Interview with David Kuchar and Jon Gillon, CoFounders of Coral Protocol
I was genuinely shocked when Coral Protocol took the stage at the DNA Fund ICO Pitch Day. It was one of those, “I can’t believe that A) this is possible, and B) if this is possible, that no one has done it yet.” This has the potential to be ubiquitous across blockchain technology, while removing some of the friction encountered on the path to mass adoption. Coral Protocol doesn’t hope to replace existing paradigms, it hopes to increase safety and usability on the blockchain for consumers.
A little background
Coral wants to partner up with exchanges and wallets to help protect crypto users. They have the ability to implement their protocol into anything with a transactional nature. Blockchain companies that don’t have a “transactional nature” are companies like Steemit. With Steemit, for example, your transactions are “up-votes” for an article. If you’re paying someone and put in a blockchain address, anytime that happens, is where coral protocol can be implemented.
I can see a future where Coral Protocol is integrated into every blockchain based platform. Where it’s similar to SSL certification or a badge of trust from the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
I met the Coral team at the first ICO Pitch I attended, I covered it in my last article, “The Anatomy of an ICO Pitch Day”. Here’s an excerpt on what I learned about them during their pitch:
Coral is an interoperable blockchain protocol that offers payers of cryptocurrencies a decentralized safeguard against fraud. Coral creates a trust score for every cryptocurrency address, enabling senders to know whether the recipient address is trustworthy while preserving user anonymity and autonomy.
After their presentation I hunted them down, excitedly blabbering about how I wanted to learn more about the project.
“Right now, about $4 million worth of ETH and BTC are phished every single day, which is essentially a massive bank heist. Every single day. More phishing occurs in blockchain than in any financial instrument, ever. 10% of all funds from ICO’s are lost due to phishing.”
Reza: Can you tell me about your backgrounds?
David: I’ve been a programmer for quite a long time. I’ve been writing code since I was 12, I’m 36 now. It’s been a little while. I started my first company when I dropped out of my PhD program in 2005. I started a small company, travelled the world for quite a while, lived in Thailand for about a year or so in 2007. Then came to Silicon Valley where I started my first payments company. It was in AngelPad, funded by Google Ventures. Then we exited from that after about 3–4 years. I went to work for a wine company, which was pretty frickin fun, if you ever want wine suggestions let me know.
I was a CTO consultant at a firm called SVSG for about 4 years. We were like a McKinsey or Bain but for CTO management consulting.
Then, worked on a second ACH payments FinTech company. Which was venture backed, lead by SoftTech. Exited that after a year, and have been working in blockchain exclusively ever since!
Jon: Dave and I actually met when he was a CTO consultant and I was running Roost. Roost was a peer-to-peer storage and parking company that was acquired last year.
I’ve been in the sales and business development world my whole life. But I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I’ve failed 8 companies now and sold 2. Roost was acquired, and I also exited from DropertyTax, which was a property tax appeal arbitraging company. That was in 2012, in 2014 I started Roost. We expanded to seven cities and got acquired by a company called Spacer. After that I got into blockchain investing. I was fascinated by blockchain. Dave and I, who had become close friends from the time he consulted me with Roost, linked up along with the rest of our team — who are all friends, and started Coral.
Reza: You touched on this in your last answer, but when was the first time you heard about cryptocurrency?
David: I’ve been involved more or less since 2008 when I first started hearing about it at FinTech conferences. I didn’t get really into it, other than downloading a wallet at a conference. I think it was “Future of Money” in San Francisco.
Other than that I wasn’t heavily involved, I was like a bystander. I got involved in 2015–2016 when I started researching more.
Jon: I really got fascinated in cryptocurrencies when I started mining Litecoin in 2013. I had a Litecoin mining rig in my apartment for a couple years.
Reza: When did you start working on Coral Protocol?
David: we started working on the core tech in November. We weren’t talking about it until we got more of the pieces together. We were just in the lab. Now we’re somewhere where we can actually work with people and provide value to exchanges and wallets.
Reza: Before we get into the many facets of what Coral Protocol does, would you mind talking about the problem you’re addressing?
Jon: Right now, about $4 million worth of ETH and BTC are phished every single day, which is essentially a massive bank heist. Every single day. More phishing occurs in blockchain than in any financial instrument, ever. 10% of all funds from ICO’s are lost due to phishing. Which is actually causing some people to forego a public sale. Because it’s unconscionable how much money is lost. 50% of all fraud on the blockchain is phishing.
David: 0.6% of all transactions on the blockchain are phished. Which is interesting because that’s typically what people charge to protect ACH payments. If you look at ACH payments, they usually charge 1% of the transaction — that 1% is all towards fraud prevention.
Reza: For people who aren’t familiar, what is phishing?
David: Phishing is when you’re tricking someone into thinking that you are a trusted third party, such as MyEtherWallet or MetaMask. People will download that app or go to the website thinking it’s the company, then use it as normal, and give them private information. Or make a transaction to an Ethereum or Bitcoin address, and they’ll actually be sending money to a fraudster, not the intended party.
Jon: It’s a bait and switch.
Reza: What’s the quick and dirty elevator pitch for Coral protocol? How are you guys addressing these problems?
