Wow, what a month! While it may have looked quiet from the outside (the calm before the storm, as they say), we could sure feel the thunder rumbling at Thor HQ. As I’m sure you’ve heard, we introduced Odin™, our flagship contractor management portal, to the world today — and boy are we excited!
Less than six months after the conclusion of our Token Sale, we have a working product with an established market fit and our first customer signed on! I am so proud of our engineers for pulling this off in the time frame they did. We are truly running on blockchain time now!
Now, some of you may be wondering where Odin, a product not originally on our road map, came from. The answer is simple. As we began talking to on-demand companies about Lightning Pay™ over the summer, we discovered that many of them were very interested in the Business Portal side of Lightning Pay.
The reason why was obvious.
Companies we spoke with were generally managing their payouts to contractors utilizing some form of spreadsheets or CSVs. Literally, their employees were manually inputting each job completed and the corresponding contractor payout, and then aggregating them after two weeks to determine each contractor’s pay for that period. Then, one-by-one, scheduling a payment to be made to their bank account. In one of the most cutting edge segments of the U.S. market, the gig economy, many companies were managing their contractor payroll like it was 1995.
This process became less and less tenable the larger the on-demand businesses became, leaving them with an outsized need for a contractor management process that could scale with them.
We realized that, whether an on-demand company was ready to implement Lightning Pay or not, they almost certainly had a need for a contractor management portal that streamlined and automated their outbound payments. These companies needed Odin without even knowing it!
So we decided to break the Business Portal off into its own product offering, while maintaining Lightning Pay as an added feature when companies are prepared to implement it. And thats how Odin was born.
While it feels like the end of an exciting month, it’s actually a thrilling beginning for our team. Odin has emerged from the Thor cocoon and is taking flight. We’ve gone from a sleeping giant to one beginning to wake.
We’re running now, and there’s no looking back!
— David Chin, CEO, Thor
Our engineering efforts this month we’re dedicated almost exclusively to getting Odin ready for its October first launch, and we crossed the finish line! While Odin originally began as a payments management portal, it ballooned to so much more as we better understood the many needs of the on-demand businesses we have been speaking with.
The foundation of Odin quickly grew from one pillar — payments — to three: pay, onboard, and integrate.
The payments side is one we’ve touched on a little already. There aren’t many programs available that are designed for managing payments to a 1099 workforce. Payouts to these employees are irregular in their timing and amount and are done for a wide range of tasks, not for a regular hourly period of employment. Tracking all these payouts and tasks and getting the correct payments out is often tedious and time consuming. One small on-demand company we spoke with estimated that they spent over 500 hours a year handling payouts for what was a relatively small contractor workforce.
But, one important aspect of Odin’s payments pillar that we haven’t discussed as much is how Lightning Pay allows on-demand companies to incentivize their contractors while maintaining a legally compliant company/contractor relationship. For example, if a company wants a W2 employee to wear a uniform while on the job, they can simply make that a requirement of employment. But that is not the case with independent contractors. Companies that want 1099 employees to wear a uniform can not legally require it, but they can attach a pay bonus to wearing a uniform or any other work-related behaviors.
The only problem is that, if those contractors are paid out every two weeks, it’s hard to incentivize the specific behavior that the company wants to encourage. But, with Lightning Pay, they can give their contractors a pay bonus immediately after completing the desired task/behavior. Lightning Pay allows these companies to incentivize contractors right at the point of activity while still maintaining an above board relationship.
Plus, contractors get paid faster—everybody wins.
The second pillar of Odin is “onboarding.” Every on-demand company has slightly different requirements for the contractors they bring into the fold. Maybe they need a driver’s license and a car of a certain quality, or maybe they need to demonstrate specific skills like being a proficient mechanic. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to this multi-faceted problem. This has resulted in some companies taking as long as six weeks to get someone from applying to work to completing jobs. Often the smaller the company, the longer onboarding can take.
To fix this issue, we’ve equipped Odin with a fully customizable contractor onboarding flow that can be designed to accommodate the specific needs of each company. This empowers these companies to bring new contractors into the fold quickly and easily, and helps the freedom workers they employ to start earning paychecks quicker and easier.
The final pillar, “integrate,” is all about making it easy for companies to bring Odin into their workflow without throwing out the essential software they already use for related tasks. Whether it’s integrating with a company’s currently established slack chat functions, syncing with google sheets data reserves, or enabling social leaderboards to create employee competitions over a given period, we want to make sure that implementing Odin is a stress-free process. We focus on our specialty — while seamlessly meshing with other products so that companies can still utilize their specialty.
We hope this give you a little insight into what Odin can do and where we’d like to take it. And this is just the beginning! We are currently working to automate all financial disclosures to the IRS regarding business payments to 1099 contractors, saving even more hassle for on-demand companies. In addition, we still plan to have a debit card solution implemented that will allow those on the Thor platform to spend their cash without the three-day wait times for ACH bank transfers.
The potential for the Odin platform is huge and ever evolving. If any Thorriors out there run an on-demand business themselves, let us know what functions you would like to see implemented!
Finalizing our partnership with Dwolla has been a multi-month process, but it feels great to have completed. Building the trust to complete a contractual partnership of this nature can be challenging, but Dwolla’s team has been a pleasure to work with, and we are excited to continue building the relationship moving forward.
Establishing a partnership of this kind is essential to making Odin and Lightning Pay function properly from a fiat perspective. The amount of payment rails and banking networks one must navigate to get money from one entity to another can be exhausting. It’s like trying to complete a subway trip across a major metropolitan subway system. You usually have to transfer across multiple lines, and doing so requires having the right tickets in hand.
This partnership has not been our only BizDev focus this month, but it’s been a large part of our efforts. There are other relationships we are cultivating, but official announcements are still coming down the pike. Keep your eyes peeled.
From a regulatory perspective, the release of the Odin platform provides us with a unique fiat repository system that allows us to offer a solution that would otherwise require a Money Transmitter License (“MTL”) in each state. As we discussed in our June Regulatory Explainer, deposit and withdrawal functions via our native platform wallet require a detailed analysis of state money transmitter laws and federal regulations related to consumer protection and anti-money laundering. Our partnership with Dwolla essentially allows us to leverage an existing MTL to accomplish the required transactional elements of our platform.
In Odin, the “send and receive” functionality of the platform utilizes a network of custodial banks. These state and federally chartered banks, combined with the SaaS-based blockchain elements of the Odin platform, are what make Thor’s initial product so fascinating. It is a hybrid of the traditional FinTech model — we’ve managed to merge the best characteristics of the current banking system with Thor’s scalable multi-party blockchain-based platform.
We understand the heavily entrenched (and regulated) traditional banking system isn’t going away any time soon. At Thor, we’ve always found ways to creatively drive our vision while staying within the evolving regulatory landscape. Not only have we managed to successfully merge the old with the new, but we’ve done so in a manner that provides a tangible real-world solution for the everyday worker. The Odin platform is a step towards our larger goal of decentralizing the custodial account process and securing the MTL’s on a state-by-state basis.
We’ve got a ways to go before we achieve our full vision, but our first flag is planted.
Odds & Ends
- We added yet another advisor to our board, Nick Alexander! Nick is the CEO of Yoshi, and he was brought on to help us shape Odin into exactly the kind of product that a company like Nick’s needed. It worked too, as Nick agreed to utilize Odin to manage all of his companies outbound payments to contractors!
- We completed the first month of the Thor Rewards Referral Program! If you took part in the program, stay tuned in the coming days to find out if you were one of this month’s winners.