Blockchain North founder, Florent Thévenin, in conversation with the founder of Andiami, Ethereum, Decentral and Jaxx, Anthony Di Iorio, at the Blockchain Futurist Conference in Toronto.

Flo: Give us a quick “who, what, why.”

Anthony: The “what” is to be in service. The “why” is because it makes me happy. And the “how” is through problem-solving.

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Flo: I love it. And of course, people already know who you are.

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As a Canadian who has been in blockchain for a long time, how do you gauge the place Canada has in this space today, globally?

Today, it’s not as familiar to me as it was many years ago, and what Canadians did to help build a lot of it. I’m head-down building and doing things and not focusing so much on what’s happening in particular countries. I don’t get out much to events, which is different from what it used to be. I had a lot more knowledge about what’s going on back in the day. But I think there’s been great contributions by Canadians in the space. I think Canada can be considered one of the meccas of the original work that was done.

In your keynote, you talked about this concept of “win-win-win.” Can you elaborate on that in a sector that is not only fast growing but increasingly competitive?

The ideal situation is how do you figure out how to create wins for as many stakeholders as possible, including competitors, and how do you bring them on board with what you’re doing and figure out ways that you can utilize them to create a movement of alignment with people.

I think competitors can be thought of as another stakeholder if you could figure out how to actually get them onboard with what you’re doing instead of the friction or the fighting. I think everybody can win. So that’s the idea of ‘how do you create as many wins as possible between people to create better alignment and less friction?’

And what are you doing about it?

That’s the way that I’ve always done things. What I work on now is: ‘How do we create complementary systems for projects and decentralized tech within all these ecosystems?’ How do we help Bitcoin thrive? How do we help Ethereum thrive? How do we help other technologies to thrive?’

How do we give them what they need so that they will join us on what we’re doing because we’re all working on it together. We provide infrastructure. We’re helping to decentralize node infrastructure for many different chains. We’re joining them on their missions and providing tools and hardware and software that can help them to achieve decentralization and create a win for each of them.

Join them on their mission and then, in turn, if we’re providing what they need, they’re going to be helping us to advance, as well.

“Something could happen tomorrow and create a change that comes out of nowhere.”

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A question that you probably hear a lot is about striking the balance between protecting consumers and investors, but also not stifling innovation. What can countries like Canada and others do today and in the coming years?

Provide better clarity and knowledge to entrepreneurs and projects that are trying to advance what they’re doing locally and not be forced to go elsewhere.

I think Canada’s been more of a follower and I don’t think that’s the correct approach. I think Canada needs to be a leader and provide the tools to help people achieve innovation and achieve wins, but with clarity and terms that people understand so there’s no ambiguity and they’re not forced to go elsewhere.

Sounds like a tall order.

I think it can be done if it’s put together by the right leaders and problem solvers to do it. I think governments are looking for plans and people to provide them with turnkey solutions that are going to take into consideration protection, but also ensure job growth and all the important things to a country and productivity.

Do you have any examples of other countries that Canada could look at?

I think Dubai’s doing some interesting stuff. I think Switzerland has done some interesting stuff. Singapore. There are a number of countries that have made it simpler and clearer on how to proceed and what projects can do.

In your talk, you spoke about the relationship between the physical world and the digital world. You’re quite passionate about that. Can you explain what you mean?

NFTs are something that we knew about since 2015. There were a lot of discussions about NFTs and the ability to create digital ownership. Assets that couldn’t be forged or couldn’t be duplicated. Just the digital side was never very interesting to me.

I’ve always been a big believer of ‘how do you bring the physical and digital together, and how do you prove authenticity of a physical item and a physical good that ties in with a digital item?’

What we call tokenization?

It’s not just tokenization, but how do you tie that token with a physical product? That’s the key.

I mean tokenization of physical assets like real estate, for example.

Yeah, but it’s also how do you manufacture to tie them in together? Any manufacturing we’re doing with physical products now has chips embedded into them, into the manufacturing process, and are programmed by us and can’t be forged or duplicated.

By tapping it, it can prove authenticity. I think the real interest to me is not just digital art, but how the physical art can represent the digital, and how it comes together to provide non-fungible physical items that are not just digital. Digital is something, especially visual, that anybody can see.

“Art to me is not necessarily that interesting when it’s just digital. But if you can create something that actually has a digital token tied to it, and is part of it, what you now own is a collectible.”

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With digital, I can take a picture and…why do I care if I own it or not? I can take a picture of it. I can hang it on my wall. I don’t care that I own the rights to that particular digital thing. But it is much more interesting to have something physical that you can say, I have this.

