On November 6, PANews invited Matthew Spoke, Co-founder and CEO of The Open Application Network (formerly Aion Network) and Founder and CEO of the Open Foundation (formerly Aion Foundation) to a live Wechat Ask Me Anything (AMA) session to discuss about how Open Apps help solve the problems of the platform economy. 

Earlier this week, Aion Network announced a shift in its core focus toward addressing the significant challenges faced by platform-economics under a new name The Open Application Network (The OAN) and The OAN is secured by Aion, its native digital asset. 

Matthew Spoke is the Founder and CEO of the Open Foundation (Formerly Aion Foundation), a not-for-profit designed to steward The Open Application Network. Matt has been involved in blockchain for more than 5 years. He is a founding board member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance and a founding director of the Blockchain Technology Coalition of Canada and founded Deloitte’s first blockchain team earlier in his career. 


Matt is also a leading advocate for the potential social impacts of decentralized technologies and is working actively with governments in Canada and globally to establish fair and responsible rules and principles for the future governance of this important new industry. As part of this focus, Matt has served as an advisor to the Ontario Securities Commission, the Ontario Ministry of Finance, and the Government of Barbados. 

Below is transcript of the AMA: 

PANews: Hi Matt, welcome to join us in PANews AMA Session. It’s a pleasure to have you here. We know that we have been involved in blockchain for more than 5 years. You have founded other blockchain organizations besides The OAN previously, and you also have advised on a lot of blockchain products. What brought you into this field? This is an opening question that we ask every guest. Could you share your story briefly? 

Matthew: I bought my first Bitcoin in 2012, when I was working in Accounting at Deloitte. I was fascinated by the idea of a new financial system that was being built to be open and transparent, rather than closed. At the time, I didn’t understand much about the technology behind Bitcoin, but my curiosity led me into wanting to learn more.

In 2014, I started Deloitte’s first global R&D team focused on this industry, and in early 2016 I left to start my first blockchain company, called Nuco. 1 year later, we announced our intent to build a new protocol called Aion, and this week, we launched a new strategy we call The Open Application Network.

PANews: I have noticed that Aion Network has been rebranded into The Open Application Network this Monday. Congratulations on this move! And I am curious, what is the motivation for this change? 

Matthew: The change is not so much a rebrand, but more a change of strategic focus with a new target audience. Aion continues to be the name of the digital asset inside our protocol, but we’re now continuing the development of our protocol with the goal of attracting developers and companies in the traditional software markets, like Silicon Valley and Beijing platform companies.

People can learn more about our new focus here:


The coin here:


and if you're interested in how we went through this change, you can read the blog post here: 


We don’t want to simply build another alternative to Ethereum focusing on cryptocurrency applications, but rather we want to demonstrate to real businesses outside the blockchain industry the value of the system we’re developing.


PANews: After this shift of focus, what will be the role the blockchain technology plays in The OAN’s ecosystem? Any other emerging technologies will be used on the platform? 


Matthew: The OAN includes the blockchain protocol we developed over the past 3 years, but will also expand to include technologies focused on privacy (zero knowledge proof) and storage, as well as SDKs built to help developers use these underlying protocols simply within their business applications.


Moving forward, our roadmap will be decided based on feedback from our new target user market and new technology improvements we need to make to match their requirements. In the short term, we know that will include a big focus on privacy technology. We have a big announcement about privacy technology later this month.


PANews: According to your website, The OAN solves the unintended consequences of platform economies. As you see it, what are the unintended consequences of current platform ecosystems?


Matthew: Online platform companies continue to grow in their relative economic size. These companies now control e-commerce, hospitality, transportation, video streaming, and many other services. Although these have created significant value for customers, they’ve also monopolized massive markets.


The control these monopolies have on their respective markets is leading to misaligned interests between them and their users and stakeholders.


We don’t believe the solution is to build decentralized alternatives to these markets, but rather build components that augment these marketplaces with Open Applications that give more control back to users.


A good example would be building an open reputation system that connects to Uber and allows a driver to keep his reputational data if he leaves Uber to drive on a competing platform.


PANews: Previously, Aion was known as a high profile blockchain interoperability project in China. Will blockchain interoperability remain to be a characteristic of The OAN? Any progress and improvements in this regard to share with us? 


Matthew: We did a lot of research and development on blockchain interoperability in 2018, in parallel to the work we did on our AVM and new hybrid consensus algorithm. We will continue to push and mature the underlying protocol, but our focus is not to simply build a better blockchain, our focus is to demonstrate to real users why and how they should build on these systems and connect their Open Applications to existing platform markets.


The key to the growth of our industry is to build more adoption, and more user demand for our solutions. That’s our focus moving forward.


PANews: Matt, you founded Deloitte’s first blockchain team and are an active and founding board member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. You are also a regular editorial contributor on Forbes.com and have shared many thoughts on the application of blockchain technologies. How is The OAN being applied? Do you have some use cases to share already? 


Matthew: We have some exciting companies building products on top of The OAN today and will have many more to show the market in the coming months. The big distinction will be the types of companies and solutions being built. On The OAN you will see real businesses, and extensions to real platforms being developed, to be usable by normal customers.


My goal since starting the blockchain team at Deloitte, and even the reason I’m on the Board of Directors of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance is to demonstrate how real use cases will be built on top of blockchains, and specifically on The OAN. This industry needs more than just crypto businesses building apps.


Two companies that announced this week their Open App use cases are Velocia and VIVOPago. More coming. You can read more about these on The OAN blog: https://medium.com/theoan.


Open Applications are the key to the next wave of adoption coming into this industry.

PANews: Aion is the digital asset of The Open Application Network. What its role and usage in this ecosystem?


