Michael Gord’s mission for the last seven years has been to bring blockchain technology to the masses. His efforts in the space could be paralleled to those of a young Elon Musk and Richard Branson, a dynamic entrepreneur who is set on making the world a better place, and having fun while doing so. Throughout his university career, he spearheaded several initiatives to introduce and educate thousands of his peers to the then-nascent technology. Since then, he has launched MLG Blockchain and GDA Capital, which have both become integral to the development of the blockchain industry. The launch of the XDB Foundation now puts Gord fully in the driver’s seat of a protocol layer blockchain, where the possibilities are endless. Shortly after the official launch of the XDB Foundation, we were able to catch up with Michael Gord to discuss the Foundation, his interest in DigitalBits and branded cryptocurrencies, and his views on the industry as a whole.
Michael, what made you form the McGill Cryptocurrency Club and the McGill Students Fintech Association so early into blockchain’s lifespan?
I recognized the potential blockchain and digital assets had to change the world and wanted to tell anyone that would listen about it. Back in 2013, there weren’t many avenues to get involved, especially for young people, so I started university clubs to bring together like-minded individuals and create opportunities for them. This gave birth to the Cryptocurrency Club at McGill University, one of the first collegiate clubs in the world focused on blockchain technology.
I think young people need to look to the horizon for opportunities in which they can really make an impact. Through the McGill Cryptocurrency Club and McGill Students Fintech Association, I was able to introduce thousands of bright young minds to crypto. These entry points are now championed by MLG Blockchain and GDA Capital, and I look forward to creating even more opportunities through the XDB Foundation.
You’ve come a long way from university clubs, can you describe the journey to MLG, GDA, and now the XDB Foundation?
In 2014, we began hosting national events with other blockchain clubs across Canada to introduce Bitcoin to thousands of students via airdrops, hackathons and startup competitions. This led to the formation of Bitcoin Canada, to coordinate the national ecosystem that was developing at the time. A year later, I assumed a leadership role with the Blockchain Education Network, the largest global network of university clubs, and we expanded our events to a global scale.
In 2016, I founded MLG Blockchain, with a focus on bringing blockchain technology to the mainstream, targeting the largest enterprises across the globe, and helping them adopt blockchain infrastructure. We then started pivoting towards creating global networks for digital assets, and began working with some of the largest digital asset ecosystems, including the likes of TRX, LRC and ONT, and advised on hundreds of millions in offerings.
In 2019, we merged MLG Blockchain with Secure Digital Markets, the largest digital asset brokerage in Canada, and launched GDA Capital, a global financial institution focused on disruptive technology. Recently, we’ve witnessed the launch of the XDB Foundation. I’ve been following DigitalBits closely since product launch in 2018, and I’m really excited to be able to dive in. Branded cryptocurrencies represent an enormous, untapped market – it’s about time that consumers, merchants, brands and more begin to experience the benefits of them.
What is it about branded cryptocurrencies that gets you so excited?
Consumer digital assets make up billions of dollars worth in value, widely held across the globe. That being said, rolling out blockchain-based solutions for this market has the potential to bring tens of millions of accounts on-chain, almost overnight. As I’ve said before, bringing blockchain to the mainstream has been my mission for the past seven years – and through branded cryptocurrencies, I can see this really starting to take shape. Digitizing these assets yields numerous benefits, enhanced security, flexibility and autonomy, not to mention the cost savings from running on decentralized systems, and that’s just the beginning.
What qualities did you gain from your experience as the first enterprise blockchain developer at TD?
The main benefit from my experience at TD was understanding internal structures and processes within large enterprise environments.
What is the XDB Foundation? How does it impact DigitalBits?
The XDB Foundation is a neutral, agnostic governing body created to accelerate the adoption of the open-sourced DigitalBits ecosystem and blockchain technology as a whole. A key initiative includes the DigitalBits Ecosystem Support Program, aimed at providing financial and non-financial assistance to qualified entities and projects within the DigitalBits community, with a focus on innovation and ecosystem growth. We have already begun talks with several large organizations about their participation, and the feedback on branded cryptocurrencies has been exceptional. We are very excited to share more information once it is ready.
My vision for the Foundation is to accelerate the adoption of the DigitalBits ecosystem by focusing on 5 primary pillars: transparency and governance, global community development, developer evangelism, enterprise adoption, and global markets.
