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August 5, 2021updated 06 Aug 2021 3:03pm

CTO Talk: Q&A with Divi Project’s Nick Saponaro

By Eric Johansson

Nick Saponaro is the CTO of Divi Project. The company markets itself as a decentralised payment ecosystem, set up to make the adoption of cryptocurrencies in everyday life smoother.

This can be easier said than done. Given the attention blockchain and bitcoin get, it’s can be easy to forget that the technology is still reasonably new. As recent thematic research from GlobalData notes, it was only in 2017 that blockchain really caught the attention of businesses.

Since then, press has run hot with news about bitcoin, Tesla’s on-and-off relationship with crypto payments and increasingly tighter regulations. To put it in other words: it’s difficult to pay with cryptocurrencies.

That’s where Divi Project comes in. Launched in 2017, Divi Project has created a cryptocurrency payment platform to make these sort of transactions simpler. To date, it has raised $2.7m towards that end.

In this Q&A, the 53rd in our weekly series of CTO Talks, Saponaro explains why he believes cryptocurrencies are just at the beginning of their journey, why you should never hire consultants and  reveals the time he participated in a real-life rodeo.

Eric Johansson: Tell us a bit about yourself – how did you end up in your current role?

Nick Saponaro: To me, it feels like pure luck and happenstance. I had been investing in crypto and freelancing, building websites for several years. I was coming out of web development school and a buddy reached out to ask if I wanted to build a website for a new crypto project he was involved with. I contributed some ideas to the website and whitepaper. The next thing you know, I’m on the executive team.

Where did your interest in tech come from?

I’ve always had a curious mind and enjoyed learning how things work. Being an only child, learning computer science from an early age as a form of entertainment could keep me busy for long hours.

Which emerging technology do you think holds the most promise once it matures?

Blockchain will be a dominant technology thanks to its inherent transparency and distribution of verified information. There are endless use cases for this technology, from supply chain to voting. I also think AI will be remarkably useful once it gets past the current phase, which is essentially advanced I/O and becomes more, well, intelligent.

How do you separate hype from genuine innovation?

In crypto, it’s quite easy to make the delineation. Meme coins, transparent DeFi Ponzi schemes, and influencer/celebrity shilled projects are 99.9% hype, while there are myriad projects building true technology that impacts the world at large.

Ethereum (ETH) has been one of the most impactful projects ever developed. Major organisations, militaries, and even countries are using ETH to facilitate key operations. Projects like Divi, which truly adhere to the tenets of decentralisation, democratization and accessibility of finance, have brought new prosperity to corners of the world where financial services have not previously been available.

What one piece of advice would you offer to other CTOs?

It’s not just about hiring the best devs. Your project planning and product management are paramount to the success and on-time execution of any project.

Oh, and never hire technical consultants. Often they’re not devoted to your project, the way an in-house team member is. They work on a time and materials basis, which incentivises contract extension, not on-time delivery or efficient execution. Our company’s culture relies on community and collaboration. Either be part of the team or don’t be.

What’s the most surprising thing about your job?

Every day is a new surprise in crypto. New challenges spawn each day due to the shifting, global regulatory landscape. These moving targets impact every department and inevitably have a cascading effect down through to the technical team. I wake up and learn something new every single day.

What’s the biggest technological challenge facing humanity?

It really shouldn’t be a challenge but due to geopolitical interests and greed, we face serious risk in the face of carbon generation. Everything we do requires immense amounts of power and resistance or refusal to transition to cleaner, renewable forms of energy pose a serious threat. Energy is now a commodity but thankfully some very influential people are moving to eliminate reliance on energy that pollutes. Hopefully, it’s not too late.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done for fun?

I recently attended a rodeo for the first time in Texas. I enjoyed it thoroughly, although I was definitely out of my element and felt kind of bad for the animals as they were being wrangled. I’m told they’re treated quite well behind the scenes, though. At least the next time I can say, “This ain’t my first rodeo.”

What’s the most important thing happening in your field at the moment?

The world is finally starting to take cryptocurrency seriously. Whether they are attacking it, i.e. Chinese mining operation shutdowns and EU crackdowns on exchanges, or embracing it, i.e. Nigeria, El Salvador, et. al., we are seeing historic expansion and adoption. Crypto is here to stay, and the world is figuring out what that means. It’s a remarkable time to be engaged.

In another life you’d be?

Taller? Maybe a baller? I always wanted to be an athlete. Alas, I’m far too short and hate running.