Clear regulations that legitimize cryptocurrencies and blockchain companies within the major industrialized economies, which would reduce unnecessary uncertainty and catalyze a wave of innovation.
As part of my series about the “5 Ways That We Can Help Stabilize The Cryptocurrency Market” I had the pleasure of interviewing Rob Viglione.
Horizen CEO and Co-Founder Rob Viglione is a former physicist, mercenary mathematician, and military officer with experience in satellite radar, space launch vehicles, and combat support intelligence. Viglione was first deployed to Afghanistan in 2013 as a data scientist for the U.S. Army.
The experience forever changed his understanding of how a decentralized crypto market has the ability to offer financial stability to those in the developing world. Viglione believes cryptocurrency holds extraordinary potential for individuals seeking refuge from the throes of rampant market volatility — so much so that he even taught a Bitcoin 101 class to Afghan citizens who lived around the military base.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?
I started my career in the Air Force as a physicist and mathematician but mainly ended up being a software project manager. During my time working with the military, I was deployed to Afghanistan to assist multiple branches of the US armed forces in their intelligence efforts. When I first encountered blockchain in 2013, I recognized a fascinating new tool with enormous potential to return privacy protections of personal data that the Silicon Valley Big Tech model had stripped away. We’ve all implicitly signed up to the bargain of using “free” tech platforms in exchange for giving up all of our data and privacy, so I decided to do something, and in 2017, founded Horizen with Rolf Versluis.
Can you tell us the story of how you got first involved with the Regtech or Crypto markets?
While deployed in Afghanistan in 2013 as a data scientist for the U.S. Army, I began teaching a “Bitcoin 101” class to Afghan citizens who lived around the military base. From there, I went back to academia for my Ph.D. in Finance and was fortunate enough to have a department that allowed me to focus my research on crypto and construct and teach a course on blockchain.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I couldn’t pick a better candidate for all-around making everything possible as my wife, Rosario. Besides all the mushy love and support stuff, she literally has been the single biggest contributor to everything we’re doing. It’s usually behind the scenes and I take credit for it, but you know…
Can you share 5 things that should be done to help stabilize the Crypto Economy?
- Clear regulations that legitimize cryptocurrencies and blockchain companies within the major industrialized economies, which would reduce unnecessary uncertainty and catalyze a wave of innovation.
- Regulators should treat crypto assets as they do other financial assets from the perspective of user protections. Supporting insurance for exchanges (mainly regulatory clarity that brings insurers into the space), upholding property rights, and cracking down on obvious fraud would make the industry more efficient, lower risk, and therefore more attractive.
- Blockchain companies and crypto projects, themselves, should work within legal frameworks instead of ignoring them as was largely the case in the earliest days of the industry.
- The norms of corporate governance with fiduciary responsibilities and independent oversight should be rolled out across the crypto industry. This is a nice opt-in to governance that Horizen does and would make any public blockchain project more stable and responsible to its stakeholders.
- For all that the crypto world is rebelling against traditional finance and regulatory oversight, there is a ton to learn from hundreds of years of law that exists for a reason. The reasons are not all nefarious and there is plenty of rationale for oversight that lowers the risk of panics and runs, reduces fraud, predatory trading, or other well-known practices that used to plague capital markets.
In your experience, what are the top strategies that crypto firms should be considering in order to have a competitive edge?
Interoperability with fast-growing platform ecosystems, treating the search for product-market fit the same way we’ve learned is successful in traditional VC-backed startupland (there’s nothing magical about crypto that changes how people view products), and staying alive throughout all the volatility while your competitors may not have the discipline or forethought to do so.
What are the 3 things that most excite you about the blockchain industry? Why?
- Sidechain technology, like what Horizen is building, that enables blockchain-of-blockchains architectures that actually scale.
- Zero knowledge cryptography that can keep user data private, but still accessible on-chain.
- The rapid pace of innovation that is only possible by open, permissionless public blockchains that don’t care about borders or traditional barriers to competition.
What are the 3 things worry you about the blockchain industry? Why?
- Untempered enthusiasm that can lead people to make bad decisions, not being sufficiently circumspect on risks.
- Regulatory uncertainty that materializes in adverse ways.
- Immature early projects that end up losing people money, and therefore retarding efforts to bring the mainstream into crypto.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
In a humble way, yes! Horizen’s mission is to grow its decentralized ecosystem in a way that provides opportunities for people no matter where they happen to be in the world, and the sad truth is that there are too many places with too few opportunities. We’re all about creating something that transcends these arbitrary limits on human potential, and so far we’ve had our own humble successes in drawing in nearly a million people to our ecosystem, and measurably improving at least dozens or hundreds of lives by opening opportunities that just didn’t exist before. This is just a start, and we won’t ever stop trying to make the world a better place!
Can you share a story of a time when things went south for you? What kept you going and helped you to overcome those times?
If you look at Horizen’s three-year history, there are many things that have gone south for us. Whether it was a severe bear market shortly after launching, to the network suffering a 51% attack, we’ve had to deal with the types of existential threats to the ecosystem that would have taken down plenty of other organizations. What keeps us going is the passion for what we’re trying to accomplish, a clear vision for how to get there, and ultimately just pulling together such a fantastic group of human beings that don’t know what it means to quit.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Winston Churchill has so many great quotes, but one that has always stuck with me is that “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.” Swap “Americans” for “successful entrepreneurs” and you have our experience at Horizen. We’re super aggressive with trying many things, able to eat humble pie when they don’t work out, but in the end, we’ve accomplished so much through sheer perseverance.
How can our readers follow you online?
Follow me on Twitter — @robviglione
Follow Horizen on Twitter — @horizenglobal
Check out our website — https://www.horizen.io
Thank you so much for this. This was very enlightening!