As regular listeners know, this isn’t the regular weekly Risky Business podcast, all Soap Box podcasts are paid promotions. We ran 10 of these last year, we’re running more of them this year – the total number is up to 14, but we’re running fewer of our other promotional podcast Snake Oilers.
In this Soap Box podcast we’re chatting with a company with a legitimately fascinating origin story.
You remember how in 2017 and 2018 people were running all these shonky initial coin offerings where they’d sell off millions of dollars of crypto tokens on the basis of a two minute video and a whitepaper? What happened in a lot of these cases is after the ICO the founders would take the money, launder it and move to the Bahamas.
Well, Polyswarm raised its money in an ICO. About $26m US dollars (!!). And, because they weren’t mainlining the ICO Kool-Aid, they cashed out about half of what they raised into real money before cryptocurrency values crashed.
Instead of moving to the Bahamas, they actually stuck around to build the business that tokenholders had chosen to fund. Their token value has crashed like everyone else’s has, but that doesn’t matter – they’re funded, and because of their unconventional funding source they don’t have a whole bunch of venture capitalists breathing down their neck.
So, what’s the business? It’s a marketplace for threat detection. Yes, my pinned tweet says “I do not want your blockchain expert as a guest on my podcast,” and yes, this company does use blockchain fairy dust, but as you’ll hear, the blockchain element to this business isn’t really what it’s about. Indeed, the founder and CEO of Polyswarm, Steve Bassi, says he would find life a lot easier in many ways if they weren’t actually using blockchain tech here as a marketplace enabler. He’s also banned himself from ever attending a blockchain conference again in his life.
Ok, so what is the Polyswarm marketplace and how does it work. As you’ll hear in this interview it took me a bit to actually understand exactly what they’re doing here, but what they’ve essentially built is a marketplace for AV. The best way to explain this is to just explain how it works. If you’re an enterprise client or an MSSP you can submit a sample to this marketplace. You’re submitting it with a question – is this file bad or good – and you attach a tokenised value to the answer.
On the other side of the equation are all these AV engines. Big ones, small ones… even tiny little micro engines that are only good at detecting very niche threats. So the enterprise submits the sample – that can be a whole file or just a hash – and it gets distributed to all the people who are running these AV engines. They scan the file, and if they’re super confident on an answer, they return that answer as well as a tokenised stake as a measure of their confidence. The idea is you can have a competitive marketplace for threat detection in which even niche players can participate. Polyswarm CEO Steve Bassi joined me to talk me through the whole concept.