Today we have the huge privilege of featuring Junya Yamamoto, the CEO of Infinity Blockchain Labs.
In 2015, Yamamoto co-founded Infinity Blockchain Labs with the mission of transforming businesses with practical blockchain R&D solutions. Under his leadership, Infinity Blockchain Labs is now the employer of 200 talented professionals globally and has played an instrumental role in helping Vietnam establish a name of being an emerging blockchain hub.
In this exclusive interview, Yamamoto-san shares with us his thoughts about Vietnam, the relationship between AI and blockchain, and the potentials of STOs. He also provides an update about an exciting new project in Ginza– the launch of Binary Star, a niche blockchain incubator in the heart of Japan. Enjoy the interview!
Wan Wei: Hello Yamamoto-san, thank you for your time today. Can you tell us more about yourself and what you’re currently doing?
Junya Yamamoto: Hello readers, I’m Yamamoto, the CEO of the Infinity Blockchain Labs.
We established the company in 2015 in Vietnam. Currently, we have 250 Blockchain experts in Vietnam and we are expanding our business development team and those marketing team in the region including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan and Japan.
Thus, we are going to focus on the actual business development with the industrial key players on how to utilize the blockchain technology in their industries.
Wan Wei: Thank you for the introduction! Can you tell us a bit more about the plans Infinity Blockchain Labs has for 2019?
Junya Yamamoto: This year we are going to focus on the business development. That is why we have the infrastructure to make an idea into a real product, which is our core value.
It is extremely difficult to find blockchain experts and in particular technical guys in this field, which is why we have an Infinity scalable infrastructure in Vietnam. Our main purpose is to find business specialists who are proficient in each industry and cooperating together with them to bring about the actual business and services utilizing blockchain technology pragmatically.
We are focusing on the business development and in particular, practical product development in each industry.
Wan Wei: Why Vietnam and not other Southeast Asian countries?
Junya Yamamoto: Going back to 2015 when we established the company, no one knows what is blockchain technology at that time. And only very few and limited people talk about such technology.
At that time, there existed one form of such technology, the most famous blockchain core infrastructure named Ethereum, very famous for application area with the concept of smart contract. Although they are very famous now, it wasn’t the case in 2015 – they have not publicly published their platform yet.
Hence, no one talked about how to use this blockchain technology in industries; the only famous project at that time was Bitcoin.
At that time, if I were to choose a country, for example, as a Japanese and I chose Japan, the situation or the level of blockchain technology in industries in Japan would have been the same. Therefore, we needed to focus on the characteristic of the industry itself. Vietnam is very strong in IT engineering compared to Japan, and statistically, the number of engineering annual graduations is three to four times more than Japan.
So, the infrastructure of Vietnam is quite strong for IT engineering. At the same time, the industry was led by outsourcing type of business model, so the government wanted to update and upgrade the industry of business models, not by drawing ideas from other countries. Instead, they want to be the engine to bring in new business cases like new start-ups from Vietnam to the world.
Blockchain technology will be their infrastructure to bring about new businesses so our goal matches. That is why we took Vietnam into consideration based on their uniqueness. And so, we chose Vietnam to start our businesses.
Wan Wei: We are curious how companies like Infinity Blockchain Labs and Coinbase overcome the language and communication barriers in Vietnam. How do you do it?
Junya Yamamoto: Actually, I’m not a native english speaker. Therefore, even if we work everything in Japanese, we would still have miscommunication.
This miscommunication stems not from the language barrier but rather a comprehension gap at the business strategic level. We also make it a point to communicate everything in terms of writing or drawing some charts to explain the concept of what we are doing and what is the target very clearly.
This is not so much about language barriers and more about the matter of communication. We carefully share the background, the strategy and target before starting some tasks. We make it a point to do so in an international environment because not everyone is a native English speaker.
Wan Wei: What are some of the benefits when AI and blockchain technologies are used together?
Junya Yamamoto: Simply speaking, the uniqueness of blockchain technology is how the data itself will not need to be audited anymore. At the same time, it’s a peer-to-peer platform so anyone can transact this data from anywhere, move this data from person to person without any central control. And also, these data will not need to be audited or checked by some central parties or sub-parties.
So, with that concept, if AI were hacked, a lot of dangerous things will happen. For example, automated car being hacked means it’s very easy for the hacker to assassinate all of the people by hacking their automated car which carries VIPs, for instance.
First of all, blockchain will protect those hackings or attacks by an outsider player, so that the person in charge can have peace of mind while operating AI or any automation.
And secondly, just like a discussion of singularity, if AI can evolve and plan things themselves, if it is with a good design or with the learning cycle of the AI and machine learning itself, it will bring up a lot of benefits for humans.
But sometimes there are some malicious intentions that came to join that AI machine learning cycle, because only few people can control those. For example, let’s say the automated evolving processes involve malicious intentions, then the people with evil intentions are going to control those automated ecosystems. Blockchain technology can help guard against that.
The AI itself will be able to prove themselves that we are the trusted data and trusted machine. So, the blockchain server will be there to prove that we will have to trust the data itself.
Wan Wei: Just curious–how many years do you think it will take for the mainstream adoption of blockchain technology to occur globally?
Junya Yamamoto: I think it will take one and a half to two years.
