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 Jason Dispenza, CEO of EnLedger.
1. What’s the history of EnLedger? How and where did you begin?
JD: Our Company began in 2016, about five months after a chance meeting of the two co-founders in Iceland while they were both on holiday. I was there with my family hunting for Aurora Borealis, and Ryan was there after an Ethereum blockchain conference in Europe. My background in energy policy and distributed energy projects over-lapped with Ryan's desire to make blockchain applications burn less energy while still servicing digital assets (and projects) which benefit the good side of our society. We reached revenue in our first year, because Ryan and I started the company with a good plan and our networks had an immediate need for our prototypes and consulting services. We have run a “lean” start-up since our inception, not outgrowing our own revenue, and we are now up to 9 employees and 5 advisers. Parts of our technology have been in stealth mode, while others are now actively for sale. We even have some open source tools available on our website for the budding Solidity and Ethereum developers out there. Our flagship product Energychain with it's native token, EECoin, are launching this Q1 2018, and we are likely finishing the funding of our ‘seed round' later this quarter, too. This will all come just in time for some big announcements about a Federal DOE award for our co-founders and soon after we hear back from an international energy information accelerator which has up to 70M subscribers across 40 countries for our testnet development.
2. Who are the founders and key team members?
JD: Our team members have been carefully handpicked by the co-founders based on qualifications and successful collaborations. Some, we have met at industry conferences for fintech/energy/blockchain events over the last few years where we have spoken on panels, moderated sessions, or even give some keynote speeches for big data and distributed energy. Today, our team is diverse and their strengths span across various sectors of computer science, cryptography, energy grid policy, energy asset construction, international project development, and the internet/telecom industries. This has created a very sharp and diverse team while keeping a light-footprint (in terms of financial burn) while we work on early-stage prototypes and complete our seed funding capital raise.
Jason Dispenza, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of EnLedger, is an accomplished business professional and manager, with a track record of entrepreneurial success, coming from a background in the renewable energy industry. Jason founded at a renewable power and home performance contracting business that now employs dozens of contractors, auditors, salesmen, managers, and interns in the Washington, D.C. area. Jason knows what it takes to get a business off the ground, how to make critical connections with affiliates, and how to manage people to drive projects to completion, and he holds himself and his colleagues to a superior standard. Jason is a visionary in the field of industry integration with blockchain systems, and he holds a BA in Economics and a BS in biological chemistry, both from the University of Virginia.
Ryan Molecke, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of EnLedger, is highly multi-disciplinary academic computational science researcher, who transitioned into the world of finance technology and trading systems. He’s worked at several notable and successful finance-tech startups, helped architect trading systems and brokerage/exchanges, and is now focused on permissioned ledgers and blockchain systems integrations, tokenizations, and credits programs. He holds a B.S.E. in Computer Engineering and a Ph.D. in Nanoscience and Microsystems Engineering, both from the UNM.
Christina Garcia, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of EnLedger, is a solution and result oriented professional with 15 years of local and international experience in the technical, government, and service sectors. Christina has strong management, analytical, problem-solving, interpersonal skills. She is fluent in English, Spanish, French, and Italian. An experienced and published UNESCO researcher and project manager, Christina has focused on how society leverages new technologies to solve challenges faced by urbanization, poverty, and climate change. Christina provides an in-house expert point-of-contact for our technology clients and investors, managing technical teams and projects according to client input and engineering feedback. Christina holds a BSc. from U. Rhode Island, an MBA from Paris ESLSCA Business School, and a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.
David Samuel Smith – Enledger Chief Operating Officer, COO and products lead. Industry Trainer and Certifier – Developing Industry Best Practice – Developed fundamental principles and practices for installation and maintenance of Solar, Wind, and Hydro energy systems, including planning, installation, and maintenance of necessary components for various renewable energy systems. Designed and implemented training programs as a subject matter expert for the Utah Solar Energy Association (UtSEA) and the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). David helps with team management and project operations, keeping the tech teams and the management in sync with our clients and shaping product designs for success. David has the experience to analyze grid-level systems and diagnose component-level up to systemic issues or opportunities for optimizations. David helps EnLedger scout, secure, manage build-outs and management structure setups for renewables projects on an international scale.
J.T. Stanley – Enledger Manager of Governmental Affairs and Commercial Relations, is a native Californian most aptly defined by his intrinsic motivation, commitment to logic and reason, compulsion towards adversity and going out of his comfort zone, adroit persuasive and interpersonal skills, and passion bordering on eccentricity. He has worked in business analysis, contracts, customer service, and enterprise software at a major medical device manufacturer renowned for its technical innovation. J.T. attended the University of Maryland – College Park, where he went through a special program to create a major and have it accredited by the state of Maryland. His degree is Advocacy and Venture Management, with a focus on law and the environment. In university, J.T. led a start-up venture focused on reducing disposable food container waste, which won multiple awards at competitions. He continues his personal pursuits at the intersection of environmentalism and entrepreneurism. J.T. is currently exploring implementation of solar photovoltaic projects in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Leandro Pena-Salvatico – Enledger International Business Developer, Solar & Storage Technology and Partnerships Strategist. Leandro is a specialist in clean energy generation, energy storage, carbon footprint calculation & reduction, international renewable energy finance and regulations with special experience in Latin America. Leandro sees enormous potential for blockchain technology in the renewables and efficiency industry, and as a game-changer for international energy finance, and he's ready to connect blockchain investors and business affiliates with opportunities to leverage the potential of blockchain tech in this expanding field as solar is poised to become the cheapest and dominant form of energy production, and storage capacity and cost reductions are finally making decentralized wind/solar/battery a real competitor to fossil fuels. Leandro is helping with EnergyChain / EECoin strategy and sales, and is also an investor point of contact.
