Q&A with New Industry Partner Mathieu Glaude, CEO and Co-founder of Northern Block

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NCFA Canada | Sep 11, 2018

Industry partners are the cornerstone of all NCFA industry building initiatives and programs.  As such, we're thrilled to announce NCFAs newest industry partner, Northern Block, a leading blockchain technology development firm based in Toronto who is building next generation blockchain ventures.  Below is the transcript of an interview that NCFA Founding CEO, Craig Asano, recently held with the CEO and Co-founder of Northern Block, Mathieu Glaude:

NCFA: Can you tell me about yourself and about Northern Block?

Mathieu Glaude, CEO, Co-founder, Northern Block

Mathieu:  Hi, my name is Mathieu Glaude. I’m the CEO of Northern Block, a blockchain product development firm. I’ve always had a curiosity for emerging technologies and would definitely consider myself an early adopter. While working at Capital One Bank, I had the opportunity to be involved in many large projects that involved building scalable solutions leveraging microservice architectures, which in turn allowed me to dabble with big data and AI components in order to tailor servicing experiences to the customer. I had had some coding experiences but found myself really enjoying product management.  Being able to see a product go from ideation phase to being complete and used by actual customers felt very rewarding, and I enjoyed working horizontally across the business with various teams to execute on projects. While still at Capital One, I found out about blockchain technologies. It started with reading about it, then going out to networking events almost every day to learn more; you know, the common blockchain/crypto rabbit hole story.

 

I had never been more excited about a technological innovation and felt a calling to dedicate myself to it and help move the needle. Knowing I could use my product development background to build software in the blockchain space, I quit my job and founded Northern Block.

 

NCFA: Can you provide an overview of Northern Block’s growth to date and future roadmap?

Mathieu:  When my co-founder Sasha and myself founded the company, our goal was to build a blockchain-focused service company. We both noticed a high demand for projects, but a lack of firms in the space that were capable of executing. Although we had some visions for products at the time, we decided the service model would be ideal to gain an insightful perspective on the landscape, while continuing to learn and ramp up on the technology itself. It also of course allowed us to generate sustainable cash flow to grow our business! We got into the space in the middle of a hype cycle so we saw lots of investments being made and companies growing at rapid paces. We stuck to our plan and built a solid foundation. We’ve been tremendously lucky with the team that’s joined Northern Block. Every individual brings a passion and knowledge about blockchain that helps set us apart from other development firms.

 

NCFA: What type of clients do you work with?  What industries are ripe for disruption and the leading use cases out there today?

Mathieu:  The most important thing for us when choosing a client is their openness to learn and think outside of the box. With blockchain technologies, we’re not really changing processes by creating efficiencies, we’re radically flipping business models upside down. Being able to take a step back and accepting that the way things are done today are not the only way they can be done are a great first step. We’re in the game of building decentralized products that return data ownership rights to the users.

When we first started out, we built many proof-of-concept applications for larger enterprise clients. They often have innovation budgets to toy around with new technologies and they definitely understand the impact that blockchain can have in their industries. They definitely have an appetite to build proof-of-concepts. However, coming from a large enterprise, we realize how difficult it is to aggressively move innovative projects out of a sandbox environment and test with some of their real users. There’s lots of barriers in these companies for various reasons, maybe a topic for another discussion.

We began to believe that the true innovation would happen outside of the larger companies, similar to what you saw and are seeing in the fintech space. It starts outside and eventually there is market consolidation.

"We switched our focus at small to medium sized businesses who already have a successful business model with a client base. These businesses realize that their industries are ripe for disruption and they want to be at the forefront of it."

We don’t target specific industries, although our track record shows we’ve done lots of work in the financial space. We enjoy working across diverse industries because it allows us to come up with innovations we never would have thought about if we hadn’t had those experiences. As long as we know we’re ultimately going to create value for the end user and the client sees that as well, we’re willing to dip our toes in a new space. We’ve worked with all sorts of clients. Their businesses range from payment remittances, to supply chain tracking, to digital identity, to tracking the provenance of firearms. All over the place!

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NCFA: What excites you when you arrive at work each day (and what’s the most challenging part of the job)?

Mathieu:  Definitely the drive and passion of the twenty or so people on our team. Everyone continuously pushes themselves to learn new things so we can gain an edge in how we architect our solutions. I learn from them every day. The teams are self-organizing and are able to create value to our clients directly. Everyone has so much potential, and all we want to do is help them achieve their career goals.

As for the most challenging aspect of the job, it definitely has to do with learning as well. Running a business has its own challenges and ensuring that the products we’re building are built in a way that allows for scale is challenging on its own. At the same time, it’s important for us to still find time to read, explore, and learn new things. The space that we’re in is evolving so fast and to stay ahead of the curb, we need to ensure we’re continually learning.

NCFA:  Do you think the market is overhyped and if so why or why not?  Let’s talk about in production versus smoke and mirrors.

Mathieu:  We’re in an interesting phase in the market right now. Last year we saw tremendous growth in the overall crypto market as everyone and their mother was hopping into an ICO to raise money for their project that promised to ‘revolutionize’ a certain industry. We’re now seeing that most of these projects aren’t meeting their goals and falling apart. It has caused the whole market to turn bear over the past nine months, and we’re seeing less noise. We actually like this because it takes people’s minds away from thinking about making a quick buck off of crypto trading, and more about truly building products that solve real-world problems. I personally still think the market is still a bit over valued at the moment, even with the prices falling this year. The other day I had a look at CoinMarketCap, and noticed that there are still more than fifty projects valued over a hundred million US dollars. Those numbers are over inflated if you examine how much value they’re actually creating. Mind you, there are some very interesting projects that we’re excited about, but in full honesty, no one has delivered near enough value to the ecosystem to justify those valuations.

 

NCFA: What’s your crystal ball on the future of blockchain technology?

Mathieu:  We’re obviously very bullish on the whole space, which is why we’re here. We think that we’re going to see a random industry that no one is thinking about get completely disrupted by blockchain technologies, and this will tip the domino. We think that many use cases have not yet been identified because we haven’t learned enough from experiments to see what is possible.

"We think that interoperability between blockchains is going to play a big part in scaling solutions. When you look at it, you realize that not every computation in a solution needs to be run on a specific blockchain, or a blockchain at all. When you break down the problems you’re trying to solve for, you realize that maybe one blockchain is suitable for running smart contracts, but another one is better for holding value, or privacy of data, etc. We think that we’ll start seeing more hybrid blockchain implementations of solutions."

Everything is still a huge experiment.

 

NCFA: Last question, if you could choose anything else to do, what would it be?

Mathieu:  I would have loved to be a professional hockey player but that ship has sailed. Maybe I could still be a fighter? Actually, there’s almost no more fighting in hockey so maybe I’m better off here.

 

NCFA:  thanks so much for your time and support Mathieu, we look forward to working together.

Mathieu:  ditto!


The National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a cross-Canada non-profit actively engaged with fintech, alternative finance, blockchain, cryptocurrency, crowdfunding and online investing stakeholders globally. NCFA Canada provides education, research, industry stewardship, services, and networking opportunities to thousands of members and subscribers and works closely with industry, government, academia, community and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a strong and vibrant crowdfunding and fintech industry. Join Canada's Fintech & Funding Community today FREE! Or become a contributing member and get perks. For more information, please visit: ncfacanada.org

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