The Universa community has been waiting a long time for this moment: the AMA with the CEO of Universa Blockchain, Alexander Borodich. In this article, you can read all the answers which have been explained in the video, which is published on Facebook. Be prepared, it’s a big wall of text. But it’s worth it! This is part one. Stay up to date with the help of our Dutch community at Telegram and Facebook.
Dutch: Er was veel vraag naar een uitgeschreven versie van de video van Borodich. Bij wijze van experiment doen we dit in het Engels. Mocht je vragen hebben over Universa, kom eens langs bij ons op Telegram of op Facebook.
Please tell us about your first customers. Who are they, and what are the expected deadlines for the projects to go live? What cases are the most demanded ones?
“You have to understand that our customers are the government of Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Russia and commercial companies we would be talking about later. This kind of customers have a very long deal lifecycle – it can be anywhere from six to twelve months. Now we will be talking about projects that are currently in the works, for which some results can be observed. When we announce that we have signed a contract with say, the Ministry of Trade of Malaysia, the important thing for us is that we started working. We understand that completing this project would take months, if not years. But is is not a problem if works are being done, and the project is moving forward and at some points we will see the light at the end of the tunnel. We use three simple indicators to assess our programs: we have the number of customers, which turns into a number of signed contracts, which turns into Universa earnings in one region or another. I guess you will agree with these metrics are quite reasonable to work with.
Four key areas
We have four key areas that Universa is pursuing today. The first one is Smart Government. Here we are working with Russia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Bahrein, Lichtenstein and Tunisia. This Smart Government work result in specific contracts to implement specific public administration services. The second direction is Smart Cities. This is a big segment, as once we implement a standard platform here, like Dashboard, AppStore, municipal services automation via blockchain and let it control all the space, lighting, traffic lights, parking lots, charging stations and public transport via blockchain in a single city. Our target audience will basically include all cities in the world.
“We are running pilot projects in several cities”
Right now we are running pilot projects with several cities, where we try to implement the minimum feature set for now – control lighting infrastructure, connecting various smart sensors for utility services measurement purposes. The third direction is Smart Factories. Imagine the situation: your production machines appear in the cloud, and you can send a job to any machine, like instruct a turning bench to make a certain part. This part will be produced and delivered to you bu a logistic company. You probably don’t know and don’t care where that turning bench is located physically. The possibility of hooking up and using underutilized capacity the at the factories is another big segment in which we are working with a number of industrial enterprises, mainly in Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia for now. Finally, the fourth direction is Smart Money. This is something you have heard a lot about in our press releases. This includes working with the Ministry of Trade of Malaysia to issue social money which cannot be spent in alcohol and cigarettes. This also includes budget digitalization works and funds usage monitoring.
“When a product goes live for one place we can use it in all countries around the world”
Smart Government, Smart Cities, Smart Factories and Smart Money are the four areas in which we basically operate. Within these four segments, we have more than a hundred leads, which ideally should be converted to pilots, and pilots should be converted to contracts. Respectively, our basic operations accounting for Universa company, is based on the prospective sales we can get with more than a hundred of prospective customers that are being converted now to ongoing pilot projects, which should transform into specific sales and contracts at the end of the reporting period. But is important to understand that we are working with large corporations and even with governments, where deal life cycle lasts many months, up to several years in some cases. We are not afraid of this; we do understand that the moment these contracts go into production we can report about them and we can upscale what we’ve done for one state to all 188 countries of the world, or apply what we’ve done in one city to all cities in the future world.
Alexander, can you tell us about the project’s marketing strategy?
“This is probably the hardest question for us, as you curse us all the time for running separate marketing campaigns for our clients, for large corporations, government and banks, and a separate marketing campaign for you, the consumers, who are probably more interested in the token economy than the offline contracts bockchain technology development is based on. Perhaps at some point we will be able to bring these two processes together, so they stay side by side in harmony; for now we have either one or the other lagging. Last year we focused on the token economy; this year we focus more on a set of business cases, pilot projects and implementations of the blockchain technology. This is why most of our work is now related to attending industry and technology exhibitions and working with specific customers at these events.
“we currently aim our marketing at companies to get them on board”
Remember Innoprom, where our team of twelve spent three days talking to more than a hundred prospective users of blockchain technology. This included factories and technology enterprises. If we want to sign contracts with all these companies, we have to contact them all, to talk to them and to bring them towards pilot projects. This is what most of our marketing activities are aimed at. And a separate part of our marketing effort is the so-called future marketing, something that can five us some future copy-protected competitive advantage. That involves working with governments and smart cities. There aren’t too many technologies in the world that can digitize the government as a customer, digitize the city and build a platform that controls all the digital services in the city. Respectively, our marketing efforts are aimed at bringing as many governments as possible to use the service, to try this technology to build even more smart cities.”
Can you list three main challenges, technical or operational, that you had to overcome over the past three months?
