Jonathan Manzi, a self-made millionaire at the age of 16, is not your average entrepreneur. He started an energy drink company but closed it when he realized there wasn’t enough kava-plant ingredients in the world. This allowed him to compete against Gatorade.
At 22 Manzi became the youngest bar owner San Francisco. He later created a robot FedEx-like printing shop with his company INK, and launched Beyond Protocol, a cryptocurrency that is the “internet for the Internet of Things” (IoT).
Whether it is a biometric suit that records Cage The Elephant’s lead singer’s vital signs or an electric vehicle charging station spreading across Slovenia, Manzi The Magnificent continues to create opportunities to allow machines and devices to communicate and interact via blockchain.
Manzi was born in Massachusetts, “near Salem,” where the witch trials took place many years ago. He started Vintage Network, an internet marketing company that uses ad-serving technology. Manzi says that the joy and challenge of problem solving “got me working twenty hour days to keep it building.” At just 16 years old, Manzi became a millionaire.
Manzi, who was so wealthy at such a young age, explains how he compartmentalized his success by buying a used BMW to go snowboarding in New Hampshire.
He describes his struggle to live a normal teenage existence as an internet millionaire. He eventually found his “his people” — hackers and entrepreneurs.
“We had a revenue of $5 million by the time that I graduated high school.”
Manzi was finishing secondary school with a multimillion-dollar business. He felt that he was trapped in this niche of internet marketing. Manzi applied to Stanford, believing that Stanford was the place where all the innovation was taking place.
Manzi began his management science, engineering and philosophy degree in 2009 during the Great Recession. He sold Vintage Network’s stake as the company was facing turbulence from businesses cutting their marketing spending. Manzi decided to leave university soon because he liked the academic environment but felt he could “probably read those books and do it at a different time” while continuing his entrepreneurial journey.
The journey continues
He had a vision for a drink made with kava. This is a South Pacific fruit that he claims lowers stress hormones. Manzi was part of research at Stanford’s Human Performance Lab.
Manzi encountered a problem when one of his classmates went to Tonga to buy kava. He discovered that the supply chain was so limited that it was nearly impossible to supply enough kava for stores. Further complicating matters is the fact that both the sale and production of kava are highly regulated in many countries.
Manzi then looked into a Slovenian printing kiosk business that aimed to replace print shops. Manzi was appointed CEO and worked closely with Denis Benic, the founder of the company. Despite spending three months in Ljubljana, trying to secure the expansion deal, the board rejected Manzi’s plan.
He convinced Benic to move in with him, even though he was soon leaving Slovenia. Together, they built Ink, an automated FedEx office, and a new business called Ink. Manzi recalls that he bought a bar in San Francisco, where he was 22 years old.
Manzi was a high school student who had been following the “libertarian” eGold Project while he was in highschool. He knew all about Bitcoin and how it was “philosophically celebrated”. He didn’t see it as an attractive investment, and instead “backed into blockchain technology” through the cybersecurity needs for HP printers. This was in connection with his printing business. In which he worked to make enterprise-level printers less hackable using a system that validated nodes and hardware signatures. He soon realized that blockchain technology was the solution to the “number one issue in Internet of Things, and will continue to be so over the next decade,” namely the question of interconnected devices being able to communicate with each other reliably.
“Getting into Blockchain was an exercise to find a solution for HP’s cybersecurity problems, and getting immersed with things like supply chain management and provenance.”
Manzi says that the problem is that the “TCP/IP protocol — which internet — did an amazing job connecting nodes, servers, but it never anticipated this moment.” He explains that everything, from satellites in space to smart pills that track vitals within a person’s body, needs to be able identify itself. Manzi mentions the internet’s current state, saying that although you have the information superhighway, it doesn’t allow you to identify the cars. However, blockchain integration allows each unit to become connected.
Beyond Protocol was founded by Manzi in 2018 to allow devices to connect and communicate better. The Beyond Protocol thesis is described by Manzi as “a blockchain providing a structure, and a platform for IoT’s full potential,” emphasizing the fact that it is natural for these two technologies together. Blockchain effectively provides the environment in which “things” can function.
