Davos 2023: Speed Up Web3 Adoption With 'Real Utility' Focus, Removing Complexities

Zinger Key Points
  • The Web3 Foundation is building technologies and helping technology builders make a new version of the Internet.
  • One of the organization's focus points is "bringing real utility value to the table."

The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently held its 2023 annual meeting. Attendees convened to discuss tough issues to shape policy and improve the state of the world.

The Swiss-based international organization focused on engaging leaders in finance and government, including Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, and Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine, among many others.

Benzinga attended and interviewed Bertrand Perez, CEO of the Web3 Foundation.

Perez has been working at both startups and big-name corporates in the field of telecom and payments throughout his career, including as senior director at PayPal Holdings Inc PYPL and COO of the Libra Project from Meta PlatformsMETA. After that, Perez moved to the Web3 Foundation in September 2021. Please note that the below text was lightly edited for clarity and concision.

BZ: What happened to Libra?

It was not a good time. Though the technology was solid — it was the best technology for issuing a stablecoin and we were having the best partners to do that — we received a lot of headwind from regulators and governments worldwide scared of seeing their local currencies being eaten by a stablecoin. On the positive side, I think Libra helped push governments to accelerate their regulatory agenda for crypto, stablecoins, and Web 3.0.

How did you evolve your role and become CEO at the Web3 Foundation?

Initially, they were looking for someone to lead operationally. Later, they decided I could take the role that is much more still having a foot on their day-to-day operations but also having more on setting the vision for the Web3 Foundation.

What was one of the most formative experiences for you?

I think it was when I joined Libra. I was basically a tech person, who was an engineer, and I had to stretch a lot and learn very quickly in areas that were completely new to me. For instance, legal frameworks for payments, as well as PR and communications. I was learning a lot about different areas I was not familiar with. This helped bridge my technical background and knowledge and bring a more pragmatic approach to discussions. I was able to bring regulators back to reality with regard to what was feasible from a technological perspective.

Tell me about your roadmap and a big focus for you right now.

Decentralization. We are building technologies and helping technology builders make this new version of the Internet, which is much more decentralized with all of the benefits that go with that for end users like keeping more control over their data and, also, helping enterprises. That's why I'm here in Davos — to help enterprises see the technology for what it is, which is much more than just a bunch of tokens pumping here and there. Tokens are one of the applications, but there are thousands of other applications. I don't want us to miss the importance of the technology just because of FTX or all the other issues we have seen. I like to think back to what happened with the Internet when the bubble exploded in 2000. After the burst, only the ones who were there for the long term and bringing real utility and value saw an acceleration. We want to be seen as one of those players here for the long term bringing real utility to the table.

What are some of the big challenges that you see coming?

Regulation. To give you an example, in Europe, we have this regulation called MiCA. Though it is needed, I want to make sure regulators don't miss the other sides of the technology. We don’t want them to overregulate so they kill innovation in the other areas where blockchain technologies can bring real value.

Is there a case study that validates the work that you’re doing?

Not all blockchain technologies are equal. The best example I can provide is the approach that we took with the SEC in the U.S. We were the only ones to come to the SEC and work with them and stay on the right side of the law. We sought to hedge against ending up in a situation where they come afterward and try to enforce. Over the long term, this has value because you're sitting on the right side of the law, which is what we want to do. We want to participate in the definition of what a proper framework looks like.

What are you most excited about in 2023 and beyond?

From a pure technology perspective, there have been lots of achievements on our blockchain Polkadot DOT/USD. The new governance model is very important. It decentralizes, completely, the governance of the blockchain, and gives back to the token owners real power to influence the project. There's tons of innovation in terms of new cryptographic algorithms to make the network even more secure, as well. Also, we see a lot of traction from developers.

How do you make what you’re doing relatable?

Web 1.0 is read-only. At one point, we were only able to read content on static web pages. No interactions. Then came Web 2.0. Here you had the ability to read and write. Think Facebook and Alphabet Inc-owned GOOGL GOOG Google. You had the ability to upload and contribute your own content. Web 3.0 is read, write, and own. You are able to own from two angles. First, you own the data and have the incentive to share it. Second, through the use of tokens, you’re able to transfer value in a seamless way. You have a way to exchange value either when you contribute with your data, or the system you’re contributing to wants to reward you.

What about making Web 3.0 less cumbersome to use?

Using our technologies, you can build services for end users that don't know they're using a Web 3.0 platform. Developers can create applications using our technology and, then, distribute an app for mobile phones. Users can interact with this app without having to purchase any tokens. The use of tokens is done in the background between the application developer, the service developer, and the platform. It's completely transparent for end users, and that's also a way to kind of start to have traction and interaction from people with Web 3.0 services. They start getting the value of Web 3.0 without having to deal with hardware wallets and all the other kinds of things that seem complicated for regular people. Thanks to our services, they can still use the services without having that burden.

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