Ex-JPMorgan Chase Blockchain Duo Unveil New Startup
A few weeks after leaving their jobs in April, Amber Baldet and Patrick Mylund Nielsen are eating deviled eggs at a bar in Brooklyn as they prepare to reveal details about their next act for the first time. On a building a few blocks north, the blue, octagonal logo of their former employer, JPMorgan Chase, is perfectly framed within the sliver of skyline that’s visible from the street.
Baldet, who most recently served as the bank’s blockchain program lead, is cofounding a new startup, Clovyr, that aims to help consumers, developers, and businesses explore the nascent, albeit burgeoning, world of blockchain-based, decentralized technologies, she tells Fortune. She is joined by Nielsen, former lead developer of Quorum, a JPMorgan Chase-built blockchain for business, who will serve as the concern’s chief technologist.
Baldet unveiled a Clovyr demo at the Consensus conference in Manhattan on Monday afternoon. The company is in the process of fundraising.
Clovyr’s product, now under development, is slated to take the form of something akin to an app store, where people and businesses can experiment with a multitude of decentralized apps and services, developer toolsets, and underlying distributed ledgers. The cofounders envision the platform serving as a neutral ground, offering a browser-like dashboard for the blockchain-curious, through which Clovyr can provide support and other services to customers according to their needs.
Informing the duo’s mission is a belief in the inevitable, creeping convergence of public (Bitcoin-like) and “permissioned” (private, business-friendly) blockchains. Baldet compares businesses’ cautious approach to this brave new world to their leeriness when evaluating public clouds, like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, in years past.
“When public cloud started to be a thing, a lot of businesses said, Oh, cloud, it’s a great idea architecturally, but we’re going to go ahead and build our own private cloud internally, because it’s safer and we know what we need,” Baldet says. “Now they’re spending millions of dollars to undo a lot of that work in an attempt to migrate to the public clouds that have evolved to the point where they are secure and robust and connected.”
With respect to blockchains, “the conversation on the enterprise side right now feels a little bit like that,” Baldet says.
Businesses have good reason to be cautious about the hype surrounding this new generation of cryptographically sealed databases and virtual moneys, and Baldet is the first person to admit that. But she is taking a long-term view with Clovyr, and aims to provide people with the tools to bridge these two worlds in preparation for their potential, gradual intersection.
As one example of how a traditional company might begin to dabble with a public blockchain, Baldet suggests that tech staff might wish to “pin” a bit of cryptographically secured code associated with the state of a company’s internal networks onto an immutable, public ledger, like Ethereum’s blockchain. This could provide extra security, quality assurance, and auditability for the business, she says, and it is “probably the lowest barrier to entry.”
In addition to Quorum, Baldet and Nielsen say Clovyr will initially be compatible with Parity and Geth, two popular Ethereum software clients. They plan to add other blockchain integrations into the mix as demand dictates, they say.
This theme of creating hybrid blockchain environments—not unlike the development of hybrid cloud environments—is one that Baldet has been hinting at in a spree of talks in recent weeks, including at a recent MIT Technology Review conference and Ethereal, a community-building event put on by the Brooklyn-based Ethereum startup studio ConsenSys.
“Sorry, there’s no ICO,” Baldet jokes, referring to an initial coin offering, a trendy, if legally dubious, way for cryptocurrency-related projects to raise money. But companies interested in interacting with public blockchains can expect Clovyr to help take care of conversions from traditional dollars to cryptocoins for them, should they desire, she says.