Interview with Luka Perović — Verity Co-founder and Chief Developer

Sam Baldwin

Luka Perović, co-founder and Chief Developer for Verity speaks about blockchain, the future, and life in Slovenia.

Did you always want to start your own company?

Definitely. I never imagined myself working a 9–5 job, slaving for somebody else. I wanted to work on something that I created and build on that. Verity is the first project that I’ve seriously co-founded, but I’ve had a ton of other projects I’ve worked on or been a part of in the past.

How did Verity come to life?

We were working on a chatbot for sports, and one of the problems we had was that the sports data APIs were expensive and unreliable. So we started thinking about that. We started thinking that maybe we could get the data we needed from another source — the crowd.

At first we just dismissed the idea, but it kept resurfacing and we talked more and more about it. Eventually, we were locked in a room with a whiteboard for a week, drawing and brainstorming all day long. We became completely focussed on it.

After two weeks we came out with a plan and presented it to some other guys to sense check it. They said it was doable and a great idea — and that was the moment we got the validation we needed to kick off the project.

Verity came to life after Luka and fellow co-founder Martin developed a winning chatbot project

What got you interested in blockchain?

Basically: great ideas. The first implementation that I was really stoked about was just before the 2016 military coup in Turkey, when the government started taking away the people’s internet and blocking sites like Twitter and Wikipedia.

So, there was this idea to let people browse Wikipedia by using distributed ledger technology and put it on blockchain. It was one of the ways that the people got around censorship during this period. It was blockchain technology at its best; taking the power away from someone who’s abusing it and giving it back to the people.

Why is Slovenia, and Ljubljana in particular, such a hot spot for blockchain and crypto companies?

One of the reasons is that it is a small country and we’re in the centre of Europe. We’re close to the West in terms of physical location and mindset, yet we’re also close to the east and the Balkans. So the information is easy to get and qualified people are easy to get.

Also, everyone knows each other. So when someone has a great idea — everyone else in the space quickly finds out about it so it’s easy to bring talented people together. This is one of the reasons blockchain took off here.

You can trace it back to five guys almost ten years ago who had this great idea about mining bitcoin. They foresaw the value of blockchain and pioneered those ideas here in Slovenia. This led to many people getting involved and it spawned many more successful blockchain projects.

How do you divide working tasks with your co-founder Martin Mikeln?

There’s an obvious natural divide of tasks between us. Whilst we were working on the chatbot project previously, it didn’t take long to figure out that Martin excels on the business side of things — business intelligence, lawyers and investors etc. I would actually say he’s a better developer than me, but with his help I’m the guy who does the programming.

What do you do outside of work?

I used to play table tennis competitively, although I haven’t done that for a while. I occasionally go karting, and sometimes I go through a hiking phase, but I really just love programming or mentoring other people who are learning to code.

Luka and some of Team Verity on the track

What sources and books would you recommend for those wanting to learn more about blockchain?

There are tons of blogs, articles and books but the space is moving so quickly that any single source I suggest will be obsolete in a few months. What I really would recommend reading are the white papers of the early blockchain projects: Bitcoin and Ethereum.

You really get the sense for the great idea they had, not just how it’s created and how it works, but the fundamental ideas behind their thinking; why blockchain is needed.

What other blockchain projects do you rate?

Any projects that use blockchain for storage. In the TV show Silicon Valley, a guy has an idea to create a server-less internet. Projects like that are mind-blowing to me. By moving to decentralized storage the implications for current companies are huge. It would make so many companies obsolete.

Also — many blockchain projects right now are serving other blockchain projects. So I like any projects which reach outside of the blockchain space.

What are the plans for Verity over the next 12 months

We have to implement all the important features of the product, — all the fail-safes which make Verity safe from malicious parties, then we’ll implement the nodes and then work on attracting more developers to use our network.

Where are your favourite places to travel and where would you like to go?

I love Poland, East Germany, and Slovakia. These places are similar enough to Slovenia to feel familiar, yet still different enough to be new and interesting. I’d love to go to Japan, somewhere so different — I have to see it.

Where is blockchain and crypto going in the next two years?

It’s very hard to predict. The market is definitely maturing. During 2017 we had the blockchain ICO bull run — where projects were going 10x — often for no reason other than unsubstantiated hype. Many of these projects had no real value; projects that had terrible, unworkable and extremely vague ideas were getting millions of dollars of funding, as investors sprayed the space with cash, for fear of missing out.

As bitcoin prices surged, people were standing in line at petrol stations in Slovenia trying to buy BTC from the bitcoin ATMs. But so many people got played, lost money and got out of the market. The only people that are staying are the people who actually believe in blockchain and were here before. They know how things work and can smell BS a mile away.

So the market has now settled back down to lower, but more realistic levels. It’s much harder to fund projects now, but this ‘crypto cull’ will help weed out the trash and should leave behind projects that actually have legs.

Overall it’s a good thing and needed to happen. I think now it’s the good projects that have actual real life value which will 10x, not just any project with a website and a telegram group.

What’s the biggest challenge for Verity and blockchain?

The 2017 ICO bubble has probably scared some people off. I think the challenges will be to develop products that are more usable to the average person. Right now it’s still a hassle to do anything related to blockchain. You can see from the success of Coinbase, which massively simplified things, that making your product user friendly is really important if you want mass adoption.

Blockchain has been compared to the internet in terms of its potential future impact. Do you agree with that?

I’d say that blockchain itself may not be as disruptive as the internet was. But I think that decentralization is. Blockchain is one of the things that came out of the decentralized movement — but I think there will be more implementations to come. Decentralizing is a really big deal and will definitely change a lot of the ways we currently operate.

If you were to choose one application of Verity in the real world — which would you choose?

Probably sports data. It’s simple enough to do, yet can be cheaper than the current offering, as well as provide data sources where none currently exist. That’s my favourite.

Could Verity be used for malicious purposes?

As with any network it’s possible that people could use it for good and bad. In the same way that the internet can be used for selling drugs, or Facebook can be used for spreading fake news. We’ll have reporting mechanisms to help deal with anything like that.

How does Verity utilise blockchain for its product?

By using blockchain we can create a truly decentralized network and take the middle man away from the transaction. This keeps the data secure and the money secure and no one is taking a cut. Blockchain solves these problems and we couldn’t get the same level of security and transparency without it.

You’re from Ljubljana. What are the best things about living in Slovenia?

The fact that we’re a small country and we have a bit of everything. We have some coast, some mountains and some nice cities. And also that as we’re in the centre of Europe, we’re close to so many other great places; the Austrian or Italian Alps, the Croatian islands and major cities like Budapest, Vienna or Trieste.

Slovenians tend to complain a lot and undervalue our own country; it seems to be in our nature. The reality is that Slovenia is a super safe country with a great quality of life.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

And finally — what’s the biggest piece of blockchain bullsh*t you’ve ever heard?

Unfortunately there’s so much! There’s a ton of projects which are just full of sh*t. Ideas which are just using the word ‘blockchain’ to hype their project. For example, there’s an electric car company who ran out of money so they just attached the word ‘blockchain’ to their project to raise funds — even though the blockchain part is completely irrelevant to their product. There are a lot of projects like that out there.