“Devices can now kind of open up and begin talking to one another for the first-time because of the technology provided by blockchain.”
The protocol has shown promise, as evidenced by some of the applications Manzi has led. The company joined forces with Vanderbilt University earlier this year to develop a biometric suit that can monitor a person’s vitals and, in turn, their mental health. Matt Schultz, the lead singer of Cage the Elephant, tested the suit on stage using 3D printers. It contains sensors that communicate on Beyond Protocol with each other. This was part of his campaign for mental health awareness. Schultz can jump on stage with no difficulty despite the suit looking like a mix of futuristic spacesuit and medieval chainmail.
Beyond Protocol x @CageTheElephant
Matthew Ray Shultz, frontman of CTE, which won Best Rock Alum at the 2020 Grammys, dons a 3D printed suit produced in collaboration with @beyondprotocol1 that measures his biometric information, and allows developers to build apps on top of it pic.twitter.com/9OOssJSakq
— Beyond Protocol (@beyondprotocol1) October 3, 2020
Manzi states that “it’s a great way to demonstrate how blockchain can be used together with data coming out of devices.” He then explains the cybersecurity benefits of blockchain to verify the signatures of individual devices in order to protect against hacking.
He also said that blockchain integration can allow the entire dataset to cross-validate in such a manner that it knows which devices accessed which data, and which pieces of information. This arrangement allows for greater privacy protection. However, this can be a double-edged sword as it is possible that all tracking data may end up in the wrong hands once it has been uploaded to a computer.
The suit’s true purpose lies in the data that can be combined to create customized applications for the wearer. Manzi says that developers can come in to say to Matt, “Here are some applications I can build based upon your vitals.”
Let’s suppose he is getting agitated. Manzi describes the suit’s purpose and explains that the biometric suit can trigger a vibrating pulse at the wrist to indicate that he is calming down.
These functions could have potential benefits for mental health. Manzi said that musicians are often under immense stress when on tour. It is possible to track stress levels and this can prove beneficial, especially for Schultz, who has had a history with depression and now actively promotes good mental health.
It would be so cool if this suit could be combined with a metaverse avatar such as one created by “Polish Elon Musk” or one performing in a 3D Animal Concert.
A further proof of concept is found in Benic, Manzi’s cofounder and native Slovenia. There, Beyond Protocol has partnered up with the European Union Commission in order to establish an eBike charging station at Parliament in Ljubljana.
(1/3) Beyond Protocol’s technology was selected to power the European Union green initiative. Beyond Protocol, along with its partners, has installed an eBike solar-powered station in Slovenia using a system architecture built from blockchain technology. The station is located in… pic.twitter.com/RLvG32IB8O
— Beyond Protocol (@beyondprotocol1) November 19, 20,21
These bikes are unique because they are not just electrical devices that charge blindly when plugged into, but are also “individuals” capable of communicating with the charger.
“The bike should identify itself with hardware, and when it is up to a charge, say “Hey! This is ___ kind of bike, therefore I need to ___ charger — it should occur at ___ rate and here are all my billing details.”
“This bike charging system is being expanded to include electric vehicle charging stations in Slovenia. Manzi says that they began looking at Europe’s electric vehicle infrastructure and found that charging stations could be built where cars can pull up and pay for electricity. Every car has a unique identity that allows the driver to connect to their Stripe account, just like a wireless speaker.
The car connects to an electric charger port via Bluetooth. It then automatically pays for the electricity it consumes. Validation is key — the integrated Beyond Protocol blockchain allows machines to instantly recognize one another and transact with no fear of imposters.
It means that an identity thief would need to also steal your car to purchase gas at the pumps.
Although Manzi initially thought that payments would settle in Beyond Protocol’s native token , he eventually came to the conclusion, “It is easier to accept fiat payments through Stripe where, for instance, a credit card could be used as a source for funding.
Despite initial inflection, Manzi sees future uses for the BP token as “a natural resource for that new economy of devices waking awake and starting to communicate in all these new and amazing ways that can’t be imagined right now.”
“It enables us to do what it does great, which is provide the car and charging station with the identity and allow them both to transfer value.”