This is because all the preparation with super strong players is going towards that direction. For example, country regulators are preparing their legal framework for actual running of the businesses, utilizing blockchain and also cryptocurrency. Financial monsters like exchange services are providing their business development offices in each local countries including very, very small countries in Africa to help their branches.
For what purpose? Business development. And I will explain later.
And also, all the research and development laboratories, including us, focus on how to adopt the blockchain in actual industries. So blockchains have – for example, if we talk about blockchain infrastructure itself, this is the same as the talking about Internet Communication Protocol before year 2000; at that time, that discussion was a hot topic.
You know, this is a new infrastructure to communicate all over the world without any disruption because data package is dropped, like now you have network like that. The blockchain is the same layer.
Then from now on, for example, ICO bubble was what happened in the past. A lot of investors pay attention to the concept and the vision of how blockchain will change the world. But from now on, because of the regulation, because of the main intention of the strongest financial players and also laboratories, so, we are going to focus on business development; meaning how to adopt the blockchain in their businesses.
Then it means the way of investment will be completely different than the ICO bubble times from their own. A lot of people will pay attention to like income gain types of investment, meaning they want to know how businesses will bring about profit, and not how they are going to prove their business concept but show the profit from their actual businesses.
The regulators will gain access to the actual businesses to run their businesses and financial monsters will invest in those companies. That is why they are going to local branches to access their financial market and the business development community in each local countries to identify their new business opportunities. This is to utilise blockchain technology and also to access their market with their financial licenses to sell with their security means or share of each blockchain project which will bring about the income gains.
And then for example, us, the market itself will pay attention, so only few people will talk about proof of concept. But from now on, they are going to talk about how to resolve, how to innovate or how to generate the new businesses to make their company value much higher.
So, they don’t need the concept. They need the actual product. They need the actual business achievement.
Wan Wei: Does this necessarily mean that ICO is dead?
Junya Yamamoto: The form of ICO will be changed. The so called STO, Security Token Offering, security and coin are different. The so called utility token is just for access to the services but this is not like if we talk about the coupon ticket or something, it’s very useful. However, if every single company service providers issue their coin point to access their services and the user need to adopt hundreds or thousands of coins to access their services, it’s a very bad user experience.
So, it’s not a core value of blockchain but with security, everything will be transparent. And also, you know, no one can modify the data of their business achievements or the share allocation or dividend actions. This will be more like a core technical uniqueness or characteristic that will bring about benefits for investors. But this may be even more of a core discussion from the blockchain technology.
So, obviously, everyone will go in that direction. There will be more business development actions this year and projects will focus more on how their business will reach milestones in business activities in the various industries.
Wan Wei: What do you think about the state of regulation when it comes to STOs?
Junya Yamamoto: Actually, with some regulation, we can provide the STO now in a complain-free way, but a little bit gray because it is not 100% regulated by or in writing.
But from now on, very strong financial field will actually show how to provide this STO structure in a compliant way in their jurisdiction. So in that way, let’s say, everyone can learn what is the compliant way easily, they don’t need to research and design by themselves. They just follow that way.
So, I think change will not happen rapidly but gradually in terms of the corporate to governance difficulty.
Wan Wei: Are universities actually preparing students for this blockchain trend, for example by coming up with specific courses with the intention of grooming students into blockchain developers in future?
Junya Yamamoto: Yeah. However, universities seem to be doing this for the knowledge or interest of the university students. Of course, learning programming language is also important because the cultures are a bit different. For example, web developer and PHP programmer is different. Web developer for me is wider knowledge is needed to complete website developing but PHP developer they can write down PHP code in a very beautiful way.
So, providing education for blockchain developers depends on the intention. If curriculum focuses on services, developers need to understand the database, backend system, front-end system. If they provide something mobile, they need to of course understand the mobile phone and blockchain languages. This is the kind of blockchain, the so called blockchain developer. But for the solidity program, it’s a little bit different. They cannot build any practical services only on solidity. So they need to run a lot of things.
Therefore in Technical Universities, they provide the blockchain programmer with various blockchain development course so students can understand the difference between transaction characteristic in each design of each blockchains. They can also learn how to adopt the blockchain to their application, how to connect backend to front-end systems.
Wan Wei: Thank you so much for your sharing so far, Yamamoto-san! On a parting note, do you have anything else to add?
Junya Yamamoto: Infinity Blockchain Holdings launched its incubation centre in Japan named Binary Star on 1st of February. This is one of the biggest incubation centre focusing exclusively on blockchain technology, and is located in Ginza, the heart of Tokyo.
We are establishing the company and the IT consulting team which focuses and specialises only in blockchain. And this team will be their specialist, the team to support each industrial player to adopt the blockchain including whether they should adopt the blockchain or not. So, from the business development side to you know, the A to Z of the blockchain technology.
Those two things will be our new scope of the businesses, and we are going to find a lot of business partners to talk about how blockchain technology can contribute to their services, their businesses industries without some specific intention because we are a general blockchain player. It’s very unique in this industry– A lot of players rely on some specific blockchain because of the financial intention.
On the contrary, we are very generalised and are looking to cooperate with industry partners to discuss in a fair way and identify some of the best business cases utilising blockchain technology.
Wan Wei: Thank you so much for your time today, Yamamoto-san!
Junya Yamamoto: My pleasure, thank you!
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