This interview is part of our new Blockchain In Communications Series, where we interview the world's leading thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between blockchain and communications.
In this interview we speak with Dorian Johannink and Ben Jordan, Co-founders of Sylo, to understand how their company is using blockchain to transform the communications space and what the future of the industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind Sylo? Why and how did you begin?
DJ: When I graduated University I started up a digital consultancy that focused on helping small businesses market themselves through social media, and as a result of this I got quite a unique insight into exactly how these platforms were operating, and the extent of just how much personal and communications information social networking platforms we’re capturing and exploiting. This only intensified in the following years, despite public awareness growing, and quickly realised that this was a much larger issue than many people realised, that would have implications resonating through an entire generation. This was also going to be very hard, if not impossible to address at a regulatory level, due to the speed software development was starting to move.
So, Sylo was founded 5 years ago on the core belief that people should have the choice to communicate online with a similar level of privacy and confidentiality as to what they can achieve offline in person. That is, directly without a middleman logging all your interactions, and with an expected level of privacy and confidentiality that we simply take for granted in the physical world.
After some significant digging and engagement with advisors, we realised the only true way to do this was through the use of decentralized technologies. Eliminating the middleman at an infrastructure level, otherwise there would always be incentive and capability to capture user communications data. With this, we embarked on a mission to enable direct, highly secure messaging, calling and value exchange without using the cloud (zero centralized infrastructure), without compromise.
2. Please describe your use case and how Sylo uses blockchain:
BJ: Sylo uses the blockchain to incentivise reliable storage and messaging. The Sylo Protocol is a messaging layer that is fueled by the combined power of those using the network at any one point in time – the community collectively ensures that everyone receives the messages sent to them. Users (and applications) can choose to pay to have this data persisted, and these payments are facilitated on-chain.
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
DJ: A key benefit provided, particularly to our early users was some of the highest levels of confidentiality possible online. We saw significant adoption of our first version solution by professionals covering a number of industries from mental health, to legal, financial advisory, medical and more. Many of these users were independent and small practices that didn’t have the budget to set up their own secure communication solutions and needed a plug and play solution that would be easy for their clients to adopt, as well as give piece of mind that there were not third party records of their conversations, which in many regions would breach their confidentiality or service provision obligations and industry regulations. This solution is now used across two dozen countries.
Over the past 18 months we have focused on building out our blockchain enabled version, and introduced value exchange via digital asset wallet integration, which we launched in Beta this quarter. We firmly believe the consumer market is now ready to start picking up the privacy and data sovereignty benefits of decentralised technologies, and leading in with a user experience that stacks up next to mainstream communication platforms, in the coming years it’s going to become a no-brainer for users to move to solutions that respect the fact that it’s a human behind the screen. Why would you choose to be a product if you have a viable choice…
4. What other blockchain use cases are you excited about?
DJ: Relating to competitors in the decentralized communication space, there really aren’t many yet that have managed to reach market with a product that gives a ‘usable’ experience. One I do have to give a shout out to though is Status, they are probably the most advanced that we’ve seen in market so far. They are developed on Ethereum, and have achieved some pretty cool things. We decided to go with CENNZnet which is a blockchain developed by our close partners Centrality. CENNZnet is a chain developed to be more friendly to consumer application use cases. I guess time will tell who made the right bet, game on!
In saying that, Status have delivered a pretty cool solution, and the way we see it, we’re not competing with them. In fact we’d love to work with them in some capacity, as our mission isn’t to compete in the decentralized playground, it’s to introduce the benefits of decentralization to mainstream users by providing an experience and value that people can viably consider migrating too from their popular centralised messaging platforms. Something that let’s users do what they want to do online, without being logged and flogged for it.
5. Where will Sylo be in five years?
DJ: In terms of targets, we’d love to see dApp usage across every major region in the world, large and small, as well as strong adoption of Sylo Protocol (the engine that drives the Sylo dApp) by developers to speed up development times and add secure, decentralised messaging, calling and data storage to their applications, whatever the use case. We’re also looking to significantly build up the services and solutions offered within the Sylo marketplace. A large part of this will be working with Centrality who are on a mission to bring the benefits of blockchain and decentralized tech to the world in a major way.