Journeys in Blockchain: Ron Resnick of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance

From the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance to the Token Taxonomy Consortium, Resnick focuses on harmonizing blockchain standards and interoperability.

by Darren Kleine 8 min March 19, 2020
Journeys in Blockchain with Ron Resnick of the Token Taxonomy Consortium
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The soundtrack of Ron Resnick’s life might resemble a Radiohead track — or for those of a more classical persuasion, a Stravinsky ballet: a surprisingly cohesive melody emerging from dissonance.

The executive director of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, or EEA, shares a story of negotiating consensus — and finding harmony — within an orchestra of competing soloists.

As we begin, he explains that he first has to tell me something important.

“I’ve sent my notice to the EEA that I’m leaving, and they’ve accepted my resignation.”

That was… unexpected. Is there any point in continuing? Thankfully, yes. His next destination is exciting.

Resnick harkens back to his past before explaining his reasoning for the departure from the EEA. Growing up in Brooklyn, he recalls that he has always loved technology. This led him to study electrical engineering in college.

Striding confidently forward as he explored numerous potential career opportunities, Resnick was abruptly set off course by the Vietnam War. He was drafted into the military, where he served as a pilot for a cause he didn’t believe in. “That slowed me down for four and a half years…”

“That was catastrophic. As far as folks think of what’s going on in the world today, they just have no clue what it was like in the Vietnam War debacle… It was not good.” (I should note that we talked before the full scale of the COVID-19 outbreak was clear.)

After this setback, Resnick headed to California to pursue one of his greatest passions: music. “I love music. I started a music store so I could live in Santa Barbara.” The retail music scene was very difficult, he says, so he eventually made his way back into jobs with a technical focus.

“My technology instincts took over and I started making clone computers,” he explains. Along with this new work, Resnick pulled in income by developing business accounting and music software. As time went on, he moved into product marketing management for entertainment software and hardware.

This is where he started to develop his fundamental understanding of how to drive interoperability between disparate parties. He worked with rival video game companies like Sega and Nintendo, learning from their certification processes. They scrutinized and validated software from a variety of developers, so games would work consistently and wouldn’t crash on their platforms.

“This is a huge factor in what is missing in crypto — it is so fragmented.”

It’s all over again

Resnick continued working in the software and hardware entertainment industry, working on licensing intellectual properties and launching a variety of software. His work as VP of Marketing at Thrustmaster, a company focused mostly on game controller hardware, took a major turn when Resnick recognized a demand for online chatting software.

Before the days of Skype, WhatsApp and Discord, Resnick explains, “Guys were flipping their old phones upside down so they could talk while playing online.” Seeing potential demand for a new innovation, Resnick converted Thrustmaster into an internet company. “Our stocks sky-rocketed,” he says, “and I closed a major deal with Intel for their technology to chat on the internet, called Talk and Play.”

The technology was a bit before its time, unfortunately for Resnick. Broadband internet was not yet widely available, but the concept, he says, sparked the whole notion of talking on the Internet.

During the dot com boom Resnick was the VP of a company that delivered graduate degrees via online education in 2001, long before anyone else provided such a service. This stint didn’t last long, as Resnick explains, “the leadership was not good.”

It was at this point that Resnick made a major career move, working on new business development for Intel.

3G, or not 3G: That was the question at Intel

Resnick pitched the company to let him be the GM for 4G chip development, the next iteration in mobile telecommunications. WiMAX launched as a startup within Intel, with the goal of building a 4G chip that would overtake the 3G infrastructure. The existing technology was a major frustration for consumers, Resnick explains, because it couldn’t handle streaming music or videos. “It sputtered like crazy and they hated it… the promise of 3G was never delivered.”

Resnick faced major opposition in his efforts to establish 4G as the new telecom standard. Companies had already invested hundreds of billions of dollars into 3G infrastructure and had to justify the huge expenditures to their boards so the transition was a real challenge. “They didn’t want 3G to go away.” It was very difficult to find consensus to launch a new 4G network and win over the big players who were, at the time, neck-deep in a failing investment.

The solution, Resnick explains, was to create an evolutionary path. To reduce panic and settle the fears of investors, LTE, or “long term evolution” was offered as a way forward from 3G to 4G.

Blockchain technology does not have it so easy, due to its paradigm-shifting nature, Resnick explains, “This is beyond the scope of disruptive technology. It’s an order-of-magnitude more challenging.”

Resnick continued to work for the mobile wireless group at Intel, focusing on interoperability for twelve years. It is a single organization, Resnick says, that defines how the technology works and how it interoperates between different players around the world.