And then if that item is also unique, you can create a series of physical goods. Every physical good we’re creating is different. Every book we’re creating is different. Every player kit is different for our project. Every puzzle is tailored to the player, to the individual, and everyone is chipped with an authenticity chip that can’t be forged or duplicated.

I think the physical and digital are much more interesting and exciting than just digital, whether it be an art piece, a car, a luxury item, or a collectible card.

We’re also making physical cards, like Pokemon cards that have the chips inside as well. You can prove authenticity. Think about hockey cards. You have no idea how many there are of one particular card. There’s no way to prove if something is fake or not.

But when you put these chips inside, you can now show scarcity. You can show ownership, you can show authenticity, and that’s something that’s very interesting to me and what I’ve been focused on. I don’t think I’ve ever owned an NFT, ever.

Essentially you’re adding a form of intelligence to a physical object?

Yeah. It’s saying that the item is unique. It’s non-fungible. You can prove scarcity by showing how many there are. When you tap it, it can say that it’s one of ten, and you can prove that you have number one. It shows you the hash of the piece to prove that when you tap it, it’s authentic.

“Tainted things of crypto are still beneficial. People learn how to make them better.”

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Looking back to the early days of Ethereum, of which you are a co-founder, and all subsequent ventures, what is something that has really surprised you or has been like a pivotal moment in your time in the space?

Pivotal moments happen frequently for me. My presentation today was about pivotal moments throughout the last 12 years, from defining the mission very early on to understanding how to provide value in the space, to remembering that when I join a project that has a number of leaders and decision makers, a lot of the time, things don’t get get done. But there’s also benefits to doing it that way.

There have been many different things along the years in terms of learning lessons, like how to maintain my balance and not get overwhelmed with what I’m doing, how to ensure that decentralization is not the goal along the way sometimes, but it can be the end game, and sometimes you need to work with what’s out there now in order to get there.

Things aren’t black and white. There are a lot of grey areas with things. I’m much more a fan of not thinking that there is right or wrong. I could believe something, but also believe something else. And there’s somewhere in the middle. Nuances are very important and there are paradoxes with everything. Rigidity is something that I try to stray away from.

I love it. Absolutely. I think nuance is one of the things that we miss the most in the world right now, so I couldn’t agree more.

Tribalism too, and staying away from that. I’ve always been more inclusive, and not say there is only one right way or it has to be Bitcoin or it has to be Ethereum. I’ve always taken a more diplomatic, inclusive stance.

What do you not like in the crypto space?

Everything is a learning lesson, I think. Even the things that aren’t done well or what people do that don’t align with me, I think can be valuable lessons to those people when they don’t turn out or they realize, man, that’s not the best way to do things. Or maybe I should do things differently.

Tainted things of crypto are still beneficial. People learn how to make them better. I think they’re always valuable and people learn from them. And from them, new ideas emerge; better ways emerge from things that aren’t the best or are deficient. How do you move towards things being more efficient and things being more beneficial to more people?

Finally, we ask all of our interviewees for their surest predictions for the next two years.

I don’t like to give predictions. There’s no sure thing. We’ve seen what AI is doing right now in the acceleration of technology. I don’t know where things are going to go, so I don’t think there is any sure thing about what’s going to happen in the next couple of years.

Something could happen tomorrow and create a change that comes out of nowhere. I think the key is for people to keep trying to figure out where things are heading. It’s hard to do it on a two-year scale. You can kind of do it month-to-month by staying ahead of the curve.

How do you create sustainability and make sure that you’re utilizing new technologies and new things and understanding what’s happening so that you can kind of predict month by month or quarter by quarter. 

Do you have a final message for the community here in Canada or globally?

The project I’m working on now is called Andiami. It means “let’s all go together.” It’s like Andiamo in Italian, but with an “i” for plurality. I created that word as meaning “let’s do this, let’s move forward, but let’s all do it together.”

Our goal is to help decentralize great technologies like Bitcoin and Ethereum by reducing reliance on Cloud infrastructure providers and putting computers in the hands of individuals where they can be in control of their own money, communication, and identity, and not be give out all their information to third parties.

We’re making it simple to run nodes and give people tools that they need to be empowered. That’s been the mission for years: how do we empower people with the tools to be in control of their digital lives?

Now our hardware and computers are going to be coming out for individuals and enterprise to give them more power and remove the need for trusted intermediaries along the way.

Sharable quotes:

Interview edited for clarity.
Emphasis added by editor.