With the DeFi market worth over $24 Billion by the end of 2021, the market has shown a tremendous amount of success and given more hope to the blockchain industry in general. However, there are still some doubts, fraud, disputes and other issues facing the market and Astra Protocol is on a mission to equip the market with a full legal layer. Removing doubt, eliminating fraud and dealing with disputes making public blockchains safe for all users. In this interview with TechBullion, Sakhib Waseem the CEO of Astra Protocol will be sharing more details with us.
Please tell us a little more about yourself?
Hi I’m Sakhib Waseem, I’m the Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Technology Officer for the Astra Protocol. My career began in technology, where through my own company I started to build out analytical platforms from inception for major financial institutions, to name a couple of them Bank Of America and National Australia Group I was really focused on the innovative design of new applications that would take advantage of cutting-edge technology to provide more efficiency and greater benefit to large organisations and their consumers. Around 2013, I began to become interested in the cryptocurrency space, making my first purchase of bitcoin and litecoin. In 2016 and 2017 I started to design Blockchain applications that would benefit major institutions and designed my first products based on Ethereum and the principals of how cases can only exist in a single state for workflow. Moving forward a few years I was approached by the founders of the Astra protocol who saw my good understanding of Blockchain applications and insight into traditional regulated space and we began this journey to create the Proof of Trust Protocol, Astra Protocol as well as a number of other Blockchain applications.
What is Astra Protocol?
The Astra protocol is the first and only of its kind, it is a fully decentralised multi chain compliance application designed to assist the crypto community from Layer 1 and Layer 2 perspective on managing compliance related checks most effectively. Our application can carry out multiple compliance checks which includes KYC/KYB/AML and creates regulated reporting, our service is decentralised and we’re really proud of this.
We have partnered with some of the major legal and business advisory firms who are currently in the top 10 globally, and they form a decentralised network of users which we call the Decentralised Legal Network. Whenever the service is called we use a transparent matchmaking engine to connect each case to a specific independent panel of experts with real world experience in dealing with these checks.
This is really beneficial for a couple of reasons; firstly it removes the notion of centralisation as a pinch point for decentralised finance applications and increases the fairness of approval for these checks for the customers. Secondarily as regulatory pressure begins to mount around the world for the DeFi operators who are taking active steps to prepare for the next wave of regulation which may impact them, for issues like cross-border jurisdictional compliance, VASP and travel rule that they have to be faced with in the future, we provide the highest grade institutional checks against users forming on boarding ramp, effectively this provides a means to comply with local and international regulators without sacrificing decentralisation.
What doubts and issues had public blockchains been facing before Astra Protocol, could you enlighten us more on this and your mission to solve these problems?
I believe the major concern right now is that regulators haven’t decided what the long term plan is, in terms of compliance and regulation. That creates a huge amount of uncertainty and doubt for operators in the space and they’re now looking at the opportunity to either spend significant amounts of money creating their own compliance capabilities in-house and append this to their current technology stack. Or have already began looking for expert guidance from centralised entities that will carry out this for them, the fear is that regulators have a very polarised view of cryptocurrency in many cases and some fears have stemmed from the idea that decentralisation and anonymity in platforms increases the opportunity for risk in two respects. one being that general unsophisticated consumers can be misled into purchasing sophisticated investment products, which is an education issue, the second is that “bad” money can start entering into healthy ecosystems. The fear that terrorist financing or drug cartel money will make its way through these platforms and people will start taking advantage of financial yields and hiding their identity and that’s not good for anyone in the industry either. We’re in a place where governmental representatives feel that illicit funds can be layered and remain hidden which is not good for the industry as a whole. We are providing the means for consumers and operators to remain decentralised and can call our service for those checks. We provide those balances and ensure that their developers, the industry and the community remains honest, fair and has a very healthy ecosystem that will only encourage positive growth of the industry as a whole.
Could you give us a walkthrough of the Astra Product and the solutions it provides?
