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Cryptograph Co-Founder Hugo McDonaugh: “Learn to walk before you can run”

I think that the Cryptograph platform and the auction and trading system we have developed could become the future system on which all licenses, rights and other unpriceable/unique assets that exist today are sold and traded through. It could for example have huge implications for creators today who could use the system to self publish […]

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I think that the Cryptograph platform and the auction and trading system we have developed could become the future system on which all licenses, rights and other unpriceable/unique assets that exist today are sold and traded through. It could for example have huge implications for creators today who could use the system to self publish their work and earn more from it over the long term by by-passing many of the rent seeking distribution oligopolies that exist today.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Hugo McDonaugh. After graduating from Warwick University back in 2013, he went on to work in wealth management at the C. Hoare & Co. private bank in London. After a year of working there he decided to pursue a masters at ICBS, which is where he met fellow Cryptograph co-founders, Edouard and Guillaume. Hugo is a big believer in the idea of sustainable philanthropy and he is the Director for an Education technology and consultancy business that works between the UK and China.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I studied Ancient History and classical Archaeology at Warwick University before then going into private banking and wealth management immediately after graduating. After a year in banking which I felt fairly disillusioned by, in 2015 I then went on to do a masters at Imperial College Business School in Innovation Entrepreneurship and Management which is where I met Co-founder Edouard Bessire. The two of us then decided to start a tech business in the real estate sector together but we needed a third co-founder who could provide all the tech expertise so we got one of Edouard’s old computer engineer friends from the National Polytechnic Institute of Toulouse called Guillaume Gonnaud to become our third co-founder and the three of us went on to found a couple of businesses in the real estate technology sector and have been working together ever since. After 3 years of trying to start various ventures in real estate technology here in the UK we started seeing very interesting developments beginning to occur in the Blockchain space particularly within the NFT/Digital collectibles market. I myself having been very familiar with blockchain predominantly Ethereum from its very early days l was very interested in what we could do in this space. So the three of us met up together with my older brother George McDonaugh (CEO of KR1 — a publicly listed blockchain technology investment company) to discuss potential ideas of what to do and create in the space. During this meeting between the four of us, at the Quo Vadis bar in Soho London, is where Cryptograph started, and the rest is history. I also have a background in the impact investment space as well having been a part of a couple of impact investment startups and impact investment deals in the past, which is why the concept of perpetual altruism and creating Cryptograph as a new way for people to engage in and do philanthropy was very appealing to me and my other co-founders.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Since founding Cryptograph tons of really interesting things have happened but for sure one of the most interesting things for me was meeting Vitalik Buterin at Devcon 5 in Japan and having him not only create a Cryptograph live in front of me. Also getting the chance to tell him about what we are doing and have a chat with him about it all. He is the creator of Ethereum after all.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people? -Our new auction system called the GBM auction system.

Built on top of the Ethereum using smart contracts and the Ether crypto currency. It’s a revolutionary new price discovery system that incentivizes people to bid i.e. you make money if you are outbid. This has applications for any market that needs price discovery for its assets and it will unlock more value & liquidity and discover the truer value of an asset.

-Our Renatus function a new built in safeguard that prevents our token from being burnt, i.e. you can’t ‘destroy’ a Cryptograph or stop it from carrying out its purpose of perpetually raising funds for its creator and charity.

-Our ERC-2665 Extension to the existing ERC-721 token standard. Which ensures that revenue is always created for our charity and creator partners even if you want to take your Cryptograph outside of our ecosystem and sell it on a different marketplace. This can be used by anyone else looking to create their own collectibles that they want to ensure will always perpetually generate revenue for its related parties.

How do you think this might change the world?

I think that the Cryptograph platform and the auction and trading system we have developed could become the future system on which all licenses, rights and other unpriceable/unique assets that exist today are sold and traded through. It could for example have huge implications for creators today who could use the system to self publish their work and earn more from it over the long term by by-passing many of the rent seeking distribution oligopolies that exist today.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I mean there is always a flip side to any new technological development. But in the case of blockchain technology; on the one hand it can be used to empower the individual, create greater self sovereignty, give you back more control of your data, decentralized governance and power, create greater transparency etc, which I think is all really great. However,, if used as a way to assert more control and garner more power, then having an immutable record on say all of your citizens or for example having a blockchain based crypto currency that is fully centralized does the exact opposite to what is described above. So yeah, it really depends on how you implement the technology.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

