Profile Interview: James McDowall, Head of Strategy, Sentinel
Building the blocks between blockchain: James McDowall is the industry’s connector
Innovation and success in the burgeoning blockchain arena requires a certain skill set that many day-to-day blockchain aficionados are not blessed with. James McDowall is clearly not part of the majority in this respect. PGA Professional golfer, undefeated regional champion boxer and now light-footed innovator in the blockchain space, this is one man who doesn’t like to waste time sweating the small stuff!
Transitioning from a pro-sports background to finance and technology with an ease and dexterity that puts most of us to shame, James is no stranger to success. When he saw the potential that blockchain had for growth two years ago, James jumped into the driver’s seat and started to help get the crypto sector heading in the right direction.
“I have been investing in the space for the last two years – I was away with clients and planning my next investments in my hotel room and I stumbled across this thing called Bitcoin. I was sceptical at first but after a decent amount of reading and research I realized it’s underlying technology has incredible potential to disrupt and increase efficiency in most industries. I felt compelled to learn about the whole Blockchain space, the intricacies of the technology, the leading companies, projects and entrepreneurs, regulations in different jurisdictions, everything. I felt like I had to work this thing out because it is like the birth of the internet all over again. I was too young to play a part in that, so I wasn’t investing in Microsoft, Google or Amazon at the start. I could see this innovation cycle is coming round again and thought ‘I’m in the right place at the right time and I have to make the most of this’. So I started allocating personal capital towards digital assets I thought were looking strong such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, plus a few promising low cap projects and built a nice portfolio that I managed actively. That worked out really well and gave me the freedom to continue to grow and repeat that success.”
James advises several Blockchain startups as a renowned industry advisor specialising in scaling, strategic management, fundraising and networking, as well as sitting on the board at Swiss-based SPIRIT Blockchain. One of his roles as Head of Strategy for Sentinel fills a significant portion of James’s day-to-day business and investment interests.
“I became interested in Sentinel because I saw huge potential in the way the network will allow people to monetise excess resources such as bandwidth, computing power and storage / memory, as well the ability to help billions of people worldwide who transmit data online and handle digital assets to stay safe and secure”, James explains.
“Sentinel is a security protocol focused on data integrity – I quickly became keen to help these guys and realised several ways in which I could help them scale up operations and increase adoption. You can think of Sentinel as a peer to peer marketplace with distributed resources (currently bandwidth and in the future CPU and GPU power and storage) on one side, and decentralised applications (currently dVPN and a full suite including dChat in the future) on the other.
“The Sentinel dVPN encrypts users’ data which dramatically reduces the chances of getting hacked, and other invasions of privacy or lapses in security. We saw an opportunity to collaborate with governments and enterprises because if they have delegates, associates or executives travelling, in terms of things like their emails and documents and so on, they should be sure they are secure and no malicious entities can access information on what they’re saying internally or getting hold of sensitive data. We have been approaching these entities and suggesting that they host private nodes. This way, even if ministers or executives are travelling abroad, they can always connect to their private Sentinel network and all of their data will remain encrypted and secure from anywhere in the world.
“It’s incredible how many people have no idea that traditional centralized VPN services are simply not secure. There is no proof the data passing through is actually being encrypted, and there will always be serious trust issues with any central body who holds control of data and logs, as they often can be and do get bribed or forced to give it up. As we plough into an ever more digital age, data security and integrity is becoming a huge issue that must be taken seriously. Sentinel are leading the field in the decentralized VPN arena.”
Looking at things more broadly, James is passionate about linking the blocks together for blockchain. “Freedom is one of my core values”, he says, and not just for himself but for the beneficiaries of his clients too – he’s intent on eliminating third party involvement and removing the restrictions and fees that come with such partnerships. “Misaligned incentives” is how James coined it.
“I love the idea of going online and frictionlessly trading assets and making payments without having to go through rent seeking intermediaries such as brokers, banks or other payment service providers. Everyone is trying to take fees all the time, and for the first time in human history we have the chance to transact peer-to-peer without putting trust in a third party. Trustless systems are fascinating and so much will be ‘tokenized’ and traded peer to peer over the next decade.”
The issue of trust is a big thing for blockchain pioneers – it’s a fundamental element of the technology, in terms of creating unbreakable trust in data without humans being the weak link in the chain. As an advisor to RedPen, spearheaded by CEO RJ Smith along with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, James is putting this ethos to good use.
“RedPen uses blockchain and AI to aggregate and consolidate all the different articles from various sites and social media portals about a particular event, and it will reveal key data around story reporting and public reaction as well as the reputations of those reporting on it. People will then be able to comment on, contribute to, and connect with a community around stories. It’s all about maintaining integrity in journalism, identifying fake news and changing the way we experience and consume news altogether.”
This positions James squarely as one of the Knights of Blockchain – a leader in his field, championing the truth and the freedom that goes with it.
James knows the future is as unpredictable as the blockchain industry, but it’s clear that he will be free to choose his own path and mingle and work with the key players in the crypto ecosystem. “I knew if I wanted to become a leader in this space I had to get to know the current leaders – the biggest players and teams in the sector, the forward thinkers, the VCs and funds allocating capital, the top blockchain lawyers, everyone, so when I’m investing in and advising companies and projects and helping them scale, I can always put them in touch with the right people at the right times. I’m one of the world’s top connectors for blockchain businesses and want to excel in that role, and I’ve made so many amazing friends all around the world. It’s been a very special journey so far and long may it continue.”
Clearly a man of many talents, James has his fingerprints all over various international projects. In terms of long term goals, he wants to thrive as “an active venture capitalist where I can allocate capital into companies and projects I believe in and be hand on and help them grow. I want to be free, travel the world, invest in tech start-ups and help them scale using my network, expertise and strategic thinking.”
In short, James McDowall is definitely in the heady category of ‘movers and shakers’, certainly navigating the path of success and innovation, and absolutely someone you should watch, heed, and follow if you get the chance.
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