Our team was hired to help them ideate tokenization and build / integrate smart contracts (ERC 20) to fundraise. ERC 20 token has 7 functions, but there are some security flaws that can be abused.
Normally, ERC20 token would create the following structure:
Address A sends ETH to Address B
Address B automatically sends Tokens to Address A
In which case, if address B is hacked or passwords are gone, that’s it. Then all funds can be lost. We need to create an extra step / measure in smart contracts, to make it hack resistant.
This was unacceptable for hedge funds of course, and our team had to come up with and then integrate security protocol that would allow issuance of tokens only under specific conditions.
We had to create a high security process to keep funds safe. With all the hacks in 2017, we had to prioritize security, especially when a financial institution is involved.
Here is what we did:
Address A sends ETH to Address B.
Address B is a smart contract for Admins. Address C has access to Address B.
If Address C wants to retrieve funds, they just access Address B and send ETH to Address C.
It is much more secure that way, as you don’t flash Address C anywhere, making it very secure to hold and access the funds.
This modified ERC20 contract was a simple solution to complex problem and was ahead of its time when it was implemented.
PL: What fuels you everyday?
AM: New projects, new ideas, connecting the dots. The blockchain space keeps on developing and projects become more complex. There are new projects, concepts, and ideas that want to use blockchain tech but do not know how. My role is to identify the missing link and conceptualize a strategy that can solve a specific problem within the company, industry or even a country. Connecting teams and resources to produce optimal solutions.
PL: Can you tell us a bit about what a CSO does day to day, and how life looks in the blockchain space?
AM: First thing in the morning I look over projects that we might be reviewing or considering to take on, pitches and other new happenings. I check in with our various teams on the progress and milestones of projects we have in the pipeline. At any given moment I might be involved in a dozen or so projects in various stages of execution, with some specifically needing zeroed-in attention. I spend a lot of my time in meetings, either with stakeholders of specific projects, or polishing the strategy with our internal teams. A big part of the job is managing large diverse groups across the organization.
Communication and keeping our projects rolling is a critical role that I look over, to make sure our projects are hitting milestones and benchmarks through our project life cycle that that a Pilot, MVP or live to market product life.
PL: BCD was very active in the blockchain development and consulting during early stages of blockchain boom. What was it like to be in the center of 2017 crypto big bang? To those who are new to the field, that’s when cryptocurrency market expanded 46 times in one year.
AM: Every minute felt very compressed. Every month it was so jam packed with ups and downs that it felt like a year had passed in a span of one month. So much change at a very rapid pace was difficult. The amount of activity and interest that we received had been exponentially growing as the crypto big bang was happening, and effects were compounding. Every day dozens of projects would land on my desk, and we had to be very selective on what to work on and what to pass on. A big part of it was education of the companies, as many had minimal understanding of what blockchain could do during that time, and yet most wanted to see if blockchain would be applicable to their industry. Hence a big part of our work was education of how to apply DLT, what are the functionality of blockchain within the field, etc.
PL: How has the industry evolved since you first got involved? Where do you see it heading and what does it mean for BCD?
AM: BCD is an innovator in the space that is just finding itself. BCD has been leading the charge by taking on projects in fusion of Ai and blockchain, finance, logistics, healthcare, talent, advising countries on the implementation on blockchain It was phenomenal to be a part of so many worthwhile and industry changing projects. Over the last few years, BCD became a leading voice, being in the vanguard of blockchain technology adoption and development for companies exploring blockchain and Distributed Ledger technology.
BCD is well positioned to benefit from the growth of the field, and blockchain as a whole is at the very early stages of growth. We are what the internet was in 1998; blockchain still growing to really fill out the market. Most industries are just scratching the surface, and as more projects come online and companies adapt technology, those companies waiting on the sidelines will be behind playing catch up. And those that move forward will be capitalizing on the first mover advantage. It is very hard to play catch up in such a fast paced field, therefore it is smart for companies to start thinking of exploring blockchain now.
Assign a team, and start a small scale ideation sessions, MVPs and prototypes, positioning yourself for the future growth. The word disruption is overused, but it has a meaning, and in this case it prepares you to disrupt the existing paradigm without playing from behind, with minimal investment upfront.
PL: What advice would you give to those companies that are thinking of joining blockchain ecosystem and developing their own blockchain projects?
AM: Don’t be a sideline observer, it is easy to watch from afar, but it is also a big mistake for companies to sit and wait until somebody else makes a breakthrough new product or service. Start exploring, start probing, play with an idea or a concept. Create a team that can start exploring and thinking about potential use cases and applications. Take baby steps, because you don’t want to fail at scale, learn at your own pace. Start building talent within your company, that can be deployed once the project/s are identified. Start integrating. I personally have overseen integration of blockchain departments within company, and the key is to be motivated but do not rush.