Well, the first important thing to mention is probably the fact that we don’t always fall into the schedules we announced and don’t keep our timing straight. Sometimes we expect a certain taks will be accomplished within a month, and then it turns out it needs three times the effort and three times the time, so we drop two, three or even four weeks behind the product development schedule. Is this a challenge? Of course it is. Can we try to do better about it? Well, we will try. But is important to understand that developing software the likes which one has written before is a challenge in itself, and hard to estimate. Of course we do get what we expected internally, give or take, but we don’t always fall withing the plans we declared. This is probably the first challenge.
The second challenge is team growth. The thing is, if we want to develop our project, we need people that are intimately familiar with the blockchain technology. Do you know a lot of people like that? I don’t. You see, there aren’t too many people anywhere in the world who understand the blockchain technology well and are capable of implementing, using, applying, marketing and developing it. And this is a challenge, too. So how do you address it? The solution is obvious – hou have to teach people on what blockchain is, what smart contracts are and how these smart contracts can be used to automate their enterprises. In fact at some point we will have to launch our digital University – which you may have seen in our plans – and deliver training on blockchain technology, certify engineers and teach these engineers to write smart contracts in Universa. This is the second challenge.
And finally, the third challenge is regulatory environment. If some of its aspects, blockchain, as any new phenomenon, goes strongly against the existing regulations in many countries which were developed some 70-80 years ago. Here is a very simple example. Let’s take some of our competitors, say, Ethereum. You can record your personal data in the Ethereum blockchain, this way you violate personal data regulations. Now try deleting your personal data from Ethereum. You will be surprised to learn that information on the blockchain cannot be deleted. But you have to delete it, as the law says someone, somewhere in the world, has to delete it at your request. But this is impossible/ What should you do in this case? I don’t know.
You have in the past stated that you want to reach the 5th place in the crypto market. Can you tell us how Universa stands out from it competitors specializing in the use of smart contracts? Do you still think that the goal is achievable today with all the other competitors on the market?
Reaching the 5th place in capitalization, according to coinmarketcap, as far as I understand your question. Yes, I think that goal is feasible, and here is why. Just take a look at Ripple’s explosive capitalization growth. Ripple is a very primitive payment unit. Its only consumers are banks that use Ripple for interbank payments. Nevertheless, this was enough to report Ripple into the top 5. Now for the position ourselves as a pipe, which can be used for Ripple, as well as any digital assets. Look at hypertokens for example, hyperBitcoin, hyperEthereum etc. If you are a big fan of crypto economy, digital gold and other stable digital currencies, we are planning to launch into production shortly, you will be able to use these. Universa is a bus, a pipe that can take any digital assets. All sorts of digital contracts, all sorts of municipal and national government automation will flow through a single pipe – this is something bigger and much more substantial than, say, Ripple. Do i believe we can reach the same capitalization as Ripple did? Of course I do. Moreover, I am confident we can exceed them.
This is the second part of the AMA with Alexander Borodich, the CEO of Universa Blockchain. If you missed the first part, check it our here!
As UTN is B2B focused, do you urge to buy the coins on the free market or are you selling coins from Universa company?
You see, tokens can only be bought in the free market. That’s a rule. Moreover, all our business partners are forced to purchase transactions at the current market value of the token as of the transaction time.
Has Universa had any negotiations with the Central Bank of Russia? What are, in your subjective view, the prospects of blockchain implementation in Russia? And what is your impression from talking to various private companies (at exhibitions, forums) – are they really interested and do they understand the importance of blockchain implementation?
Let’s divide this question into two. The first one is the interaction with the Central Banks. As you know from our reports, we are constantly interaction not just with the Central Bank of Russia, but also with other Central Banks, which are understandably interested in issuing their own digital currencies. Not cryptocurrencies, but centrally limited national currencies using blockchain technology to automate payments and monitor all transactions. This is definitely the future for all of us. Fiat money is guaranteed to become a thing of the past. I cannot reveal the detail at this stage; let’s just say central banks are highly interested, and these digital currencies will be launched soon in many countries. If we are lucky, some of these countries will be using Universa technology.
The second part of the question is related to exhibitions. As I mentioned earlier, the only reason why we attend exhibitions is to close sales. We use them to talk to prospective consumers. We don’t go there with the intention to set up a stand and have visitors walk by and say “huh, there’s this technology called Universa”. If we go to an exhibition, this means there will be talks between Universa and a prospective Universa consumer. What does it mean? This means that the consumer understands their business objectives and the savings they get by implementing blockchain. Saving more or earning more. You see, that’s the only thing a business needs. Cutting costs and increasing revenue. By implementing blockchain, or any automation whatsoever, you will cut in costs in most cases. Companies that see opportunities to improve their economic performance, they come and talk to us. With many of those we get to introduce design specifications, and from design specifications we proceed to implementing a pilot project. After the pilot project is completed, we assess the new economy. If economic advantages are obvious, we get to implementation. That’s what we attend exhibitions and events for, in general.
Do you think evolution of blockchain will speed up process of removing physical form of money from the world?
Absolutely. Digital money will replace fiat money, that’s inevitable. And that’s a matter of the not-so-distant future.
How soon will we see projects using UTN? What will these projects be?
