If you’ve followed us on social media, you likely caught wind of our excursion to Blockchain Expo North America in Silicon Valley. What a smashing success!
Our team did a great job manning the Thor booth, giving swag out and providing demos of Odin for anyone who wanted to take a look at a live product from a blockchain company. We expected a lot of interest, but even we were surprised at how humming our little corner was.
The fun thing about attending a large conference like this is running your business model by such a varied group of people. There were blockchain engineers, marketing professionals, investors, lawyers, business owners, tech enthusiasts, and everyone in between. You can get such a diverse array of feedback on so many aspects of your business. It’s truly an opportunity you can’t get anywhere else.
Of course, there’s nothing more validating than someone coming by the booth and telling you your product looks perfect for what their business needs — and this happened a lot.
In addition to running a booth, I delivered a talk at one of the conference stages titled “3 Signs You’re Bad at Blockchain.” We had fun with this one.
The three signs are:
- You don’t understand regulations
- You can’t form partnerships
- You don’t have customers
It was a fun way to highlight what we see as some of our biggest strengths, as well as point out what we believe it takes to make a successful blockchain company. In the blockchain world, few things may be as important as understanding the regulations relevant to your business. This could be securities laws, money transmission, insurance laws, or, in our case, all of the above. Just two weeks ago, the SEC settled charges against two ICO Issuers over securities laws. You’ve got to stay smart to navigate these waters successfully.
Regarding partnerships, we are referring specifically to partnerships outside of the blockchain world. There are many ceremonial partnerships between companies in the crypto space, some more meaningful than others. But many of these businesses will be required to form strong relationships with companies outside of the crypto world if their business plan is ever going to come to fruition. At least at some point, theoretically. Forming these partnerships requires a much deeper understanding of the other party’s business model, vulnerabilities, and target audience. They may not be comfortable partnering with a “cryptocurrency company,” but may be perfectly fine partnering with a “blockchain company.” Positioning matters, and learning how to do it well is key to getting these partnerships — and your business — off the ground.
Lastly, you must have customers. This one is obvious. Only 30 out of the top 100 coins on CoinMarketCap have a working product and customers! As, our Communications Director has been joking around the office, 100 out of the 100 most profitable businesses across the globe have customers. It’s kind of key to the whole “success” thing. This is why we are so excited to be in the customer acquisition phase. Now everything is about growth and validation.
We should be publishing a video of the talk in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.
Thanks for being with us!
— David Chin, CEO, Thor
Our technical efforts this month have been heavily focused on perfecting the user experience of Odin. It’s about improving the little things to refine the interface and streamline the work flow. For example, allowing contractors going through the onboarding process to connect their bank account by simply signing into their bank’s website, eliminating the need to make micro deposits.
Other improvements from this month include adding filters to the sort and search functions for contractors and payments like filtering for city of residence, state, name, etc. A bulk loading function was added for integrating contact information for the contractor on boarding flow.
These little changes are certainly not as sexy as some engineering tasks, but their importance for creating an effective product can’t be discounted. Attention to detail is what sets a good product apart from a great one, and we have been dogged in soliciting feedback from our early users to ensure there isn’t a thing about Odin they would change.
The BizDev wing of our team is focused, unsurprisingly, on customer growth. We are in the final stages of adding a couple more clients, and next week is already filing up with Odin demos. Blockchain Expo North America turned up a lot of leads, and the market has been very receptive to what Odin has to offer.
While we don’t have specific announcements to this end per se, we think it would be valuable to our community if we dove into our business model as it pertains to Odin.
Many community members have asked us how we plan to sustain operations, payroll, and software production following the token sale. In a world of abstract blockchain projects with no immediate or practical business model, we think the question is a fair one. For Thor, this has always been part of our roadmap. We knew that in order to achieve our vision (and avoid the black hole of failed blockchain projects), we’d need a revenue producing platform that satisfied both the needs of on-demand workers and the companies that engage their services. Enter Odin, our SaaS-based contractor management platform.
So what is a Software as a Service (SaaS) model? In short, SaaS is a distribution model for software, whereby instead of downloading the software to run locally on a personal or enterprise computer, the program is hosted by a third-party provider. This program is then accessed by users over the internet, typically through a web browser interface. SaaS is typically marketed and sold via a license or subscription model.
The SaaS services can be much more rapidly deployed than a traditional licensed software program that requires a download and installation. The upfront and acquisition costs are generally cheaper, and the implementation process for a large business is minimal.
