Pavel Entin was born in the Soviet Union in 1976 when it was still under communism. His family are all academics, and his mother was keen for him to become a medical doctor. But his education took him to the US on a student exchange where he was part of a group of one of the first Soviet students to visit.
“By spending time in the US I was exposed to a very different world. I even went on a trip to the New York Stock Exchange where I rang the bell.
“I had no idea about private investment banks. I was blown away to discover that people and not governments could make choices about how money was invested.”
Entin’s exposure to Western democracy and finance happened as the Soviet Union collapsed. Privatisation of many sectors emerged and he saw huge business opportunities in his native Russia. So he switched from science and chose instead to study economics, first studying a masters in International Finance before going to earn a PhD in International Economics.
Entin found he had a talent for finance and quickly built a career in finance, at one stage becoming the VP of Finance for the largest IT conglomerate in Western Europe. But he flipped into an entrepreneur through meeting up with a fellow fintech maven, Sergei Soloniam and they formed the first investment bank for the technology industry in Russia before going on to create the largest Telecommunications data centre at that time.
“Working for large corporates was interesting, the pay was good and the work steady. However, you can’t really make a difference, you are part of a very slow moving organisation.
“By becoming an entrepreneur, it’s different. Your fortune depends on you. Your life opportunities totally depend on you. But you can also do whatever you want.”
At a major IT conference in China, Entin witnessed firsthand many of the Web2 founders such as Mark Zuckerberg and others. What struck him was their youth.
“I was 30 and I suddenly felt old.”
When blockchain first came on the scene, it didn’t impress Entin at first. It felt like young people embracing a form of tech anarchy, but he was also conscious that financial institutions were not as effective as he first thought from his student epiphany.
“I was also very aware of the influence exerted on business, especially startups, by financial institutions. It was like large corporations, everything moved slowly at a glacial pace.”
Entin put together roadshows to help introduce blockchain startups to VCs – in fact his first roadshow in 2017 connected blockchain with AI – a prescient nod to the current Guardians of the Blockchain.
“Back in 2017, Blockchain advocates knew very little about Artificial Intelligence (AI) but even then I had an understanding that while blockchains protect data, the huge amounts of data are going to act like a bottleneck. That is where AI fits in, managing that data.”
Entin points out that data is growing exponentially all the time and it is vital to verify the data or it risks being unusable or fake. The growth of data and its value is also at risk of being secured and managed by large corporations or only those with money.
“At Guardians of the Blockchain we believe that there should be a technology based instrument that allows anyone to have access to verified data – this should be a right.”
Entin believes that the lack of verified data disadvantages ordinary people.
“Blockchains are great to secure the data but actually understanding data and processing data requires AI.”
Entin has a keen interest in startups. He enjoys meeting with young founders with big ideas who want to change the world.
“Sometimes they can be a little naïve but that is half the beauty. The only difference between them and me (at 45 years of age) is my data and experience. And cumulative statistics can be very predictive to outcomes. For example, using statistics you can determine to an accuracy of 97% which might happen if such a course of action is taken.”
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Entin is also instinctive about people. He points out that he can click with someone, regardless of sector, experience or profession. “And It may be that in the future, it might be years off, that you need a specific detail and that person you meet years before just might be able to provide the solution.”
Needless to say, Entin has many thousands of people in his phone. “I find a lot of my success is finding the right person or gathering new ideas and giving young people an opportunity. Mostly I help businesses pivot.”
Data according to Entin is like air. “Data is like air, it’s unlimited. But it’s not structured, and this is the problem.”
Entin sees unstructured data acting like a library where the books are not on the shelves and it’s a total mess. The pages are not even assembled into books.
“Data is only truly valuable when it is organised and that is where blockchain and its ledger format can help unravel the mess.”
Entin stresses the needs for data scientists in this puzzle. It’s not enough to insert artificial intelligence (AI) into the mix for in order to create algorithms you need to understand how to structure the data. He gives an example of healthcare where there may be millions of skin samples. You can’t use AI or machine learning (ML) to determine data sets, it has to have human experts – surgeons, data scientists and other clinical professionals – to first make sense of the data before it can be effectively reorganised.
When blockchains are developed people are involved; often lots of people using consensus mechanisms to determine decisions. Entin is using GBC.AI to look at environmental specific parameters and automatically changing parameters – something people are unable to do.
“When a group of people see something is happening, it’s usually too late. The problem is already an existing problem. But AI can already have adjusted the parameters before the problem exists.”
Part of the reason that blockchain and AI have not been properly embedded before is due to the fact that both are emerging technologies.
“Like any new development, it takes time to mature. Blockchain is meeting initial teething problems of scaling and growth. We integrated the two technologies before these issues had fully surfaced. Using AI we can further map other as yet to be discovered issues.”
At the core of Entin’s business is opportunity. In much the same way he views startups as being conduits for opportunity, he sees GBC.AI as bringing opportunities – not just technologies.
“We are bringing opportunities to people to get some say in how their world works. This is at the core of decentralisation – the demolition of institutions. It’s not that institutions are bad in and of themselves, whether they are government, corporations, organisations, but they can be very ineffective.
“Consider land registration – currently it is cumbersome, labour intensive and not joined up. But put in a blockchain and the whole system is simplified and secure.”
Monopolies cause problems and that is true too for blockchains. Entin sees many blockchains surviving, some of them serving niche markets, others larger ones. However, the trick to making them all work is interoperability according to Entin
Right now there are many blockchains which are not interoperable and the data is messy and chaotic in Entin’s view. He reckons that in an ideal world there would be one blockchain where people can access data – but that also brings with it the danger of monopolies. As blockchains mature they will face different issues because they are operated by human beings, and humans make mistakes.
“We created GBC.AI to empower, secure and verify information on the blockchain.”