We provide a number of compliance solutions, institutional grade compliance checks and identity checks for individuals coming onto platforms. We manage KYC, KYB AML screening and dispute management. We also provide full stack regulatory compliant reporting and we have the capability for 127 countries. One major pressing issue is around the travel rule and VASP’s and we also have a solution for this. What makes us different from others is that we bring the highest level of accreditation through the major participants in our Decentralised Legal Network (DLN) and that we offer a decentralised service.
Users can connect to us through an API or a smart contract, we take their compliance request and give them a position on a queue, using a matchmaking engine we connect them to an independent panel from the DLN who carry out the necessary checks. We then use a consensus algorithm to give feedback to the user, and whitelist their wallet to the application.
Tell us more about the ASTR token and transactional ecosystem, how does this work and what are the benefits?
The Astra token to create further decentralisation in our platform allows the community and individuals and L2 operators to manage the speed of the checks that they carry out, we draw parallels to gas within the Ethereum network. The Astra token operates in a very similar fashion the faster you want to be seen the more tokens you spend to juice your transaction and push you higher in the queue, and the faster you’ll be allocated a panel to manage your case be it compliance AML or any other accreditation check that you require. It is a fixed supply token, with a number of features being added to it, but as we expect the industry and use of our token to grow, we expect the value to increase too based on scarcity and market demand.
Why is Proof of Trust important for institutional assurance in the decentralised finance market?
There is an abundance of interest from the traditional finance industry as a whole to become participants within DEFI.In crypto and we’ve seen a lot of passive investment into the industry with major firms investing in financial assets like Bitcoin and others The next logical step is for the traditional finance world start investing in DEFI platforms which offer major yield. However the only way that they can be assured of joining these platforms is that if they become part of a Pool within DEFI application with, is that the other participants have passed the necessary KYC, AML and KYB checks for local and international jurisdictional compliance. Most of the traditional firms are deterred immediately that they’re coming into a pool that hasn’t had the appropriate checks they don’t want to be in a position where their money has been earning alongside illicit money. Our protocol is really important for ensuring that we can have this next wave of DEFI that we can create Web3.5 which is traditional businesses engagement seamlessly into DEFI protocols creating the next generation of true yield and growth in the industry.
What is your opinion on the current influx of penny coins and NFTs, with so many projects to choose from, how does one decipher the right projects to trust?
I see so many different tokens coming out onto the market today there are literally hundreds of projects being spun up every month and sadly a lot of them end in failure, or customers are subject to a rugpull or scam. Some of them have real tangible benefits, but a lot of them don’t and I think it’s really up to individuals to carry out good diligence before making the jump. Read the white papers, understand the team, understand the viability of their technology and also understand whether their smart contracts are trustworthy and have been audited. There have been a number of high profile rug pulls and scams.
Nobody is immune to this however, one of the features of the Astra protocol is to embed smart contracts with the ability to dispute transactions where fraud or scams happen. This is a great tool to add more authentication and add more trustworthiness to the NFT market in particular where copycat scams happen a lot and unfortunately many people are subject to this.
We could see you already have big-name partners supporting this project, do you have more opportunities for Investors and partners for Astra Protocol?
We’re currently looking at a private round right aimed at Layer 1 and Layer 2 participants, but we’re actively bringing our token to the right launchpad too so there is an opportunity for the public to become involved too in the future.
Please tell us more about your customer support and the brains behind Astra, what makes you special?
We have a great team, everyone at the Astra Protocol, is either a big fan or active user in DeFi, or comes from a technology and compliance background, we’re a very focused team who are all driven as we believe this product will bring be key to unlocking of the next generation of DeFi.
What is going on now at Astra and what is next on your Road map, any other information you would like to share with our readers today?
We have been really active in developing major partnerships with both the DeFi world and the traditional legal and business advisory firms, so we’ll have some really exciting announcements coming up in the near future, be sure to follow our website for updates at www.astraprotocol.com