Abra CEO: Private Blockchains Will ‘Fail Miserably’, JPM Coin Might Be ‘A Complete Waste of Time’

Siamak Masnavi

In an interview released on Monday (February 25th), Bill Barhydt, the CEO of Abra, a Californian startup that develops a non-custodial mobile crypto wallet (for iOS and Android) with a built-in exchange that lets you invest in 30 cryptocurrencies and 50 fiat currencies and trade between them, had very negative things to say about private blockchains.

Barhydt's comments came during an interview with Fortune's online show "Balancing the Ledger", where he was questioned Robert Hackett and Jeff Roberts, two senior writers for Fortune.

Barhydt was first asked to talk a little bit about the Abra app. He said:

"A couple of weeks ago, we announced that we are adding support for Nasdaq and U.S. equities so that customers outside the U.S. will be able to get exposure to the top 100 different stocks and ETFs in the Nasdaq, and then hopefully we will bring that to the U.S. as well. But what's really cool about this is that it uses a Bitcoin-based smart contract platform to enable this investment exposure, which is why we're able to accomplish this across consumers in over 100 countries... Our goal is to build the Whatsapp for money. With Whatsapp, we have a single app, globally, where we can message each other. We don't have a single app, globally, for financial services. If I want to invest, I want to send money, I want to get credit, today, I have to use services that are unique to each specific country that I live in, whereas with Abra, our goal is to build one app that will service every consumer in the world  and leverage crypto to democratize access to financial services."

Then, after he had answered some more questions about the Abra app, Roberts asked Barhydt, who had worked at Netscape in 1995 how accurate was the analogy between the state of Bitcoin today and the state of the internet at that time. While answering this question, Barhydt drew a parallel between all the talks in the late 90s about extranets and today's hype about enterprise blockchains:

"We went through this craziness in the late 90s where for about a year and half everybody was talking about this term 'extranet.' Extranet was basically taking the internet and making it work inside the firewall. It's exactly what had happened with all this enterprise blockchain nonsense, where people have this fallacy idea that they're going make blockchain work inside the firewall. It's all going to fail miserably just like people realized extranet was a waste of time. It was all about the internet. And I think that people will realize it's all about a truly decentralized cryptocurrency and a private blockchain just makes no sense."

Hackett then asked Barhydt what he thinks about J.P. Morgan's recent announcement about their new stablecoin "JPM Coin." 

Barhydt replied:

"I think that 'coin' was a bit of a misnomer. I think it's really a ledger that's meant for settling trades. It's possible that, depending upon how they've architected this, it may not be just what I'm talking about in terms of a true, private blockchain. I think the press got a little bit of the 'it's a coin' message wrong and that may be on J.P. Morgan for not explaining it correctly, so won't put it on the press... But if it really is a private chain and a private coin, I'm guessing it's a complete waste of time. But I don't know for sure if that's what it is."

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