How to Start a Startup: What to Consider Before You Take the Plunge

Welcome to “How to Start a Startup,” a short series aimed at giving aspiring entrepreneurs a range of views about starting a new team, product, or initiative.

This week, our panel of founders will discuss their planning — and their inspiration — leading up to the launch of their startups. I really enjoyed hearing the responses to these questions because they presented such a broad spectrum of approaches. For each entrepreneur, deciding to start something new was also contextual to the idea. Sometimes the idea required more vetting, other times it required raw conviction and determination. I think the point that resonated the most with me was Marwan’s recognition of the skill of vetting an idea — a skill our entrepreneurs give great insight into below.  

planning and inspiration in how to launch a startups.This week in “How to Start a Startup,” @DigitalAsset’s Eric Saraniecki talks with entrepreneurs about what they considered before starting their companies.


Michael Shaulov, CEO and Co-founder of Fireblocks:

Once I have the passion, I need to go and start doing customer validation — and in many cases, exploration just kills the idea. 

When did you get your idea for your current company? 

I think my philosophy is a bit unique. I know a lot of people who are trying to approach it in a very structural way; they basically start with the view that this is the point in their life that allows them to go down the path of being entrepreneurs. 

They don’t exactly have the idea, but they have a theme or they have people they want to engage with in building something, and then they start an exploration around finding the idea.

I never did that. I guess I’m a bit of a crazy, super-impulsive entrepreneur. I just get an idea I have a bug for, and I just go down that path without really stopping to think (which is bad to be quite honest).

For me it’s always this passion and traction around thinking about something new. Usually it happens to me either when I’m in the shower or running or something like that: “Wow, this is a really great idea. I want to build it. It will be super-exciting to build it.” 

I think that what set me through those multiple failures when I was younger: impulsive disorder around just chasing after something that I had in my mind.

What did you have to do to validate your idea? For Fireblocks, did you actually validate it, or did you run on some greater calling? 

Once I have the passion, I need to go and start doing customer validation — and in many cases, exploration just kills the idea.

I had a very interesting experience where we actually started a startup in IT storage and raised $600 thousand in seed funding from Israel’s Office of the Chief Scientist. After three months, we discovered there was no go-to-market for our products. We returned $500 thousand to the government and shut down the company.

Probably the most important lesson that I learned is based on the most important book I ever read in my entrepreneurial life: Four Steps To Epiphany describes how you need to run customer validation and how you basically achieve product market fit. And after reading that book and seeing what I experienced with that startup, I understood the funding situation. 

When I started Fireblocks, I had two ideas in mind that I was very passionate about. One was basically Fireblocks (which at the time was actually Priority Number Two for me). Priority Number One was creating a unified infrastructure between all the cybersecurity vendors, where they can basically share intelligence across vendors. If MacAfee or Kaspersky find a new malware they can somehow immediately notify Microsoft and basically work in circles. I was very passionate about that. 

But then I went through this exploration process where I met with guys from Google and Microsoft and other vendors — and I understood it was going to be a very, very complicated execution. They were in agreement that it was a good idea, but it was so political in some of those organizations that I understood it was not going to be a good market.

How did you convince yourself to get excited about your second option?

I fell in love with the industry. I started to read about crypto, and I just got the bug.

I still remember the moment when I read the Satoshi white paper [explaining the concept of Bitcoin] and if i tell you… This mythical moment, right? Right, where you’re in, and I think that for me this was the path that we went there.


Ben Milne, Founder and Chairman of Dwolla Inc.

“The initial insight or the initial desire was to not pay credit card fees anymore. It was to bypass those so I selfishly made more money”

When did you get your idea for your current company? 

I started looking at cost centers in my first business, and one of them I just couldn’t get my eyes off of was interchange. We were paying $55 grand a year to Merchant e-Solutions. It was OS commerce back then — just an open-source shopping cart — but $55 grand was probably more than I was paying myself at that time. 

Once I started doing some research, that insight that I came to is not really that insightful at all: All the money actually settles on ACH anyway, and there’s no way to get access to ACH without going through all these other things. Why don’t we just build on the ACH thing and make that usable? That’s exactly what the first Dwolla was, and that was the only thing we focused on. It turned into much more later on, but the initial insight or the initial desire was to not pay credit card fees anymore. It was to bypass those so I selfishly made more money.

How did your early users change your opinion on your idea? 

As companies get bigger and start to serve more people, the amount of feedback you’re capable of receiving goes up exponentially, and the number of people who want to give you feedback goes up, not down. 

That’s really great because you find yourself in rooms of people that you really respect, and you want their feedback. But early on, I think I delayed making decisions because I was looking for a confirmation that it was the right move as opposed to just doing it. Those types of things just got delayed, and they didn’t need to. I wish I would have gone faster.

When did you know Dwolla was going to be a full-fledged company? 

I actually went and talked to my vendors, and I would start paying my vendors with the early version of Dwolla. And then I talked to my friends and would get them to put it on their website as an accepted-payment form. 

At the time, that was something I could speak to really passionately: “Every time someone uses this, you’re never going to have to pay a credit-card fee again.” 

