Surround yourself with the RIGHT people. This is a tricky one, as it’s common to say that you should surround yourself with like-minded people. The risk in that one is that you surround yourself with people that don’t necessarily challenge you. Counteraction is sometimes necessary in order to slow down and make sure you are still doing the right things. Finding the perfect balance in the people you surround yourself with is key. Don’t be scared to cut ties with someone that is poisonous to you and go out there to make new connections whenever you can. Don’t judge people too quickly. I have made several long-lasting meaningful connections with people I would have never expected to make a meaningful connection with.
As a part of our series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Optimize Your Company’s Approach to Data Privacy and Cybersecurity”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthijs De Vries, Founder and CTO of AllianceBlock, the world’s first globally compliant decentralized capital market. An expert in the field of Software and Product Development, Matthijs spent 10 years at PostNL, one of the largest Dutch companies, where he successfully led document management-related software development (customer implementations and product development). In this role he was responsible for several different departments, as well as leading an entire software development chain before switching companies to lead the development of several unique AI products amongst which was a ground-breaking chatbot.
He has an extensive and varied background as a software developer, establishing a full blown workflow management suite and analytical algorithm in the field of veterinary diagnostics, among various other projects, before growing into a managerial role. He knows what is important for a developer to be able to thrive and deliver high end products. Besides hands-on software development experience and management, Matthijs is a seasoned entrepreneur, founding three other companies.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The start of AllianceBlock was definitely the most interesting thing that has ever happened during my career. Since the idea was formed, I’ve reached a level of excitement that I’ve never experienced before. And once we got started, I’ve never worked as hard and with such dedication. Additionally, I can’t feel anything but blessed about doing this with co-founders that are so equally dedicated and absolutely brilliant in their areas of expertise. Before AllianceBlock, I used to be driven by the fact “this idea could be big and could make me a lot of money”. Now I’m solely driven by the fact that we’re working on making real world impact, with amazing people using cutting edge technology. Just the fact that I can drive each morning to an office with people that are part of our awesome team and have that same motivation and dedication, is exactly why I consider us as truly successful.
Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
We are working to bridge the gap between traditional and decentralized finance through the world’s first globally compliant decentralized capital market.
The AllianceBlock Protocol is a decentralized, blockchain-agnostic layer 2 that bridges traditional and decentralized finance and automates the process of converting any digital or crypto asset into a bankable product.
The ‘open’ nature of the ecosystem allows anyone, anywhere, to create assets and applications without the need for approvals from centralized authorities. AlliaceBlock uses a combination of both human and machine intelligence to harness the ‘wisdom’ of groups in decision-making and governance.
How do you think this might change the world?
As soon as large traditional players have access to a wealth of innovation without being hindered by regulations, it enables easier access to financial products to foster financial growth and lower barriers to start your own business. Fewer data leaks will occur, and data cannot be misused for fraudulent purposes because each user is in full control of their own data and can be easily recognized and verified by a service provider without ever having to share any actual personal data. Innovative startups will be able to interact with large traditional finance players more easily because their services are inherently compliant with regulations. Disruptions in the financial industry will come more easily and rapidly, eventually leading to economic growth globally.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
We were incubated by 3 large incubators (Level39 in London; Revolut -now valued at more than 5 billion- was also incubated here, Station F in Paris and Kickstart Innovation in Zurich). During this time, we got the opportunity to talk to traditional finance enterprises and learned about their ambitions and the problems that hinder them from achieving those. We learned that they really see the potential of and opportunities in DeFi and blockchain in general. The only problem is that they have to comply with all these regulations across all jurisdictions. Using decentralized solutions, it’s currently impossible to really use their advantages or even bring a real-world use case to market that is fully compliant. We used their continuous input to develop the foundation of our protocol, and eventually came to a solution that bridges traditional finance and decentralized finance, where we can embrace competitors as potential partners. It’s important to take the time to listen to the authorities in your industry or market, get a deep understanding of what is currently hindering (or driving) them and take that to heart.
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?
One of our early investors became quite attached to the project. When things were getting tough and our runway short, instead of expressing his concerns, he kept believing in us and helped us get through a difficult time that lasted longer than we anticipated. His relentless belief in what we were aiming for kept motivating us to keep going. Because of just this one guy, we kept pushing ourselves, our network, our roadmap, etc. until we got where we wanted to be. Thanks H, AllianceBlock is largely here because of you!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I am a firm believer of sharing knowledge with others. There is no point in achieving success by yourself. I love seeing others succeed and actively coach people around me to help them find out what really matters to them, what success means to them and how to act on their dreams and desires. I occasionally help people that just got started with their entrepreneurial journey or people that are planning to start their own business. My journey certainly hasn’t been easy, but every setback I encountered came with an important lesson that’s worth sharing with whomever needs it.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1 . The worst thing you imagine could happen, usually only happens inside your head
Whenever you are presented with a potentially scary or tough situation, it’s normal to play out several potential outcomes of that situation in your head, usually worst cases. While in reality, these things hardly ever come true. Trying to think about these things in advance will likely set you up for the failure. Focus on your strengths in the here and now. If you fail, you fail. There is no point in envisioning your failure before, envision your success instead and act accordingly.