“The end result is now you can take your phone and wherever you plug in your SIM card, it works. That’s what I want to see happen in the world of crypto and blockchain. There’s a model. There’s a way to accomplish that.”

Moving on from working on wireless telecom standards, Resnick transitioned to the wireless charging industry. As president of the AirFuel Alliance, he continued to work on creating industry standards, this time with wireless charging technology. He enthuses about the future potential of the industry, “You’ll see cars in the near future where you don’t plug it into a wall to charge it. They’re working on mats where you drive your car on the mat and it just charges.”

After four years as president of the AirFuel Alliance, Resnick finally encountered the word “blockchain.”

The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance

A friend at Intel called Resnick, explaining they needed someone to grow the blockchain industry by creating standards and delivering certifications.

“My comment to him was, what the hell is blockchain? I honestly didn’t know.”

Resnick furiously researched cryptocurrency and blockchain technology and soon realized, “This is the future.”

He explains that many Ethereum-based companies recognized they needed to create an organization that would act as a counterpart to the Ethereum Foundation, which does not focus on enterprise. “It was a very good move.”

Resnick structured the entity to write specifications for interoperability, with an emphasis on standards that are market-driven. Much of his work focused on helping to build a cadence to deliver a standard specification every six months. He worked closely with a number of private, permissioned Ethereum-based networks to encourage them to work together. “This is the beginning of what needs to happen — not just with Ethereum,” he explains, but with the token ecosystem at large.

“That’s the vision I have, which is why I decided to move on.”

Leaving the EEA

Resnick reflects on his time with the EEA: “Being involved in the EEA launched me into the world of blockchain and crypto… EEA allowed me to do it, but it’s based on one technology.”

“The way I’m wired, I can be more helpful if I can get involved in doing this where it’s technology-neutral. Of course, Ethereum and the EEA are leaders, so the reason I’m leaving has nothing to do with the EEA community.”

“It’s just that I think I’m ready to move on and try to do some more to help the ecosystem unify. That’s why I decided to leave.”

A major problem facing the industry right now is fragmentation, Resnick says. “How does it all work together? I’m telling you, right now, it’s not.” He explains that the entire industry is immature. “It’s still thrashing around.”

Now Resnick is looking to the future. He aspires to create inter-working communication protocols where all tokens can be unified and interoperative under certain standards and parameters, “like how the Internet works.”

“That’s what I saw happen in the world of telecom.” Mega-competitors like Huawei, ZTE, Samsung and Motorola, with tens of billions of dollars at stake, worked together to create a network specification. Even though they were “nasty competitors,” Resnick says, “they had to work together to make it work everywhere.”

A unifying body that engages in testing through an independent auditing lab could issue a stamp of certification to show metrics have been met, he says. “That’s my goal. I’m looking for opportunities to help make that happen. By doing so it will build trust in the world of crypto and blockchain. Trust doesn’t exist right now.”

“I’m programmed to deliver this notion of interoperability.”

Resnick has, throughout his career in technology standardization, acted as a negotiator between hostile parties. “That’s what happens all the time” he says, “You’re working with competitors and getting them to agree with each other.”

Resnick asks, “What are the best ways to get them all to give up something so they all get more?” In the traditional business world, companies exist in a much more mature ecosystem, he says. They recognize this give-and-take dynamic. In the much less mature blockchain ecosystem, there isn’t the same willingness to give. Not only that, some companies are fearful of standards because their product might not measure up to their claims, Resnick explains.

The Token Taxonomy Consortium

Microsoft is a member of the EEA, and board members at the software giant approached Resnick to deal with the problems of fragmentation and the complexity of the token economy. The idea is to create a universal language that defines tokens in a “technology-neutral” manner. The organization is called the Token Taxonomy Consortium — a not-for-profit entity separate from the EEA.

“That is the vision that I’d like to see expand with the framework — a universal language for defining a token, like musical scales with rules for creating chords. With any instrument, you can show up and play. That’s how it should work with defining a token. They’ll all be able to interoperate.”

The music aficionado and electrical engineer now sees that harmonizing blockchain standards could be his own magnum opus, and he continues to pursue that overarching goal.

“I’m a win-win person, not a win-lose person. I can negotiate solutions with everyone. I’d say that’s my talent.”

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Darren Kleine at Cointelegraph Magazine

Darren Kleine

Based in Canada, Darren Kleine is fascinated with distributed ledger technology and its implications for societal change. He had written the Cointelegraph Journeys in Blockchain feature since day one.