Ex-JP Morgan Blockchain Lead Hints at Stealth Startup Vision

One of the most influential people in blockchain is close to unveiling her next move.

AccessTimeIconMay 12, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 7:56 a.m. UTC
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Everyone is waiting for Amber Baldet's big reveal.

Since leaving her role as the blockchain lead at JP Morgan last month, Baldet has been tight-lipped on the new company she plans to launch. Still, her presentation at Ethereal Summit Friday, hosted by ethereum startup incubator ConsenSys, hinted at what the new endeavor might entail.

There, Baldet criticized the tribalism that can occur between builders of open blockchain networks and institutions, stressing the importance of hybrid technologies that can deploy verifiable, open-source code resistant to single points of failure but that can be adjusted should exceptions happen.

Hybrid blockchains have been on the minds of many executives at major enterprises of late, and Baldet's interest comes after the two largest public protocols have been embroiled, if not trapped, in online feuds.

As such, she framed permissioned blockchains as perhaps offering a well-intentioned contrast to a model that's seen no shortage of critiques over the years.

Baldet said:

“You can change the rules of the game without fighting on Twitter for two years. So, choices matter.”

Elsewhere, Baldet echoed much the same narrative of inclusion that the Ethereal Summit seemed to illustrate, while touching on the need for a better security models and poking fun at bitcoin's strategy for its security model and its emphasis on inclusion through node ownership.

In this way, Baldet framed herself as an entrepreneur who wants to forge a path toward a “pragmatic internet of value."

“In other words, something that works,” she said.

Privacy is pivotal

And to create that internet of value, Baldet believes the question of privacy is perhaps the most crucial.

“Fundamental strong encryption is a requirement for these systems,” Baldet said, adding that such cryptography should be open source and intensely vetted.

While permissioned blockchains are often criticized for their management by central authorities, Baldet said, public blockchains tend to put the onus on the individual, and as such, aren't perfect solutions for users.

Though bitcoin is ideal as a peer-to-peer, censorship-resistant payment network, she also suggested that builders of other blockchains might need to seek alternative strategies concurrent with their visions.

"Just because you have solved your problem set doesn’t mean you have solved the problems of everything else in the world,” she continued.

Building a system that has properties of both public and private blockchains, she seemed to stress, could prove beneficial for all parties.

Speaking to CoinDesk after her presentation, Baldet elaborated on this idea, stating that the ability to implement privacy solutions is one of the more interesting aspects of permissioned options.

She said:

“You can create privacy boundaries and it’s okay to have some things that are permissioned, because they’re things that at no point should be accessible to the entire public.”

'More dumb coordination'

Baldet didn't exactly state what such infrastructures would look like, but in conversation to CoinDesk, she hinted that it's unlikely to be achieved through options like interoperability protocols.

While interoperability is often cited as integral to blockchain adoption, Baldet said that forging connections between protocols could open up creating security vulnerabilities.

“A less optimal outcome would be to have a bunch of different public networks that all have different security and privacy models and completely agnostic interoperability between them,” Baldet said.

Because such a model relies too heavily on the security of these connections, it could risk harming the protocols to which they are attached.

Instead, she believes blockchains should be used for simple attestations that something has occurred, with the cryptographic hashes giving a compressed, yet computationally-verifiable sequence of what happened.

Speaking at the Summit, Baldet gave the example of zero-knowledge cryptography, such as that used by privacy-centric cryptocurrency zcash, to illustrate this point.

Baldet concluded:

“We need to dumb down what it is on blockchain – fewer smart contracts and more dumb coordination.”

Amber Baldet at Ethereal 2018 image via CoinDesk

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