Justin Sun is the founder of TRON, one of the world’s largest decentralized blockchain ecosystems and CEO of BitTorrent, the leader in peer-to-peer software and services. A protege of Alibaba’s Jack Ma, Sun in 2017 was named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list for China and 30 under 30 Asia in the Consumer Technology category. Sun is an avid gamer, investor, and philanthropist.
In this exclusive interview, I spoke to Justin Sun about why we need a decentralised web, how blockchain and crypto currencies will transform our world and the future of digital identity.
Q: How did entrepreneurship come into your life?
[Justin Sun]: I started my first company in 2012, I hadn’t even worked for anyone before. I was at the University of Pennsylvania and started working in the blockchain industry after I graduated. I was 22, had a small team, and even some of my employees didn’t take a salary at the time! We started to receive venture capital in 2014, and I realized that this was my life. I love entrepreneurship, but sometimes I do wish I could work for a big company to improve my own management skills, and to learn how they manage huge numbers of employees. I am always wanting to learn and improve.
Q: Why is decentralization of the web so important?
[Justin Sun]: Today, we have a concept called the metaverse. The future of everything offline will be migrated online. Everyone will have their own digital life, and this introduces changes to our understanding of ownership. If you have a bottle of water in your house, it belongs to you. Nobody can touch it without your permission, nobody can get into your house without your permission. This doesn’t apply to the internet world. Facebook can access your room and your house without your consent. They can tear down your house, they can delete and block your digital life. Twitter is the same. Imagine someone being able to delete your house, without your consent, because they feel as if you have violated some term of service. Particularly for the millennial generation – their social accounts are their lives. If you get deleted on Facebook, it’s like a death sentence, it’s like losing your identity.
If we are to migrate our lives to the internet, we need a decentralized infrastructure that enables everyone to have control of their assets without being robbed. This is the same for money, right? Offline money is real money – nobody can take it from you. If you deposit that money with your bank or have a digital wallet with a bank, they can freeze your wallet, they can block transactions. We saw recently that Robin Hood for example, stopped people trading GameStop (GME).
Decentralised infrastructure for the internet and financial services is very important.
[Vikas: Is this why you chose to buy BitTorrent?]
[Justin Sun]: People have been thinking about building decentralised infrastructure for a long time but in practice the efficiency came from centralised systems. BitTorrent is the first time in history that people found a way to make decentralised infrastructure work better and more efficiently than centralised. Transferring files through BitTorrent is 100-1000% faster than centralised infrastructure.
Q: What will be the role of blockchain in our financial futures?
[Justin Sun]: I fully believe the future of financial infrastructure will be built on blockchain. Today, we have a USDT (USD-pegged stablecoin) on Tron Network. We handle around US$5 billion per day for all transactions, around 3x more than PayPal. This is only the beginning. Future generations will handle their payments through cryptocurrencies and all the settlements will be on blockchain rather than todays’ settlement layers like SWIFT, ACH and SEPA. Blockchain allows us to have a global, decentralised and efficient way to settle financial transactions with low fees, and fairer terms. You will no longer need to be afraid of a big bank or other party blocking you. You will not need to worry about correspondent banks. It will be a better and fairer financial solution for everyone.
[Vikas: does this extend to art, and other assets?]
[Justin Sun]: Whether it’s art or commodities, a whole range of assets can be migrated to blockchain. This is inevitable. 20-30 years ago, we started to see more businesses move entirely to the internet- newspapers, magazines- this is the same trend continuing.
Q: Do governments and big banks need to participate more closely with blockchain and crypto?
[Justin Sun]: We are happy to collaborate with government and big banks to put blockchain into their systems. It can massively improve efficiency. Recently, Visa started to use USDC as a payment layer! Well-designed systems can also provide detailed KYC, anti-money-laundering (AML) layers to help banks and governments to identify malicious accounts, transactions and behaviours. Smart contracts can have whatever rules you need, and bring the additional benefits of decentralised infrastructure.
Q: Should we all start to consider our digital identities?
[Justin Sun]: The vision of the metaverse was ‘made real’ by the film Ready Player One. In the future people will spend the majority of their time online, with their online identity and digital assets. The majority of their interactions with friends, family, relatives and colleagues will be online. I have recently started to see more people hold truly virtual summits in VR where you attend as you, in a VR environment. You can take a picture with your friends and explore the VR world rather than real-life. Covid-19 has accelerated this process – but the trend was always there.
Q: What do you hope your legacy will be?
[Justin Sun]: I believe my legacy will be BitTorrent and Tron. I’m building one of the financial infrastructure layers for the next generation. I hope our network will be used like SWIFT and that future generations settle their financial transactions on our blockchain layer. It’s going to be very cool.