I guess we had two tipping points. The first was during our meeting together at Quo Vadis (as described above) where the initial idea of taking peoples autographs and putting them on the Ethereum Blockchain is what sparked the whole Cryptograph journey and gave us the seed of the idea to enact the bigger vision that we have implemented today. The second was when Edouard, Guillaume and I were sitting in the basement of my house thinking about the cool new ways we could sell our Cryptographs using smart contracts and programmable money and it was then that we came up with the idea for our groundbreaking GBM auction and trading system.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We need better and more seamless ways to onboard people into crypto. The complexity for someone to first understand crypto and digital scarcity is already a pretty big barrier, but even if they educate themselves or choose not to and just jump in, then actually getting hold of some crypto currency such as Ether using your Fiat currency is a really cumbersome process with a lot of friction in it, let alone transferring your crypto back into Fiat. Today we are used to just having to type in our card details, or use Paypal and until crypto becomes that intuitive for users we won’t get real widespread adoption. Wallet addresses, KYC, exchanges, Private keys etc these are not user friendly enough yet in my opinion. We also need blockchains to become more scalable and to be able to process transactions on the scale Visa does for less cost whilst also maintaining their decentralized and fully secure nature. This is a difficult process but many blockchains are already taking a crack at it, but until it’s all faster, cheaper and better (more decentralized and more secure) than what we have today I don’t think we will get widespread adoption.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We have great partners out on the West Coast helping with all of our PR and marketing needs at the moment. But perhaps the best thing so far has been that most our creators who already have their very own established audiences and networks have been utilizing their networks to help promote their Cryptographs, which in turn helps us to spread the word and reach a more mainstream audience, which is a big part of what we want to do here at Cryptograph. We want to bridge this new world of blockchain based digital collectibility with the mainstream world of fans and collectors.

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 don’t really have a specific story per SE but 100% I’m extremely thankful for my co-founders Edouard, Guillaume and my older brother George, as without each one of them, Cryptograph would not be a reality. I’m also very grateful for our more recent two partners who have joined us from the West Coast in LA, Tommy Alastra and John Bryan who have also been instrumental in helping us make Cryptograph a reality.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Well that is pretty much the entire idea behind our company Perpetual Altruism and our Cryptograph platform. The whole point is to use this cutting edge technology and new market opportunity to of course create a commercially viable business and deliver value to all of our stakeholders, but more importantly do that in tandem with delivering massive philanthropic impact and providing an entirely new way for people to engage in philanthropy and to give charities and nonprofits an entirely new way to more sustainably and passively raise funds over the long term so they can carry out their philanthropic missions more effectively.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.) -Don’t be afraid of failure

Starting something is all about taking risks and if you are too afraid of potential failure you will never create anything or you will spend so much time and resource trying to create something perfect that you will never actually be able to launch something. Knowing this and having a support structure in place of backers who believe in you and your vision and who understand the risks of potential failure is key to creating something new and of value.

-Learn to walk before you can run Jumping in straight at the deep end increases risk dramatically and there is a lot one can learn by swimming in the shallows for a while before going into the deep.

-Be prepared to handle long periods of uncertainty and shoulder lots of responsibility Nothing in the world of startups is certain it’s all a world of unknowns. So knowing in advance that you need to be comfortable with large amounts of uncertainty for prolonged periods of time and that you need to be highly adaptable and that you will have to shoulder lots of responsibility, is crucial in my opinion when it comes to founding a business.

-Learn to learn fast So many times since starting Cryptograph I have had to learn a new skill or get good at something new or understand new information and industries etc in a short period of time. As a startup founder in the early days of your business in just a single day you may have to be a manager, a marketeer, a salesperson, a customer service rep, a lawyer, a designer etc all at the same time. So learning how to learn fast and training yourself to become a sort of jack of all trades is key.

-Don’t be afraid to knock on doors Starting something is difficult but getting to people and then getting those people to listen or engage with what you are doing is even more difficult. Do not be afraid to reach out to people and knock on doors and be a bit pushy when starting out, as it’s the only way to really get the ball rolling!

Knowing all of the above and really understanding the above and believing in these pointers would have helped me dramatically before I started my entrepreneurial journey.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would not say that I am a person of great influence, but I think the idea of combining the motive for profit with delivering social good is extremely powerful and they need not be mutually exclusive. You can make money and do good at the same time (Cryptograph is proof of this) and the more that we all try to do this and think like this the better it will be for us all. We should not just pursue profit for the sake of making a profit but rather we should pursue a profit with a purpose, which is to do some good.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? ‘Without Risk There Is No Reward’

I’m not sure who it was who coined this phrase but it’s definitely been one of the most important lessons in my life. Without taking the risks I have done I would not have achieved anything…

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

All of the world’s unique assets will eventually be sold and traded either via our Cryptograph platform or through our associated auction and trading system. While doing this we will also be delivering huge social impact, giving people new ways to engage in philanthropy and also give creators a new way to monetize their talents and realize more value from the work over the long term. Would you like to be a part of this?…..

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My Twitter is: @hnmcdonaugh

Cryptograph’s Twitter is: @cryptograph Cryptograph’s Instagram is: cryptographco Cryptograph’s Medium is: https://medium.com/cryptograph Cryptograph’s Discord is: discord.gg/ZwNX5yY Website: www.cryptograph.co

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