7 min read

Holger Köther (BUILD.5 & SPYCE.5)

Holger Köther (BUILD.5 & SPYCE.5)

[Interview by Mart]

Tangleverse Times: Could you briefly explain what BUILD.5 is and how it came to be?
Holger Köther: BUILD.5’s aim is to provide an enterprise-ready platform designed to seamlessly integrate web2 and web3 technology. The goal is to leverage both decentralized and existing enterprise systems to provide an easy to use solution for businesses and organizations, to access the benefits of web3 technologies.

BUILD.5 is structured into two parts:

A non-profit association dedicated to the support and governance of decentralized, open source technology that aims to have a significant positive impact on society and industry.

An open source platform built to enable seamless co-development experiences for BUILDers in both Web2 and Web3. This is achieved through powerful solutions that leverage the unique characteristics of the IOTA L1 networks (IOTA/Shimmer).

Song (Shonuff) and I have been in conversations since last year, on how we best transition the developments of the IOTA Foundation into tangible products and services, which enables a better utilization of the ecosystem, and even more importantly enable organizations outside our “bubble” into our ecosystem.  That is where real world adoption is happening and “blockchain” is being integrated into real life use-cases, as an additional aspect of trust. That is why and how BUILD.5 came to be.

TvT: What exactly are the differences between the offered products from SPYCE.5 and BUILD.5 and how will they complement each other?
HK: That is a good question. Both brands/organizations are closely associated with each other, and both were motivated by the challenges faced by enterprises in adopting Web3 technology.

SPYCE.5 offers Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)/Blockchain and Web3 infrastructure as a service. It aims to make it easy for innovators, builders, and enterprise customers to bring and scale their dApps and products to market faster by providing highly performant and easy to use access to the blockchain/Tangle itself . This includes features like digital identity management and secure data exchange. SPYCE.5 is designed to help enterprises simplify operations and provide improved security for their data and infrastructure at a higher scalability than what traditional blockchains can offer.

The BUILD.5 platform is an open source operating system that operates with infrastructure like SPYCE5. It expands on the capabilities of services like our infrastructure product by enabling any enterprise or ecosystem access to them. In addition, it increases the utility of the service itself by incentivizing developers to launch their own modules, connectors, DAO management tools, tokenization frameworks, etc., that can interact and expand on any service that integrates with the platform So, BUILD.5  is much more open-source, governance, application, and ecosystem oriented. Every developer can launch a module with specific utility (e.g. “enable IOTA payments”, or “add a KYC”) through BUILD.5, and enterprises can access those and later thousands of others like it through their utilization of the platform.

TvT: Many community members were pleasantly surprised when David Sønstebø joined forces with you and invested in SPYCE.5. Will he become a permanent part of the team, or is he more of an investor?
HK: David and I have been in contact since I joined the IOTA in 2018. In 2022 Regine, Dom and I aligned that the IF would focus on the technology and Regine and I would establish SPYCE.5 as a key driver for scaling the use of IOTA and Shimmer in commercial applications. As founder of IOTA it was natural to loop David into the founding discussion of SPYCE.5 as well, and it quickly peaked his interest. What sets David apart is his genuine enthusiasm for our vision to make a change in the real-world, paired with great confidence and a deep belief in our capabilities.

Although he is not directly involved in day-to-day operations, we value his input and jointly discuss strategic topics to have the assurance that our decisions are rooted in sound judgment and a shared vision for the future.

TvT: The BUILD.5 announcement said that it will be set up as a non-profit association. While this certainly adds a lot of trustworthiness, will this hinder your freedom to spend funds?
HK: Absolutely  “no”. A large part of our organizational planning discussion centered around where to house our association. We evaluated many jurisdictions and consulted legal advisors from each region. We agreed to Switzerland, based on that process. There is a reason that everyone from the Ethereum Foundation to Cardano is based there. Even, our own IOTA Foundation founded “TEA”, the Tangle Ecosystem Association, is established in Switzerland and incidentally through the same legal format as the BUILD.5 Association. So, we established the organization in Switzerland to not limit ourselves to how we fund ecosystem growth but to catalyze serious enterprise specific activities like tooling integrations and association membership for partners. All things we are actively engaged in.

TvT: What is the perception among enterprises, is there a lot of interest?
HK: Having built and managed the market adoption function at the IOTA Foundation for nearly its entire existence I got to see first hand the evolving perception of enterprises when it comes to blockchain generally and IOTA specifically. There has always been a lot of interest, the problem hasn’t been interest, it's how to implement the technology into existing systems. No successful enterprise is going to throw out their operations and start from scratch. So, we founded SPYCE.5 and now BUILD.5 to specifically close this gap between the technology itself and its application in the wider enterprise context. Every organization and individual constantly faces the “make or buy” decision. Should I invest my time to learn or do something, or outsource it and have an expert handle it.

