Our Tesla epiphany…

By Chris Finan

Every day more and more people are jumping on the blockchain train. There are so many new blockchain initiatives popping up that it’s become impossible to differentiate real from hype. But, despite all the attention, the vast majority of corporate spending is still on small-scale POCs by innovation units, rather than production deployments driven by business teams. This trend suggests two important characteristics that vendors and investors need to appreciate.

First, blockchain technology has become a commodity, at least for the POC-scale requirements currently defining the enterprise market. You can pretty much hack together any prototype to work at a small scale without exposing the limitations of current open source tools. Second, in most cases, the buyer who’s insisting on using the “hot new technology — blockchain” can’t actually articulate what specific problems the technology is needed to solve.

For us as a platform vendor, these conclusions led to an epiphany, similar to one Tesla must have had in its early days. It’s hard to scale by just selling an engine. Did Toyota drivers really care who made their motor or how unique it was when Tesla initially licensed its technology for mass scale adoption…?

Tesla had to create the rest of the car around the motor to reach a mass market. They couldn’t just sell an underlying “platform,” they had to actually build the application that would bring the value of their technology to life. Most people don’t care about the performance of an engine alone, but build a sweet car around the motor and they’ll experience its value.

So too with blockchain. While most executives are now familiar with the technology in concept, very few can articulate with any specificity what problems they actually need it to solve in practice. Don’t believe me? Next time you’re listening to an executive talk about blockchain, substitute the word ‘magic.’ You’ll likely hear a passionate argument — with totally correct syntax — for the power of magic to radically improve their business.

The day we realized this at Manifold was the day we knew we would never thrive as a platform vendor. We still use much of the underlying IP we developed, but our business model is now based primarily on selling vertical applications to solve problems that require the security and auditability benefits of a blockchain-based approach. We spent the last year researching and building dozens of application prototypes in a hunt for the best opportunities to deliver unique value. That investment is now beginning to pay off.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing what we learned in our evolution and more about the applications we’re excited to be launching soon. Of course, we still occasionally get someone who wants to use our platform as infrastructure for their own applications and we’re open to that, but it’s no longer our focus.

Now when we talk about Manifold we very rarely mention the underlying technology powering our products. Some people think we’re crazy for not riding the blockchain wave, but, who really wants to be just another failed company, when you can be a Tesla?

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Chris Finan is the CEO & Co-Founder of Manifold Technology. He previously led business development for Impermium before it was acquired by Google. Prior to moving to Silicon Valley, Chris served in the Obama Administration as the Director for Cybersecurity Legislation and Policy on the NSC staff in the White House.