Jon: The Coral protocol is a security protocol that builds safeguards around blockchain transactions in order to fight fraud. Safeguards that we build are two fold. One; we built an anonymous blockchain trust score, that can anonymously assign a level of trust to any and every blockchain address. So you can know if this is a trustworthy or untrustworthy address. It prevents you from sending to untrustworthy addresses. We do this by collecting evidence of identity, as well as evidence of fraud. The other level to this, the trust score, is a building block into the blockchain payment protection, which is a restitution system for victims of fraud, and can be purchased on a transaction to hedge against risk of phishing loss.
Reza: If I want to improve my trust score, you guys have a platform that I can log into and verify my identity? Is that the process?
Jon: Yes, you will be able to log in and take steps to improve your trust score, however our goal isn’t to become an ID verified system. The trick is that we have focused on designing a system that works when we don’t know who is control of the address.
David: There are also going to be ways to improve your score on a particular address. You’ll be able to link one address to another. For example; if you have a Bitcoin address, you can link it to your Ethereum address. If you have private keys for both you can piggyback on the score for one, with the other one.
Reza: To be blunt, how the hell did you come up with this? Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you’re protecting, and loosely regulating, a decentralized system by implementing another decentralized system to do so.
David: Originally we were looking at creating a decentralized credit bureau. A non-anonymous bureau. Kind of like Bloom, Civic, there may even be a few others. We were looking at that space pretty heavily. We even wrote a white paper to that regard. We eventually stumbled onto the idea of: what if had a credit score that didn’t try to bridge the gap between the traditional financial services industry and the new one.
Why not make one that’s fully blockchain centric, that relies only on the new world and ignores the old. The first thoughts around that were; what if the credit score was just based on your blockchain address, which could be anonymous, and nothing else.
So that’s the idea, and version 2 of this will be providing restitution to people who are actually phished. Later on, services like escrow, or a full clearing house with guaranteed payments. That’s the long term vision, at least 2–3 years out.
“Blockchain Payment Protection will be a layer that is leveraged behind the scenes by wallets and exchanges, to protect certain payments. They can pay a fee to code the protocol into transactions, to protect users and the exchanges from fraud. If a payment is made that they want to protect, they can do that.”
Reza: What’s your main focus right now: are you in development, fundraising, looking for partners?
Jon: Product and Partnerships are number 1 and number 2. We’re building product like crazy, and we’ve just signed deals with our first partners. We’re also doing typical customer development with some exchanges. They’ll be a good source of data to help us understand the endpoints of the system better, the on-roads and off-roads. We’re also doing a token sale soon. We haven’t set a final date or the terms for it, but we’re ramping up.
Reza: and you guys are doing a private sale?
David: That’s the plan, I don’t think we’ll do a full public token sale at this time. I think we will do private round with people who are potential partners, or have a use for the token, strategic relationships.
Reza: Who are your potential partners and what does being a partner to Coral protocol mean?
David: The partners we’re targeting are people who run wallets and exchanges, like Jon said, the on-roads and off-roads into blockchain. We need them to be partners for several reasons. We need them to give us evidence that they are in custody of addresses they create, because those addresses will be freshly baked and won’t have any past history. That’s all strategic because it helps us build our data set. They would spend our REEF tokens by pulling down API requests, and would also be our customers.
Jon: We also work with decentralized applications that have a transactional nature. Anywhere that a blockchain address is inputed, Coral should be integrated.
Reza: If I am an exchange and I want to partner up with you guys, that means that all the transactions on my exchange are protected by Coral protocol?
David: To be clear, Blockchain Payment Protection (BPP) is version 2. Version one is the Anonymous Blockchain Trust Score, and we have to make version 1 work before we can get to version 2. BPP could be a layer that is leveraged behind the scenes by wallets and exchanges to protect certain payments. They can pay a fee to code the protocol into transactions, to protect users and the exchanges from fraud. If a payment is made that they want to protect, they can do that. They can also make it an option for customers, where a customer can opt-in to payment protection and pay a larger transaction fee in exchange for some protection.
Jon: Most of our focus is on the actual trust score. It already works, and will continue to improve through more data and more partnerships.
We have a lot of work to do, but if successful, we will have helped blockchain become the truly global monetary system that until now has only been dreamed about.
Reza: So you guys are going to make blockchain safer for the average user?
Jon: I send multiple blockchain transactions per day and every time I do I have a mini panic attack. You should not have to get used to this fear, it should be eliminated. Blockchain is all about trust and guarantees. Sending transactions is terrifying and that is a major roadblock for a lot of people. It’s the wild wild west, people are getting robbed left and right and it’s unacceptable. Coral Protocol is here to make the blockchain safe, and give peace of mind to its users. I think that if fear of losing your money is taken out of the equation, then blockchain can reach a much higher level of adoption and ultimately mass adoption. To where it can actually achieve its intended transformative nature.
Reza: Five years from now, if you guys are 100% successful in executing everything you want to, what does the blockchain environment look like to you?
David: I think that the blockchain will be a lot safer. Right now, blockchain is reminiscent of “Catch Me if You Can”, where Leo is running around as an airplane pilot cashing fake checks left and right. That all stopped with fraud prevention measures that were put in place in the late 70’s.
That’s what what we’re doing with Coral. We’re laying the groundwork for universal consumer protections in blockchain. We have a lot of work to do, but if successful, we will have helped blockchain become the truly global monetary system that until now has only been dreamed about.