In brief

  • Blockchain company Bison Trails will now provide its clients with access to Celo, a self-branded competitor to Facebook's Libra.
  • Bison Trails is also a founding member of the Libra Association.
  • CEO Joe Lallouz explains why his company is betting on both horses.

Blockchain “infrastructure-as-a-service” company and founding Libra Association member Bison Trails is now providing its clients with access to Libra competitor Celo. Any customer of Bison Trails that wishes to participate in Celo’s proof-of-stake blockchain or integrate Celo into their projects may do so with assistance from Bison Trails.

The news comes two months after Bison Trails joined the Celo Alliance for Prosperity, an organization that seeks to make crypto more accessible to the general public.

Celo brands itself as a Libra competitor with the same goal of “banking the unbanked.” One way it does this is by enabling its users to send digital funds directly to each other's phone numbers rather than to long addresses consisting of multiple symbols and characters. The complexity of long addresses can sometimes result in lost funds, or money sent to the wrong address, so simplifying the process could reduce one of crypto’s barriers to entry.

And like Facebook’s Libra, Celo is also backed by several stablecoins designed to limit volatility. Among the currencies users can send to each other will be the network’s own stablecoins Celo Gold (cGLD) and the Celo Dollar (cUSD).

By partnering with Bison Trails, it potentially opens up Celo’s network to new users, who can now participate in Celo by running nodes with Bison Trails. The idea is to boost Celo’s adoption by getting more users on its network without requiring these users to have any technical core competency or expertise in the protocol-specific blockchain infrastructure.

But why would Bison Trails, a founding member of Libra, want to help a network that positions itself as a direct competitor? In an interview with Decrypt, Bison Trails CEO Joe Lallouz said that his company is, in fact, blockchain “agnostic.” Bison Trails, he said, is ready and willing to work with any project it thinks will move the crypto industry forward in a positive way.

“We joined both the Libra Association and the Celo Alliance for Prosperity because we believe there’s a need for groups of incentive-aligned participants to help govern, secure, support and further these protocols through collaboration,” Lallouz said.

While Celo is a potential rival to Libra, the projects are different on a technical level, he explained. Libra, for example, is permissioned. The project is governed by the Libra Association, and membership is regularly controlled by Association affiliates. Celo, by contrast, is permissionless and more decentralized, said Lallouz.

But Bison Trails is interested in both projects because they share the same goal of making the world “more financially inclusive,” he said.

“We support both projects, and we believe they can coexist,” said Lallouz. “Our focus is to help these networks have the infrastructure necessary to achieve massive scale and adoption. This aligns with our goal of strengthening the entire blockchain ecosystem to enable the pioneers of tomorrow.”

Bison Trails is not the only company to support both Celo and Libra. Digital asset custody company Anchorage, as well venture capital firms Coinbase Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, are also backing both projects.