Developer Showcase Series: Aram Barnett, Vergo

Our Developer Showcase blog series serves to highlight the work and motivations of developers, users and researchers collaborating on Hyperledger’s incubated projects. Next up is Aram Barnett, Blockchain Engineer and Managing Partner at Vergo.

What advice would you offer other technologists or developers interested in getting started working on blockchain? 

First, identify why you need blockchain. With all the hype surrounding the technology, it’s easy to think you can capitalize on the hype by sprinkling some blockchain into your app. Without a well-defined plan on how and why you are going to apply it, you are simply wasting your time and money.

Second, I want anyone interested in the technology to commit to learning about the details surrounding the progress blockchain has made rather than just the media hype that surrounds it. According to Gartner Hype Cycle, blockchain is at the peak of the technology hype cycle, and soon blockchain will be transitioning into the “trough of disillusion” where people outside of the development community will think that all of the promises of blockchain are not possible. However, unlike many new technologies on the hype cycle, blockchain will quickly escape the trough of disillusionment and grow exponentially when businesses realize the value of private ledgers. It’s is not easy but with enough dedication and a thorough understanding of the fundamentals, a developer can contribute to the blockchain community and create world changing applications. Third, get familiar Go and Javascript.

Hyperledger Composer, the tool that we use to rapidly build and test business networks, uses Javascript to enable the creation of business actions. Once you dive in the technology, be mindful of the difference between permissioned versus non-permissioned ledgers (a.k.a. public versus private blockchains, respectively) and what they offer. We will soon be releasing our own teaching resources for developers get up to speed on Hyperledger and the best practices on developing blockchain based business networks.

Aram Barnett, Blockchain Engineer and Managing Partner, Vergo

Give a bit of background on what you’re working on, and let us know what was it that made you want to get into blockchain?

I first heard about blockchain when I purchased my first bitcoin in 2011. I was so infatuated with bitcoin I dedicated 3 years of my life to running an alternative asset management fund that exclusively traded cryptocurrencies, learning everything I could about bitcoin and blockchain. I always knew that the real value of bitcoin came from the blockchain and in 2015 I began focusing all of my efforts on developing smart contracts on ethereum and coming up with business use cases.

I am currently working on Vergo, a company I co-founded to create blockchain-based business networks for open source and enterprise use.We’re working to make existing corporations more efficient by cutting excess expense associated with business transactions. To further support this community, we are open-sourcing some of our business logic to help other developers learn about this unique technology. We believe that this technology will allow developers to create turnkey businesses in which open-source business logic is easily deployable. This will increase access to entrepreneurship around the globe and empower people to start their own businesses.

More importantly, we believe we have the ethical responsibility to help transition the world to this new era in a responsible manner in which participants understand the consequences of enhanced business network efficiency and automation. We strive to ride the new wave of technological innovation by giving equal attention to corporate efficiency and social well-being.

If you look at  the Gartner Hype Cycle, mentioned earlier, blockchain is at the peak of public hype about its potential. This new wave of technology is scary to some and at peak hype it can seem like anything is possible. I made the choice to ride the blockchain wave. Since I first got involved with bitcoin and subsequently blockchain in 2011, I knew that it would be a promising technology that needs to be developed and implemented globally. We are currently at peak hype, so public interest will decline in the next few years. However, the underlying technology will still be revolutionary and over time the corporate sector will realize how truly valuable it is to their networks.

As Hyperledger’s incubated projects start maturing and hit 1.0s and beyond, what are the most interesting technologies, apps, or use cases coming out as a result from your perspective?

The most interesting project to come out of is Hyperledger Fabric. We are excited about the progress of Fabric 1.0 and what it has to offer to large and medium enterprises. I met with the lead developers at the Hyperledger hackfest in Washington DC to learn more about Fabric and help contribute to the project. Vergo is very interested in this because we see the long-term impact that Fabric will have on how companies deploy blockchain solutions. We are very excited to be building applications and business logic on top of the Fabric ledger that these talented developers have built. We are currently discussing the possibility of cooperation between Vergo and some IBMers to display our business applications running on the IBM z mainframe. Another exciting application called Hyperledger Composer, the application we use to model, build, and test our business networks very quickly using their  business development language. After speaking with  Simon Stone, one of the maintainers of Hyperledger Composer, we are very excited for the future of Composer as a development tool and the services they plan to integrate into it.

What’s the one issue or problem you hope blockchain can solve?

Blockchain has the ability to solve a lot of problems. The ability to capture the nature of “businesses” and their “workers” and digitizing those relationships could lead to efficiency increases across almost every industry.

I think what I am most interested in, in regards to public-facing blockchain solutions, is the possibility of interoperability between chains and the assignment of an identity to every person. For instance, imagine from the very day you are born you were assigned a bank account, a verified identity and trackable health records all stored on a government ledger. From here, your financials, health records, and identity would be immutable and secure and would follow you over the course of your life. The interoperability between your identity and your financial records, for example, would verify you exist while not disclosing your personal data every time you make a transaction. By solving the problem of identity, many other possible solutions arise.

Where do you hope to see Hyperledger and/or blockchain in 5 years?

Let me answer your question with another question: Where do I not see it?

Blockchain-based business networks are inevitable. I think there will be varied solutions for individual businesses and sectors that provide accessible solutions to problems associated with the analysis of big data and efficiency of transactions. Blockchain will be easier to collect and analyze data, which will enhance our understanding of business practices and markets.

Additionally, I hope that turnkey businesses will emerge across the world using open source logic developed out of the Hyperledger framework. The ability to replicate businesses with extreme ease will increase access to opportunities for economically disadvantaged peoples. I hope that the pool of open source logic is such that it allows anyone with enough emotional intelligence and work-ethic to provide a valuable product to a customer even without understanding underlying business logic.