AviaChat with the CTO of Empower

Hello, Welcome to this new AviaChat.

  Hello, Thanks for the invitation! 

Let’s start with your name or username, and what is your current position within the Empower Team? What specific role do you play in the project’s development?  

  Greetings! My name is Gjermund Garaba (On Twitter) , and I’m the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Empower. In my role, I oversee the technical direction of the project, but I also spend as much time as I can coding – as can be seen by my Github history 🙂

Could you provide a brief overview of your background, including your education, relevant experience, or specializations? 

  Of course. My journey started in middle school, where I built my first personal website with HTML and CSS for a school project. In high school, I made my first proper web app using PHP and MySQL – this was probably the starting point for all I have done since… I also had a stint as a system administrator. Following this, I completed my degree in Computer Engineering, which allowed me to dive deeper into software development. I then worked for an American company specializing in technical documentation software, like that used for Boeing and Airbus planes. During my time there, I worked as a full-stack web developer and got to work on new technology like AI, VR/AR, and blockchain. My introduction to blockchain was around 2015-16, which fascinated me with its potential implications for societal change. This led to my involvement with Empower, where I have applied my technical skills to tackle the global waste crisis and promote a circular economy.

How did you first get involved in the crypto ecosystem? Do you remember the first coin you purchased and the reasons behind it?

  Ah, that’s a trip down memory lane! Like I said earlier, my first foray into the crypto ecosystem was around 2015-16 when I researched and learned about the technology. I was fascinated by the potential of blockchain technology and its potential implications for societal change. However, I never really got into crypto as a currency and speculation concept (even though it would have been smart if I had bought a lot more then). The first coin I bought was ether (of Ethereum). Its smart contract functionality captivated me, and I saw it as a significant innovation beyond Bitcoin’s initial promise as a decentralized digital currency. Instead, I saw Ethereum as a platform that could enable a whole host of decentralized applications and social change, which was incredibly intriguing to me. So, it wasn’t so much a monetary investment as an ideological and technical one – I was buying into a vision of a decentralized future. But a lot has changed since then, and I don’t really hold ether anymore. I am not a crypto investor and have never tried to make much money with it – it just doesn’t interest me very much.

When did you join or create Empower?  

   I co-founded Empower in 2018. The idea for Empower germinated from a desire to leverage blockchain technology to address pressing societal issues, particularly the plastic waste problem. We took inspiration from the Norwegian bottle deposit system and envisioned applying it globally to all plastics. This vision was compelling enough for me to quit my job and dedicate myself to making Empower a reality. It’s been an adventurous journey since then, and I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved so far.

How many people are currently working for Empower?

  Currently, we have a dedicated team of around 20 individuals working at Empower. The group is a mix of developers, strategists, business developers, and other professionals, all driven by a shared passion for creating a sustainable future. We’re a small but mighty team, and I’m constantly impressed by the talent and commitment of everyone involved. We work on a lot of things, and as such, 20 always seems too little, but since we are working toward things that are greater than ourselves, we still manage a lot 🙂 

What is the origin of the name Empower? 

  The name Empower is a testament to our mission and vision. It’s about empowering individuals, communities, and businesses with the tools to make a tangible impact on the global waste crisis (and more). We believe everyone has a role to play in creating a more sustainable future, and through our blockchain solutions, we aim to “empower” them. We also believe we can empower people to break free from many world problems by being onboarded to a decentralized future. Finally, we believe in the power of collective action and hope to inspire others to join us in our quest for a circular economy.

I noticed there is already a token called MPWR on the market. Are you concerned that it might be confusing for new investors? 

  Indeed, in the vast sea of tokens, some name collisions are bound to happen. But, while the existence of another MPWR token might initially need some clarification, I’m not terribly concerned. Our focus at Empower is on creating impactful solutions and becoming one of the most significant blockchains in the world. With that kind of presence, I’m confident that any potential confusion will be short-lived. Besides, it’s the substance behind the token and the project that will truly matter to informed investors, and that’s where we shine. So, we’ll take it from there!

Can you briefly explain the inspiration behind creating the Empower project? What is the main problem that Empower aims to solve? 

  The inspiration behind Empower can be traced back to a conversation with Simen Knudsen, a co-founder and a marine technologist with a deep concern for the environment. He challenged us to think about how to use blockchain technology to combat the growing plastic waste problem. We took inspiration from the Norwegian bottle deposit system, which has achieved a recycling rate of 97-98% for all plastic bottles. So we thought: Why not apply a similar approach to all plastics, but on a global scale? That’s how the idea of Empower was born. The primary issue Empower aims to address is the global waste crisis, particularly concerning plastics. We’re striving to transition from a linear to a circular economy, where resources are reused rather than discarded. By incentivizing waste collection and recycling, we aim to reduce pollution, preserve biodiversity, and help build a more sustainable future. Ultimately, it’s mainly a problem of misaligned incentives we aim to correct.

Could you provide an overview of the concept of Empower and briefly explain how the platform will work? 

