Blockchain UX: The Way Forward

Earlier this year, Enterprise Podcast Network invited Nick Casares, Polyient’s product director to discuss Polyient Labs, blockchain startups and key things tech entrepreneurs need to succeed. (Read the interview or listen to the podcast here.)

Nearly 500,000 people tuned in to the podcast, so they invited Nick back.

Nick Casares Presenting at NYC Blockchain Week, 2019

Listen to their second interview here or read the transcript below:

Q: How does Polyient Labs differentiate itself in the entrepreneurial space?

A: Polyient Labs is a technology business incubator based in Phoenix. We also have offices in San Diego and Denver.

We say we help entrepreneurs take their ideas from the whiteboard to the boardroom, with capital resources and support.

For those unfamiliar with what a technology incubator is, or an incubator in general, we partner with founders at the early stage of their businesses to help them build ideas into companies. It’s a popular approach. There are plenty of incubators out there.

What differentiates Polyient is that we’re entirely focused on blockchain technology. So, anybody who’s working with blockchain tech — or has an idea for a blockchain business — is a great fit for us.

Q: Last time you talked about some of the problems with the overall user experience in blockchain. How can UX be improved?

A: One of the major problems right now with blockchain technology is it’s still very complex. And so using the technology takes a lot of background information. You have to get familiar with some pretty complex concepts and some unfamiliar terminology.

The way forward, in my perspective, is really collaboration among people that are working in the industry. Whether you’re a designer, a programmer, or a creative business person. Bringing things together so that we can start adopting standards and help people get away from some of the complexity of the technology.

At the end of the day, a user doesn’t care about the technology. They have something that they’re trying to get done — solve a problem or have an enjoyable experience — and that’s what we should focus on.

Q: So, you’re reaching out to others in the industry — designers, developers, and entrepreneurs — to work together to improve the next generation of the Web?

A: That’s correct.

I just got back from blockchain week in New York City. The entire town turns into a sea of conferences and everybody in the blockchain space comes together to network and talk about the latest and the greatest.

I gave a presentation at the the 100X Crypto Summit, which was a combination of crypto investors and blockchain technology enthusiasts coming together to share ideas. And what I shared there is an initiative called Web 3 For All.

Web 2.0 is the internet we have today. W3FA is the internet for tomorrow.

We’re really starting a conversation for the industry. We’re inviting professionals, designers, developers, etc. — we’re inviting you to a conversation about what those standards should be, and really start building out the user experience with blockchain. That’s going to drive adoption for the future.

Q: What other companies is Polyient working with and how are they using blockchain?

A: Two come to mind.

The first is Logosblock. They’re still in the development phase, but what they’re doing is they’re drawing and blockchain technology, a little bit of artificial intelligence, to create something that they call autonomous finance, which is a fancy word. But really it’s letting the technology help investors manage their entire portfolio. So using blockchain security and access to data, and using artificial intelligence to help them make better investment decisions to really come up with a comprehensive investment strategy.

The second company we’re working with is Datablock, which is like Google Analytics for blockchain. In the early days of the internet, if you wanted to understand how well your website was doing, you had to dig through log files, and you had to be pretty deep in the technology to understand what you were looking at. Then came along Google Analytics. And they gave us really nice visualizations and easy ways to interact with the data and look at the data.

We’re kind of back to square one with blockchain. Accessing data on blockchain is really difficult. It takes technical expertise. And if you’re just looking for answers to basic questions, or you’re just trying to do some analysis, it can be challenging. And so Datablock is working on a solution that’s going to help non-technical users interact with blockchain data in easy ways using visual tools.

Q: When you meet with prospects, do you need to convince them about blockchains’ potential or are they already sold on blockchain?

A: Well, as I mentioned, our big differentiator as an incubator is that we’re entirely focused on blockchain technology. So what we find is that by the time somebody learned about Polyient and they’re engaging with us, it’s almost certain that they’re thinking about blockchain as a part of their solution, or they’re already building something on blockchain.

We focus our outreach efforts and community building efforts on blockchain-focused events. So it’s rare that an entrepreneur would show up to have a conversation and not know how blockchain fits into the picture.

