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 Chris Horlacher, CEO and Co-founder of Equibit Group.
1. What’s the history of Equibit Group? How and where did you begin?
CH: I first learned about Bitcoin in the spring of 2010. The world was still reeling from the financial crisis and I had decided to leave my job as an auditor with a big four firm and became the CFO of a US securities brokerage establishing itself in Canada.
Bitcoin served to highlight for me the many visible but unreconciled vulnerabilities that existed within the financial system. It soon became obvious to me how a peer-to-peer system like Bitcoin could be modified to serve as a suitable public securities register, greatly improving the efficiency of the industry, while significantly reducing the risks to the investing public.
Equibit Group was formed in September 2015 when I brought together a team of early cryptocurrency adopters, developers, and engineers. Together we examined the opportunities that a blockchain-based securities registrar would provide, and began developing the concept for a decentralized capital markets platform.
2. Who are the founders and key team members?
Chris Horlacher, Co-Founder, President and CEO
Chris began his career as an auditor at a Big 4 firm and before the age of 30 was the CFO of a startup stock brokerage that now manages over $4 billion in assets. He went on to found his own management consulting firm and has been instrumental in numerous successful multi-million dollar startups and strategic initiatives for Canada’s largest companies, SMEs, and non-profits. He also serves as Vice-Chairman of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada, a research and educational charity focused on the field of Austrian Economics. Possessing Chartered Accountant and Chartered Professional Accountant designations, Chris is certified by the Canadian Securities Institute as a partner, director, and chief financial officer.
Nathan Wosnack, Co-Founder, Chief Blockchain Officer
Nathan is an entrepreneur, futurist, and pioneer in crypto-currencies since 2009. He has been quoted by Reuters, CoinTelegraph, PanAm Post, The Wall Street Journal and many other news outlets.
Nathan is on the North American Advisory Board for Cryptor Trust Inc, Futurist Advisory Board – Lifeboat Foundation. He is Founder, President/CEO of Ubitquity LLC.
Brent Kievit-Kylar, Co-Founder, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer
Brent is a software engineer at Google. He received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from Indiana University. His research in the Computational Cognition Lab spans everything from child development to game design. He combines an understanding of human cognition with computation to build things like easier to remember passwords or tools to decide on baby names. Throughout his Ph.D. he has developed many large-scale web projects including a number of open source tools based loosely on language processing.
Christian Saucier, Co-Founder, Quality Assurance Officer
Christian is an energetic business leader, software engineer, and early bitcoin adopter. He has over 20 years of experience designing and implementing impactful IT solutions for start-ups and Fortune 100 companies. Christian has global experience, leading projects in North-America, Asia-Pacific, EMEA, and Latam. Christian has implemented multiple systems that leverage blockchain technology as a proof of existence ledger. He has lectured at Bitcoin conferences on the topics of decentralised solutions and also given TV, radio, and podcast interviews on the innovative and transformative potential of peer-to-peer technology.
Stephen Barnard, Chief Marketing Officer
Stephen Barnard has held senior positions across a wide range of leading Canadian technology, financial services and marketing companies, including roles with The Canadian Press, TMX Group, BCE Emergis and Cantel (now Rogers). Prior to TMX Group he held the positions of Managing Director for FastChannel Canada and PR Direct with The Canadian Press, and again with TMX Group as Director, Newswire Initiatives. He holds an MBA and a BA in economics from Newfoundland's Memorial University.
3. What problem are you solving? Who are you solving it for?
CH: Today there are approximately 130 transfer agents in North America managing the records of over 100 million shareholders and thousands of issuers. In this market, a short-list of third-party intermediaries benefits financially from certifying share ownership and clearing transactions (charges are assessed by a clearinghouse for completing transactions using its own facilities). Their function helps make the wheels of equity capital turn, but their processes are wholly outdated.
Equibit Group’s solution replaces depository and transfer agent services with open source, peer-to-peer networking software, creating unforgeable securities and indisputable titles. The Equibit network eliminates intermediaries and inefficiencies currently shrouding many facets of capital markets. We have created a transparent and global equity and debt market that appeals to companies who are looking for lower-cost capital-raising alternatives.
4. What is your solution to this problem?
CH: Equibit Group is applying blockchain technology to establish the world's first peer-to-peer equity and debt marketplace. In much the same way Bitcoin applied digital technology to currency and payments, Equibit eliminates the need for expensive infrastructure and third-party facilitation from depositories or transfer agents. Registration, transfer, settlement and investor relations will all be managed securely and digitally within a decentralized environment.
Equibit coins let you register the data of a typical security, containing everything an issuer needs to communicate with a market unrestricted by geography. Trades happen instantly and buyers take asset ownership immediately and in their own name. Our decentralized network lessens third-party involvement while giving issuers the control they need over the circulation of their securities in order to maintain compliance with AML/KYC requirements.
5. Why is your industry ripe for disruption?
CH: The stock market has been in need of innovative disruption for many years and blockchain technology is the answer; it’s time to move away from a centralized system. This infographic breaks down the market opportunity in great detail.
Modern technology is already used to speed up equity markets, but it will also be used to change how equity markets work. This is an important distinction.
6. What’s the future of your industry?
Prediction #1: Open and publicly accessible, blockchains will revolutionize capital markets – Equibit Group is to the clearing and settlement industry what Amazon is to local book shops – or Netflix to video stores.
Prediction #2: Players within the capital market space that do not embrace this blockchain technology will wither. Exchanges, brokerages and other financial institutions will need to deploy Equibit based applications or lose competitive position to those that do.
Prediction #3: The application of blockchain technology to capital markets will further democratize access to capital and fuel major global economic growth. Countries or jurisdictions that attempt to fight these phenomena will suffer economically.