  Absolutely! Empower is a blockchain-based platform focused on enabling a circular economy. Our mission is to enable the circular economy, which requires many different things. We aim to add as many solutions for incentivization and collaboration as possible.
At launch, we will have Plastic Credits, which are sort of like carbon credits, but directly tied to actual tangible results (cleaning up plastic waste). These plastic credits can be used to sponsor cleanups, offset plastic usage, and make a direct impact. These are incentives for cleanup organizations to do their work, which is essential to cleaning things up.
We’ll also have a Proof of Existence system which we’ll integrate into our existing SaaS platform for tracking plastic waste through supply chains. This will be later extended with even more exciting tracking technology – TBA 🙂
Next up, we’re working on – and already piloting a non-web3 version – a digital deposit system where waste collectors can deposit collected waste at waste collection centers. In return, they receive incentives in the form of digital tokens. This incentivizes waste collection and enables us to track and verify the waste’s journey toward recycling. The most important part of this puzzle is getting products back before they are mixed with other waste streams. This is crucial for recycling and the circular economy to work.
We’re using blockchain to create a transparent, efficient, and inclusive global ecosystem around waste management and recycling. This way, we can incentivize the shift towards a circular economy. 

What inspired you to utilize blockchain technology for creating Empower? How does blockchain technology provide an additional layer of solutions for Empower? Considering Empower was already involved in plastic recycling across 15 different countries, why is blockchain necessary for further progress? 

   In my previous work, I spent a lot of time looking into the potential future use cases of Blockchain technology, so I’ve thought a lot about what this can mean for people and current systems. More importantly, however, we strongly believe in Blockchain tech as an enabler for cross-border collaboration and by far the best way to scale our solution globally.

Why did you choose the Cosmos ecosystem for building the Empower blockchain? 

  After careful consideration and research, I chose the Cosmos ecosystem for building Empower’s blockchain. The maturity and functionality of the Cosmos technology checked all the right boxes for us. The sovereign app chain concept, combined with high performance and low transaction costs, was exactly what we had been waiting for. Moreover, the ability to create our own blockchain while still being able to interact with others in the Cosmos network offers us the flexibility and interoperability we need. This provides Empower with both autonomy and the potential to seamlessly cooperate with other projects, which is fundamental to the success of our global mission. 

Could you briefly explain how the economic circle around plastic works in Empower blockchain? 

  The main point is incentivizing different actors and nudging them towards an economic circle when it is essentially a line today. So each part of what we do has that goal on the backside of it. If we manage to do that, it will be beneficial not only for the planet but also economically, as the amount of wasted resources at this point is astronomical. So we want to solve that problem!

 Is this Participation in this economic circle open to everyone, from end-users to big companies?

  The goal is to have it as open as possible. Certain applications will be access controlled, such as who can issue plastic credits. This is to avoid fraud. To the extent possible, we will always strive for and continue iterating toward permissionless access for all. 

 Is Empower working on launching a dedicated wallet to interact with the Empower blockchain? 

  Not a wallet, exactly, but at least a dedicated Deposit App – which may or may not have wallet functionality built-in (hint: it likely will). The Deposit app is meant to be the app most end-users will access EmpowerChain.

Has Empower collaborated with any large companies in the plastic recycling industry? Can you provide an example of products that can be made from recycled plastic? 

  Many. We work with various companies, from the informal collection sector to international producers to global brands.
We have seen many products utilizing recycled plastics, from clothing to furniture. And it only gets better as we get better and better technology for recycling and better software technology to incentivize and track collection early (to keep a clean waste stream). A fun example I enjoy is some companies that are turning recycled plastic into filament for 3D printers.
The potential is vast, and we at Empower are excited to contribute to the innovation and sustainability that recycled plastic products can provide.

After collecting the plastic, where will it be stored? Are there plans to create recycling stations where people can deposit plastic?

  We will likely not be creating recycling stations or physical infrastructure ourselves, as this is better done by local communities. Instead, we can contribute with digital tools and incentives to make this possible (and profitable).
As for what happens with plastic after collection depends on local situations, but this is the exact problem we have been working on for the past 5 years. We have a fully functional and live SaaS platform to track the plastic after collection. This will be instrumental for the incentive schemes coming to EmpowerChain next. 

Does Empower have a vision to be involved in recycling materials other than plastic, or is the focus only on plastic? 

  Almost everything we do is pretty agnostic, actually. We have also done projects with other materials, but we focus mainly on plastic. There are many reasons for this, chief among them that this is where we have the most knowledge. But we keep this in the back of our minds always 🙂

Empower has created two collections of NFTs on Stargaze. What was the initial purpose behind this, and what benefits for the holders of these NFTs when the mainnet is launched?  

  There were two important reasons: the first was to build community and connect with people who understand what we are doing. The second reason is that NFTs can power many great use cases on-chain, such as DAOs, gamification, and more. With the advent of ICS721 and other IBC protocols, we want to use these collections in EmpowerChain. There will be utility! And, of course, there will be airdrops to the NFT holders 🙂 

Where can people find more information about Empower and its development?  

  On TwitterDiscordOur Website and Empower.eco, and for the code-savvy Github. There are whitepapers and people to ask all over 🙂 We are thrilled to chat!

Thank you so much for your time and your transparency, Let’s Chat again just after the Empower Mainnet ! 

   Sure, Thank you!