We have been putting our own spin on the traditional SaaS model and have made it available in a modular format. This means that businesses may pick from a variety of options that are available “out-of-the-box” or with specific customization. The Odin platform is designed to be extremely user friendly — everything from the onboarding process to the full operational elements can be accessed by an authorized user from any computer. On-demand workers will simply need a web-enabled mobile phone to view and access their own information that will be seamlessly integrated with the Odin SaaS platform. We will incentivize customers to power their Odin SaaS Services with THOR credits through our online marketplace (not to be confused with an exchange); however, we will accept fiat subscription payments to accommodate a wide range of customer needs. As we’ve previously mentioned in prior blog entries, all payments to contractors and on-demand workers will be done in fiat until Thor has satisfied the proper licensing requirements.
Our pricing model is below (though, as always, exact pricing may be subject to change). We believe, through market research of parallel services as well as popular reception, that our price point is both competitive and sustainable. Early customers have certainly agreed that the value noticeably exceeds the costs.
As mentioned throughout this November update, we continue to refine our platform based on the feedback from our customers. The interest in Odin has been overwhelmingly positive — we are realizing our vision in real time.
The last couple of months have seen a few events that will have an impact on the regulatory landscape as it pertains to digital currencies. These events do not all directly effect Thor, but we think it is valuable to discuss these events and their potential repercussions for the blockchain space with our community.
Regulatory agencies around the globe have been busy over that past six months. On October 18th, the SEC announced a new working group that will collaborate and assist new and existing blockchain and digital asset startups. The Strategic Hub for Innovation and Financial Technology (FinHub) will serve as a resource for public engagement on the SEC’s FinTech-related issues and initiatives, such as distributed ledger technology (including digital assets), automated investment advice, digital marketplace financing, and artificial intelligence/machine learning. The FinHub is designed to provide a direct line of communication between blockchain industry participants and SEC regulators. Additionally, it will act as a central repository for regulatory updates and rule changes, and allow for coordination between both domestic and foreign regulators.
While FinHub stops short of defining what is or isn’t a security, it is a welcome move towards greater transparency and consistency across multiple regulatory agencies.
ICO and Exchange Compliance
The SEC has also been actively cracking down on ICOs that failed to follow existing securities regulations or did not register under an exemption. On November 8th, the SEC announced settled charges against Zachary Coburn, the founder of EtherDelta, a digital “token” trading platform. This is the SEC’s first enforcement action based on findings that such a platform operated as an unregistered national securities exchange. “EtherDelta had both the user interface and underlying functionality of an online national securities exchange and was required to register with the SEC or qualify for an exemption,” said Stephanie Avakian, Co-Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division. Additionally, the SEC settled separate cases with start-up companies Airfox and Paragon, which raised more than $10 million each in initial coin offerings that weren’t registered. They have agreed to pay penalties, register their tokens as securities, file periodic reports with the agency, and return funds to any harmed investors.
Fireside Chat with SEC Commissioner, Jay Clayton
On November 27, SEC Chairman, Jay Clayton, provided additional clarity on the SEC’s views on topics including Bitcoin ETF’s, AML monitoring, and ICO regulation.
- Bitcoin ETF — Chairman Clayton has made it clear that third-party custody of crypto assets and market manipulation are two stated stumbling blocks for an exchange-traded fund. Until those factors are sufficiently mitigated from a risk perspective, we aren’t likely to see a Bitcoin ETF. It does raise the question of how to reconcile assets that are sitting on the blockchain — do we really need a custodian?
- Anti-Money Laundering (AML) — While not specifically governed by the SEC, Chairman Clayton has specifically noted the importance of establishing anti-money laundering protections for both cryptocurrency trading and platform or wallet transactions. We couldn’t agree more. Thor recently partnered with Unit21 to provide AML screening and monitoring services for both cryptocurrency and fiat transactions across our platform. Unit21 uses advanced clustering and machine learning techniques to identify non-obvious money laundering techniques in order to leverage the client’s data to find anomalous patterns. Our partnership with Unit21 demonstrates Thor’s commitment to maintaining regulatory compliance and positions us well for both regulatory change and increased user demand from a variety of geographical regions.
- ICO Regulations — As mentioned above, the SEC has been actively enforcing existing regulations across the ICO stratosphere. Chairman Clayton has previously stated his opinion that there is no need to adjust existing securities regulations to suit cryptocurrencies. His comments during the November 27th fireside chat only reinforce his position: “if you are considering an ICO, come talk to us first.”
A full video of Chairman Jay Clayton’s fireside chat may be found here.
Odds & Ends
- Check out Behind the Hammer with our very own Ben Lambert
- David was interviewed for a feature in Superb Crew