Casper Labs Has Its Sights Set on Enterprise

Mrinal Manohar, the CEO and co-founder of Casper Labs, believes most current blockchain offerings are insufficient for enterprise needs. He aims to change this.

AccessTimeIconOct 11, 2022 at 7:49 p.m. UTC
Updated Oct 12, 2022 at 2:57 p.m. UTC
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“Institutions are coming” is a common mantra for mainstream adoption in crypto. The idea implies a huge flow of capital into the $1 trillion crypto market, and the accelerated maturing of crypto as an asset class.

But when institutions come, where do they go and who do they trust?

Mrinal Manohar, the CEO and co-founder of Casper Labs, says he knows what the institutions want. To that end, Casper Labs’ eponymous project, Casper Network, a layer 1 blockchain, already works with blue chip companies like IBM.

Mrinal Manohar is presenting at Investing in Digital Enterprises and Assets Summit (I.D.E.A.S.), CoinDesk's newest event revealing the most scalable marketplaces in the digital economy that will attract institutional capital in the years to come.

Casper finished testing and was launched on mainnet in March 2021. ​​The project raised $14.5 million in 2019 from investors including Arrington XRP Capital and Wall Street’s jack-of-all-trades, Terren Scott Peizer.

Blockchain technology and projects built on that technology rely on two domains of expertise: finance and computer science. Conveniently for Manohar, he has a background in both.

Before starting Casper, Manohar was a principal and sector head of technology, media and telecom at Sagard Capital, a hedge fund with a long-only strategy worth about $1 billion. He also previously served as a private equity associate at Bain Capital in Boston, and as an associate consultant at Bain & Company. He has a Master of Science degree in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University.

Unlike most players in crypto from traditional backgrounds, he’s an early entrant in the space.

“I discovered bitcoin in 2010 because my roommate at the time [...] was one of the biggest miners in the world. Bear in mind, this is 2010 – there's no Coinbase. You're writing keys down on paper,” he told CoinDesk. “So he had a rack of servers and he was like 5% of hash power.”

Manohar started buying his first stacks of bitcoin in late 2011 and early 2012 directly from his former roommate from grad school. His other early bets included seed investing in Ethereum, Blockstack, Basis, Maker, Filecoin and several others.

Although peer-to-peer interaction laid the foundations of his origin story in the blockchain space, he soon turned his attention to enterprise.

“I realized that neither on the structure side nor the product side was a blockchain company or protocol that was really taking care of the needs of enterprise. And that's what led me to found Casper Labs – to be a software developer who helps do that.”

For multi-functional blockchains serving the needs of enterprise, innovation is an integral part of the tech stack offering. Casper provides a highly adaptable blockchain environment on which enterprises can operate. Smart contracts aren’t immutable – that is, not immutable in the future, but immutable in the past. And that’s a crucial difference, Manohar explains. Enterprise wants control over their tech infrastructure as things may change in the future – changes may come from regulations, business needs, and new technical developments.

“Whenever I say this, some people are like, ‘Oh my God, you can't use the words ‘control’ and ‘blockchain’ in the same sentence,’ and I'm like, ‘No, it's not that they want control over the blockchain. The blockchain is completely decentralized. They want control over their application,’” Manohar said.

That makes it easier to implement and scale new features on the blockchain. If a company has a market mortgage determined by a smart contract, and the rules of how mortgages are deployed change (as they often do), then the smart contract will also be upgradeable.

Manohar thinks it isn’t just the technical and legal infrastructure of current offerings in the blockchain space that are insufficient for enterprise needs. There’s also a hype-driven culture that dominates the marketing ethos of crypto companies. The incentive structure is kind of broken, too, he explained.

“Investors get some tokens [with] two [or] three-year vest[ing periods], and then people go away. If the protocol is successful and gets hype, people make a ton of money and they go buy cars. It leads to really bad habits. Enterprises hate associating with people who they think are scammy or hypey or like, too cool for school,” Manohar told CoinDesk.

The enterprise sales cycle is very long, he said – nothing like the mayfly-like cycle of most crypto projects – which means you need to build a company that is oriented for the long term. Manohar says he’s certainly in it for the long haul.


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Ekin Genç

Ekin Genç has written for Bloomberg Businessweek, EUobserver, Motherboard, and Decrypt.