It is important that the Foundation streamlines and ensures the transparency of grant distributions as well as other related compliance matters. XDB will further boost community development by identifying potential champions within the DigitalBits community. As these champions emerge it is important to connect them and provide avenues to participate and add value to the DigitalBits ecosystem. Ultimately we’ll build out a Global XDB Ambassador Network.
With a global community in place, we can now focus on activating the hacker and open-source developer communities via global developer challenges, hackathons and startup competitions. These events will work to educate and reward developer contributions, connect entrepreneurs with developers to build products, and finally, help promising projects to get funding through investor participation in startup competitions.
Through a strong community of developers building out enterprise-grade solutions, the XDB Foundation will expand the pipeline of brands integrating with DigitalBits. The Foundation will, additionally, seek to obtain sufficient operating capital for the DigitalBits ecosystem to continue to grow.
What does a decentralized world look like? How is GDA, and now the XDB Foundation, enabling this future?
Every person, every business, all value will exist within decentralized ecosystems. Just as all information is on the internet, all value, be it currencies, commodities, real estate, loyalty points, if it’s worth something it will exist in tokenized form. I believe we will see decentralized worlds, powered by digital assets, smart contracts and DAO’s.
We’ve seen an explosion in the market for attention – the internet gave rise to social media behemoths such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. However, centralized platforms take with them a large percentage of the pie, while imposing a high degree of control. Blockchain puts both value and autonomy back into the hands of the users. The early contributors, the ones responsible for building up these platforms, and all those that come after will be able to earn directly as a result of their participation. On that note, I think we’ll reach a point where all participation, watching, sharing, commenting etc., is monetized, opening up a whole new world of business models and opportunities.
What roadblocks are hindering the industry? How do we move forward to overcome these obstacles?
It has been a struggle to attract the general public to blockchain-based projects. Very similar to how the internet was adopted, if you can just get people to come, they begin learning about the technology and its potential. Ultimately, they will find a reason to stay. Companies like PayPal incentivized users to join with simple $10 promos, and we’ve seen very similar initiatives taken by the likes of Coinbase and Binance.
The subject of scalability has been another roadblock.The roadmap for scalability is there, it’s just a matter of time until we figure it out. Over the past few years we’ve seen many solutions pop up, sharding, proof-of-stake, scaling solutions such as the Lightning Network and plasma. Right now we’re far off from effectively competing against Visa and Mastercards (+1500 TPS). However, these networks are limited to strictly financial transactions. As blockchains scale, not only will they deliver superior TPS, but they will be able to move all manner of value quickly and securely, in a trustless environment.
Regulation in the industry is another hurdle, but we have been making considerable progress in this field. The difficulty lies in that blockchain is so cutting edge that it continues to explore areas that regulations have not or haven’t sufficiently addressed. We will need to continue to work with regulators in every jurisdiction as well as blockchains are borderless.
How do we change the current curriculum in colleges and educate students on topics related to blockchain?
We need to provide knowledge and understanding about topics related to blockchain. This is followed by giving students something to work with, airdrops are a great way to get crypto into their hands, and encourage use of the technology. We follow up with hackathons to connect developers, entrepreneurs and designers etc, and ultimately startup competitions to accelerate up-and-coming ideas and concepts.
How does this self-initiative for seeking innovative technologies lend to GDA and MLG, and now the XDB Foundation’s core culture? How does this attitude make you unique against competitors?
What we provide at MLG, GDA, and now the XDB Foundation, is the opportunity for any potential world leader to pursue their goals, giving them the resources, education, and access to blockchain technology. We enable people, providing them with the tools and support to eventually branch out and launch their own companies and solutions – with the end goal of creating a strong alumni network.
We have had several interns and team members raise seven-figure amounts and go on to start successful businesses. Experience at MLG helped Kerem Kolcuoglu and Oren Bouzaglo establish Penrose Partners, a blockchain-focused consulting firm. The firm has advised governments and leading startups. MLG intern, Sunrose Billing, went on to start Syntex Medical, which is developing the next generation of non-invasive wearable biosensors. Many of the members, additionally, have moved on to lucrative positions for venture capital and private equity firms.
This caliber of personal development and initiative is something we look to foster within the XDB Foundation as well.