iNation Founders: The State Needs Competition
Español “What is a nation?” asks David Mondrus. Along with Chief Communications Officer Nathan Wosnack, Mondrus founded a new blockchain project in February called iNation, a company that will “compete with the state” in providing some public services.
Wosnack and Mondrus used to be part of the Bitnation team, but after ongoing differences with the founder, Susanne Tarkowski Tempelhof, they wrote a letter of resignation and left. Months later, they are presenting their new baby.
“iNation is one of the world’s first secure, distributed, and cryptographically verifiable store of legal documents,” the website proclaims. “iNation is one of the first companies to address the coming unbundling of the government services market.”
A nation isn’t the government that you belong to … [it] is people who think like you think.
Their plan is to begin operations in approximately one year and finish a demo by the end of March, while they seek private equity from accredited investors.
They speak with passion about their project, but temper their enthusiasm with realistic objectives: “We don’t promise what we will deliver until we actually deliver it.” With those words, they hope to distance themselves from Bitnation: “We want to make sure to keep expectations humble.”
Mondrus and Wosnack spoke with the PanAm Post about their project: the challenges, funding, philosophy, and the benefits of emerging blockchain technology.
How can the layman understand a nation built on code? What exactly does this mean?
David: Well, what is a nation? There are three different things to talk about when we talk about nations. There are nations, there are governments, and there are locations. They are all different. To me, a nation isn’t the government that you belong to or the physical location where you live. Not anymore.
It used to be that way; now a nation is people who think like you think.
Because of the way the internet allows for free communication worldwide, with sites like Facebook … we now can choose which people we want to associate with. That, I think, is the new concept of a nation in the 21st century.
Nathan: It kinds of reminds me of the Hacker manifesto, and how they speak about how they do not judge each other by the color of their skin, or nationality, or state, or religion. You are judged based on your intelligence, or what you know, or how you work.
Are you going to offer any traditional public services?
David: Yes, absolutely. The idea behind iNation is that it will disassociate government from governance. We have a government, because it allows us to have a central place where we all agree on a piece of data, [like] who’s married to whom, who owns what house, and so on. But over the last 20 years, or longer, that trust that we place in the government has been broken [because of] banking crises, mortgage crises.
The idea here is, because governments are monopolies, we want to give them competition.
My old county courthouse has a wedding registry, but isn’t very good. It is very local, it’s difficult to get any data, and it is difficult to be a part of that. So, why not have an international registry of weddings?
Nathan: Say, for example, your courthouse burns down and loses the data, or it happened to go bankrupt in a certain jurisdiction that data is lost forever, and there is not really a way to verify that. With iNation, we offer a decentralized, trust-less, and secure way to always maintain that information.
David: The ability to have this information some place where it is not touchable is incredibly important. There is a war in Eastern Ukraine, and I’m Ukrainian, so this is personal to me. One of the war crimes [purportedly] commited is that people were being forced to hand over the deeds and titles to their cars, their houses, under the threat of death.
Well, if you do that, but that data is outside of that country, potentially in the future you might have some ability to get reparations for that. Both the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund have expressed interest in systems like this.
Who are your target clients?
David: We have a number of target customers. Unlike Bitnation, we are focused on the developed world. We still think that there is a lot of room in the United States, Canada, [and] Western Europe to provide services that governments currently provide poorly. We think there is a lot of market here. We are focused on four specific markets: weddings, deeds, wills, and education.
Weddings are easy. Joyce and I were married in the blockchain; I think everyone should be married in the blockchain. Education is the storage of your diploma. Wills are also very easy. My mom keeps saying “if anythings happens to me, call this woman, and she will have all the information.” But it would be better if that information was available in the cloud, encrypted and secure.
Nathan: My mom, being in her early 60s, doesn’t know anything about technology. She is a sweet lady, but she doesn’t understand. So, if we are able to make a platform that could bridge to the gap between the technical geeks and the average person, I think there is an opportunity.
What are your main challenges?
David: Our main challenge is financing. Right now we are self-funded: we are scrappy; we are building things as best as we can with the resources we have. Our focus is precisely to demystify this stuff, to make it easier for the average person, and to bring real value to people who need something like this.
The reason we want to focus on the developed world is because we know that all these stuff needs a lot of time. It takes years to make governments recognize the legal status of different pieces of data. We need to make sure we are self-sustainable, and that we have the finances to keep going for as long as necessary.
What is the main difference between iNation and Bitnation?
David: Bitnation focuses on the developing world, [like] Africa, and that’s great. It will take a long period of time, and it is very hard to do this without significant finances. It is important that the first thing you do is establish traction, revenue, and some level of profit so you can keep going indefinitely. I don’t see that as part of their strategy, or part of their plan.
Nathan: [We have] different leadership, [a] different focus on a different market, and our fundraising is going to be through accredited investors in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere. We have a different team as well. We have an advisory team of doctors, mathematicians, [and] people with financial backgrounds. We have a core development team as well, which includes finance, back-end developers, and designers.
The are 7.12 billion people in the world; there is enough space for two organizations like this to focus on different markets.
What is your message to those that say the idea is good, but the time is not right yet?
David: I have the perfect quote to answer that: “You are never ready. You go when you are ready enough.”
Edited by Thalia C. Siqueiros and Guillermo Jimenez.