Enterprises are successful generally when they focus on their core competence - their unique “thing”which nobody else can do and why customers contract and work with them in the first place. They rather invest into this core competence and then just pay for a professional service from a provider for productivity enhancing service outside that competency. Of course an enterprise can also install and use their own blockchain node if they manage to cater to incidents, problems, change processes (like protocol updates), scaling, continuity management, outage management, capacity management etc. (best google “ITIL” or “ITSM” for a first glimpse), but that’s usually outside their own core business. At the IOTA Foundation we have seen how organizations and innovation departments are struggling. They often lack the technical expertise and in-depth knowledge for the current benefits that web3 has to offer - creation and management of digital identities, tokens, wallets, infrastructure etc.. all requires domain specific expertise.In addition, they don’t have the capacity to expand on what web3 will have to offer that we have yet to discover. This is where you need a thriving open source ecosystem of developers to achieve. Unpredictable fees are also a big red flag. So they are excited about what we plan to offer with SPYCE.5 and BUILD.5, as it provides them with a shortcut to utilize the benefits of blockchain with their existing teams.

Plus, now with the regulatory aspects becoming clearer (a big “thank you” to Mariana at this point, who is constantly engaged at the IOTA Foundation to work with regulatory bodies and provide exactly this clarity), enterprises are much more comfortable evaluating blockchain related technology for better automation, decrease of costs and risks, or improve revenue by creating new business models. These are all things that make it a “no brainer”, which is important for achieving global adoption.

TvT: You said you are going to release more information in the coming weeks, together with enterprise partners. Is there something the community can look forward to in terms of partnerships, adoption etc.?
HK: We recently released the first advisors for BUILD.5, holding senior positions at large scale IT companies at Cisco, RedHat and IBM. I will not spoiler anything in discussion. Let’s first build diligently and then release the news, not the other way around. I understand that a bit of hype and speculation is natural, but excessive anticipation often leads to unrealistic expectations and disappointment. Rest assured, we will share the news with the community when we are ready to deliver tangible results.

TvT: How do you plan to utilize the Shimmer network?
HK: We recognize the importance of progress and innovation, which is why we have decided to invest our efforts in building upon Shimmer rather than the current state of the IOTA Mainnet, which will soon be outdated. By utilizing Shimmer, any advancements, features, and solutions we create will transition and be deployed on the IOTA Mainnet. This strategic approach ensures that we stay at the forefront of technology and deliver the best possible experience for the Shimmer and IOTA ecosystem users, developers and projects.

TvT: Do you plan to separate different use cases between IOTA and Shimmer?
HK: As an infrastructure provider with SPYCE.5 - no. However with BUILD.5 it will be a little different, as it will only launch on IOTA, where the Soonaverse is the more experimental platform on Shimmer. Ultimately it will be up to the projects having to decide to utilize the latest but potentially untested features or wait longer until they have been battle tested and are carried over to the IOTA mainnet.

TvT: The crypto space can be really challenging and competitive at times. What really sets you apart from the competition? What are the unique selling points no other company / protocol can offer?
HK: Well when it comes to any competitive environment it all starts and ends with your team. It’s your people that sets you apart and gives you a chance at success. Crypto moves at the speed of light and you need to have a group of innovative, agile thinkers to navigate the constantly changing landscape to succeed. We have a “best in class” group of developers, designers, marketers, strategists, technologists, and business development experts in not just IOTA, but crypto. I am extremely excited to work hand-in-hand with like minded experts, because it truely is the collective that makes us strong. Much of crypto is a bunch of egos battling each for the spotlight and that isn’t how we function, it's also why I think we will win!

As far as our attributes as a protocol, I think the concept of fast, feeless, secure, and scalable are well walked paths for followers of the IOTA protocol. What people are underestimating are things like L1 smart contracts which our platform is already designed to integrate. The new features and capabilities that will enable are things no one is developing. We are very excited to show the world what we are building.

TvT: Finally one of the most important questions for the community: While $SOON holders will get an airdrop of the $BUILD token, will there be another way to invest into BUILD.5 and if so, wen?
HK: While we value our community greatly, we also recognize the importance of solid foundational backing for BUILD.5. Thus, we are actively considering partnerships with venture capitalists and larger private investors who wish to contribute to our initial funding and scaling process. Please note, however, there isn't a public ICO or similar means of investing in $BUILD at this time.

Thank you for the interview.