The 23-year-old founder turning Australia’s corporates to blockchain

As the head of Australia’s largest blockchain consulting and development company, Labrys founder Lachlan Feeney hates talking about Bitcoin.

“It really has nothing to do with what we do,” the 23-year-old founder says. “I’ve been quite vocally frustrated with the events that have occurred in the crypto industry over the past few weeks.”

“The sell-off on the back of the Terra collapse – it paints a very bad picture,” he says pointing to the huge decline in the value of popular algorithmic ‘stablecoin’ Terra, which helped fuel a sharp fall in the price of many cryptocurrencies.

Lachlan Feeney, founder and CEO of Brisbane-based blockchain consultant Labrys, says he hates talking about Bitcoin.

When your clients are some of Australia’s largest corporates, Feeney’s concern with the public perception of blockchain and Web3 is understandable, as Bitcoin is often seen as a proxy for the reputation of the underlying blockchain technology that powers it.

It’s that very technology Labrys tries to convince companies to use. The business was founded in 2017 by a then 19-year-old Feeney, who dropped out of university to start the company, which was originally a decentralised finance project before pivoting to the consulting space.

Today Labrys’ clients include $3.8 billion ASX-listed integrated services company Downer, the Solomon Islands Government, and a bevy of high-profile Web3 businesses such as NEM and Aurox. Labrys offers these clients services such as NFT development, smart contract writing, and blockchain integration.

“What we do is, if your company is interested in exploring blockchain solutions or understanding how blockchain can benefit your business, we’re the company that you go to get advice on exact how it could work,” he says.

With Downer, for example, Labrys has worked with the company to develop a blockchain-based service to better manage maintenance shutdowns for clients in the oil, gas and industrial sectors.

But while Labrys’ offerings seem like a simple pitch, in reality, Feeney says working with more traditional corporate clients can be difficult because “they don’t know what they want done”. This challenge, he says, is due to an inherent mismatch between the way traditional businesses operate and the way blockchain-based services operate.

“Blockchain’s value proposition comes from the ability to decentralise information to remove middlemen, to allow parties to cooperate more easily and directly with one another,” he says.

Feeney hopes that corporates and blockchain companies will be able to work in harmony.Credit:Bloomberg

“But it achieves it in a way that is traditionally not the model that corporates like to use – they like to own all the data, and they like to have their own systems and platforms.”

Feeney says he often runs up against company boards who, whilst keen on the possible efficiencies blockchain technology could grant their business, aren’t willing to run systems that would see their data shared with suppliers and potentially even competitors.

For this reason, one of Labrys’ goals is to try and make the blockchain space more corporate-friendly, something the young founder says will require cooperation from both sides of the aisle.

“There’s been a lot of work on the tech side building some really, really awesome products that have been very unsuitable for corporate entities,” he says.

We’ve got to start to build a middle ground, and that’s when the corporates will start running in.

“But key players in this space are realising there’s enormous opportunity to tweak the technology a bit to bring the corporate space on board, but both parties are going to have to come to the table.”

As an example, Feeney refers to a recent announcement from big four consulting firm EY, which partnered with Polygon, a $4.6 billion crypto project, to allow clients to access Polygon’s blockchain network.

Feeney believes with enough similar collaborations between big companies and blockchain players, we could start to see major blockchain integration within corporates in the next two to three years through the use of more simplified, ‘plug and play’ blockchain services.

“We’ve got to start to build a middle ground, and that’s when the corporates will start running in,” he says.

In the last year, Brisbane-headquartered Labrys booked year-on-year revenue growth of 180 per cent and has increased its headcount fivefold. The company is entirely self-funded and has never taken on venture capital, with its founder saying that very few people –let alone VCs – really understand the bigger picture and the potential for blockchain tech in the future.

Even Feeney admits that he’s still “guessing a bit” as he goes, but says he’s committed to using this emerging technology to help shape the industry for the better. And despite his frustration over the tumultuous state of crypto markets, he’s not fazed.

“Ultimately, these events don’t change anything for the long-term trajectory of this industry,” he says.

Each Friday, enjoy a fresh instalment from Dominic Powell’s new weekly series You, Me and Web3, which aims to examine, challenge and demystify the ideas behind the emerging Web3 industry by speaking to the people who live and breathe it.

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