Fresh From Goldman, Chain President Reveals Blockchain Priorities

Chain’s new president Tom Jessop was late to work on his very first day.

Fresh off spending nearly 20 years working at Goldman Sachs – first as a vice president, then as the managing director of technology business development – Jessop had been revealed as the new president of the heavily funded blockchain company just a week before.

His excuse? The day before marked the Easter holiday, and he had other priorities.

“I didn’t want to leave on Easter Sunday,” Jessop said. “My family would have been very unhappy.”

But after his first week in the startup’s San Francisco offices, Jessop has now turned his attention to priorities of a different sort. Namely, how he might help steer a company that has raised $40m in venture capital.

He told CoinDesk:

“The thing for us is, how do we create more of an inflection point? So, I think from a marketing standpoint, we’re going to redouble our efforts to really engage.”

Action plan

Specifically, Jessop’s push falls into two categories.

The first is to engage with the open-source developer community, which he sees as crucial to the startup’s success. In October, 2016, Chain open-sourced its Chain Core developer platform, including a test network operated by Chain, Microsoft and the IC3 blockchain think tank.

Citing downloads and other metrics on Chain Core’s GitHub page, Jessop said adoption has been growing, but added that so far the company hasn’t put its “foot on the gas”.

Going forward, he wants to see Chain focus on refining a turnkey experience that accelerates the time to market for developers.

Jessop’s second priority is engaging with the banks and other financial institutions that Chain might consider as possible clients. Already, Chain counts Nasdaq and Visa among its early public customers, and there are other “large institutions” currently in the pipeline, he said.

In addition to playing a pivotal role in Goldman’s early relationship with Chain, Jessop developed a reputation in the financial community for helping traditional banks improve the way they do business.

And after 17 years working at Goldman Sachs, helping to manage and found startups focused on solving what he calls “mystery problems”, Jessop’s Rolodex is full.

“I always identified very strongly with the companies and the entrepreneurs that we were backing,” said Jessop. “And I loved the creative process, folks trying to transform things for the better.”

Learning phase

Founded in 2014, Chain raised its most recent funding in 2015, a $30m round led by RRE Ventures.

In addition to early users of Chain’s open-source platform including Capital One, Citigroup, Fidelity and State Street, the firm is more formally working with Nasdaq on a series of blockchain solutions. Further, in October 2016, Chain partnered with one of its investors, Visa, to help build out a B2B payments solution.

As far back as 2015, Jessop said, he had crossed paths with Chain CEO Adam Ludwin during a scouting trip for possible investments. Then, when the two were both invited to Washington, DC, last year for a meeting with the Federal Reserve, Jessop said the idea of working together more formally started to gain momentum.

Now that he’s with the firm, Jessop said he’s so far mostly employing his skills at Chain by asking questions.

“I’m just listening at this point,” he said, concluding:

“Hopefully, I’ll get to the point soon where the sponge is saturated and I can start reflecting things back to the team.”

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Chain.

Tom Jessop image via Oleg Andreev and Chain

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