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Interview: Riccardo Spagni co-founder of a new open source blockchain

May 25, 2018 • Startups, Top Stories

Riccardo “fluffypony” Spagni

Riccardo “fluffypony” Spagni, co-founder of Tari.

South African cryptocurrency expert and lead maintainer of the Monero project Riccardo “fluffypony” Spagni has co-founded a new open source blockchain protocol named Tari.

Tari is being built as a blockchain protocol for managing, transferring, and using digital assets, and is stewarded by a team based in Johannesburg.

The Johannesburg-based team will work on building a blockchain protocol as a second-layer solution on top of Monero, leveraging the existing cryptocurrency’s security while offering a scalable and dynamic platform for digital assets.

IT News Africa spoke to Ricardo who gives insights on venturing into blockchain and Tari.

What brought the idea of venturing into the industry and how was the industry like when you started out?

I got started in early 2011, in a space that was extremely nascent. Bitcoin was really the only blockchain project at the time. I’ve seen a lot of projects start and fail, and a key issue that we identified over the past few years is that many projects do not have any users. They build a cool, amazing thing and hope users will flock to it or people will build using their platform. We believe that, like with any traditional start-up, you must figure out who your customers are and go speak to them, and build a product that they want.

What Tari is all about, and why is it important?

Tari is a decentralised assets protocol for both businesses and consumers. It allows issuers of native digital assets to issue them on a blockchain instead of on their own platform. Examples include loyalty points, tickets, virtual goods and games. The reason it’s important is right now there’s no interconnectedness between digital assets. So if you earn loyalty points on an airline, you can’t spend them on anything except flights and upgrades. If we can get multiple asset issuers to use this common system, which is to their benefit, then their assets will be interconnected and you’ll be able to spend your airline points on movie tickets, for example.

What brought about the idea of implementing a blockchain incubator in Johannesburg?

Part of it was me being selfish because I already have offices and staff up here. To expand that and add an incubator to it made a lot of sense. But I also think that there is a ton of potential among developers and researchers, particularly in Johannesburg, that largely goes untapped. The start-up scene in South Africa is very dominated by Cape Town. There is a massive pool of talent here in Johannesburg that no one’s tapping into. People who end up working for medical aids and the banks. I think that we can leverage that in a very authentic way.

How are blockchains going to change the way we buy, sell and track assets?

There are a number of things that blockchain enables and a number of things it doesn’t. Typically speaking, blockchains are very inefficient. You can build a far more efficient system that is centralised. But it’s largely dis-interesting to an asset issuer, because then you have all sorts of issues with cross-border regulation and so on. A blockchain takes it away from that, because it is decentralised and anyone in any country can issue on it.

What’s really powerful is not only do you have permission-less innovation and people building on top of the blockchain, but you can cut down on things like fraud. Right now, fraudulent tickets are a big problem. We can cut that down because, using a blockchain system, it becomes like a bearer asset and you are the only holder of that ticket. When you sell the ticket, the buyer becomes the holder of that ticket. It’s impossible for two people to hold the same ticket at the same time. Forgery becomes non-existent.

What other projects are you looking into this year?

Our focus this year is on continuing to make Monero the world’s leading pro-privacy currency and building Tari to be the world’s leading decentralised digital assets protocol.

By Neo Sesinye
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