Dallas’ next-gen public ledger company, Hedera Hashgraph, made a big statement over the weekend in the form of a full-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal.
The ad directly addressed Facebook and its new global cryptocurrency, Libra, that was finally formally announced last week. Libra would allow users to buy products or send money with next-to-nothing in fees. But, Libra fell under a large amount of scrutiny with some praising the endeavor and other weary of the aftermath.
Maxine Waters, the head of the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, asked the social media giant to halt development of the crypto network for its “unchecked expansion” until hearings could be held.
And Hedera Hashgraph has spoken up too, publicly calling out Facebook—to put it simply—to clarify who did it first.
The WSJ ad reads, “Thank you Facebook Libra. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” with Facebook’s infamous thumbs up symbol. Underneath is the Hedera Hashgraph logo, #hellofuture, and Hedera’s tagline: “It’s been their internet for too long. Make it yours.”
A slew of stories published in the blockchain and crypto media sphere are making much of Hedera’s ironic ad. And, folks are having fun with it on Twitter—including some who work at Hedera, such as Christian Hasker, who tweeted, “‘What did you do at work this week honey?’ ‘Errrr….I lived a real-life episode of Silicon Valley.'”
— Christian Hasker (@chasker) June 23, 2019
Hedera is built on the idea of a fully decentralized public network that is supported by enterprise governance. In February, Hedera announced the launch of its Hedera Governing Council, which is tasked with governing changes to the software, bringing stability, and guaranteeing continued decentralization to Hedera’s distributed public ledger. The first council members included: Deutsche Telekom, DLA Piper, Magazine Luiza, Nomura Holdings Inc., and Swisscom Blockchain AG.
But, according to Hedera’s CEO and Co-founder Mance Harmon, many viewed the council as an overambitious move—while others “listened and learned from it.”
Those others being Facebook.
“…the model has been validated.”
Harmon said he sat down with David Marcus of Facebook last February to discuss things like Hedera’s technology roadmap and the importance of a governing council. Much of that discussion was seen in Facebook Libra. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“What was really gratifying was to see that Facebook validated our model that you need a council of globally respected organizations if you want the mainstream markets to trust the platform, and trust it enough that they’re willing to build product on it or use it,” Harmon told Dallas Innovates. “There’s no one else in the market outside of us, really, that has a public network that also has a global council.
Harmon wants it to be known that the ad wasn’t a malicious move, because what Facebook did isn’t necessarily illegal or unethical. It’s more about educating the market to make it known that Hedera developed this specific approach.
“This just sort of happens, but the largest player will be perceived as the one that pioneered the model. And then any smaller players to enter the market will be presumed to have copied it,” Harmon says. “And in our case, it’s exactly the opposite. From my perspective, it just really doesn’t matter who was first—even though we were. What matters is that the model has now been validated. And that’s the new bar.”
Harmon thinks what happened with the Facebook announcement may be one of the biggest events in the history of this category since Bitcoin was introduced. Facebook will help make the market mainstream, setting this “new bar” that’s just going to help move Hedera and the rest of the industry forward.
“It’s no longer possible just to have a platform with a developer community. In addition to that, you have to have a globally trusted group of organizations that are going to provide the governance for that platform. And that means, at least today, there are only two players in the market: Facebook and Hedera,” Harmon says. “And for that reason, this was really good news for us.”
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Steve Guengerich, executive director of UTD’s Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, says his experience with Hedera is that it has been committed to imagining, building, and advocating for a governance model that they and others would adopt.
“At the Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at UT Dallas, we care about (a) preparing our students to be the next generation’s entrepreneurs and (b) encouraging research that leads to innovations that benefit mankind, with a particular emphasis on the economic impact of the north Texas region,” Guengerich said in an email. “For this reason, while we have a special local relationship with Hedera (we are both Richardson based!), we care about understanding Facebook Libra and other new cryptocurrencies as they are on the cusp of large-scale introduction, so that we can best guide our student-entrepreneurs when they propose to solve problems with it.”
Harmon said another differentiator between Hedera and Facebook is that FB is focused on providing a payment solution, while Hedera is a general purpose enterprise solution. Most players in the space are doing the former, which accelerates Hedera’s momentum even more.
This summer, the Hedera Mainnet will go live. Harmon says it’s been in community test for a long time, which has helped harden the platform.
At launch, the Mainnet will be openly accessible to anyone, fully functional, and governed by Hedera’s growing council (more members are set to be announced). Facebook is expecting a public launch in 2020.
“I’m expecting that when we go live later this summer, there will be anywhere from a dozen to a few dozen companies that go live with us at the same time. So there will be real product running on top of the platform when we launch,” Harmon says.
For now, Hedera is going to continue working to “build the internet everyone deserves.”
“While [the ad] was tongue-in-cheek,” Harmon says, “it was at the same time very gratifying. Because it helps Hedera in a big way.”
Quincy Preston contributed to this report.
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