Q: What would you say is the biggest misunderstanding out there right now surrounding blockchain technology?

A: I think the biggest misunderstanding is that the technology isn’t a panacea. You know: something that can cure all of our woes as a society or any of the technology needs we have.

In reality, blockchain is just a technology. We think it’s a great technology; it has some really amazing benefits. But like any other technology, it has its limitations.

So, the biggest misunderstanding is that it can do more than actually can. And really, that’s where working with Polyient is helpful, because we can help entrepreneurs really distill their ideas into the core pieces that benefit for benefit from blockchain, and make sure that it’s actually a good fit for the technology.

You know, we’re definitely not averse to telling an entrepreneur when blockchain technology is not the right fit for their idea.

Q: It’s not just startups that are interested mostly in blockchain, right? Big corporations are investing in blockchain as well?

A: So there’s a ton of startup activity. You know, I think that’s where a lot of innovation is coming from. However, there are major corporations all over the world that are heavily investing in blockchain.

Off the top of my head, we’ve got Amazon, Facebook, Citi, Walmart, and Chase.

They’re all running large blockchain projects, either is proof of concept for the technology or actual production projects. Interestingly, a lot of the companies that are experimenting at the higher levels, they may not actually have a need for blockchain technology today. But what they’re doing is hedging their bets and getting ahead of things and making sure that when blockchain is adopted at a wider scale, that they’re not going to be left behind.

Q: I’m betting they are as well. That makes a lot of sense when you see the opportunities for blockchain adoption outside of business. Say nonprofits or government?

Q: Absolutely. On the government front, blockchain gives you that constant visibility into the data and it’s verifiable. The idea that we could actually transition things like voting and governance to blockchain has really captured the imagination of a lot of world leaders.

Thailand is leading the charge with the blockchain voting initiative. They’re actually piloting it now with their citizens. Estonia is another country that using blockchain to secure their voting technology. And then in the United States, West Virginia ran a small pilot recently and allowed military troops to submit votes via blockchain.

I think there’s a lot of applications on the nonprofit side. The most notable example is the way that the U.N. distributed aid to Syrian refugees. They actually employed blockchain to distribute that aid to refugees.

It is certainly clear that blockchain is making a global impact.

Q: The last we spoke, you urged entrepreneurs get started as soon as possible. What sort of litmus test do you use to know if their idea is a good one?

A: I think what it boils down to, from our perspective is, at the end of the day, is the entrepreneur solving a real problem?

You have to get really honest with yourself. And that’s something that entrepreneurs find difficult in the beginning. But if they’re really great entrepreneurs, I think, they embrace that and learn how to thrive on real world feedback.

Are you solving a real problem? Are you getting real feedback from people?

One of my favorite books about this topic is called The Mom Test. The big takeaway is don’t ask people like your mom, whether or not they like your idea, because they’re always going to tell you “Yes, honey, it’s a great idea, I love it, you should do it!”

What you really want to do is get in front of your target audience and make sure that you’re solving a problem for their needs. And, with that feedback — and I’m going to quote Brad Robertson, our founder — constantly reevaluate each and every situation and be ready to change based on whatever the new outcomes are.

So when you’re getting that feedback, if it takes you in a new direction, don’t be afraid of that, embrace that, pivot, change it to match the needs of the market, instead of getting hung up on your precious idea.

Q: When someone contacts Polyient Labs, what should they expect with working with your organization?

A: We’re very casual. What you will get when you contact Polyient is a basic intro process where we get to know the entrepreneur and the idea through an open dialogue.

We have a basic set of questions that we send along in the beginning, just to make sure that we’re getting into the right parts of the conversation.

From there, we do some evaluation on our side to make sure that the idea is a good fit for our model, and that we can actually bring value to the entrepreneur and get them where they’re trying to go.

Following that, we make fast decisions. We are startup ourselves, so we like to get back to people as quickly as possible because we know that as an entrepreneur, time is precious. You’re working on things, nights weekends, between all of your other responsibilities.

Finding a partner that can help you go faster is important.