Starting a business to decode Blockchain for businesses


The Alchemy founders are hoping to make gold gold by building a better backbone for companies running on blockchain.

NIKIL VISWANATHAN is a super-connected, quick-talking 32-year-old who turns simple consumer apps into viral success. So why is your new company, Alchemy, trading blockchain development tools? He wants to draw me a chart.

Viswanathan took a dry marker from his co-founder, Joseph Lau, who recently doodled a rocket ship along with what he called the Innovation Flywheel Innovation Company, an ax. On one axis, he wrote the number of touching lives. On the other hand, affects every life. He put an X on the top right, a guide star, you can say, for a kind of Silicon Valley entrepreneur. The more we are ideal, as you can tell, Mr. Visathan said, with a beautiful smile.

The two have long decided that software is the best way to reach more people. But how best to have an impact is an open question. Four years ago, Viswanathan and Lau believed they found the answer with Down to lunch, a meeting application that tried to recreate the university's easy link. It was a surprise push, taking them to the top of the App Store, the front page of the New York Times business division and into the arms of unsolicited senior investors. Then came the dark side of the virus. First, the stress of a sudden user attack, followed by copycat apps and a slander campaign claiming the app is a hotspot for sex trafficking. This experience crystallized a discovery made by many followers of the footsteps of Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg: It is hard to overcome on social media.

Therefore, an axis for complex and boring axes. Alchemy, their two-year-old company, builds software tools and developers help companies cope with the technical requirements of blockchain. The industry is rife with hype and uncertainty; two Stanford graduates say they want to make it more accessible to serious programmers and investors. In addition, they are adamant, insistent that they have found a suitable position with the potential to change the world. We have opportunities on the ground floor and affect how the entire world uses money

There is potential in building software that other companies depend on. Microsoft, Salesforce and Amazon AW AWS can attest to that. But Viswanathan and Lau realized that blockchain didn had so many businesses.

Anyone who has struggled to set up a blockchain application will claim that the industry needs better tools. The original developers of the block chain for bitcoin and Ethereum were mostly cryptographers, who were interested in the architecture of distributed systems, not the analytical and debugger platforms. In addition to developer tools, Alchemy's main product, is a software platform that ensures companies receive accurate, up-to-date data from blockchains like Ethereum. That solves a big problem for blockchain developers, because the usual way to receive data, run your own blockchain node, be responsible offline or provide bad information.

Elephants We are ideal, as you might say.

VISILANANAN, ALCHEMY

Now, the reason Viswanathan and Lau are talented developers don't want to deal with that problem. If it were easier, developers would build applications that people really wanted to use. They compare it to previous periods of computing history, when developers went from the tedious task of direct computer programming using punch cards or assembly codes to easily write applications. on modern operating systems and browsers. If the industry takes off, they want Alchemy to be Microsoft's distributed computer, the default operating system, home to APIs and other tools to make blockchain user-friendly.

That is a lot of ifs. But Alchemy investors, see a potential sum of money. The company raised $ 15 million earlier this year from crypto benefits like Pantera Capital and Coinbase, as well as Down to lunch supporters, including Alphabet chairman John Hennessy, LinkedIn co-founder. Reid Hoffman and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang.

On a recent Monday at Alchemy's office, when nearly a dozen employees floundered during a lunch for a colleague's birthday, the co-founders were still very disappointed at anything. Viswanathan and Lau, now 32 and 30 years old, are very free with enthusiastic and rich reminders to let them know how they can be helpful (including me helping me crush this article). They seemed completely unaffected by their viral journey at Down for lunch, when the couple was known for the A / B tests that were operating on university campus and answered in person. Endless user messages.

That attitude translates well for their current business, they say. Viswanathan and Lau still relate a lot daily. Scrolling through a long list of customer chats, Viswanathan started the conversation at 1am a few weeks ago, when a customer in Asia had a node problem; The boys suggested editing the text while moving out of their apartment. (Until that night, the two of them were roommates as well as co-founders.)

Their colleagues are unusual in an industry full of ideology and error. These include a number of Stanford connections, including neighbors from their freshman dormitories. A few employees were playing with bitcoin, but only one had previous work experience in the cryptocurrency industry. Instead, they are recruited from jobs at Facebook and Palantir and Microsoft.

Why give up a laid-back job in an industry that many traditional programmers scoff at? Part of the answer is an opportunity to solve quirky technical problems, says Ram Bhaskaramurthi, an Alchemy engineer. Plus, working in a young and relatively small industry is appealing to those who are tired of being one of the thousands at Google or Facebook.

That's the logic, Lau said, that got founders started with cryptocurrencies. A person can have a huge impact compared to just working in technology in general, he said. When Down to lunch ended in the summer of 2017, they noticed friends and colleagues participating in cryptocurrencies. Some companies have started with initial coin offerings, or ICOs. That was the beginning of the bitcoin bubble, where an increase in investment flooded the sector with billions of dollars. They went on to launch new versions of Down to lunch, in secret, under different names, but there was a lingering feeling that they were being abandoned from something big. We feel like we've missed out on cryptocurrencies, notes Lau Lau.

When the guardians told Hennessy that they were participating in the blockchain, the former Stanford president became suspicious. I said 'Oh no, just what we need is another coin delivery service,' he recalls. Hennessy has seen a lot of semi-baked ICO proposals. But he became famous on semiconductors when he started another computing era; he drove them towards infrastructure. That would be different from Down to lunch, they coded for just a few hours while listening to One Direction. But focusing on the basics means they can distinguish their products with good technology. They decided against a quick ICO.

WIRED guide to Blockchain

The hype of 2017 around blockchain has brought one benefit: a lot of potential customers. Currently, several hundred customers, from cryptocurrency exchanges to gaming studios, rely on Alchemy to handle the blockchain part of their applications. Most use Ethereum and have spent their early months fighting online. At Dapper Labs, the maker of CryptoKitties has been infected with viruses and other games, engineers have worked nights and weekends and it's a game that makes the game better, Mr. Roham Gharegozlou said. Since moving to Alchemy, he said, this experience is similar to running a regular software company.

But Ethereum startups have limited traction with users and many have stopped working. It's clear that a company like Alchemy has won particularly far away if those startups didn't become bigger startups or if bigger companies donated to blockchain. Recently, Alchemy brought its first salesperson to help find more established companies with an interest in technology, IBM and Morgan Stanley around the world. That, according to Lau and Viswanathan, is likely the future: fewer decentralized games and more tools for cross-border payments and for banks to share transaction information. Serving those customers also requires a model that differs from the founder-answering model at 1:00 am, a world of approved company and supplier policies. .

The fate of basic technology is also uncertain. The team chose to build software for Ethereum, because that is where most of the original developers chose to build the application. But other chains have emerged when competitors were a Cambrian explosion, the explosion when Lau brought it out to try to create faster and stronger block chains. Viswanathan says the company is building tools for some newcomers: Million We want to make sure we support whatever ecosystem will become dominant.

That might be an interesting proposition, the kind that every young entrepreneur is seeking to tackle in the Big Tech era. But it remains to be seen what the dominance in the blockchain industry looks like. Returning to the whiteboard, next to the life optimization chart, Viswanathan outlines a large chart of computing history, tracking PCs and the web from their origins as niche industries in 2019. Next to blockchain, for the later stage, he drew a question mark.