Meet the team: Aurora Labs' Chief Strategy Officer Matt Henderson

Meet the team is a series that highlights the work and expertise of Aurora Labs' team members.

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The Aurora Labs team is made up of exceptional individuals that left a mark in the industries they have been part of by innovating and building cutting edge technology. These top-tier professionals have unique stories to share about their journeys that deserve to be talked about as they can provide inspiration and guidance to new builders joining this ecosystem. With this series we aim to do just that by highlighting the work and experiences of a generation of pioneers in the Web3 world paying tribute to their valuable contributions and achievements.

From Georgia to Europe: Paving the Way to Entrepreneurship

Matt Henderson is an American professional with decades of experience in the field of IT and design. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Matt has spent most of his life abroad, between France, Germany, and Spain.

His international experience began when he was attending the Georgia Institute of Technology in his home city of Atlanta. Here is where he met his wife, a Spanish woman, who would become the main driver to his European adventure. In order to be with her after her graduation, Matt enrolled into a joint Master’s program with the university of Metz in France. This allowed Matt to pursue his degree in Electrical Engineering and Digital Signal Processing while also continuing to see his wife during the weekend, who was at the time living in Germany.

After his graduation, Matt moved to Germany to work at the European Space Agency, where he would work as a Satellite Communications Engineer for the following three years. It was now the early 90s and the Internet was quickly beginning to take over the world. Through his job, Matt had access to one of the first Macintosh computers, giving him the opportunity to explore this new technology and discover a new passion for design:

I started making my reports with a computer and the professor was simply amazed at how good my reports looked, at the time everyone was using typewriters. But when I would look at the company’s annual reports my documents would not look that good in comparison, and I really wanted to figure out why. That is how my interest in design started.

Matt’s interest for design carried through his whole career; he became interested in understanding why Apple’s products were so easy to use compared to other products and which design principles were behind Apple’s success. Eventually, Matt’s passion for design and business transformed into the beginning of a new venture.

A Serendipitous Encounter and the Beginning of a New Venture

After a few years at the European Space Agency, Matt had gained a good understanding of the business landscape in Europe, in particular, how governmental agencies work with different contractors. At the same time, Matt had also become proficient in design, especially the design of documents and offers, and now felt ready to start his own software development company.

The company immediately landed some important contracts allowing it to smoothly take off. As a hustler, Matt did not limit himself to running this company, he soon began to focus on the new exciting field of the Internet by starting to build web and mobile applications. But that was not all, Matt also started picking Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art almost unknown in Europe at that time. While juggling with two businesses Matt found the time to train and participate in the European Championship for several years and bring home three gold medals.

It was now the year 2000 and Matt and his wife were at this point running two companies, a software company operating for the German market, and an Internet company that created applications. During this time, the couple got pregnant with their first child, and decided to move to Matt’s wife's home country. And it was while he was in Costa Del Sol that Matt would meet his future business partners:

Soon after I got to Spain I met two young Finnish people who were living in a camper van, it was Arto and Alex Bendiken. It was at this hamburger place that we had our first conversation and I immediately recognized how talented those guys were, so I asked them to join me in this Internet company. We got an office in Marbella and we started building Web applications.

Matt, Arto, and Alex started working for local institutions, something that soon revealed to be rather daunting, due to the Spanish bureaucracy. While trying to get new local customers, Alex decided to participate in a design competition launched by Slash Dot, the world’s biggest tech news site. As Matt recounts:

I discouraged Alex from participating in the competition. We were busy at the time and considering that thousands of people would participate I thought the chance of winning would be too slim. A few months later he came back to me and said ‘Do you remember about that competition you told me not to participate in? I won.

Following Alex’s win, the company started getting a lot of attention and immediately got contacted by Google. They became a part of Google's major marketing campaign for Virgin America and the US and created a game for them; it was a huge achievement and a great opportunity to showcase their skills and creativity to a wider audience. The company was then launched head on into the Californian market, which would continue to serve for many years to come.

Joining the Crypto Revolution

In 2010 Matt started hearing about Bitcoin, first from Arto, who was then very active in the Bitcoin scene, and also from the director of the Bitcoin Foundation who was then living in Spain and would meet at their office for occasional meetings. But it wasn’t until 2013 that Matt would get more interested in Bitcoin as a solution:

Around 2013 we started having workers in many different countries and it became difficult to make payments through European banks and then also have to deal with our customers in the US. Then I really got interested in crypto as a banking solution. I bought some Bitcoin and started experimenting with it and different projects that were starting to appear.

A few years later, Alex decided to start traveling the world with his wife and two children, while Arto had already been living in Berlin for a few years. DeFi was taking off and Matt and his partners decided to close down their business and go separate ways after almost twenty years together.

It was 2020, and Matt was getting fascinated with what was going on in the crypto scene. He got involved with different DeFi projects such as Pickle Finance, and followed with interest the development of many different projects. So when Arto joined NEAR Protocol, it did not take long for Matt to also get himself involved.

NEAR Protocol & Aurora

Arto had enthusiastically talked to Matt about NEAR, and shortly after Matt started working part-time on the product development of the Rainbow Bridge – the Aurora team was just starting to form:

Since the moment I joined Aurora my goal and motivation were clear–to bring good design in the crypto space. After experimenting with DeFi it became clear that the experience that crypto provides is still terribly complex to be appealing to a wide audience. Removing all the friction points that I had experienced in other bridges was the first objective I wanted to achieve when working on the Rainbow Bridge.

Fast forward to today, Matt has contributed to the development of several key products such as Aurora Plus, and Aurora Cloud, effectively bringing a frictionless user experience to the space. But this is just the beginning:

Businesses are just beginning to realize how they can leverage blockchain technology. The most immediate applications are in the supply chain management and luxury industries in the form of loyalty programs though NFTs but not all applications are as obvious. A striking example is this one winemaker from California that is now sending you an NFT instead of the actual bottle so that you can hold it in your wallet and sell it if the wine appreciates. It didn’t occur to me that the wine industry could benefit from blockchain but it can, in this sense, we are just at the beginning. Our job now is to keep removing the hurdles that are keeping businesses from accessing this technology.

The world of blockchain still has a long way to go when it comes to user experience if it wants to succeed in attracting the Web2 market, familiar concepts and experiences need to be brought to the space of Web3 to be truly attractive. Aurora’s key objective is to make Web3 as accessible as possible to businesses and their users. This core idea is what informs Aurora’s development strategy as it is reflected by its products and services:

At Aurora, we're all about making Web3 accessible and user-friendly. With our latest product, Aurora Cloud, we set out to eliminate as many roadblocks as possible to getting started with Web3. Our Borealis Business infrastructure allows companies to pay for their users' transactions, eliminating the need for users to deal with confusing and frustrating gas fees. Plus, our Aurora Pass wallet makes it super easy for mobile-first companies to onboard their users seamlessly. We're excited to offer a Web2-like experience with the added benefits of the Web3 ecosystem.

As Chief Strategy Officer, Matt is now fully dedicated to understanding the markets’ needs and identifying the obstacles that are still standing in the way of mass adoption, it is safe to say that exciting times are ahead!

About Aurora

Powered by its high-performance EVM, and fully trustless Rainbow Bridge, Aurora combines an Ethereum compatible experience with the modern blockchain performance of NEAR Protocol. Aurora provides an optimal environment for the creation of scalable, carbon-neutral, future-safe, and low-cost Web3 services, as well as the perfect tools to bring to life your Web3 initiatives. Try Aurora Cloud, our all-in-one blockchain solution for enterprises, and get your Web3 journey started!

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