It has been a while since I wrote a blog post. We have been busy shipping code, scaling operations, raising funds and signing up customers. Since we are a mere handful of people, everybody is doubling down, and that includes me. As the CEO, my main strategic objective is to provide the narrative and the capital to achieve our vision — becoming the primary abstraction layer on top of hardware, with an eye to the bottom of the stack. I apply these strategies to drive and report of/on our business in 3 dimensions: Product, People and Partners.
Our product is what I think about in the context of what we want our partners to see and experience at any given point in time. There is the right now, and the ultimate goal. Some of our product features serve to offer solutions right away, for customers to be able to touch and feel our product, to interact with “blockchain”, to make the words “abstraction layer” tangible. Other features teach us something about the end state of our product. Much of blockchain (like with all of data-management) is hard to see and interact with, unless you are an engineer. We want to educate, teach behavior and standards and drive a product narrative from today to the future, in which we will offer a network layer across a decentralized hardware. There are many reasons why and how, and when the time comes, I will speak to them.
For the right-now, that pushes us to focus on UX and simple features, allowing customers to spin up, deploy and connect a blockchain with 3 clicks. Like playing games, configuring infrastructure should be easy at first, and then allow for the maximum configuration possibilities to serve any use-case and need. Easy means visually compelling, low cost and with a clear problem/solution set. It made us think about public versus private blockchains, and how we can offer the community a neat little tool right away. If we accept bitcoin and ether, shouldn’t we offer a simple way to deploy a respective node for each of these blockchains, so that you can connect to your wallet without any sweat? Check out our site in 3 weeks and find out. Thinking this way also pushed us to look at infrastructure and the current solution set, and is informing our strategy around our own experiments with infrastructure, which is definitely an end-state feature.
One of the key tenets of how we operate is: if we don’t know the answer, we build it. It requires us to learn about new areas and lets us get our hands dirty. Deploying lightning nodes? No problem. Not sure how to provide security across multiple networks, and how to provide SLAs that won’t kill us? Let’s find out. We already deployed more nodes across more networks than any other engineering group in the world (potential hyperbolic startup CEO statement WARNING!). Full nodes versus partial nodes? We deploy/connect both and have an opinion. We are the coal-miners of crypto, deep in the mines, hammering away. We want to evolve our DNA to become the best at what we do, and that requires doing today, while not forgetting about tomorrow. That informs our people-strategy also . We want engineers with experience, and not just with blockchain, folks who thought about questions like: how to run a query across multiple networks? That is relevant in the cloud, and it is relevant for multi-tenant blockchain networks. Our engineering group tends to be a little older and experienced, folks who solved real enterprise problems in the past, know about QA, as well as having a passion about blockchain and crypto. These type of engineers are hard to find, so we go where they are in terms of how we run our sprints and scrums, while ensuring that they have the maturity to work in a decentralized manner. That requires a great common value set and culture, as well as a scrum-master and project management philosophy that is tight and fast.
Common culture is something that we enact by behavior, we ship fast, we QA fast. On the other side it means we need to add people who can help translate our engineering gearbox into real partner driven projects. It requires a sales-pipeline in which we attract the right kind of partners. To date, that was my job as CEO, being the main salesman. While I also look after all other functional areas, that is an area that needs more scale, as well as our marketing and community messaging. We have been lucky with our ability to acquire partners and partnerships via our own networks, now we need to become a little more professional and less dependent on me.
Talking about partners — we signed agreements with madnetwork.io, gcoin.com, fr8.network and ACI (the folks behind the Kodakone token sale). All do innovative things and allow us to deploy networks that challenge us to think about a real use-case. We like partners that share our view about code (small batches of high quality deployed quickly and iteratively).
In addition, we like our so called channel partners, folks who can act as resellers of our services. Companies providing complete networks for multiple blockchain ecosystems that need members to run and control nodes. We have a few partnerships in the pipeline, and we will announce those alongside some other news in a few weeks.
We do have a wishlist of partners, some of which we are in talks with. We love stellar.org — working with nodes teaches as a lot about performance, and we are impressed with them. In addition, we feel that their strategy to return 95% of gains to the community makes them believable and will ensure their continued success. We will wear our expensive pair of trousers whenever we go see them. Others are blockstack.com, dfinity.org (decentralized network for which we would like to deploy zero-cost hardware), chronicled.org (great supply chain solution with some funky IOT features) and filecoin.io. If you work with any of the above, don’t worry if you find me hanging out in your parking lot. I just want to play.
Lastly — partners are also investors. People whose capital will allow us to achieve our dreams. We have met (and have) some amazing investors. We tend to like the ones that have build and invested in some real hardware/infrastructure players, and have helped companies think about how to reverse engineer a solution set from a $100mm revenue target in the developer/enterprise space. Very few companies have ever achieved that. We need all we can get to stack the odds in our favor. Personally, I like an investor who challenges our thinking while geeking out with us over our product roadmap. Someone who provides quick guidance about how to deploy capital carefully, yet understands that in blockchain country, you need fast and good, and that tends to be expensive.
These are the strategic and tactical considerations I am weighing up when it comes to blockdaemon. Product, People, Partners. 24/7, the curse of the entrepreneur.
P.s.: If you are a developer who has deployed a node before (or plan to do so), please get in touch with me and tell me what your prefered configurations settings are — we are currently adding to our config tool. Or just plug it into this google form.