In the decade since he discovered crypto and stocks, Justin Sun has come a long way.
The China-born tech entrepreneur is the founder of Tron, a smart contract network that has doubled its market share in recent months. He owns the world's largest distributed storage system, BitTorrent, among other enterprises, and is an alumnus of the Forbes 30 Under 30 list—with a talent for publicity that’s made him a household name in crypto circles.
Famously, in 2019 he paid $4.5 million for a charity dinner with crypto skeptic and Berkshire Hathaway chief Warren Buffett, which took place the following year.
Despite having resigned as Tron CEO in December 2021, Sun told Decrypt that his Web3 ambitions remain undiminished—but they have taken on a more serious bent.
He now has two new roles: the Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for the Caribbean island of Grenada—which comes with the title 'His Excellency'—and advisor to popular cryptocurrency exchange Huobi. Both are instrumental to his goal, which hinges on the transformational potential of Tron’s recently launched stablecoin USDD.
Sun appears for our video interview in a Huobi t-shirt, as opposed to his increasingly customary suit and tie. He is early and looks relaxed while exuding a barely perceptible nervous energy. This energy and his brazen determination have become traits for which he is famous.
Since he launched Tron in 2017, the network has steadily blossomed as a foundational layer for the future decentralized internet. Tron is now governed by the community in the shape of a DAO, and Sun’s new appointments allow him to champion cryptocurrency in a global arena and scale the Tron network to serve a nation—perhaps the best real-world use-case there is.
Sun is a big fan of El Salvador's Bitcoin experiment. In September 2021, the Central American country became the first state to introduce a cryptocurrency as legal tender, but the results have been mixed; a lack of efficient infrastructure and Bitcoin’s volatility means that transactions made in the cryptocurrency remain pitifully low.
For Sun, the solution to the issues that have confronted El Salvador is obvious: build on the Tron network. Announced in October, Tron’s partnership with Dominica will allow the Caribbean island state to issue a national digital currency, the DMC token, as legal tender. A basket of other cryptocurrencies, including USDD and other stablecoins, will be tradable too.
“This is the first country-sponsored token in the space, issued by the government,” says Sun. He adds that the token will incorporate a digital ID, with the potential to open all manner of crypto applications, including passport-free travel, registering for services, and paying bills digitally.
“The DMC token and the DMC digital ID project we are doing with the Dominica government [means the region] can really become the future hub for Web3,” says Sun.
Smart contracts and stablecoins
Dominica is not the only country in the region that is interested in Tron’s proposition. As well as its own token and blockchain infrastructure, Tron will provide Dominica with a smart contract platform, an NFT exchange, and Web3 services, such as file transfer through BitTorrent.
“The collaboration we are doing with so many current governments is focused on blockchain rather than crypto itself,” says Sun. He explains that while Bitcoin has manifold advantages as “digital gold,” it doesn’t have smart contracts or the ability to accommodate other tokens.
The Tron network boasts over 4,000 active dapps, including APENFT, the network’s premier NFT marketplace, a thriving DeFi ecosystem, and, crucially, a payments platform.
Stablecoins, typically pegged to a fiat currency such as the U.S. dollar, serve as a means to counter the volatility of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin—enabling them to be used as a means of exchange, Sun explains.
And USDD has advantages over its fiat-based rivals USDT and USDC, he adds. USDD is only backed by crypto assets, including Bitcoin, TRX, and other stablecoins, making it decentralized.
In addition, it’s overcollateralized—with a collateral ratio of more than 200%, according to data from the Tron DAO Reserve, which maintains its equilibrium.
The recent collapse of Terra’s stablecoin UST sparked a bout of soul-searching around stablecoins. For Tron’s ecosystem, “encouraging people to have confidence in the stablecoin is very important,” says Sun. “We need to have very transparent management of funds, and also a good risk management team. And at the same time, we need to focus our energy on branding,” he adds.
Sun’s appointment as Grenada’s WTO Ambassador and his Huobi advisory role are part of his journey to build a better Web3. He’s no stranger to politics and has an M.A. in Political Economy, from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a B.A. in History from Peking University, where he was in his element when engaged in debate. So, did he really give up his political ambitions to focus on tech?
‘I always want to bridge the Web3 world with the real world,” says Sun. “I really want to build infrastructure for Web3, but also for Dominica, and Grenada… to bring Web3 to those small island economies. It can really empower their economy and benefit local people.”
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