Innovator Interview: Amandine Le Pape and Matthew Hodgson, The Matrix.org Foundation and Element

Amandine Le Pape, COO & co-founder at Element; Co-founder at The Matrix.org Foundation; and Matthew Hodgson, CEO/CTO and co-founder Element, Technical Co-founder at Matrix.org

It’s always fun to catch up with Amandine and Matthew. They’ve been making the news recently with their acquisition of Gitter. I kicked off with asking about their darkest times :) The thing I like about the tag team of Amandine and Matthew is the informed view across the business and technology, coupled of the frank honesty of uber-geek Matthew.

Amandine saw last year’s security incident as their darkest time, which was dark. Yet through their openness and sharing their learning turned it into a net positive. While for Matthew, it was their transition out of Amdocs and into a funded startup, which to be frank had me worried for quite a few months.

Yet, here they are today, well-funded, a rapidly growing community and users, and a business with some top-tier customers.

Their wins with the French and German governments cemented Element commercially. Yet such wins are not obvious for a start-up, especially given government procurement. The product fit is good across the government’s needs for decentralization, control, and transparency. And the move to open government put them in the right time and place, with a group of like-minded geeks from the government IT department to achieve a remarkable set of wins.

At TADHack this year, we really got to see the power of Matrix bridging between messaging platforms. The UK group was very active thanks to the bridging between their Slack and Matrix group. It enabled people from other locations to dip into their conversations and help out and ask questions. It was a practical demonstration of the practical power of bridging silos. We’ll be doing more of it at TADHack Global 2021.

We cover lots of topics in the interview including P2P Matrix and some interesting future business ideas. The final question on threats to Matrix, come from governments. In this recent weblog Matthew discusses the broken thinking in backdoor access to end-to-end encryption. I see so many data sources unused by law enforcement around potential suspects’ data trials on the internet. The power of the insights available from the mobile phone number remains surprisingly untapped even with legal intercept being there.  Reputation scoring is something Matrix should do, like karma in Reddit with categorizations. Anyway, a fun and insightful interview, that’s well-worth your time.

Description from the Agenda

I first met Amandine and Matthew in 2013, at a WebRTC conference in London. They shared an idea about any-to-any IP communications, letting people use the communications client they prefer, and bringing together siloed communities from around the world. Reducing the explosion in fragmentation I loved the vision, but my concern was, who was going to pay you to do it?

And a year later Matrix was founded, an open source project that publishes the Matrix open standard for secure, decentralized, real-time communication, and its Apache licensed reference implementations.

In the tag-team of Matthew and Amandine, Matthew is the uber-geek, and Amandine the responsible adult. At hackathons I’ve seen Matthew presenting (talking about why his hack is not working) while rewriting code on stage at the same time, and getting it working minutes before time was up.

Matrix has been part of TADS since its founding, sponsoring TADHack, providing the chat service for TADHack, and presenting at TADSummit. Matthew’s presentation from TADSummit 2015 (https://youtu.be/Nu8LFVtyqKM) is our top video at 4.4k views. His 2016 presentation is #3, but I’ll not say anymore, else he’ll demand appearance fees. My son proudly wears his Matrix.org t-shirt to school, and when asked is that from the movie, he proudly proclaims, ‘No, the open source project.’

They recently rationalized their names under the Element brand, geeks love naming things, almost down to individual functions in their code. Riot (secure collaboration app) is now Element! Element is also the name for New Vector (the company behind Riot) while Modular, their Matrix hosting service, has become Element Matrix Services.

If you have questions for Amandine and Matthew please let us know. Here are some we plan to ask:

  • What were your darkest times with Matrix so far? For innovators going through their dark times, what advice do you have to help them work through to the light?
  • Why did the French Government (Tchap), Germain Military (BWI), and German Administration (Dataport) adopt Matrix? Rather than Teams, or Wire, or Telegram?
  • The timing of your Status investment was fortunate 😉 Status are an amazing team, they put Ethereum in your pocket. I’ve brought web3 into TADSummit a couple of times, and I find myself explaining the impact of the decentralized web often. I feel déjà vu to the rise of what I termed the dynamic Web versus the static
  • Web (terms I copied from somewhere years ago), which became better known as Web 2.0 and Web 1.0. As a poster child for the decentralized web, how do you communicate the impact and timing of the coming change? I’m struggling to convince people.
  • Can you share how the world will be different in 10 years time with Matrix.org?
  • What are the lines of revenue for Element? How will they change over time?
  • What’s your thinking on Federated Identity? We were discussing this back in 2015, time flies!
  • What’s going on with P2P Matrix?
  • What are the greatest risks to Matrix?

2 thoughts on “Innovator Interview: Amandine Le Pape and Matthew Hodgson, The Matrix.org Foundation and Element”

  1. Thank you Amandine and Matthew for a great interview. I have a question on your greatest threat, what can each of us do to help Matrix address the broken thinking in backdoor access to end-to-end encryption?

    1. Hi Alan – many thanks for interviewing us! In terms of what we can do as citizens about the threat of back doors… excellent question! The goal is to ensure that the politicians who approve the legislation are aware that the concept of backdoors is fundamentally flawed. The best way is to spread awareness – blog about it! tweet about it! post wherever you can! If you know a journalist, encourage them to write about it – and if you are a journalist, get out there and spread the word: you are the most important line of defence here. Or alternatively: contact your politicians directly; write to them, or find paths to get the message to them indirectly. For instance, I wrote to the Minister for Digital, Culture, Media & Support in the UK a few weeks ago and got a response from his office confirming that the issue (and Matrix’s approach to it) is on their radar.

      We can’t overstate how important this is. Everyone: get talking about it! 😀

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