E675: Adam Ludwin CEO Chain on creating his tool for top financial firms to use blockchain; DAO hack

Entrepreneurs are driving all of the innovation today, and this episode’s guest is no exception. Adam Ludwin, CEO & Co-founder of Chain created a tool that’s helping top financial firms (NASDAQ, CapitalOne, Citi, Fidelity, Visa & more) deploy the blockchain. Adam demos his technology, and offers a fascinating and super clear explanation of how/why bitcoin & the blockchain were developed, how it works, common misperceptions, how the DAO hack happened & long-term effects, and how he got that insanely amazing domain name. Jason and Adam venture deep into other tech & culture territory, including whither Apple, who will buy Twitter, Snapchat v. Instagram, religion, oppressed societies, Hamilton (The Musical), and the hardest part of a startup (hint: it’s not the starting up).

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00:29 Welcome from Jason. Only entrepreneurs can solve problems & innovate in technology these days.

01:51 Was introduced to bitcoin back in 2011. Thought this was dangerous, destabilizing, and transformative. Hasn’t been any of these things and mostly been a disappointment to VCs.

04:05 However: out of this Blockchain has emerged as the underlying architecture of cryptocurrency, and the true innovation, here to stay. Introduces guest Adam Ludwin, CEO & Co-founder of Chain.

05:38 Adam explains origins of company as a bitcoin API. Early customers (NASDAQ, Fidelity) didn’t at the time understand the mechanics of bitcoin. Adam explains the difference between digital copying (email) and digital transferring (money).

12:06 Partner break – Thank you, Braintree.

15:53 Adam tells the story of how he got the amazing domain, Chain.com.

17:54 Further debate on bitcoin, use cases. It’s like bittorrent. It will always be used by people who are off the grid, or want to be.

19:55 Discussion on ethereum, the number 2 cryptocurrency behind bitcoin. Segue into the DOA (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) project.

25:35 Partner break – Thank you, Squarespace.

28:02 Back to ethereum, and its vulnerability. Its smart contract is written by a program. On to the DOA hack & fall-out. (Two ethereum networks now.) Long-term repercussions on financial institutions.

35:37 Example of The Pudding Guy, accumulating many frequent flyer miles by taking advantage of a promotion by Healthy Choice Foods in 1999. Healthy Choice Foods awarded him 1,253,000 frequent flyer miles.

37:46 Financial infrastructure is so broken. Fintech startups are trying to patch up current systems. We are rewiring the underlying system.

40:53 Adam does a Chain demo, with wallet-to-wallet transfers of different kinds of digital currencies, including reward points, $, also showing the underlying blockchain architecture.

48:21 Remind Jason of Justin Timberline’s sci-fi movie “In Time” and his arm code with a bitcoin balance.

49:28 Chain business model. Expensive and scales with volume. We did first production network with NASDAQ. For private market security. Their entire cap table is on blockchain.

51:28 Theory that in the future, company stock will move as freely as public company stock. Jason asks, if you could buy only three stocks and hold them for the rest of your life?

52:56 Discussion about Apple. Still innovating? They break it down. Versus Tesla, Uber, Google, Amazon, Square.

01:00:00 Onto Twitter. It’s a mess, and will it ever go away as a product?Who will buy it? (Google or Facebook/)

01:07:33 Onto to Instagram v. Snapchat. Facebook just straight up copied Stories, and is unapologetic. Debate: Jason is disgusted, Adam thinks it’s good for users. Other examples of copycats.

01:14:52 Example of Theranos and people should start calling b.s. more. Who is candid in Silicon Valley? Segue into Sapiens book and the thesis that indigenous not necessary better, there is such a thing as progress. Onto globalization and the need for some states/religions to evolve.

01:19:40 Chain is hiring! Who are they looking for? What is the culture like? Be interdisciplinary.

01:20:26 How hard it is to be a founder and one of the most important lessons of entrepreneurship.

8 thoughts on “E675: Adam Ludwin CEO Chain on creating his tool for top financial firms to use blockchain; DAO hack

  1. Blockchain companies are a scam. If a blockchain is not secured by Proof of Work, it is no different or better than a traditional database. In fact, distributed ledgers secured by cryptography have been possible for decades. Once you factor in regulations (which Bitcoin bypasses), these companies' products will regress to the status quo. They're reinventing the database, that's it. So there's no genuine innovation here, just buzzwords.

  2. seems like the point of blockchain tech is to remove single point of authority, so how does creating private networks do that – how is it different to setting up a database and slapping an API on it? what stops one of the parties outspending the rest on compute power and extracting all the value out of the network? sure they would no longer be liked on one hand and on the other they have all the value and in capitalism he with the most value wins… a significant part of what makes the bitcoin blockchain work is the whole distributed part, no single point of failure & trustless, consumers of the network don't need to trust the operators of the network (not really any operators, the miners are users too). RIght now it seems like the Chain product demo isn't doing anything blockchainy, just regular app stuff…

  3. One of the more interesting applications I've seen thus far is Golem. I believe it's functioning on github somewhere, shouldn't be too hard to find. Anyways, from what I've heard, cloud services from Amazon, Microsoft, etc. are making really healthy margins. Even with operational costs 10-15% higher for individuals, something like Golem would gut the current market.

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