George Oluwaboro – Enledger International Business Partnerships Consultant, Foreign Markets Analyst. George has a background in business consulting and advisory practise, financial systems compliance, security assessment and risk mitigation, with a focus on energy, housing, fundraising, and IT / Blockchain / Distributed Ledger Technology. George sees the potential of blockchain deeds and title (smart-property) systems to bring new access to credit and raise land values in underdeveloped nations. George was instrumental in the establishment of African Chamber of Commerce, Inc based in Washington D.C., and brings to the EnLedger team deep experience in energy, housing, and medical services opportunities and applications in both the US and West Africa. George is helping with EnergyChain and LandChain marketing, token-sales, and is also an investor point of contact for EnLedger.
James Barry, Senior Business Advisor for EnLedger, is a highly-skilled software guru who has been a core contributor on some of the most widely-used software ever written, has served as senior management at IBM, and is a former VP of ADP technologies. Recently, James led 12 person IBM ecosystem team promoting to startups, VC’s, universities & accelerators in Silicon Valley focused on blockchain and cognitive computing as the lead development tools for new generation applications by building concepts, POC’s & demos. James has overseen over $100M of investment in technology and software development companies during his career, and is a highly experienced executive, project leader, and startup advisor. James help lead strategic business development and affiliate contacts and relations, but is not involved with the token-sales management or the ICO team at EnLedger. James holds a BA in Economics from University of Colorado at Boulder, and an MBA from University of Colorado Denver.
Bernhard Raberger, Managing Partner and Director of Blue Minds Solutions GmbH since March 2015. The company advises its clients on chances and risks triggered by the transformation of the energy sector, in consultancy, analysis/research and interim-management. Second focus is supporting, challenging and mentoring startups in this area from early-stage to roll-out. In addition to his role as partner at the Blue Minds Group, Bernhard develops renewable energy investments in emerging markets and advises established corporate energy players and financial institutions/investors on renewables in emerging markets.
Bernhard was executive member of the Board of Turkey’s largest privately-owned utility, Enerjisa Group for seven years, 2007-2011 as Verbund-nominee, 2011 to 2014 as CFO, nominated by E.ON SE after an asset-swap with Verbund. During Bernhard's tenure, Enerjisa grew to become “Turkey’s most admired energy company”, today serving nine million customers, operating and optimizing a broad power generation portfolio. Previous to Enerjisa, Bernhard was at Verbund, most recently as Head of Corporate Development. There, he supported the EURELECTRIC Presidency of ex-Verbund-CEO Hans Haider and the establishment of commodity trading. Earlier in his career, Bernhard led projects for banks and re-insurance institutions, based at the Institute for Economy and the Environment at Swiss-based business school University of St. Gallen.
Eveline Steinberger-Kern, Founder and Director of The Blue Minds Company (TBMC), an innovative consulting and research company, which concerns itself with questions and answers to the transformation of energy systems. In Tel Aviv she operates the Foresight, a subsidiary of TBMC, that develops software for digital-energy-related services. Dr. Kern was at Verbund AG in Vienna for nine years starting in '99, serving several roles including head of Strategic Marketing and portfolio management, and director of ‘Verbund-Sales GmbH’.
Dr. Kern led the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund, from 2008, until founding her first business ‘green minds’ in 2010, where she participated in startups surrounding the decentralised energy supply system (including The Mobility House AG, a mobility services provider for electromobility). From 2012 to 2014, as Sector Cluster Lead Energy at Siemens AG Austria, she was in charge of the energy business in 19 countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Since July 2014 Eveline is back operating in her independent business (decentralised energy provision). The Blue Minds Company GmbH is a relaunch of the green minds e.U. company.
