Earlier this month, the startup Blockdaemon announced it had received nearly $3.3 million in seed funding from the venture arm of telecommunications giant Comcast and several other prominent venture capital firms. Comcast’s investment was its first in a blockchain company and represented the latest evidence of the technology’s rising profile within the investment community — and beyond. Blockdaemon describes itself as “Nodes as a Service.” Its software allows organizations to connect with blockchains quickly and efficiently.
In response to written questions from ThirtyK, the company’s co-founder and CEO Konstantin Richter said that Comcast’s involvement gives “us great credibility, which in turn, makes people trust us.” He added that it also “gives us access to internal projects and potential revenue flow that we might need sooner (or later) than we think.”
Richter has been an active participant in the blockchain community. He serves as a token strategist for MAD Network, the creator of a new protocol for digital advertising, and on the advisory board for Po.et, whose open, shared ledger records ownership information about digital assets. In his responses, Richter addressed the potential market for Blockdaemon’s technology, challenges and goals, and diversity in the emerging blockchain industry. “The absence of diversity is a huge issue,” Richter said. He added: “Not having all viewpoints, all sensitivities and perspectives leads to more imperfection. I work best with diverse teams, also to monitor my own preconceptions. I need to be held accountable.”
ThirtyK: Blockdaemon creates a foundation for companies to use blockchain nodes. What was the genesis of this idea? What do you foresee as demand for this service and why?
Richter: We started Blockdaemon while working on deploying a few nodes for a consortium I co-founded. The absence of tooling — like simple, single command line deployments that are available on the cloud — opened our eyes to the potential of building a Heroku of blockchain. I figure that there will be enormous demand by enterprises, projects and individual devs to use middleware to deploy and connect apps. I also believe that integration into existing continuous development tools will be vital for customers. Since the node is the transmitter into a network, and with all the different network variants, there will be thousands upon thousands of nodes that will need to get deployed, all looking to be preconfigured into existing tool sets, connected to app stores, monitored for smart-contract usage and data analytics. We aim to be provide the tool bench for that.
ThirtyK: What types of organizations and industries will your technology serve? What is your vision for Blockdaemon?
Richter: We aim to bring config tools that exist in the cloud segment to blockchain. We then will offer application automation, data analytics etc., and then infrastructure portability. Ultimately, that will allow us to run a network client across all data centers and to run pipes across and between all major chains, infrastructure and tool kits. We want to be be as omnipresent as Slack, and used like Cloudera.
Pricing, Scaling Up
ThirtyK: You mentioned in a blog post that you needed “to scale fast” and would be doubling or possibly tripling the size of your engineering team. What are tangible goals, or was the addition of talent meant to proactively meet future demand?
Richter: Now we provide a simple public node deployment tool, at $14.99 per month. We also allow for permission-based networks to be deployed, monitored and connected at $299 per month, plus $99 for additional nodes. In the next quarter our public node deployment tool will feature testnet and HA nodes, so ICOs can use them to collect funds and to monitor smart contracts. The following quarter we will offer application automation and network admin tools, after that chain and infrastructure migrations. Our customer segments will grow and change with that, and the engineering and support prowess of Blockdaemon will have to grow quickly. We expect to have around 30 full-time employees, of which 20 are engineers, by the end of the year.
ThirtyK: What gives you confidence that you’re on the right path?
Richter: Our message resonates and has been fine-tuned in over 150 deal-flow conversations. The people who decided to join us — we get amazing candidates seeking us out, and the pedigree and expertise of our investors means we have amazing advisors around us. The company we aim to build will be an outlier — a lot of things need to come together for that to happen, and the highest indicator of success is team quality.
The Importance of Diversity
ThirtyK: You’ve emphasized the hiring of women engineers in an industry where there are relatively few. Is the lack of diversity a potential obstacle for the blockchain industry or was there another reason for highlighting this point?
Richter: The absence of diversity is a huge issue. For technology and specifically software to work, it needs to be a digital imprint of flows and use cases that are intuitive to users and that started at the beginning until the end of UX and product experience. Not having all viewpoints, all sensitivities and perspectives leads to more imperfection. I work best with diverse teams, also to monitor my own preconceptions. I need to be held accountable.
Comcast Deal: ‘Credibility’
ThirtyK: What do you see as the significance of not only Comcast’s involvement in the seed funding announced last week but of the number of different organizations involved in the funding?
Richter: Well, getting the backing as the first direct investment of a $170 billion company gives us great credibility, which in turn, makes people trust us. In addition, it gives as access to internal projects and potential revenue flow that we might need sooner (or later) than we think. We wanted experienced VCs who are hands on and enterprise grade. To me it is a brain and accountability trust. Left to my own devices I would probably spend too much energy putting nodes on drones.
ThirtyK: You chose “a VC round, over a crowdsale, to ensure we have investors with real enterprise chops on deck that can help us run a focused agile development process.” What specifically will you be able to do better, more efficiently?
Richter: Iterative and smart growth planning with external validation and tracking: Without a plan that has been vetted by vested outsiders for durability and likability, teams tend to not perform at 100%. Plus, I don’t want to work with a group of folks spending half their day checking their token value.