2. As long as you get started on it each day, you will get it done
No matter how daunting the task seems, the most daunting part in reality is to get started. We at AllianceBlock constantly challenge each other to get things done as they come, and not to wait until the last moment. Very large and complicated tasks merely require progress until they are finished. As long as you make progress, you will get there. A simple trick that might be helpful to get started on a big task is to make a deal with yourself to do it only for 5 minutes straight and be allowed to stop after those 5 minutes. The biggest barrier with getting things done is getting started. Once you’re 5 minutes in, you are likely more willing to proceed instead of stopping. Worst case scenario? You have at least spent 5 minutes on your task, having at least made some progress as opposed to not spending any time on it.
3. Surround yourself with the RIGHT people
This is a tricky one, as it’s common to say that you should surround yourself with like-minded people. The risk in that one is that you surround yourself with people that don’t necessarily challenge you. Counteraction is sometimes necessary in order to slow down and make sure you are still doing the right things. Finding the perfect balance in the people you surround yourself with is key. Don’t be scared to cut ties with someone that is poisonous to you and go out there to make new connections whenever you can. Don’t judge people too quickly. I have made several long-lasting meaningful connections with people I would have never expected to make a meaningful connection with.
4. You don’t have to do it alone
Your business is your baby and it’s hard to put your baby in the hands of somebody else. But in order to be successful, you can’t do everything yourself. You have to learn to delegate as much as running your business. Count on it that others will make mistakes. Even then, it’s absolutely worth it to get as much help as you can, so that you can use your time as efficiently as possible. Create a culture where your team is allowed to make mistakes, give them room to learn from them and give them all the tools and support they need in order to get it done.
5. You will pivot, and that’s ok
If somebody told me at the start that we will do what we do now, I would have probably laughed. There is absolutely no guarantee that you will end up doing what you have envisioned at the start. Good entrepreneurs learn to adapt. Don’t change your course on every new opportunity though, learn to see when your plan is slowly failing, correct your course and proceed to push hard again. This is what helped us gain the traction we needed. And to be fair, we don’t really see it as pivoting or changing our original idea, but as evolving.
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’m a huge proponent of giving children access to technology related education, especially software development, at an as early as possible age. Virtually every career path has or at least in the very near future will have, a large dependence on technology. Tech today is so much more than an isolated career path, it’s driving virtually all innovation and will accelerate all future scientific discoveries at a rate we have never experienced before. Teaching software development to children at a young age doesn’t mean those children will need to be software developers, but they will definitely have an easier time being part of future disruptions that are yet to come.
Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly”
This might seem contrasting at first to the famous quote “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”, but it makes sense in the context of learning new things. I firmly believe that continuously working on personal growth is an important factor of driving your own intrinsic motivation and sense of self-worth throughout life. You can’t simply turn down an opportunity because it’s outside of your comfort zone or your area of expertise. A skill that would be worth mastering, will have to be done bad at first in order to become good at it eventually. If you learn a new language, you’ll have to first speak that language on its most basic level in order to become better at it. This is true for virtually anything that is worth mastering. The same goes for the developers in my team, I motivate them to try new stuff and technologies and to give them plenty of room to do it badly, with all the support to get it right. So, when I encounter something completely new to me, I now approach it with “I have never done it before, so I think I can do it”.
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 🙂
Traditional finance is centralized, inefficient, and shackled by complex regulations and manual compliance that cost more than 10% of financial institutions revenues.
Decentralized finance presents new potential, incredible innovation, and puts the power in the hands of the people. But regulators are moving slowly with digital assets and there are many restrictions in place.
AllianceBlock is building the world’s first globally compliant decentralized capital market and bridging traditional finance with decentralized finance. Regulated entities can now safely, simply, and securely invest in tokenized financial instruments in a compliant manner, cut compliance costs and increase efficiency.
We are creating a harmonious integration with existing legal and regulatory structures. The AllianceBlock Protocol ensures complete regulatory oversight, legal recourse via relevant authorities, and dynamic revision of smart contract logic to constantly comply with an evolving regulatory landscape.
Join us to build the future of investment banking and the next generation of capital market infrastructure.
This was very inspiring and informative. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this interview!