Banking News

Facebook hires London blockchain team

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Several researchers from Chainspace, a London startup focused on scalable blockchain solutions, have moved to Facebook, as first reported by Cheddar. The startup’s website says the “team is moving on to something new.” Last May Facebook set up a blockchain group led by David Marcus who was president at Paypal before heading up Facebook Messenger for four years. Facebook is also expanding its blockchain business team.

The social network is being tight-lipped about its plans, although the team is ever expanding. Bloomberg reported in December that the company is working on a U.S. Dollar stable coin to be used within the WhatsApp messaging app. The initial focus is on Indian remittances.

Another hire of note is Washington-based Lee Brenner who runs “Blockchain Public Policy” at Facebook. He joined in October from the Global Blockchain Business Council where he headed up strategy. Brenner has spent most of his career “at the intersection of technology, public policy, and storytelling,” according to his LinkedIn profile.

Additionally, the Facebook Blockchain group has a growing business development team. Catherine Porter is Director of Business Development for the group and is also a Director for Local Partnerships for Facebook as a whole.

Chainspace interests

Three of the Chainspace team have updated their LinkedIn profiles with a new role of “Researcher, Blockchain” at Facebook. George Danezis and Shehar Bano both have Cambridge University PhDs and current positions at University College London (UCL) while Alberto Sonnino is working on his Ph.D. at UCL.

Their research papers may point to the direction of Facebook’s interest. One publication and the central thesis behind Chainspace was a sharded smart contracts platform. Sharding involves splitting databases or blockchains into pieces to make them more manageable and hence more scalable.

Another paper is about fraud proofs to maximize light client security. Mobile phones often run “light client” software because it’s not practical to download an entire blockchain such as Bitcoin’s 197 gigabytes onto a phone. Sonnino worked on the paper with fellow Chainspace researcher Mustafa Al-Bassam as well as Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin.