Where We Are Headed (And Are Now): Proof Customer Service, Hedge Fund Clients & AMP Updates
First and foremost, I hope everyone is having a very happy New Year. This has been quite the year for the blockchain industry already, with cryptocurrency prices going to the moon and beyond, along with promising announcements from a variety of startups, governments, and corporations. On our side, Proof has already profited in the seven-figure USD range from the Ethereum price jumps. Not complaining. More funding for operations. And that’s exactly what this post is about. Okay, PRFT hodlers, here we go:
The Proof Suite of products have seen massive surges in usage, and thus massive surges in customer support tickets. We concluded our token sale last December, with over $3 million raised, obviously focusing much of our attention, in the month prior and during the token sale, to ensuring the capital requirements for the next chapter of our journey.
We started Proof as three co-founders: myself, Tai Kersten and David Van Isacker. Also, we started this company all as coders. I joke that the company didn’t really have a CEO until last week when I stopped coding 10 hours a day. I have been working in the startup space for about 8 years, serving leadership roles in most of the startups, but in addition to, and mostly, coding. This will be my first year not serving a dual-coder role, as we ramp up our operations. This 6-second clip really lays out what that month-long transition has been like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPw-3e_pzqU
When we began the token sale, there were 3 full-time members of our company, as it had been for most of the almost 2 years we, the founders, have been at Proof Suite. This is not to belittle the role of many part-time and freelancers we’ve worked with in the past. Without them, this would have actually been impossible. You know who you are. However, with more than 600 token sale contributors who have helped us raise millions, along with tens of thousands of users who rely on our services (at a rapidly growing pace), our 3-member roles as the three who do-it-all is obviously not sustainable anymore. Shocker. Of course, we saw this coming, but it’s hard to train new people when your current team is at full-capacity.
Last week, after months of planning on the future operational and growth strategy at Proof, we began soliciting career opportunities to develop better processes around our:
Customer service (previously us, a few founder/coders, randomly checking e-mails, answering phone calls, and granting special privilege validation requests when we had the chance). Hey, it worked at a few dozen to a few thousand users. As laughable as it might seem now.
Development processes (previously three founders/coders sitting in rooms together inventing)
Operations processes (again 3 founders/coders white boarding, posting ideas about better processes on Slack as our operational recordation portal, and using cryptocurrency to cover basic life expenses with no real set-salaries)
…. the list goes on and on: legal, accounting, intellectual property, finance, human resources, scaled software development, marketing, etc, etc.
On an average day these days, we can receive dozens to hundreds of messages/phone calls from existing or potential customers… From private equity firms wanting to tokenize a fund, to customers who have questions about our platform, to people who forgot their the password to their account… and their e-mail, to people who want new features, to token holders who want daily updates, to people new to crypto who want us to explain how the whole field works, to people trying to sell us something but disguising themselves as a platform user, to professionals who want advice on how we structured our token sale and what we learned… and inquired in a variety of languages (mostly English and Korean, though). The list goes on and… on. If we wrote a book featuring some of the more colorful letters, they’d probably stick it in the comedy… or tragedy… section. For a small team, specializing in building software, this can obviously be a bit overwhelming and slow down productivity since we care so much about the value our tools bring.
But there’s a really important aspect to all of this: we are launching completely new, more awesome versions of many of the tools that are currently available, completely rebuilt from the ground up, having learned many lessons in security, speed, usability, efficiency (and more) from previous engagements, feedback, education, user stats, letters, partner firms, etc. To say it all: The AMP, basically, is coming. Our x2 project is coming. Togen is coming. Many of these tools will replace our ICOMKR, Proof Dashboard, and more (which were all built as usable, but very early beta-ish proofs of concepts).
So, we get a bit of hate mail. Something breaks during a migration or we pause a service because too many scammers are using them to, well, scam thousands of people into investing into a questionable token on our platform, and people get upset. We have always tried to stress the beta/testing phases of many of our projects; however, people just don’t always see it that way, because they test it once, it works, and so they decide to build a business around it. We are feverishly working to get products out the door so we can actually endorse that kind of activity. Early on, back in 2015 and early 2016 when much of this launched, we might have even thought those early versions, as beta as they were, could be used in controlled environments. And we have had tremendous success stories, but much of that changed when bitcoin hit $15,000 (going up 1000%) and miner fees went to $15–40 and micro-transactions just stopped working like newcomers might expect for these network miner fee reasons, along with other things. When we started Ether was $10 and bitcoin was not even $1,000… users barely felt the fees. Now everyone is confused why sending $1 costs $36 in bitcoin transaction fees. We’ve solved many of these problems, but that’s in the next version of rebuilt tools, ya see. Lightning networks and other scaling solutions are maturing much more rapidly lately and all… Ah ha, or so it were.
