Our whole organisation itself is the innovation, says Aaron McDonald co-founder and CEO of Centrality.\n\u201cWe are creating a centralised app store with a twist,\u201d says McDonald, on the startup that he built and which is now one of the fastest growing tech firms in New Zealand.\n\u201cInstead of having applications that are all fighting one-on-one against their incumbent competitors in the non-decentralised world, Centrality has built an app store framework that allows applications to work together to gain scale.\u201d\nThese decentralised apps?mdash;?or dApps?mdash;?help each other to acquire users, content, data and merchants, so that their applications can be richer, he explains\n\u201cThis means startup businesses can get a leg up in the race against some of the incumbent providers. It\u2019s not one dApp fighting against all the others in their industry, it\u2019s a thousand apps working together,\u201d he adds.\n\u201cThink of it as a thousand zebras, running in a herd against the competition, rather than one unicorn.\u201d\nCentrality, he says, has developed unique world leading technology in the fields of blockchain, P2P communications, Byzantine Consensus algorithms, smart contracts, machine learning and IoT. \nTo talk about each of these would be an application in its own right but if we drill down into the systems, we need just to run our business in this totally new technology space, says McDonald.\nToday, he says, Centrality is sought by industry leaders and regulators in New Zealand and around the world.\nStartup days\nHe says the idea for Centrality came about when he was exploring new business ideas in 2016. \n\u201cThere were so many hurdles to creating a startup that my problem statement quickly morphed into \u2018how do you create an environment where startups have a greater chance of success by removing (or reducing) the barriers?\u2019 and \u2018how do you do this with a new kind of respect for the digital profile of that ecosystem\u2019s users\u2019?\u201d\nHe says lightbulb moment came following a conversation with a friend in Zurich about the disruptive power of blockchains on existing economic models. \n\u201cI realised that decentralisation (enabled by blockchain) was the key ingredient to level the playing field and give those with big ideas the same opportunities as established corporates,\u201d he says.\nWith a decentralised future at the core, McDonald says his masterplan is to eventually make Centrality redundant, by investing in open-source technology to develop an ecosystem and building a community that will, in time, self-manage and deliver true value to all participants. \nUnder their model, consumers own their own data and can choose how it is used by the applications they choose to interact with.\n\u201cIt removes many market entry costs and barriers for startups, as the platform allows applications to share potential customers, data, merchants, content and services,\u201d says McDonald.\nBusinesses using the Centrality ecosystem don\u2019t need to start from scratch. They can use the already-established global base of assets, customers, services, data, merchants. \nThis means any application building on the Centrality ecosystem not only has a step up, but also a head start, on any competing application, he says.\n\u201cIt levels the playing field and assures that you don\u2019t need to be a technology titan to take your great idea to market.\u201d\nFuture growth has been funded using the technology that drives Centrality, blockchain tokens. \nThe innovative nature of this funding model has sparked the interest of the investor community. In January 2018, Centrality raised US$80 million during its initial coin offer (ICO), which sold out in just six minutes.\nThis, he says, is a global recognition to the steps the Centrality team has taken to build a fairer economy.\nA new ecosystem\nCentrality is a new type of ecosystem which has a core group of six different companies, each building elements of a combined core platform and 40 businesses building on that platform together. \n\nThese independent businesses have mutual goals, shared capability and are dependent on each-other, explains McDonald.\nHowever, they aren\u2019t a single commercial entity so there is no top down approach to getting things done. \nThe structure, resources and commercials are decentralised. \n\u201cThis gives us an interesting challenge,\u201d says McDonald, \u201cto co-build a platform, between six companies while supporting a 40-company venture ecosystem that\u2019s dependent on that platform.\u201d\nThis technology space is evolving there are no clear patterns to build the technology from, says McDonald. \n\u201cA lot of what we have developed has come from ground up experimentation and research, he says. \u201cWhile having multiple teams developing independently helped speed this up, it became a problem when we started to integrate.\u201d\nInitially they had issues with different team builds not lining up when they tried to bring them together.\nDifferent priorities across the organisations drove conflicts in the personalities and timelines. Different frameworks were used to manage projects and different tooling was used to deliver them making it more difficult to manage in-life, says McDonald.\nTo overcome these, McDonald says they created a new role and a team: a collaborative chief integration officer and integration committee structure that includes internal and external teams for architecture and product design.\nThis team helps agree the patterns that different external teams can use to build their projects, design the core points of interactivity and agree joint roadmaps, he says.