Whether you’re a parent, a consumer, a listener of music, an employee, a voter, a citizen – blockchain affects you in every way.
At just 24, Joutarou Matsui boosts an impressive résumé and is making waves within the emerging blockchain technology industry here in Vietnam. Originally from Japan, Joutarou has worked throughout Southeast Asia in a wide range of industries, from real estate to market entry and business development roles to integrated marketing positions for software companies. But now he wants to be known as the founder and CEO of Proteusion Research and Development (PRD, proteusion.com), a blockchain technology research and development company based in Saigon. Established in 2016 with just three employees, including himself, PRD has grown to over 40 employees in a short time and is well on its way of achieving its main goal of making blockchain technology accessible to everyone.
“Vietnam is a country that embraces startups, its tech talents are constantly being recognized and even the government has declared its vision of making Vietnam a “startup nation,” says Joutarou when asked about why he chose to base his company here.
Blockchain technology is perhaps best known as the technology that is behind bitcoin. This technology is predicted to be massive and has already made waves in the Fintech industry. It is also being used in a number of different fields, such as social networks, supply chain management and the food industry to name a few. But what is it exactly?
Simply put, a blockchain is a shared and trusted public ledger. Essentially, it is a record of transactions that are not on a centralized server. The decentralized applications, or Dapps, that are run on a peer-to-peer network are not controlled by any single party. An unchangeable record of transactions, each one is time-stamped and linked to the previous one. Each digital record or transaction in the thread is called a block (thus the name), and it allows either an open or controlled set of users to participate in the electronic ledger. Each block is linked to a specific participant thus it makes a “blockchain.”
Why does this make blockchain so remarkable? Because it is a shared public ledger, there are thousands of copies. The network is shared across multiple sites, geographical locations and institutions, which means that it’s resilient to attacks and virtually unhackable, although there are several examples of hacking when it comes to the Ethereum network. This is because the thousands of ledgers are controlled by independent actors (miners) who are financially incentivised to keep their ledgers accurate. The miners are usually rewarded with a percentage of the currency they are mining—Bitcoin, Ethereum etc.
For example, let’s say you want to sell your house. You can register it on a blockchain-operated platform for free. Your house will become visible to all users connected to the network. Once a buyer agrees on a price for your house, an escrow account is created on the blockchain that requires two out of three people (the buyer, the seller and a potential third-party arbitrator) to agree for the funds to be released. Once the buyer has sent the payment to the account, you hand over the keys. After receiving the keys, the buyer releases the funds from the escrow account. Only if there is an issue between the two does the system require the intervention of a third party (a randomly selected arbitrator) to decide whether to release the payment to the seller or whether to return the money to the buyer. There are no banks, no real estate agents and basically no middleperson that you have to put your trust (and your money) in.
PRD and Blockchain
What exactly is PRD doing with this technology that many are calling the biggest thing since the internet? They have several different projects happening right now, with a main focus to re-design and re-define their existing business model by utilizing an original blockchain. This is quite a big undertaking as the company is working on creating their own original network blockchain. Many Dapps that are released use the Ethereum blockchain. “The problem with using Ethereum’s blockchain is that it can become blocked and quite slow. The popular game Cryptokitties is a perfect example of this; the massive popularity of the virtual pet app caused transactions to slow down significantly,” explains Joutarou when asked why they were not just using Ethereum like so many other startups. Currently they are in the research stage, with the company’s blockchain experts hard at work to bring PRD into the next stage of development.
With problems existing in the original networks that haven’t been solved yet, PRD is trying to figure out the best way to resolve these. By taking the time to address current issues, such as slow transactions and security gaps within the system, they hope to be able to develop products that not only utilize blockchain technology but also have long-term stay. In such a competitive industry this is a crucial focal point for the company, well aware that most startups fail. So what are some potential use cases for blockchain technology? “The possibilities are broad and the technology can be applied in many different ways, such as data sharing in the medical industry, voting systems and the use in supply chains in particular,” says Joutarou.
They hope to be market leaders in this emerging industry in Vietnam. Another project that the company is working on is developing a social networking systems (SNS) application called Wrappy. Wrappy will not only be a chat app but also a crowdsourcing tool that utilizes the blockchain in the form of smart contracts.
When it comes to the Vietnamese market, they are aiming to be a business incubator for other blockchain startups by providing startups with advice on business development, starting a new business enterprise and guiding them on the best way to move forward in Vietnam. Although Vietnam is friendly to startups, blockchain technology is still unchartered waters and many companies are waiting to see where the government stands on blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. The verdict on cryptocurrencies should be out soon.
PRD recently sponsored Blockathon, Vietnam’s first and largest blockchain hackathon, which was attended by thousands of students and techies from across the country. As Vietnam’s economy continues to grow there will be opportunities for blockchain to be utilized in some of the country’s key industries. “Innovation by blockchain can happen anywhere,” adds Joutarou. “Vietnam is the ideal place for it to happen, especially with a young population and an immense amount of tech talent.”