Min Kim Speaks on ICON’s Commitment to Education, Adoption

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Catching up with Min Kim at Blockchain Connect

At this year’s first annual Blockchain Connect, a few of us from Coin Central sat down for an interview with Min Kim, a member of ICON’s Foundation Council and the Chief Strategy Officer at DAYLI Financial Group.  

The correspondence was an absolute pleasure.  Kim’s disposition was pleasant and light-hearted, and he showed a thorough and professional understanding of the ICON project and its vision going into 2018. Our near thirty-minute conversation went by in a blink, and it covered some key areas of ICON’s development and future, including its focus on business adoption, the ICON mainnet, and what the platform will need to see successful mainstream adoption.

If you want to learn more about ICON outside of the scope of this interview, check out our guide here.

The Interview

Colin: “Thank you for meeting with us–this is really exciting for us.  I’m kinda fanboying over here, honestly, ‘cause I’m a huge fan of the platform, the vision, everything about it.  So, I guess what I want to ask right now is, what do you think is the most beneficial feature that ICON will bring to the blockchain ecosystem?”

Min: “We have a lot of things going on at the same time, but I think one of the biggest parts of ICON is the educational aspect.  When we started working with consortiums, we didn’t go out there and just started selling the product–because we didn’t have a product.  We started from within and started educating people in the financial securities industry, people in the medical industry, and even universities because universities are only beginning to understand the benefits of the blockchain now. So I think that everything starts with education, and what we set out to do is going to the core decision makers and educating them about the benefits of blockchain and get them excited about it. 

The next step was to start a project with them, so we started to think, “Okay, how do we implement blockchain into your everyday business?”  For the universities, for example, one of our first ideas was to use blockchain for the students’ IDs but we ended up with our current project: a crypto vending machine that we are installing in different universities.  So the most exciting thing–the most benefit–that ICON is bringing to Korea and these industries is that we first start with education and we’re unlocking different possibilities.  You know, we don’t have a single product that we’re selling.  We’re selling the base technology, but on top of this technology, we can do so many different things.  And this is how we can be creative to different partners.”

Colin: “You’re marketing a skeleton key, it seems like–something that will unlock blockchain’s potential, like your tagline “Hyperconnect the World,” so it’ll hopefully lead to adoption with all of these different industries.  My next question: will ICON serve as an oracle service, or are you just looking into the blockchain aspects?”

Min: “Right now we’re just looking at the blockchain aspects of it.  In the future, if we do need to build an oracle, we might, but I think at this time we’ll use centralized oracles just to get things started–get things rolling.”

We want to build communities. We are still experimenting and expanding on the possibilities for our technology and where it can be applied so it’s really hard to say what exactly we’re going to be.  Our goal is to start as many projects as possible, some of them will be lead by us and others by our partners who will be building on top of ICON.

Great things like Uber and Facebook were at some point just an idea or a project, and now they are multi-billion dollar businesses. I think our strategy is to explore, experiment and, of course, work hard to develop the projects in the hopes that some of them become the next thing.”

Steven: “It’s a very venture capital way of looking at it.  You have these portfolio companies and you’ll have a couple that really take-off and make-up for the rest.”

Colin: “So I’ll probably get shot down with this question, but are there any partnerships that you can tease, any on the table right now that you can disclose?”

Min: “No I cannot disclose. But that’s what our annual summit is going to be about, and we’re going to try to do more partnership announcements on a monthly basis. It all depends on how far along the line [they are] when we’re ready to announce it.”

Steven: “Kinda going back to the origin story, talking about, you know, you’re showing up to these different potential clients, potential partners, pre-product just trying to educate them on blockchain. Was it a hard sell?  What were their reactions?”

Min: “I don’t know the full story of some of these.  But one of the most interesting things we’ve done is that we actually held a seminar in Korea where we invited some of the key managers from financial institutions and universities, and we created an 8-week course on blockchain, just to kind of educate people.  Surprisingly, we got a lot from that, because some of these guys came back and said, “Hey we learned a lot, and we want to work on a project with you guys.  

One of the biggest consortiums called the Korean Financial Investment Association came over and we created the Brokerage Association–or consortium–so 25 security firms are members of this consortium.  It wasn’t a hard sell, I would say.  It just sort of came out naturally.  The most difficult is, once you get the project going, trying to get everyone on the same page and getting people to continue believing in what you’re doing.”

Steven: “Because it’s a long process.”

Min: “It is a long process.”

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Colin: “My next question is on the main net release.  I know it’s out, I know it’s live, but the public release hasn’t happened yet–do you all have a set date for the main net release to go public, do you have a rough estimate for it?”