\n\u201cWe now have the ability to move people between the six different companies to work on projects together depending on the opportunities and priorities across the group.\u201d\nThe Centrality \u201cUNcorporate approach\u201d means we can only get things done through collaboration, says McDonald.\n\u201cThis requires me taking the time to research and understand what each organisation\u2019s challenges and opportunities look like and getting alongside their leadership team to help them make an impact.\u201d\nMcDonald says he had to overcome challenges that most startups face, but on top of that created a successful business in a volatile market, where regulation is unclear, technology is emerging, and business systems (like payroll and accounting and compliance for blockchain tokens) didn\u2019t exist. \n\u201cMy answer was to design and build the systems that we needed to operate the business. These systems have now morphed from necessary internal infrastructure for maintaining financial compliance, accounting and payments, into products in their own right.\u201d\n\u2018Think big\u2019\nMacDonald is a board member, advisor or founder of 20 other technology ventures.\n\u201cHaving held roles in my career across customer support, engineering, product, marketing and business leadership, I have had the unique opportunity to be in the shoes of the people I deal with on a daily basis,\u201d he says.\nHe and his team share knowledge with the technology and business communities hosting and supporting meet-ups and technology forums, hackathons and sponsoring and mentoring university programs.\nMcDonald is a member of Ngai Tahu, and supports initiatives to develop Maori in technology. \nOne of these is Dig My Idea \u2013 a challenge to attract Maori youth to the industry. He is also a Fellow with the Edmund Hillary Fellowship, which brings innovators to NZ to develop game-changing initiatives for the planet.\nHe is encouraging the next generation of C-level executives with Centrality Accelerator. This innovation hub fosters entrepreneurs, developers and technologists who have great ideas, but need some support to get the ideas to market. \nAt Centrality, he encourages a culture where people can express their creativity, along with their concerns on how they can get on growing the organisation in an emerging marketplace.\n\u201cEquality is at the core of what we are trying to build as an organisation,\u201d he says.\nMcDonald has deliberately adopted Centrality\u2019s hiring process to increase recruitment of female programmers and ensure they have a diversified workforce. \n\u201cWe take extra care to give female applicants the chance to demonstrate their skills, as they are often less likely to overstate them in their CV and could be screened out earlier in an interview process,\u201d he says. \n\u201cAn in-person interview can uncover skills not addressed in written correspondence, so we nowmeet with allcandidates whose backgrounds look to be a fit.\u201d\n\u201cWe are a tech company, so tech is at the forefront of every discussion in every team. As a startup, our business is about taking great ideas and transforming them into great outcomes, but 10 times faster than the average business,\u201d he says.\nHe shares interesting insights on the different challenges startups face once they have the resources and the momentum to scale.\n\u201cWhen we transitioned from being a small startup on the bread line to a superfast growing company with a lot of capital and resources, I had to learn very quickly that managing growth with a large amount of resources can create a lot of problems that aren\u2019t initially apparent. \n\u201cThe biggest lesson I have learnt is that more resources do not always make for better faster outcomes. In fact, having too much can lead to fatal errors.\n\u201cWhen we raised a lot of capital we grew very quickly as an organisation and the scope of things we became involved with across all areas of the business grew,\u201d he states.\nAs they went from 10 to 30 to 100 to 400 people, each team became more autonomous from the core exec team and lost sight of what was happening. \n\u201cInstead of finding innovative solutions to problems, resources were put in place, instead of making hard choices which forced us to focus on the core value, we opened up new battlefronts,\u201d says McDonald.\nIt took them six months to realise what was happening.\n\u201cOnce we had realised this, the executive team came together to put a new framework in place for deciding priorities,\u201d he says.\n\u201cWe made the deliberate choice to artificially constrain our resources to focus our decisions and we optimised the structure of the business and the daily operations to get closer to what was happening on the ground.\u201d\nCombining these with their experience over the past two years, he says the Centrality team now ascribes to three core values:\nThink big: \u201cWe\u2019re here to change the world and we\u2019re not ashamed of that,\u201d says McDonald. \u201cIt\u2019s a lofty goal, but our team aren\u2019t the kind of people who are looking for simple and unambitious goals.\u201d\nHave fun: \u201cWe want the people who work here to enjoy what they are doing, to be learning new things all the time, to feel challenged, respected and rewarded for the things that they do.\u201d\nLastly, and most importantly, get shit done: \u201cYou can talk and promise the world, but if you\u2019re not executing, then none of that means anything,\u201d says McDonald.