Synonymous with bitcoin till now, Blockchain is set to disrupt the world much like the internet disrupted communication. But what is the Blockchain brouhaha all about? This system allows a group of connected computers to maintain a single updated and secure ledger. The advantages are many, with decentralisation, immutability, security, and transparency topping the list.
Reason enough for startups across the world to try and tap the opportunity this futuristic technology holds. Among them is Bengaluru-based Dunya Labs, which is “building tools and experiences for mass adoption of Blockchain”.
Dunya Labs brings together youth and experience. The young blood includes Srikar Vardaraj, a math enthusiast, and Cathy Guo, who loves game theory; the duo met while at undergraduate school, Columbia University. Both were interested in how consensus algorithms, game theory, and economics were converging to create transparent systems.
Solving for information asymmetry
“At the time, Srikar began working on his own startup (Chain Intelligence), which provided research and due diligence to funds interested in investing in Blockchain projects. He worked with a lot of the top projects and funds like Idea Fund, GBIC, and Pledgecamp. The space was driven by this intersection between academic research and technological development, and it really needed people who understand both sides to get a clear view of where the industry was going,” says Cathy Guo, Co-founder of Dunya Labs.
Between 2015 and 2016 the duo took up the idea of solving for information asymmetry. They then took their idea to Ravi Kailas, a serial entrepreneur who had set up five successful businesses and was then the chairman of Mytrah Energy. Cathy, who graduated from Columbia University in 2016 (Srikar did in 2018), had met Ravi while she was working at Mytrah Energy in the UK.
Ravi Kailas, who brings his vast experience to this startup, knew that Blockchain-based consensus mechanisms would work very well in industries such as energy. He decided to back the duo and became the chairman of Dunya Labs.
“We decided to set up the company in India, and rebrand it as Dunya Labs,” says Cathy.
Technology beyond borders
Blockchain stores information based on transactions conducted by a group of businesses. It can be used in sectors such as farming, logistics, food processing, banks, and retailing. The consensus mechanism allows parties to verify and record each and every transaction without being manipulated by any party in the ecosystem.
Numerous studies show that this technology beyond borders holds the potential to power the future. A 2015 World Economic Forum report predicts that 10 percent of GDP will be stored on Blockchains or Blockchain-related technology by 2025.
“We are focused on building the pipes and plumbing of the Blockchain world that will help drive it towards mass adoption. As it currently exists, the ecosystem is limited to technical users or those who are greatly willing to invest time in learning how to interact with Blockchain,” Cathy says.
Dunya Labs builds its infrastructure on the EOS Blockchain, which is a protocol on which smart contract apps or decentralised apps can be built. It is similar to Ethereum, but with one huge difference: Ethereum can do 15 transactions per second, while EOS can do thousands per second. But Blockchain experts say it is not as robust as an Ethereum and can sometimes compromise true decentralisation.
Cathy says, just like many tools were built to make the internet more accessible to end-users, such as changing website domains to be human-readable, there are similar opportunities in Blockchain right now.
Putting infrastructure in place
But before we can truly see mass adoption of and activity on decentralised applications (dApps), startups like Dunya Labs will need to ensure that a base layer or protocol-level complexities are abstracted from users and developers seeking to use Blockchain technology, and that the necessary tooling and infrastructure to facilitate that is in place.
“We are a Blockchain studio focused on building infrastructure services and tools for public Blockchain adoption. We will be releasing a suite of products for various Blockchains, similar to how software companies release their products,” Cathy says.
Their first product is Eclipse, an open AWS-like toolkit that allows developers to easily build, deploy and maintain applications across multiple public Blockchains. This abstracts away significant levels of complexity from both developer teams as well as the end user, making it easier to build and use decentralised applications.
The company did not want to reveal the pricing and the investment that has gone into the company. It has no revenues as it is yet to see apps coming through its platform.
“We have different pricing models for different tools – the resource management piece of Eclipse will be charged as a subscription-plus-pay-per-usage. Other tools may be charged per API call. We will also allow other developers to host their tools on our platform if they are extremely good, and we will essentially earn a small referral fee every time their tool is accessed through the Eclipse platform,” Cathy adds.
Helping the developer community
Their product is similar to offerings by Amazon Web Services (AWS). Thanks to AWS, developers who wish to build large-scale applications can access resources and the many coupled tooling they need through AWS rather than spending large amounts of capital upfront to set up their own servers. AWS offers these benefits in traditional development work while Eclipse offers these benefits for decentralised technologies.
“With Eclipse, we remove the barrier of entry for new Blockchain developers,” Cathy says.
“We signed our first MoU after making efforts to bridge the information asymmetry gap in India. We did this by hosting a series of hands-on developer workshops called ‘Catalyst Series’ that solicited participation from Blockchain companies and teams from Ukraine, Korea, China, and Canada, and taught beginner developers to build their own decentralised applications. Developers from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, companies, and levels of expertise congregated to participate in the program, which ended with a finale hackathon. These teams deployed dApps on testnet, and many have continued with what they had built,” Cathy says.
This not only allowed Indian developers to connect with the global Blockchain ecosystem, but also gave these Blockchain companies insight into the Indian developer community and Blockchain ecosystem. Through these successful workshops, Dunya Labs was able to demonstrate its capability as a Blockchain studio and opened up many other avenues.
The future of Blockchain
In PwC’s 2018 survey of 600 executives from 15 territories, 84 percent said their organisations have at least some involvement with Blockchain technology. Companies have dabbled in the lab; perhaps they’ve built proofs of concept. Everyone is talking about Blockchain, and no one wants to be left behind.
It’s easy to see why. As a distributed, tamper-proof ledger, a well-designed Blockchain doesn’t just cut out intermediaries, reduce costs, and increase speed and reach. It also offers greater transparency and traceability for many business processes. Gartner forecasts that Blockchain will generate an annual business value of more than $3 trillion by 2030.
Paid collaborations will happen when Indian developers build world-class decentralised apps on the Dunya Labs platform. The startup has no competition in India and globally competes with Blockchain Studio and Consensys.