Min: “The main net is out there, so we created the genesis block.  The only things that we are missing are the wallet and the tracker.  They are, from my understanding–I need to check with our development team once again– ready or are very close to being ready.  We wanted to showcase this for the first time during our annual summit, which is the only reason why we’re waiting.  So once our annual summit happens, I think we’re just going to announce it at some point and should get everything rolling.  I have to check with our team again what exactly they’re going to be releasing fully to the public.  I think some of these might happen a couple of days after [the summit].  But a lot of these cool features will be shown to the public at the summit–it’s going to be really exciting.”

Steven: “So I know you guys have had a pretty big focus on business partnerships, the other aspects of the business besides the tech, and I think that’s something that’s kinda rare in the blockchain community. So I guess, not really a question, I just wanted to hear your opinion on that or hear you speak to that.”

Min: “So business side, I think you’re right.  I think a lot of people underestimate how difficult it is to get business traction.  Like me being in the startup world for so long–I’ve worked on different projects, I’ve been doing startups and I’ve raised capital for multiple companies–and one of the biggest problems is not building an idea.

Anyone can come up with an idea, anybody could put together a team, anyone can raise money, anyone can get a product out.  The real problem is user acquisition, user traction. And a lot of projects, even us, need to do a better job of user acquisition, although I think we’re much farther ahead of many token products. I think a lot of other token products are going to face reality and realize “Oh man, this user acquisition is so hard.”

Colin: “That might be a good segue into my next question: do you think a lot of that traction will start building once you start having communities joining the ICON Republic?”

Min: “So one or two things.  Yes, on one side, there’s the token holders. We might consider them as one set of users, but just to be frank, my concern is not the token holders as users.  My main concern is on the other side; it’s the people who will be using our technology to do real transactions in their daily life.  You know, think of the crypto vending machines. How many people are going to be using our tokens to buy actual items with these vending machines? How many people are going to be sending our tokens to you to do remittance or payments? I think these are more relevant transactions.

The real business aspect, I think, is people using the product, you know, as a smart contract protocol in our daily lives.  It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of dApps will be built on top of ICON, how is our protocol going to be used. We don’t know yet.  But eventually, these are the real world use cases that we’re interested in.”

Colin: “But when ICON comes out with its DEX, its exchange counterpart, certainly that would bring significant value to the ICX token, correct?”

Min: “Right.”

Colin: “Because it will be used for universal exchange pairs, and it will be used as a delegation token, as well.  But you still see those kinds of uses as secondary to what you’re really looking for in terms of mainstream adoption, where businesses are using this to execute smart contracts, or students are using this at their campus store to buy food for the week?”

Min: “Right, exactly.  DEX is nice, delegates are nice.  And they’re very necessary for people to use our tokens in different ways.  But the real challenge, the real value–the holy grail–is this other side of this world, [business adoption], and that will be a huge win for us.”

Steven: “It’s still a very young industry–it’s nuts.”

Min: “So young right now!  For me, I’m very looking forward to 2018.  Because 2017 was the year that the world suddenly woke up to crypto and blockchain and it sorta spread amongst, you know, very smart people.  Before, we had a few very smart people who thought about this, the visionaries, and then we started seeing some very interesting applications and companies coming out, but I still see these as very early stage products. In the last months we’ve been seeing, especially in Korea, seasoned entrepreneurs who are flooding to this market, this industry, so I think 2018 will be the year you’ll see applications that you’ve never seen before.  So I’m very excited to play with these toys.”

Colin: “Yeah, so you’re very excited for the speculation to turn into something tangible.”

Min: “Yeah I am, it’s very exciting. We’ve talked to a lot of bluechip companies–the Korean equivalent of Fortune 500 companies.  And even today, some people are [at the conference] and they have the visions dedicated to blockchain, they have funding dedicated to blockchain, and I think a lot of interesting initiatives will come out of these things.  When you have a lot of smart people and a lot of money in one room, something’s going to happen.  And I’m hoping that ICON is one of the projects that can contribute to this growth.”

Colin: “Last question, ICON has been called the Korean Ethereum.  Do you have any comments on that comparison.”

Min: *Laughing* “Yeah, I mean, it’s a great compliment.  If you compare it to any other great blockchain project that came before ICON, we’ll gladly accept it.  Just putting us near those types of projects makes us very happy.  Of course, in the future, we are looking forward to set ourselves apart and differentiate ourselves.”

Colin: “And maybe one day they’ll be saying, “This is the __ICON, this is the American ICON.”

Min: “Yeah yeah, that’ll be awesome.”

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