The View From Tel Aviv: Ouriel Ohayon

This post is part of CoinDesk’s 2019 Year in Review, a collection of 100 op-eds, interviews and takes on the state of blockchain and the world. Ouriel Ohayon is CEO of KZen Networks, maker of the keyless ZenGo crypto wallet.

This year Tel Aviv played host to its first Blockchain Week, a sign that the crypto industry is starting to recognize Israel’s capital as a center of innovation in the field.

Talking to Ouriel Ohayon, a longtime local entrepreneur, you get a deeper sense of what’s happening. Tel Aviv’s crypto market is in transition. Many of the first-wave crypto startups founded there are slowly suffocating. Yet the city is growing into a hub for research on which future companies will be built.

It’s a story that’s practically baked into its landscape: its ancient streets now support a whirlwind of rapid expansion and modernization.

A transplant from France, Ohayon has lived between Paris and Tel Aviv for the past 15 years, with stops in Silicon Valley. Ohayon has been in the startup and venture capital scene his entire life, and had a side gig writing for TechCrunch. His company, KZen Networks, builds consumer wallets using secure multi-party computation (MPC), a cryptographic technique developed in the 80s.

Thanks for taking the call. What were the major developments of the past year, in your opinion?

The two biggest highlights of the year are curious because they have nothing to do with bitcoin or ethereum, the major blockchains. The most important was the announcement of Libra, because of what it has triggered: transnational debates about how money is managed, what should the role of government be in cryptocurrency, and how major policies are working or could be improved. Initially, I perceived it as an accelerator for the crypto industry, which has not been the case, but it has been an accelerator of the debate around money and how money should be improved.

The second biggest event is related: the push by the Chinese government to declare digital…

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