Andrew Tzialli is a partner in the Corporate team and head of the firm’s Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Group.
Andrew’s practice primarily involves working on corporate transactions, including private equity and venture capital investments, mergers and acquisitions, corporate re-structuring, corporate finance and banking. Many of the transactional matters Andrew works on are for clients that are involved in disruptive technologies, including blockchain, cryptocurrencies and eSports.
As part of a series of interviews, Andrew has spoken with a range of businesses and organisations to explore the current blockchain landscape in Ireland and the UK.
In the second instalment, he speaks with Brian Manning, CEO of ExSilico, about his experience of the blockchain environment, and the biggest challenges to blockchain adoption.
AT: Brian, thank you for joining us today. Firstly, can you tell us more about your business, the work you do and the verticals you operate in?
BM: We are ExSilico – founded by myself, Clodagh McCarthy Luddy and Jon Centurino. We help our customers to secure their own high-value digital assets. Some of the verticals we operate in are digital asset custody, password management and secrets management.
AT: Great. So, given there are a growing number of businesses looking to expand into this area, is there anything that makes your business different or unique?
BM: Our focus on the secure backup, recovery and usage of high value digital assets is how we differentiate ourselves. We help our customers to identify choke points in their digital asset management systems and we fix them using our suite of tools. We are in the process of building out this suite into a product offering called Sharehold™.
Moving on, what do you think are the biggest challenges that you are working through, that need to be overcome in order to achieve widespread adoption and understanding of your offering?
BM: Education is our biggest challenge. It is all too common that individuals and organisations don’t appreciate cybersecurity threats until they really understand the dangers or worse – fall victim to them. Education is also a strength of ours and we are building a helpful knowledge base into our Sharehold™ product.
AT: There are lots of platforms/framework options out there but, which ones are you utilising and why?
BM: We are technology-agnostic and when it comes to blockchain we focus on cryptographic key management – which is a feature of all such platforms to date. Consequently, we don’t actually use any blockchain components in our own technology stack but we do interface with whatever blockchain our customers are working with.
AT: Great, that certainly gives you some flexibility. Away now from Exsilico and on a personal level, what was your first experience of cryptocurrencies or blockchain?
BM: I read the Bitcoin whitepaper early on and I was lucky that my previous interests and education in maths, cryptography and engineering allowed me to quickly understand it (on a technical level at least!).
AT: Given the complexities of the sector, that combination of interests and skill sets would certainly put you in a strong position to be a leader in the field!
Given your experiences, do you have a sense of the unique challenges that blockchain businesses face in Ireland (if any)?
BM: I’m not so sure that there are any unique challenges to blockchain business that are not experienced by other Irish businesses and start-ups in particular. I think raising adequate funds, especially for early stage ventures in a nascent industry, is the challenge faced by all.
AT: So on that point, do you have a feel for the appetite from investors/VC’s in Ireland to look at blockchain based businesses?
BM: We have our own sense of it certainly, though we haven’t spoken to everyone yet. As above, I think the inherent risk associated with a nascent industry and early stage ventures is a cause for reasonable apprehension from local, and indeed, foreign investors. Our own focus is on cybersecurity – an area which is seeing plenty of growth and investment, including in Ireland.
AT: All start-ups face challenges in their growth cycle but what do you think are your biggest business challenges in the next 12-18 months?
BM: Ramping up our customer base and helping people to understand that they can reduce stress that they don’t necessarily know they have – the constant worry that they might lose their digital assets.
AT: And finally, going 5 years into the future, how widespread will blockchain be adopted in Ireland?
BM: We don’t predict the future, we’re just building it!
AT: Excellent! Is it too soon to award you with the answer of the year?!
Thanks Brian, I have no doubt you and your team will play a significant role in the sector, in the years to come.