We have been working to fill 14 critical roles that we are in need of within the next 3 months, in order to grow our business. You might ask why we didn’t get a bigger office and hire for these months ago. Simple answer: we were dedicating all of our energy to raise capital to do just that. Catch 22’d. Hate when that happens.
In this post, I want to share 3 core areas of the business and why we are focusing on them, and thus require the most awesome-of-awesome talent to get these areas ramped up (no small feat, by the way, when attracting the right experience, drive, vision, cultural-fitting, and availablility… but we’re getting there.
The AMP is a decentralized exchange, as you probably know. If not (voila). It’s a bit different from your typical exchange because it allows people to not only buy tokens (traditional crypto and asset-backed crypto) like on your typical exchange, but also enter prediction markets on short and long-term price predictions to create risk profiles and pools of funds in smart contracts that protect token-holders. That’s the broad simple version, but if it seems complex and you wonder how retail investors like mom and pops will ever do that, skip to the next section (x2). David Van Isacker, our CIO, one of the greatest smart contract creators of the time, is heading this up with a local and remote team of developers, that we’re still bringing on. Furthermore, we are working on a services division that works with large companies looking to overcome legal, technical and more detailed token sale hurdles for for tokens that will be traded on the AMP and beyond.
x2 is a project that is geared towards large (mostly hedge fund) crypto investors that provides an encrypted social messaging and networking portal for large traders It also has really, really awesome analytical tools that give them ridiculous edge in the markets. We are partnering with funds to build this system out over the next year, witha few traders tinkering in it already, before it hits the public in paid retail and institutional tiers. We are working to onboard 40 funds this year while we build along with them, in a process in which our coders and analysts will work part-time with traders at these firms to automate and integrate many of their already automated methods and analysis methods used to predict market movements and perform trades. x2 slowly becomes integrated into the AMP, and therefore much of the liquidity and more sophisticated trading behavior that makes AMP work comes along with it. The key: creating tools traders can’t live without, this ensuring liquidity and network-effect of large investors that is needed for AMP to work and grow at scale to beat out competitors, who might use our AMP open source tools to compete with us, but just don’t have the liquidity in their smart contracts. Users trade where there is the most liquidity and security. Hence, why they would like AMP… can’t get shut down and no one is controlling other people’s money while it’s being traded. Awesome. Whoever has the most liquidity in the decentralized exchange, options/futures markets and prediction markets, will win out over the next few years, leaving little room for many competitors… there might be one or a few, but doing this right is the key for us now to make sure we bring the right value to PRFT token holders and the wider community of investors. And I think we have the capabilities and a pretty good strategy for getting this done. CTO Tai Kersten is leading up this.
3. Proprietary Trading
So, of course, if we’re selling x2 to funds and retail investors for edge, we should obviously be using g our own tools to trade. We call it “eating your own dog food”, in the startup space, but in this case the dog food is profits and it’s delicious. We’ve already seen quite moderate success in this division. This division will scale with x2 and inherently be a major driver of revenue for Proof, token holders through volume on the AMP, and our expansion.
To further develop our brand, we are of course releasing the Token Sale documentary this year, based on footage of our journey of doing our own token sale, but we are also adding the journeys of others to this. Furthermore, we are working to release weekly animated explainer videos of everything from trading strategies, to basic ethereum smart contracts, to all the inner-workings of major cryptocurrencies. We are bringing on a great content team for this. This is about 60% of our marketing department.
Regarding operating all of this, we are working to bring on operations, HR, business development, more developers, customer service, blockchain thought leaders, administrative assistance, PR, and other division heads and solutions into our operation. Not a very small undertaking.
All this is to say: things are moving. Customer service questions might not get answered as quickly as you might like, but all that will change in the coming weeks along with the first versions of the AMP, as we train, learn from industry leaders we are recruiting, and barely sleep so we can change the face of finance together with you.