Q & A with Ternio’s CEO: From Homeless to Revolutionizing Advertising with Blockchain
This is the first article in a regular series on “the people behind the block.” Blockanics interviews blockchain visionaries from around the world on personal insights on their path towards entrepreneurship, including how they got started, early influences, regional politics, blockchain innovations or research they are conducting, and other useful information blockchain entrepreneurs may consider valuable.
Meet Daniel Gouldman, CEO of Ternio and learn how he went from homeless at 17 to helping create a faster blockchain, which just may change the face of digital advertising.
To begin on a personal note, you state that you were homeless in your youth on Linkedin. How did your experience with homelessness impact your life as an entrepreneur?
I was pretty happy as a homeless kid because it was me vs. reality. I had to quit basketball and work two jobs and finish high school. But I did the difficult thing and I was never really unhappy; it was a conscious decision so there was nothing to be unhappy about. I will say no girls wanted to date a homeless 17-year-old kid but that’s another story.
I have never been afraid of failure and most people usually are. It’s an ego thing maybe or fear of the unknown perhaps.
I wasn’t embarrassed by it; I took showers at a local gym every day and slept in my sleeping bag at night. The cops would wake me up frequently on football fields, swimming pool areas, racquetball courts. I never did drugs or drank alcohol so that wasn’t an issue.
We are a product of our environment I suppose, and I know that no matter what – it’s going to be ok and hopefully I can instill that into my children.
What affected me more than that was working for other companies for 20+ years building skills and learning how I could make my way in the world. I then applied that knowledge and skillsets to working for myself. I really did pull myself up by my own bootstraps without help from a soul, but no kid should be in that situation in this world in 2018.
You also describe yourself as a “highly political person.” Are you involved in the regulation sagas surrounding cryptocurrency?
Yes – anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about politics. So – first my personal politics doesn’t affect our business; blockchain is agnostic and that’s how it should be. I do think my background and relationships in Democratic politics helps some influential people get a more complete sense of how important blockchain is to the economy and why they should proceed cautiously in terms of how its regulated (or how regulation should be better embraced in some cases like with the SEC).
As a liberal from Texas – I really don’t care if I’m the last person on the planet to believe in something … I passionately advocate for my position. But once again – that really isn’t related to blockchain. It’s a perfectly apolitical subject.
How do your politics intersect with your background in media, communication, and advertising?
They don’t from a business perspective. I would like to help save the DCCC and other Democratic campaigns millions in their digital ad spend using blockchain, however. Perhaps that’s a door we’ll be able to walk through.
But if the Republican party wanted us to help them save money – we wouldn’t say no because blockchain isn’t political. We’ll work with Coke and Pepsi, Audi and Toyota. We want to bring blockchain to the world.
Your headquarters are in Georgia, an atypical location for startups. What’s the blockchain and cryptocurrency startup ecosystem like there?
So Alpharetta is a bit of a fintech hub actually; it’s a suburb of Atlanta which ranks #3 in terms of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. There are more financial transactions running through ATL based companies every day than any other city in the world by a large margin; most people don’t realize how big of an impact Atlanta has on fintech. Lots of great colleges here and unlike NYC – we can afford to live in more than a closet.
Can you tell us a little bit about Ternio? What do they do and who is it for?
Ternio has built a scalable blockchain architecture; we’re essentially the unseen thing behind the scenes that make things work. Our first use case and industry is digital advertising because it requires tremendous scale. We are to digital advertising what Amazon is to online book sales; it’s our first vertical – not our only value. We help advertisers and publishers get more out of the digital advertising industry.
How do you think blockchain will change advertising?
Advertising has some real issues in terms of a complicated, non-transparent supply chain. The first step is bringing transparency to digital advertising in a way that no other technology can. Step two is totally changing the way the ecosystem operates together. Blockchain can do all of that.
Since you come from an advertising background, readers may be curious how you market Ternio. What has been your most effective marketing channels?
It really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. For our B2B side of the business – we really wanted to build a 1 to 1 relationship with different people to see our technology. People want to see a demo and it helps to speak on panels and speaking to what you’re doing or what’s possible. Giving people a chance to hear our story and to see our product is what we’ve been focused on. Every time we announce a partnership – it helps.
How did you come up with Lexicon (Ternio’s blockchain technology)? How do you know it is the fastest blockchain in the world?
One day I received a call from my partner who said, “I want you to hear what I have to say and I need you to say yes.” He told me what he thought it could do in theory. Well the math checked out. It didn’t come from me but from a couple of very smart tech people I’ve worked with for a long time.
[Ternio is capable of 1 million transactions per second]. Our blockchain has been audited via an independent third party and we’ve tested it in our lab. I think we’re the only company to demonstrate that kind of scale and verified via an independent third party. That’s what we filed our patent for.
Can you tell us a little bit about the technology you use behind the scenes?
We use Stellar for the payments system. We like Stellar because it’s fast and cheap and we think that the team at Stellar has done a great job for that particular use case.
Lexicon uses hyperledger fabric because it’s a permissioned environment well suited for private, enterprise transactions. Public blockchains aren’t well suited for protecting people or company’s personal information. And they’re slow.
How does your debit card play into all of this? Where can you use it? And are there any geo-restrictions for it?
Yes, we have a cryptocard we call BlockCard; it will work like any other debit card except you can spend your crypto instead of cash. No geo-restrictions presently. It will work almost anywhere.
How do you envision the future of debit cards for crypto?
We think [cryptocards are] the holy grail because if crypto is going to have any impact on our day to day – it needs to be functionally usable. There has to be a utility to it.
Bitcoin is slow and it isn’t going to be accepted by 99% of retailers. We are using the existing system because it’s cheaper and more convenient than something like Coinbase which charges you a pound of flesh to get out of crypto into fiat.
To wind down here, do you have any advice for ambitious startup entrepreneurs who are eager to get into the crypto/blockchain scene?
I’d say there’s a difference between crypto and blockchain. They’re very, very different. I’d also say be prepared to get your teeth kicked in. It’s a very difficult experience. It’s like living a rollercoaster filled with lots of highs and lows. There are no free lunches and what will differentiate you from others is your ability to grind it out, to adapt to a whole host of challenges. You’re going to get a life lesson in how to stay humble and it’s going to take mental discipline not to get too high or too low emotionally. It’s a very hard thing filled with tremendous fulfillment. Kind of like being a parent – extremely hard but also joyous. Simcha.
Do you have any other ventures up your sleeve?
I’m all in on Ternio. We’re working with some really big companies and I know that what we’re doing is very special.
I’ve been wandering around in a desert for 40 years, but it feels like we’re about to reach the promised land.