Coinweb’s CEO Toby Gilbert can always be spotted wherever the rest of the team may find themselves, be that in the Bangkok office conference room or the multiple dev offices from Barcelona, Kiev to Singapore. But before Coinweb, Toby was a blockchain newcomer with a varied background that spanned hospitality, telecoms and investment. We sat down with Toby to discover how and where his piece of the Coinweb puzzle fits.
Where did the Coinweb journey begin?
Toby Gilbert: The Coinweb journey began on a beach in Goa, India in 2017, when my now business partner Knut Vinger was describing his blockchain project to me. Up to that point, blockchain had been dominated by stories of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and various ICOs. He was detailing the considerable pain points that he foresaw within the space, which he was certain were going to be prevalent in the future.
Knut has a track record of future-scoping: for more than 25 years, he was responsible for writing some of the first theses on Artificial Intelligence, which both NASA and the US Department of Defense published. Once again, Knut was looking forward to the future and had identified what the pain points were going to be. So I got really interested in blockchain, and started to learn about it. At the end of 2017, Knut had invited me to join the Coinweb project. At that point, the focus was raising money so that the architecture, which had been laid out in the whitepaper, could be realized and coded.
The journey between that starting point and where we find ourselves today has been a rollercoaster. Today we have working technology, a considerable user base, and real revenue streams—but it was very different back in 2017, when all we had was menial code, a big idea and a high-level architecture plan.
The founders of Coinweb were a group of engineers who were trying to spread the word about their own approach to layer 2 interoperability. It was a difficult narrative to try and capture people’s attention, because the main focus then was on token sales, wallets, and so on. People weren’t very receptive to solutions for problems that had not yet been realized.
What have been the most significant changes since 2017?
Toby: At first, we were focused on a cross-chain platform to solve a specific issue: The naming system. We started to work with Paul Mockapetris, who invented the DNS. We were trying to create a similar solution for blockchain as the DNS did for the internet. Then, we began to see the issues Ethereum was presenting with fees and scalability. So the initial concept grew considerably, to become something much bigger: building and implementing a generic, layer 2, cross-chain computation platform which gives users the flexibility to take advantage of a greater range of functionality, and DApps on the blockchain for a whole range of different projects. I’d say that today the project is considerably more ambitious than it was in 2017, and taken on a life of its own. As more problems and concerns are identified across the space, we are able to shape solutions to solve those problems as they arise.
Who is the team behind Coinweb? What makes this the right team for the platform?
Toby: The Coinweb team brings together a wide variety of individuals who have in-depth experience from the traditional technology and business worlds, and merges this experience together with blockchain specialists. On one side of the project, we’re solving problems. On the other side, we have to make Coinweb recognisable to a broad audience, so as many people as possible understand the solution. We need a broad audience to get the message, which requires talented people with specific skill sets to be able to simplify a complicated product. And finally, it’s supported by a robust go-to market strategy for which we have already delivered proof of concept. Without continued buy-in and adoption from a mass user base, the project can’t continue to evolve and grow.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in the blockchain space?
Toby: Acquiring enough skilled developers in the same time zone to build out the project within a reasonable time period.
How do you avoid Coinweb being yet another brilliant, but forgotten, idea?
Toby: We’ve already passed that point. We have two customers who have built on top of our platform, with a combined 90,000 users, handling up to 5,000 transactions a day—soon to be 20,000. We are fully funded, and we have a number of exchanges ready to launch the token. So I think we’re past the point of no return. We won’t be forgotten. We have new challenges now.
How are you future-proofing the platform against future regulation?
Toby: Coinweb currently relies upon its partners’ licenses, specifically when it comes to enabling fiat on- and off-ramping. Although we are looking closely at acquiring our own license in the near future. In other areas, we’re following best practise as it comes up. Token issuance, for example. Looking at EMI structures in different territories, where there is demand from multinational corporations who are looking to issue the tokens for loyalty programs and the like, and would like to do so within a regulatory framework. So that is something Coinweb is looking very closely at at this moment. That would help futureproof us, especially when working with incubated projects building on top of the platform.
Are regulations and decentralisation opposing forces? How can they fit together?
Toby: They don’t need to be two opposing forces. They become opposing forces in particular circumstances—such as when a technology or tech project company becomes a monopoly, or when it interferes in politics, or where it is threatening an existing system. This does not necessarily have to be an opposing force, as long as you can understand the framework of regulation and how you can operate within it.
If you had a crystal ball, where would you and Coinweb be in 12 month’s time?
Toby: For Coinweb, we will have well over 1 million users. And for me, exactly where I am now, surrounded by my team 24/7.