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Entrepreneurship in Heavy-Duty Technology: Digital Asset CEO Yuval Rooz (Part 5)

Posted on Sunday, Sep 27th 2020

Sramana Mitra: At this point, did you have outside financing? What is happening on the financing side?

Yuval Rooz: We only raised funding from some of the early investors and friends and family. 

Sramana Mitra: How much money was in the company?

Yuval Rooz: I think in the early days we brought in $2 million to $3 million.

Sramana Mitra: So you have a first client and a first use case? It’s a paid situation. We are in 2015. What happens next?

Yuval Rooz: We realized that to build something this big and this complicated is going to be too challenging. It’s one thing to build an application at that scale, which I would call traditional technology, but we also need to verify the data that is going across different parties and making sure that it doesn’t have privacy issues.

We realized that if a developer has too much independence and control, they will not be productive. For us to build this kind of system, we would require about 200 engineers, and at that time, we had about 20 engineers.

We realized that the only way to achieve scale is to create a language that would abstract a lot of that complexity away from the developer so they can become very productive.

We randomly ran into a team of 11 engineers in Zurich. They were working on a language. They were very early stage. We met with them and after a couple of meetings, we agreed that it would make sense for us to join forces. That was the genesis of our office in Zurich. 

Sramana Mitra: Who is your CTO?

Yuval Rooz: Shaul Kfir.

Sramana Mitra: What is his background?

Yuval Rooz: His background is cryptography. He studied cryptography in Israel and then worked at Intel. 

Sramana Mitra: Has he been with you right from the beginning?

Yuval Rooz: Yes. 

Sramana Mitra: I’m a computer scientist from MIT, so everything that you are describing is deeply technical. The magnitude of the technological depth in what you are describing is not lost on me. 

Yuval Rooz: I am the dumb person in the company. Everyone that works with us in Zurich has a PhD in formal methods. The unique language we built is very deterministic. The idea is that if you want to describe multiple process applications in a way that doesn’t violate privacy, then you need to know that the outcomes are known in advance and there is no way for developers to make mistakes.

We designed the language from the ground up to achieve that. The unfortunate part about that is that it is hard to find people who can do that. The fortunate part is that if you are successful in doing that, then it’s not going to be easy to replicate it. 

Sramana Mitra: Let’s go back to the story. You found this team in Switzerland that is capable of writing a language that can abstract out the complexity. What happens next? 

Yuval Rooz: We joined forces with them and integrated into our spec and kept on developing the language. We were adding more clients – mainly financial services.

Today we are in different industries, but in the early days it was just financial services. It was mainly exchanges because we wanted to repeat some of the use cases where we knew that the technology is applicable.

What clicked to me in 2018 is that the language we created solved quite significant problems in the world. The CTO of Amazon said five years ago that the future is that you’d only build the right business logic as a developer. You won’t worry about how the logic gets executed during run time.

Now that you have told me that you are an MIT scientist, I’m going to start being more technical. Once we realized that we created this language, we haven’t run into a use case that we can’t describe using the language. Very quickly and very clearly, we asked ourselves why we were running it on our technology.

We also asked ourselves why we couldn’t take this language and tell a developer that as long as they build business logic in this language, we would give them options where they could run it. That’s how the platform play started coming into fruition because up until that point, our language was not open source. It was a proprietary language that only ran in our technology.

We realized that there were VM’s coming to the space with their Blockchain. AWS had their Blockchain. Microsoft was playing in Blockchain. I was asking myself if I wanted to be the draw box that came into the space that was brand new and then all the big cloud providers came and ate my lunch. No, I didn’t want that but there was an opportunity for us to work with their technology.

That’s how the idea of a platform play and the drivers came to life. We open-sourced the language and we started working with some of these technology vendors to create drivers to their technology. 

This segment is part 5 in the series : Entrepreneurship in Heavy-Duty Technology: Digital Asset CEO Yuval Rooz
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