Roughly 3 billion people in the world currently have no access to banking. Lack of financial institutions and access to banking means there is an entire population of people who do not even have the option of getting out of poverty. Global access to banking systems is a major part of what the blockchain and crypto economy hopes to achieve.
Recently, I was invited to Miami to attend IOHK Summit 2019. I was a bit hesitant to go after witnessing such overwhelming negativity and extreme turbulence within the cryptocurrency community. A look into IOHK’s project development in Ethiopia changed my mind, and the next day, I boarded my flight to Miami.
The summit featured presentations from guest international and academic speakers, key industry leaders, and a highly anticipated decentralized peer-to-peer product release, Cardano Shelley.
Here are 6 reasons why you should be paying attention to IOHK.
1. Prioritizing First-Class International Leadership
If you are not already aware, IOHK Co-founders Charles Hoskinson and Jeremy Wood also happen to be two of the early co-founders of Ethereum—the second largest cryptocurrency in the world.
Hoskinson and Wood founded IOHK in 2015 with a commitment to use peer-to-peer innovations to provide financial services to the billions of people who do not have them. It is also a decentralized company, with about 200 employees and contractors from over 19 different countries. The team includes scientists, researchers, and highly skilled engineers, at least 25 of them with doctorate degrees.
2. Securing an Ethical, Innovative Infrastructure
Cardano Senior Product Manager David Esser broke down for me IOHK’s process for taking their products to market. He explained how IOHK was first among the blockchain technology companies to apply academia to its products and development. The research is then peer-reviewed to be tested and challenged by the world’s leading academics.
Despite the Silicon Valley mantra and pressure to build fast and break things, IOHK goes through a painstaking process of making sure that their products’ code is mathematically proven, verified, and secure. When building innovative technology requiring secure financial transactions, it needs to be developed correctly the first time.
3. Advocating a Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Network
The current Cardano product release is Byron, which is federated—meaning IOHK still controls all the nodes in the network.
Shelley will mark the beginning of full decentralization, where no single entity has full control of the system, not even IOHK. It’s a milestone in their development philosophy, which advocates an entirely decentralized peer-to-peer network.
During his opening keynote at the summit, Hoskinson shared with his team, “It doesn’t matter who wins [the blockchain race]. It’s all open source. The mission is giving the tech to everyone.”
4. Empowering Developing Countries With Financial Infrastructure
John O’Connor, Director of African Operations, and Dynal Patel, Senior Product Manager For Enterprise for IOHK, enlightened me on their most recent educational program in Ethiopia. The program is part of a bigger vision to empower developing countries with the skills and resources to build a decentralized infrastructure.
The team took their time growing trusted relationships within the local government and universities. Later, they were invited into the region to educate a select number of tech developers from local universities. The customized course would teach these students on Haskell programming, the coding language IOHK uses to develop its secure blockchain infrastructure.
5. Educating the Developers of Tomorrow
The IOHK Ethiopia Haskell Course received over 300 applicants from top female university developers in Ethiopia and narrowed down the selection to 23 women. Lars Brünjes, Director of Education, led developers through a rigorous 10-week course.
Yenatfanta Shifferaw and Masresha Beniam, two Haskell graduates who had flown in from Ethiopia for the summit, shared with me their excitement over the Haskell course and Brünjes’ patience along their journey. They shared with me what the Haskell educational course meant to them, their family, and their country. After all, who knows what a country needs better than its local population.
The training was such a success that IOHK offered every one of the graduates a job opportunity within the company. And now, together, they will work alongside the Ethiopian government to begin building financial infrastructure for development, growth, and sustainability within the local region.
6. Creating a Thriving Company Culture
It was evident, after several days of hanging out with the team that the company culture is exceptional. Hoskinson shared with me that the most important reason for holding the annual IOHK Summit is so the entire international team can connect in person.
2019 was the first year they had opened up the company-exclusive event to a few hand-selected media representatives. He feels great pride in his team, saying, “Our biggest strength is hiring great talent.”
With the release of Cardano Shelley, the success of the educational programming course in Africa, and additional products soon to be released, IOHK is undoubtedly a world-class team on a mission to create human impact.