Despite everyone else, Berlin’s Postbahnhof seems quiet, many hunched over their laptops, a few chatting on the sunny terrace, most listening to lectures on the stages of the event venue. Between the two, Joseph Lubin goes from stand to stand, shakes hands and greets acquaintances. The Canadian and former Goldman Sachs banker founded the Ethereum blockchain platform, which is probably the most important blockchain and, together with Bitcoin, the most important cryptocurrency in the world.
He is now at the Postbahnhof in Berlin, talking and exchanging ideas in the city, which he considers the most important in the blockchain cosmos. “Berlin has the infrastructure, Berlin has the talent, the very good programmers are there”, he says on the terrace of the Ostbahnhof in Berlin. But if things are to stay that way, German politicians should finally do something, give a signal. “The government needs to put more programs in place to promote blockchain,” he says.
Lubin is out today in a T-shirt, backpack on her back, sneakers. The 53-year-old says he doesn’t have much time, he doesn’t want to miss so many classes. Despite the huge success and the fact that he is now a crypto billionaire, Lubin has remained a man of technology, who continues his training in trade shows and who is always fascinated by the possibilities.
Blockchain is still in its infancy, says Lubin, hype or not. “We have already seen many bubbles burst and will do so more often with blockchain and also with cryptocurrencies.” He doesn’t care. “Bitcoin was a bubble at $30, $200 too, and $20,000 anyway,” says Lubin. But it’s not bad, it brings more money to the market and advances the technology. However, he does not find cryptocurrencies in themselves that interesting.
“We are ready for Web 3.0”
Although many people pay attention to how Bitcoin, Ethereum or other currencies rise or fall, he only sees virtual currencies as a tiny part of the overall development, the ex-banker explains, drawing an imaginary graph at two hands. “If that’s the whole development chart, then maybe that’s where we are,” he said, pointing far left with his index finger.
The blockchain is a network between many computers in which transactions take place – decentralized and tamper-proof. An example: Ute can send digital currencies to Mario such as Bitcoin via the blockchain. The blockchain is a kind of virtual cash book in which the transfer from Ute to Mario is entered in encrypted form. The highlight: not a single entity like a bank allows the transaction, but many computers do. Because a blockchain’s network is operated by many people who have each downloaded their own copy of the blockchain onto their computers and are therefore a point in the network. They provide the computing power needed to run the entire network. If Ute wants to send money to Mario, every computer on which a copy of the blockchain is stored must agree. Only then does the system execute the transaction. It is therefore difficult to cheat: if you manipulated the cash book on a single computer, all the other computers on the network would oppose it. The United Nations uses blockchain in Jordan, for example, to help refugees: the United Nations refugee agency transfers money to a virtual account of the refugee. If he wants to buy rice, he must verify himself with an iris scanner. A system compares the iris scan with a database of all refugees and processes the transaction via the blockchain. If the refugees instead received tokens for rice, the tokens could be stolen. Some would end up with more rice. Victor Gojdka
With the help of blockchain, Lubin wants to create the best Facebook, the best Uber, and actually the best internet. “We’re ready for Web 3.0,” he says. The old web, in his opinion, has too many bugs. People have no control over their data, there’s no secure way to quickly pay across borders, and ultimately companies make money from user data. It bothers him and that’s why he wants to cut off the intermediaries, the Facebooks of this world. “We need to get out of the silos, companies that collect data and make money from it. People should be in control of it again,” he says.
Music for fans, without Amazon and Spotify?
In addition to Ethereum, he founded a company some time ago in ConsenSys, which aims to help run as many applications as possible on a blockchain. About a thousand people already work for Lubin’s new company in more than 30 countries. They advise businesses, governments and the European Union on blockchain implementation ideas. They are currently in the process of setting up over two dozen projects and managing them themselves.
An example of this is an identity platform that is currently being tested in Zug, Switzerland. The identity of the participants is stored on a blockchain. Citizens can then use their smartphone to verify their identity anywhere and without delay. Another project is a platform that artists can use to sell their music directly to fans, without any middleman like Amazon or Spotify. Instead, everything runs on so-called tokens, which are digital vouchers that people can use to pay or invest.
“We cut out the middleman. It helps everyone,” says Lubin. So far, around 200 groups are on board the project, with more expected to be added in the coming weeks and months. Further cooperation is planned with a bank in order to integrate crypto assets, i.e. digitally stored values, into the daily investment process.
Still not as easy to use as Instagram
The financial industry and especially the venture capital sector are very interesting when it comes to the possible uses of blockchain, says Lubin. There are already many applications for this, and the whole industry is already highly automated. This will continue in the future. In general, however, blockchain application areas are extremely wide, much wider than in the early days of the internet, Lubin says. “Looking back, the internet and its services were very limited. There were websites, then e-commerce, music. Everything came very slowly, with blockchain everything happens very quickly,” says Lubin.
The decisive success factor is that the new apps are as easy to use as Facebook, Instagram or Uber. Anyone who is accustomed to such user design will not switch to a decentralized but complicated solution. Data protection alone is not a key long-term argument. He’s right, after all, even the Cambridge Analytica data scandal hasn’t stopped Germans from continuing to use the social network. If the new platforms Lubin talks about can keep pace in terms of design and comfort, then a decentralized organized world also has a real chance.