Banking Veteran Takes Over Stellar Startup as CEO Joins Spin-Out

Adam Ludwin is stepping down as CEO of Interstellar to head a new spin-out.

The company, which focuses on expanding the Stellar blockchain ecosystem, has named financial industry veteran Mike Kennedy its new CEO, effective Sept. 15.

Ludwin, who ran blockchain startup Chain before it merged with to form Interstellar, will lead Pogo, an “app-focused company targeting interoperability between mobile wallets,” according to a press release.

His successor Kennedy co-founded Zelle, the mobile payments network owned by several large U.S. banks, and is the former president of the North American arm of global money transfer service OFX. Earlier he worked seven years at Wells Fargo in senior roles.

In a blog post, Interstellar touted Kennedy’s track record with Zelle (originally known as clearXchange), noting that JPMorgan Chase, Citi and Bank of America use the service.

“Our success [occurred] was because we were solving a real-world problem,” said Kennedy, who has been an advisor to the Stellar Development Foundation since 2017, in the post. “With Interstellar I see another opportunity to solve a real-world problem.”

International payments in particular are inefficient and expensive, he said. While the Stellar Development Foundation has built what Kennedy sees as “the best blockchain-based payments network,” there are areas that need to be improved.

“This is where Interstellar comes in,” he said, adding:

“We will deliver these missing pieces of the puzzle to allow the Stellar network to achieve its potential … making international payments better for millions and millions of companies and end users.”

In a statement, Interstellar CTO and Stellar protocol creator Jed McCaleb said that Kennedy’s “record of success founding and growing Zelle, his innovation in mobile payments, FX and banking, and his history as a high-impact advisor to Stellar make him the perfect fit to lead Interstellar.”

Moving on

Ludwin was named CEO of Interstellar in September 2018, after the company was formed from the merger of Chain and Lightyear.

The company has been working to support the Stellar ecosystem over the past year, and Ludwin’s new role will not necessarily take him away from this mission.

Moving forward, Ludwin will oversee Pogo, which has “been in stealth development” within the Interstellar ecosystem “for some time,” Thursday’s blog post said. The spin-out will look to connect different types of mobile wallets worldwide.

According to the post, “Pogo is an example of the kind of application that Stellar is uniquely positioned to support, thanks to the network’s ability to create low-friction, high-liquidity, real-time corridors for FX settlement between financial entities.”

“I look forward to collaborating closely with [Kennedy] and the team to leverage the world class infrastructure Interstellar continues to build for the Stellar ecosystem,” Ludwin said in a statement.

Kennedy told CoinDesk that Pogo would be its own legal entity, structured as a subsidiary to Interstellar.

“Adam will be running Pogo and a number of the people he brought with him from Chain, not all of them but a number of them will be working with him [there],” he said.

Mike Kennedy image courtesy of Mike Kennedy

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