Our new Disruption by Blockchain series aims to highlight companies that are leveraging the incredible potential of blockchain technology to disrupt and revolutionize their industry. Through one on one interviews, we'll speak directly with industry leaders to cut beyond the hype and get directly to the heart of practical use cases and examples of how it will change the world, one industry at a time.
The following is an interview we recently had with Ethan Gilmore, CEO of VARcrypt.
1. What’s the history of VARcrypt? How and where did you begin?
EG: I came up with the idea for VARcrypt in late 2015/early 2016 when I was president of a virtual reality company in New York. I had always been interested in blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies and I had experience working in the film industry. I thought blockchain technology could be used initially to distribute VR content but then I figured it could be used to distribute AR (augmented reality) as well and while we are at it we may as well distribute film, television, music, games, software and virtually printed media. Blockchain technology is so powerful and useful and its really just code so it can do essentially anything within the realm of classical computing. Of course when I said this back then people didn't get it and I spoke to some friends about it that went to Harvard Business School and they organized an event for us at Harvard Business School Club of NY and they invited CNBC reporter Courtney Reagan to moderate and hundreds of people showed up and that was our launch party of sorts.
After that, I was invited to speak at Digital Hollywood in 2016 before the entire ICO market really took off and now after the success of blockchain technologies and ICO's in 2017 people are starting to pay attention.
2. Who are the founders and key team members?
Ethan Gilmore, Founder & CEO
Ethan Gilmore is the the founder and CEO of VARcrypt. Prior to founding VARcrypt Ethan was the President of Virtualize which was a virtual reality focused technology and media company that made premium VR content for companies such as Samsung, SoHo House, Punchdrunk and many others. Ethan has spoken at Harvard Business School Club of New York, Harvard Business School Club of Philadelphia, Digital Hollywood, Silicon Beach, Jefferies, Young President’s Organization, Viacom, and The New School regarding VARcrypt and blockchain applications across various industries.
Prior to Virtualize and VARcrypt, Ethan worked in the media, entertainment, & alternative investment space where he worked with companies such as Lionsgate, Senator Entertainment AG, International Media AG, Viacom (NickToons), IMAX and many others. Ethan was involved in the capital acquisition and distribution for such films as Pan's Labyrinth, The Others, Chocolate, Blackhawk Down, Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof, Bret Easton Ellis' The Informers (starring Winona Ryder,Amber Heard, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke, & Billy Bob Thornton) and many others for the German market and with such films as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Adaptation, Point Break, and How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (starring Jeff Bridges, Simon Pegg, Megan Fox, & Kirsten Dunst) for the US and international markets. Ethan previously worked for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles.
Armando Soto, President & Co-founder
Armando is the President and Co-founder of VARCrypt Ltd. Armando's role in the company is to manage all things boring and business related. His responsibilities include; making sure timelines and goals are being met and keeping the company bootstrapped.
Mr. Soto's past experience includes being the managing Director of Zelphinium, a strategy consulting firm for private investment firms and public companies. Past engagements have involved multiple acquisitions and investments in companies in the manufacturing, technology, retail, media and entertainment industries valued at over $250 million.
Prior to his involvement with Zelphinium he worked as a Vice President at WHC Capital a credit focused hedge fund, and as an associate at Yenni Capital a lower middle market private equity firm. Prior to Mr. Soto's involvement in risk and investment management world, he worked as an associate in sales and trading at boutique investment banks. He started his career at Merrill Lynch. Mr. Soto has experience in direction and strategy of companies in the pre-revenue stage to evaluation transactions with established companies that generate over $400 million in revenues. Mr Soto's expertise is in risk management and strategy.
Mr. Soto is a big proponent of Blockchain technology as it will disrupt the internet and many industries as we know them today.
Duncan Ransom, Senior Advisor
Duncan Ransom is the Founder and CEO of The Endless Collective, a full-service art, innovation and technology-driven production studio currently focusing on immersive content and healthcare tools for both Virtual and Augmented Reality platforms. The Endless Collective’s artistry has been used in campaigns for clients including Samsung, Google, BMW, Ernst & Young, Universal, Warner Bros, Framestore, National Sawdust, MAC Cosmetics, NYU Medical School and MPC to name a few. Prior to establishing The Endless Collective, Duncan served as a CG story artist and animator with Framestore CFC, the legendary animation studio responsible for the imagery of many of the most important, visual stunning films today, such as the Oscar-winning film, Gravity. Hs animation work has been seen in films such as Edge of Tomorrow, 47 Ronin, Clash of the Titans and Gravity, for which he received, with his VFX team, Academy Awards in the VFX and Cinematography categories.
