An Army Officer turned Technology Entrepreneur
An army officer turned technology entrepreneur, Donnie Benjamin sees many parallels between his time in the service and what he is doing now with Blockchain.
“It’s interesting to be part of a service where everyone makes the same amount of money and doesn’t get bonuses and works towards a mission,” said Benjamin. “This is why I was drawn to the Ethereum blockchain. “
Hehmeyer Trading + Investments sat down with Donnie Benajmin to learn more about ConsenSys, how he believes Blockchain gives back to value creators and how he is helping build an Ethereum ecosystem here in Chicago.
Donnie explained that he is more on the social good side of Blockchain technology, rather than the financial aspect.
“We are living in a society where we extract as much information from every transaction as possible without providing any real value to society, which leads to a host of problems,” he said. “We have intermediaries when you buy a title for real estate, with the right to stream music and even in financial transactions.”
Benjamin believes that if you create value you should be able to capture value, not just because you exist in the middle of the transaction.
“Ethereum is similar to the army in that it is mission focused and for the greater good,” he said. “With it, you can replace the third party with this objective software and trust that the transaction will work without knowing the counterparty. You can give back to value creators in a variety of industries.”
When it comes to cryptocurrencies, Benjamin favors Ethereum.
“What other Blockchain has as many use cases or as many developers working on it? People can get tribal about this but I have not seen anything that comes close to the decentralized nature of this cryptocurrency,” he said. “Regulators don’t believe this is a security and the people involved want to make a positive impact on the planet.”
This is also why Benjamin is working for a company building an ecosystem around Ethereum.
ConsenSys is a global technology organization that has four main business lines all working towards creating a community around Ethereum. The first line provides tools such as Metamask, which is a Google Chrome plug-in that enables users to run Ethereum dApps in the browser without running a full Ethereum node, Grid+, which transfers energy between homes through a mobile app and Civil, which rewards journalists for their content when it gets passed around the internet.
“Civil will bring trust back into journalism,” said Benjamin. “Civil newsrooms all over the world are setting up shop, which is a great example of how Ethereum can be built on a global scale.”
Another business line at ConsenSys includes a consulting service, which helps governments leverage Blockchain. ConsenSys is an advisor for Expo Dubai 2020 and the EU Blockchain initiative. Other ConsenSys “prongs” (as Benjamin called them) include a venture capital and accelerator fund as well as an educational arm.
“There is a huge opportunity for the academy side whether that is growing the technology industry, providing funding to promising product teams or consulting on how to leverage blockchain,” he said. “This is about connecting the community.”
Benjamin recently moved from New York to open the Chicago ConsenSys office and is looking to hire 3-5 employees for his Operations and Solutions team by the end of the year.
“I would love to have product teams based here. Chicago is very underrated by tech companies that are bicoastal and I want to give aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn and grow,” he said.
As one of the largest Blockchain companies in the world, ConsenSys is located in 30 countries with 1,000 employees but they have no command or control structure. Without a hierarchy, ConsenSys employees pitch ideas to voluntary committees and receive funding based on goals and accomplishments.
“We have a saying here that ‘everything is an experiment’,” he said. “Everything is done with a focus on growing the Ethereum ecosystem.”
In closing, Benjamin said he is excited to be in Chicago and that ConsenSys will develop and grow not only the local, but the global Blockchain community as well.
“Do I personally believe this is a profound technology that will have a huge impact on the world? I do.”
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