First of all, they are already there. And quite soon, next week to be precise, you will see press releases describing these projects and how they use UTN. Right now we have five or six companies actively writing smart contracts and using Universa MainNet as the main blockchain in their projects.
Are there any projects in the Netherands, US or Iran?
Out of this list, we are only talking to ING Bank in the Netherlands. Nothing in the USA and Iran, as far as I can tell. We are talking to some companies in the US, but this has not yet resulted in any pilot projects or contracts.
Is Universa also focusing on western countries?
Yes, we do work worldwide. Universa has no country restrictions.
Do you think Bakkt, ETFs and regulations will be the turning point for the crypto world?
I don’t think so. I think we are living in an economy of digital money and in the economy of digital transformation, and Universa has unique chance of becoming a new Internet, if you can say so, a new protocol carrying all digital assets. Look at this: Ripple is for Ripple, Bitcoin is for Bitcoin. Our job is to make Universa accommodate any digital assets, to enable digital Euro, digital Amero, digital Guldin to flow through our infrastructure as easily as, say, payment between countries, contractors and other companies – using Universa smart contracts, this moving to self-executing document flow.
Can you share your node deployment plans? How many are you expecting to be launched, and how can we start working on these?
As you know, we cannot have more than 5000 nodes. But we only expect to have 100 to 150 this year and next year. Right now we have about 600 applications for running nodes. Eventually, once all smart contracts supporting democracy within the Universa blockchain are completed, we will release them. We are a bit behind schedule here, we were planning to release them early in the summer, but at some point I hope we will release these smart contracts.
Does Universa have the capacity and readiness to survive severe ”bear market’, if needed?
Certainly. I already said we are a company fulfilling commercial orders to implement blockchain technology – and using transactions on MainNet to make a living and pay for its labor costs. So we can stay in the market as long as needed.
Can Universa become the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution?
Universa can become one of the underlying protocols of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This can be one of the main protocols enabling smart things, driver-less cars, flying taxis and smart cities to communicatie to one another. All this endless variety of devices requires not just media to communicate over, but media where all these entities can sign smart contracts, and these smart contracts are what makes Universa superior to all other similar systems.
What are your future expectations regarding speed increase?
Even though we are one of the fastest public blockchains in the world to date, we are still planning to double or triple the speed over the next few years. That is, to 35k, then perhaps to 50k transactions per second. We will look at network load to see if we need to increase it further. If the network requires a sharp increase in performance, we will probably review our approach to the network architecture and see what we can improve further. For now I don’t see this as a top priority. We’ve got one hell of a performance already.
Should we be afraid of a quantum-based financial system?
No. I believe the fist quantum computer that will appear, if its programmers are smart enough, will first learn to compute the elliptical function, which will enable them to calculate the bitcoin to the end. Then the creator of this computer will get 5 million bitcoins. If you are thinking about creating a quantum computer, please start with calculating the elliptical equation of the Bitcoin function. You might be insanely rich. Unless you collapse the Bitcoin entirely.
Could you tell us in more detail why you decided to tokenize Bitcoin and Ethereum on our blockchain platform?
Well, I think the answer is obvious. When you make a transaction in Bitcoin, it can take quite a while to get the confirmations. Sometimes, at peak loads, it can be minutes – or even hours. To exchange Bitcoin to Ethereum quickly, if needed, you can use Universa hypertokens. What does it mean? This means an exchange between any digital assets in crypto world, what you call Atomic Swap, and what we call Instant Swap, between any tokenized assets. This means that the Universa platform can be used to tokenize any digital or non-digital assets. To make the picture simpeler, we chose the most popular cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin and Ethereum) for the pilot run. Now you can exchange Bitcoin to Ethereum and back instantly. And by sending Bitcoin hypertokens to a friend, he will get confirmations and receive the hypertokens instantly, in seconds – not minutes, let alone hours. And what’s more important the cost of this transaction will equal 1 cent. Even if you send 100 million dollars’worth in hyperBitcoin to a friend, he will get 100 million dollars and still pay 1 cent for the transaction. Being cheaper and faster are the two key advantages of Universa blockchain.
Do you think blockchain effect will be be comparable to the Internet revolution? How long will it take for blockchain to become a ubiquitious technology?
I think blockchain is indeed a new generation of technology. It can be compared to the Internet revolution. Effectively, we see the entire existing financial and legal world entering the digital era. We are getting digital money, digital contracts and this is a radical departure from our traditional relations. We move from natural exchange to a world in which a refrigerator talks directly to a grocery to have cucumbers delivered to your table. And they sign some smart contract concerning of cucumbers to your tabel. This is an absolutely new era, a brand new method of mutual settlement. Being the underlying infrastructure for this new digital economy is a big challenge and a big tast we would like to address effectively. I do hope we will address it efficiently and quickly. I reckon this wile take three to five years.
What is the most important thing you have learned working in the Universa project?
The biggest lesson, as usual, is about people – about human resources. You see, a company is not about processes, it’s about the talent you can bring into the company to have it developed as fast and as efficiently as possible. If you want to develop quickly, you have to hire the best talents.