True to its nature as a pro-technology company, IBM (International Business Machines) has pioneered the adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrency in the arena of the Fortune 500.
The American firm has teamed up with some of the world’s biggest companies, in everything from retail to supply chain management, to show how this nascent technology can be used to benefit their bottom line, and more importantly, society as a whole.
Yet, with recent shifts in the composure of IBM’s C-suite and executive team, some are wary that the company’s massive foray into this space may be on thin ice.
IBM Loses Two Execs
According to a recent exclusive from crypto-friendly news outlet Modern Consensus, known for its interviews and so-called “scoops”, IBM has just lost its chief technology officer — Stanley Yong.
Yong, who also acted as the company’s lead for its central bank digital currencies (CBDC) initiative, was seeming integral to “Big Blue’s” ventures in the blockchain space. Namely, his time at the Monetary Authority of Singapore allowed him to build connections with banks across the globe, including crypto- and blockchain-friendly ones in the Philippines and South Korea. And as a result, team members of IBM Blockchain had easy access to his connections.
It is unclear why Yong left, nor where he is headed next, but this internal tumult is likely quite the blow not only to the decentralized ledger team as the corporation but IBM in general too.
this article about @IBM CTO Stanley Yong, and the article veers off into a complete dismantling of the Stellar/IBM partnership. Based on what I'm reading, that partnership is dead in the water now. We need more articles on this. https://t.co/kvetQzxS2x
— Michael Arrington (@arrington) June 16, 2019
This news comes just weeks after Jesse Lund, the Global Head of IBM Blockchain who infamously made a $1,000,000 Bitcoin price prediction, suddenly departed the firm. This wasn’t expected, as IBM’s plays in the space have been steadily chugging alone, gaining traction and continuing to find use in real world scenarios.
Both Lund and IBM itself gave very immaterial and confusing statements, with the former only stating that he had left “but am still optimistic about payments innovation using Blockchain.”
Stellar Partnership In Jeporady?
With all this in mind, Modern Consensus’ Michael Craig goes on to postulate what this could mean for the future of IBM in blockchain, and more specifically the effects on the firm’s relationship with Stellar, the controversial Ripple-esque ledger behind many of IBM’s plans in blockchain.
As the Global Head of Blockchain, Lund was likely integral in choosing Stellar as IBM’s go-to chain, especially when there are other corporate-friendly options such as Ethereum, EOS, NEM, and Ripple on the table.
Stellar creator Jeb McCaleb has come out to deny any rumors of any divorce between his project and IBM, but Craig notes that the future of the two entites’ relationship is most likely in jeporady.
Unlikely to Shutter Blockchain Venture
It is important to note that IBM, while likely hurting from the losses of both Yong and Lund, is unlikely to entirely shutter its blockchain division because of the executive departures.
Late last year, Barry Silbert, the CEO of the Digital Currency Group, postulated that if each of the firm’s then 1,600 blockchain employees were each paid an average of $100,000 per year, the firm’s burn rate for this branch amounted to $160 million. While Silbert didn’t cite any reported financials, clearly taking a napkin math approach of the technology giant’s budget, it is clear that to IBM, this newfangled technology isn’t much of a joke.
At $100,000 per person, IBM is spending $160,000,000 per year on blockchain projects https://t.co/3L1ux6V0Tm
— Barry Silbert (@barrysilbert) August 9, 2018
Indeed, IBM has been seemingly working hard to drive corporations and financial institutions to find value in blockchain. Most recently, the firm has teamed up with “Big Four” auditor KPMG, pharmaceutical giant Merck, and Walmart to aid a drug supply chain. And just weeks earlier, IBM made strides in getting central banks to look further into this technology.