Matthew: The OAN is a public system that needs to be ownerless and globally accessible. In order to accomplish this, it’s built on the back on a public blockchain network. To maintain this system as a decentralized open infrastructure, and to ensure its security from attacks, validators (miners and stakers) are incentivized using Aion, the digital asset.


In the same way, for Open Applications to use the computing resources of The OAN, they access the AVM using Aion, the system’s currency. This function is built into the Open Kits and SDKs we’ve built for developers.


For network mining, this has been live since April 2018, but in two weeks we upgrade our protocol to a hybrid consensus system we call Unity. In this design, miners and stakers will both participate in block production and rewards The next announcement about Unity is next week.


PANews: Who do you see as competitors of The OAN or Who do you benchmark to? Will they be the traditional open-source platforms? 


Matthew: The OAN is the first protocol outside of the categories of Bitcoin and Ethereum. Our metrics for the network still focus on tx fee usage in the system, but we go to market focusing on a completely different target user than other protocols in the web3 blockchain industry.


As with any new category of technology, we expect others to follow us and potentially copy our approach, but today we stand alone in our strategy.


PANews: As an official content distributor of The Block in Asia, we have translated and republished an article they wrote on blockchain products in Canada. (https://www.panewslab.com/index.php?page=content_news&id=2700) In the article, Aion is regarded as an important infrastructure provider. Could you share with us how is the blockchain ecosystem like in Canada and how do you view it? 


Matthew: Although we operate part of our team in Canada, we also manage an office in Shanghai and Barbados. Canada has always been a good place for us to build and hire talent, but we know that our target market is global.


We’re happy to be the leading team in our industry in Canada, and we continue to push other Canadian companies and the Canadian government and regulators to be more bold in pushing the industry forward.


I love living in Canada, but as you know, this industry keeps me travelling a lot around the world.


PANews: My last question, and also an always asked question of us would be, could you briefly tell us how was your 2019 so far, or what’s your vision of the future development of the industry?  


Matthew: 2019 was a year of refocusing for us. The launch of The OAN is our new focus for 2020 and beyond. To move forward against this strategy, we’ve done well at managing our financial position, and we’re well set up to continue our progress for the next several years.


My hope for the industry is that we see unserious companies run out of money and leave the industry. We need to step up and demonstrate to the rest of the world how valuable the technology we’re developing is to the future global economy. As such, we need to promote only the best companies our industry has to offer. We believe we’re one of those companies.


Separately, we’re also excited about the upcoming launch of Unity, our hybrid PoW and PoS into our protocol on November 20. This upgrade to The OAN will significantly improve the security of the system, and create a new incentive for stakers to participate in our network alongside miners. We’re excited to have the support of some high-quality staking companies that we’ll be announcing this week.


Selected questions from the Q&A section:

「Yang: hey, Matt. Pivot to The OAN, how do you differentiate the OAN with Ethereum?Why The OAN instead of Ethereum? Or what's the uniqueness of the OAN compared with ethereum?@Matthew Spoke, AION」


Good question. The big difference will be which problems we aim to solve. You won't see our team chasing DeFi or other dApps off of Ehereum. Every other protocol is competing for a small market. We're focusing on mainstream software companies. This will also inform how we make future roadmap decisions.


「Annie: Data security and privacy protection are problems platform users, be they individuals or businesses, care very much about. How does The OAN deal with it?」


Good question, Annie. Our privacy research is coming along really well. Our research team is going to be making an announcement about our first prototype of this technology, and our research goals on this topic.

「Star: q: what makes hybrid consensus special (pow+pos)」


Hybrid consensus is quite unique. In fact, Aion (now The OAN) will be the first public network to make this type of change on its mainnet. With an existing community of miners already securing our network, our new design changes so every other block is created by stakers, and every other block by miners. The economics of the system will change to make this viable.

There have been already a lot of blockchain interoperability projects and they have some mature technologies, like Cosmos and Polkadot. What advantages do you have comparing to these projects? Thanks.


We are not focusing only on cross-blockchain technology. We're happy good teams like Cosmos and Polkadot are focusing on solving these technical challenges. That said, neither of these protocols have real users and real companies building on their protocols outside of the blockchain industry. Our focus is mainstream adoption.


Can The OAN help platform users solve the privacy problem? What specific plans Aion have to make it happen?

Yes, we will be announcing more on this later in November. Privacy inside the network for smart contracts is a very important focus moving forward.


「Tina: Hello Matt, you have a technological background. What’s your team like under your leadership? What your culture and style?」


Our team is about 55 people, majority engineers and researchers, but also Product Managers, Marketers, Developer Relations, etc. We have a very fun team culture but it is also different depending on the office. We have offices in Toronto, Shanghai, and Barbados.」

「Monica: As an infrastructure, what challenges do you foresee will The OAN face in its development?」


Most of our challenge will be in building the right tools and SDKs (we call Open Kits) to make it easier for companies to incorporate Open Apps into their business models. We already have lots of companies working on this strategy with us, so we are learning a lot from their feedback.


「limm: If more and more companies choose to use The OAN to solve real business problems, will it benefit Aion stakeholders? In other words, will more adoption translate into high value of Aion?」


Yes. We measure value in the Aion coin based on network usage over time. We already have one of the most used public networks today. The market for Aion will grow based on our new strategy, and based on lots of demand for the coin inside the network as tx fees.」

「limi: What will be your focus in 2020 in terms of target markets? What companies in the traditional software industry will be your potential clients?」


Our focus in 2020 will be to work with more traditional software companies to build Open Apps. This would include companies like Uber, Shopify, Youtube, and companies like them, or companies that connect with them, 3rd party app developers to build on top of these marketplaces.