9 October, 2019

Is the Future of Blockchain in Space? Interview with Zee Zheng, Co-founder and CEO of SpaceChain

Interview with Zee Zheng SpaceChain

For this month’s member interview, we sat down with Zee Zheng, one of SPECTRUM’s pioneer members and Co-founder and CEO of SpaceChain, a company that has already shown marked progress towards helping humanity thrive in the coming space age. We found out a bit more on how he is leveraging blockchain technology to create a decentralised environment that allows the building of open-source software applications projects as well as his vision for the company moving forward:

 

[SPECTRUM]

We would like to start with the “Why”, why did you decide to create SpaceChain and what is your ultimate vision for the company?

[Zee Zheng]

As is the case with most entrepreneurs, I took an extremely different path to get into the industry I am in today. At the beginning of my career, I headed an education startup that had a successful exit and transitioned quickly to move into the world of venture investments. One of the first (and only) companies that I invested in was space related, an industry that I was fascinated with from before. It was then that I knew that I wanted to do something space related but wasn’t sure of the ‘how’ at the time.

I have always been a blockchain nerd and was deeply involved with the Bitcoin and Ethereum communities. Along the way, I was fortunate to be introduced to my now fellow Co-founder and CTO Jeff Garzik, one of Bitcoin’s first core developers. It wasn’t easy to get him onboard but after speaking at length about the potential for blockchain technology deployed in outer space to create a truly decentralised and democratised platform, we formed SpaceChain and the rest is pretty much history.

Our overall vision for the company is to create an integrator for space and blockchain technology that will protect digital assets from hackers and lower the barriers of entry for space technology through an open-source model. A key part of our mission is to also educate space professionals and blockchain experts about each others’ industries to promote collaborations and foster a global community that can connect millions of businesses, developers and consumers.

 

[SPECTRUM]

We understand that you are solving security risks associated with blockchain transactions. Can you tell us more about why we have to go to space to provide better security? How does it improve traditional methods?

[Zee Zheng]

The biggest issue that has come with the mass adoption of cryptocurrencies is compromised security. Only last year there were more than a billion dollars worth of cryptocurrency lost to hackers. This has created huge paranoia within the industry.

Current blockchain servers that are hosted on earth carry too much risk and security protocols have flaws that can easily be exploited by hackers.

We solve this problem by taking transactions off the traditional internet, where majority of security breaches occur. Our open-source blockchain-based satellite platform  provides a private network in space to carry out transactions using virtually any cryptocurrency. Once completed, the result is then broadcasted back to earth. This process eliminates 99% of hacking opportunities making the industry a lot more secure.

 

[SPECTRUM]

Can you tell us more about your recent partnership with the European Space Agency and how it will help you move forward?

[Zee Zheng]

Our close relationship with the Agency has allowed us to receive a grant from them (under their Business Kick-start Activity programme) to test use cases for our platforms in outer space as well as develop our satellite-powered multi-signature wallet. The partnership is one that we are particularly excited about, due to the sheer size of the organisation (being an international space agency) as well as the fact that they are based in Europe, allowing us to explore various opportunities for collaboration in the foreseeable future. An example of this is a conference that I recently attended with the Agency that focused on potential for AI to be integrated in space. This is something that wouldn’t have even been considered several years ago.

 

[SPECTRUM]

How will blockchain developers get access to this technology?

[Zee Zheng]

Developers will be able to tap our platforms in a few ways. One of our main missions was to lower barriers to entry so that the general population would obtain access to the space industry. Our users need to only understand smart contracts without the need for detailed and technical knowledge of how the space industry works.

Our open-source platform will facilitate development and the running of decentralised applications in space through the SpaceChain OS. The wallet provides a secure platform for development that will be available to anyone with our integration of Bitcoin, Ethereum and Quantum.

 

[SPECTRUM]

How many satellites are you planning to launch in the foreseeable future?

[Zee Zheng]

Although I can’t share too much at this time, I have to highlight that success in the field (at least for us) is not determined by the number of satellites launched but by our broad network and ecosystem that will hopefully see the value of launching satellites with us. If we work independently in the field, we are only another satellite company. It’s about our network reach and creating an ecosystem where companies form a constellation with us to create a true decentralised environment. This is the way that we can create our brand promise of access for all.

I can disclose that we have already launched two satellites successfully and have three more in the works in the next 18 months.

 

[SPECTRUM]

What are the key milestones that you plan to achieve in the coming years?

[Zee Zheng]

Being a space company, we will be dedicating sufficient resources to our launches and conducting of flight tests. We will also be bolstering our hardware through building our very own high-performance computer chips.

As I said before, our focus on inclusivity for the industry will see us enhancing our OS to interact with the broader community.

We will also be focusing on our monetisation strategy through several grants from governments and talks with investors.

Our commitment to continuously educate society as well as the industry will always be at the forefront of everything we do. We hosted over 60 space professionals from various companies in the UK at the beginning of this year in conjunction with Satellite Applications Catapult. We are in the process of planning a similar event in Singapore sometime next year.

 

 [SPECTRUM]

Are space travel and technology passions of yours or you just saw space as the right solution for the problem you want to solve?

[Zee Zheng]

Well, you can say that I was always interested in the industry but never really knew that I would be so deeply involved in its advancements. I was a psychology major and always thought I would contribute thorough policy or education. I slowly started to realise that, similar to Google and Facebook not hiring only tech people, I could enter the industry and make a difference through marrying blockchain (which I have a passion for) and space tech.

 

[SPECTRUM]

If you had the opportunity, would you join Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa in his upcoming trip around the moon with Space X or would you want to be one of the first humans to explore Mars?

[Zee Zheng]

Absolutely, if I had such an opportunity, I would definitely want to be involved in any mission that would advance the industry and mankind as a whole.

 

[SPECTRUM]

Due to its complexity and capital required, space seems like a very difficult industry to enter for new companies. What advice would you give to any aspiring entrepreneur that dreams of creating a business involving space technology?

[Zee Zheng]

The first piece of advice I would give would be to embark on something that gets you out of bed in the morning. The startup world is riddled with a good dose of uncertainty and pressure that you will never be totally ready for. You need to have passion and make connections with the right partners. You also need to have a great team, you will never be good at everything, so know your skillsets and allow others to contribute what they are good at. I found this out the hard way. When I began I handled the operations as well as overall strategy and learnt that it was unnecessary to do everything myself. I also must stress that you need to be careful whom you get funding from. VC capital, for example, comes with its own sets of challenges as it tends to be attached to conditions that can add extra layers of stress to the process.

 

[SPECTRUM]

Can you tell us about your experience with SPECTRUM so far, how has it been?

[Zee Zheng]

I really like the environment. We had the opportunity to move out on occasion but the facilities, network as well as location of the office is second to none. The events and networking opportunities are also a major attraction here, allowing us to share our ideas with industry leaders and potential investors from a wide range of backgrounds. I currently stay at Duo Residences and it’s great to be able to come to work anytime.

 

Do watch this space to find out more on SpaceChain’s developments across the next several months as well as insights on our other members within the space. As always, you can keep up-to-date with what is going on around SPECTRUM here.

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