3. What problem are you solving? Who are you solving it for?
EG: The problems we are solving at VARcrypt are the problems of content distribution that have plagued the music, film, and television industries since the inception of those industries and we are solving these problems for artist and content creators. The film, television, music and print industries, and Hollywood in particular, are clandestine and exploitive industries and have been so long before the current scandals of Harvey Weinstein, the internet neutrality debate, the collapse of YouTube and the Facebook Russian fake news scandal. Content creators simply are not paid transparently and are forced to compromise because they lack choices in global content distribution. Add to this problem studio accounting, content piracy and expensive based fiat currency based systems that do not allow cost-effective micropayment or one-stop encrypted global content distribution and it's clear that the current content distribution system is showing its age. The film, television and music content industries are operating under payment models and distribution methods that are in some cases almost a 100 years old and its time for sometime new, something better. Enter VARcrypt and blockchain technology.
4. What is your solution to this problem?
EG: VARcrypt's blockchain technology will globally distribute, combat piracy, de-centrally store content, and pay content owners 90% of sales on the VARcrypt platform. In addition, VARcrypt will transact in VARcoin, our very own cryptocurrency, which will allow for cost-effective micropayments that will allow content consumers to rent, sample, donate or purchase content distributed on VARcrypt. The VARcrypt blockchain when launched will ensure that content is distributed transparently and 90% is paid to the rightful content creator or owner. VARcrypt's structure will allow content chain of title ownership, copyrights, and trademarks to be uploaded via smart contracts to fight against piracy and theft (smart contract capability will likely be compatible and provided via RootStock). VARcrypt will also enable decentralized storage of content (on both people's hard drives and via the cloud) and lightning network compatibility which will allow for on/off chain functionality because many content files distributed on chain will clog up a blockchain network. All of these features will enhance VARcrypt's flexible distribution capabilities and we want to build them as seamlessly into the background so VARcrypt will be as user-friendly and as simple as possible. Despite loving cryptocurrencies and blockchains (which many consider complicated) we also love Occam's Razor and we want to embody William of Ockham in our software design principals. All of this will be enforced by VARcrypt's miners that are already mining VARcrypt as you read this.
5. Why is your industry ripe for disruption?
EG: Content distribution is so flawed and content creators are so used to being exploited that the term “studio accounting” has its own Wikipedia page and Forbes wrote a nice article about the same topic (if you would like more detail please see the VARcrypt whitepaper at www.varcrypt.io). In addition to the cryptic nature of content profit distribution when you take into account the abuses of numerous media personalities that had control or influence over the keys of centralized content distribution clearly its time for a change because those personalities can largely be replaced by blockchain software. Yes, thats right Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein to name a few could all be reduced to a smart contract with a little code and some VR rendering which is a refreshing thought.
Simply put now that we have blockchain technology we can do better and that is what we want to do at VARcrypt. Just to be clear we are not idealists. We intend to make a profit (be it a flat blockchain enforced transparent 10% to us and 90% to the content creator/owner(s)) and be run as a private company. We believe private companies are more effectively run and stand a better chance of providing a better product than non-profit organizations and simply put transparent payments to artists and content owners is good business.
6. What’s the future of your industry?
Prediction #1: Blockchain technology will completely take over content distribution of every kind in the future and cryptocurrencies due to their decentralized nature and cost benefits will become the preferred storage of value for not only content creators but also of governments, industry, science, and education. This being said I don't think a single cryptocurrency will win out just as there isn't one universal fiat currency today but there will be a mix of stronger cryptocurrencies vs more volatile cryptocurrencies just like some people prefer the US Dollar to the Yen or they prefer the British Pound to the Mexican Peso (or vice versa). Watch for Netflix and Amazon to copy us and implement blockchains into their business and don't even get me started how blockchain technology could be used to augment, automate and improve the efficiency and apparatus of government because it's obvious.
Prediction #2: Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies will be the foundation of space exploration and will serve as the decentralized storage medium and medium of exchange as mankind's economy becomes more and more focused on non-terrestrial based activities. Yes, Jeff Bezos, Robert Bigelow, and Elon Musk should use blockchain technology in their space focused ventures and if you need any help please contact me.
Prediction #3: Blockchain cpu and gpu mining will evolve with quantum machines and true AI to function as a classical computing based rendering and storage platform for the data those technologies generate. This information will be stored in decentralized blockchains on earth, in space, and in EMP resistant synthetic DNA. This system will evolve into a quantum internet that will utilize quantum entangled particles that will enable encrypted zero latency wireless communication regardless of distance (even at interstellar distances) with permanent decentralized storage on and off planet that will last long after mankind's extinction.