3. What problem are you solving? Who are you solving it for?
JD: Broadly, the world has many ways of controlling behavior through laws, fines, mandates, and other negative tools. Too frequently, we ask ourselves “where is the money for projects that benefit society? Who will develop tools to get people paid when they do something positive, versus fining them when they do something negative?” At EnLedger, we provide a method to encourage and pay for such positive behaviors, documenting them in real time and connecting them to payment smart contracts once their deeds are validated. This process and our technology applies horizontally to a few industries. In the energy space – this relates the utilities and the energy markets set up between them to handle credit and derivatives. Also, there are many energy projects that cannot get financing due to tough regulations or steep investor return requirements and sometimes simply greed. Besides making the energy grid itself more efficient using blockchain, we can automate workflow for utility programs, and connect user's data (or user's assets) to energy markets in more fundamental ways. Once better connected, energy itself (and the trends of your energy usage) can all be traded and/or arbitraged in secondary markets. It can also be made ripe for big data algorithms to compute credits within a utility or local region. Beyond these core-technology enhancements for Utilities, we are excited about our own go-to-market strategy at EnLedger, which is a smart contract on Energychain (our custom blockchain), that allows users to convert their crypto-currency into real energy projects – thus, becoming a crowd owner, per se, of that asset. In our model, however, tokens are recycled and built on Proof of Stake. Tokens returned to us for projects can be “air-dropped” back out to the crowd. Also, we are not crowd-selling fake assets or those dreaming to be built… in our model, we are building the asset first and only progressing with subsequent EECoin raises once the first projects have exited. This adds value and trust to our token structure, and prevents us from over-committing an EECoin pre-sale to un-attainable goals. Besides providing core tech services to global utilities, on our crowd-funding platform, we are only selling energy assets that are completed and which have been put into a proper legal entity structure that is ready for blockchain tracking of its shares.
4. What is your solution to this problem?
JD: From the beginning, we knew that we needed to avoid Proof of Work (POW) blockchains due to the extreme energy burn of those networks in addition to the slow block speeds and high fees. We envision a world of billions of updates per minute — and that is a pretty small number spread just across a small corner of the global energy grid that might be comparing one home's performance to another's in a given weather event. The sum total of data needed to do that one thing accurately cannot scale inside a POW chain, let alone a system that does dozens or hundreds of those things. So, EnLedger began working with Proof of Stake (PoS) and Proof of State-Time (PoST) consensus models that both better resemble the database architectures familiar to the utilities and governments around the world. Many of these entities are seeking to modernize the electrical grid and desire the benefits of trust, control, and decentralization that can be afforded by blockchain. However, they generally cannot or do not want to give up the power and control entrusted to them by governments to protect their user's privacy and issue licenses to worker or professionals who either install or inspect projects, for instance, within their areas. Using a “delegated” node permissioning strategy, we can invite node hosts into the network ad hoc to help local regions in this transition towards decentralization of their data, while still preserving some control of the early network – in essence, incubating the blockchain for them as it begins to scale. In this regard, we help regions launch, incubate, and eventually transition a blockchain pilot to full decentralization. At EnLedger, we provide core development of genesis blockchain oracles and we do smart contracts between these data-sets. Energychain is our custom DPoS / DPoST framework that is organizing the first of these data oracles and smart contracts for re-use by others. In the long term, these tools will be easily processed via apps and using native tokens on Energychain, or others to recall smart contract or execute other network functions.
5. Why is your industry ripe for disruption?
JD: In the US, the consulting networks of quality assurance which simply measure the effectiveness of last year's energy efficiency programs exceeded $254M in a single year (Federal DOE, 2016). Explained further, this is roughly 400 regions paying 3rd party consulting companies to audit their paper records from the prior year in order measure the “effectiveness” of their residential energy program(s). That number for commercial measurement and verification (EM&V) is more complicated to measure, but the gist is that these are all “look back” audits. With blockchain, these audits are real-time. Savings, credits, performance can and should be leveraged when those savings were actually earned (or consumed). Besides moving to a time and locational model for energy savings and rebates, vast improvements of bureaucratic inefficiencies are to be had with blockchain. The utility company themselves are ripe for improvement. In Healthcare, over 300 people “touch” an average insurance claim (fact from the HCA CEO at 2016 Distributed Healthcare Conf in Nashville). In the energy sector, depending on your state and rebate, up to 30 people may be involved in getting those light bulbs installed and rebated in your home. More complex projects can see that number increase to 100 / people per rebated project pretty easily. With blokchain, collaboration in a singe data-set reduces errors and speeds up the process if it involved many people and it eliminates duplicate administration steps from one company in the value chain to the next. Workers can focus on more important things like delivering good healthcare or focusing on new clients or finding new projects, not wasting away with data entry and re-entry. Finally, the capital markets are inefficient and relatively greedy. There is no money for a hospital in Haiti because they pay the loan back too slowly for an institutional investor who demands 10 years or less payback an everything they do. However, the crowd has a soul and conscience, and we see a need for crowd-funding to amplify corporate budgets and/or fill needs for projects weigh heavily in social impact even if the financial payback is a bit slower.
6. What’s the future of your industry?
Prediction #1: Blockchain becomes widespread for credit markets (carbon / SREC) markets first internationally in 2018. Virtual Power Plants start operating in Europe in 2019.
Prediction #2: Energy meters which record to blockchain are an important first step before bid-data algorithms can be built and/or any local utility can enable more exotic functions.
Prediction #3: Nodes running our EnergyChain may themselves be attached to micro-girds – meaning Energychain may still run during a global power or internet black-out.
Prediction #4: Crowd-funding blurs lines between institutional investor and the crowd – no grandma's can invest directly into projects and enterprise hosts don't need special software to track or pay them.