And they’d say, “Oh that’s awesome! Let me try it.”


Arti Arora Raman, founder and CEO of Titaniam:

“For me, it’s about when other people start putting their faith in you. At that point you look at yourself and say, ‘OK, am I ready? Is it real enough? Am I willing to commit?'” 

When did you get your idea for your current company? 

I have a few issues — basically character defects, if you will. First off, I get bored easily. Doing the same thing and building up another person’s project is difficult for me. However, I had to do it because to build expertise in another field, I felt like I actually needed to go in and bide my time.

To start something new in an established field, you want to have a network and an understanding of the problems. Within security, I was in product management in UX — the user experience side — but also I ran competitive intelligence. So I got to see a lot of issues.

Along the way I built relationships with several companies, and one of them continuously highlighted a specific problem. So essentially I was waiting for a chance to solve it because it overlaps a business process with an algorithm type of need. And that’s my sweet spot. I look for where we can have IP and bring to market something that has a heart.

Once the problem was brought to my attention, I started looking around and that kind of data breach, that particular type of data breach was happening four or five times a month at very large companies. I’m looking at that saying, “Wow, this is a really big opportunity and I’ve got something. I’ve got a skill that I can bring to there and solve it.”

What did you have to do to validate your idea? Did you actually validate it, or did you run on some greater calling? 

I had two parallel streams: making sure that I could write the math that was needed and whether a problem was large enough. 

I did start with the math because I just enjoy it. I figured, “I’ll spend some time doing that. If I can prove to myself that I can solve it then I’m going to go talk to people so it’s not just me feeling excited about my idea.” I did a lot of that. It took a lot of talking to get to that — a hundred people, a lot of people.

Initially, I leaned on my network; I need interaction with people who will take my call and listen to my idea, however stupid it might be. 

But very, very quickly thereafter. I try to cold call because if I can’t get a stranger to be interested in my idea and take a second call with me then I might be fooling myself and my friends. 

When did you decide Titaniam had legs? 

For me, it’s about when other people start putting their faith in you. At that point you look at yourself and say, “OK, am I ready? Is it real enough? Am I willing to commit?”

For me it was about building my team out. In my case, I brought people that have been doing it with me for 20 years from various paths of life. Those guys are here because obviously they like the idea but they also believe in me.

At that point, I kind of took a look in the mirror and I thought, “At least I have to write it to some logical conclusion. I’m not worried about failing, but I’m certainly feeling committed.” 

And to me that was six months into my journey.


Daniel Chait, CEO and Co-founder of Greenhouse:

“It wasn’t until we basically got through our whole list and ruled them all out that finally, we sort of looked at each other and we said, ‘What do you know a lot about?'”

When did you get your idea for your current company? 

We probably had 20 criteria and 50 ideas, and we worked through each idea one after the other, and we kept rolling them out. One idea after the other that sounded amazing. I’d get real excited for a couple of days or a week. And then we’d discover the fatal flaw, and it wasn’t until we basically got through our whole list and ruled them all out that finally, we sort of looked at each other and we said, “What do you know a lot about?” 

We were thinking like these big macro ideas about the changes in the global environment around the world and what’s happening internationally and what’s happening in technology. And we found a lot of stuff, but we didn’t really know anything about it. And so we started talking about what we knew instead. He and I both, in very different ways, had a lot of experience around hiring and how what an unsolved problem that was. And after months and months of gnashing our teeth on “What are we going to do?” all of a sudden, the whole business came into focus.

What did you have to do to validate your idea? Did you actually validate it, or did you run on some greater calling? 

We started talking about hiring and we started to see the problems in the market and the solutions that we could envision and the way the business would get built. And basically within the first day, we really had the broad outlines of what we wanted to do and a ton of clarity of what it would mean to do it. And then he went home and talked to his partner who’s very level-headed. (Unlike me! I’m super excitable. I love every idea. She hates every idea.) 

And so we came back in the morning and he said, “All right, Alison doesn’t hate it.”

And that was when we knew we had gold.

When did you decide Greenhouse was going to work? 

The first thing we did was make a set of index cards, and we went to a friend of mine who worked at the New York Times. And we said, “We want to spend a little bit of time with you on a hire. So think of a hire that you’re trying to make right now.”  

She was trying to hire an iOS engineer. I said, “OK, I’m going to ask you some questions. What are the criteria on which you’re going to base that hire? What’s your scorecard? What are the things you’re going to test for?” And she would say what they are, programming language and certain personality, hardworking, whatever.

And we wrote each on an index card one by one and laid them out on the desk. And we said, “Great. Now for each of those things, how are you going to test for it?” And she said, “Well, for this one, we’re going to give them a coding test. For this one, a panel interview.” 

And we wrote them on index cards and put them on the desk in front of her. “OK. And then where are you going to find these people? And what are you going to say in your advertisement to get that kind of person attracted to this job?” “Oh, we’re going to describe the job this way. And we’re going to say that we’re going to buy ads on Craigslist.”

And then we stepped back. We had a stopwatch running and we looked at it, and we said, “What do you think?” And it had been under 10 minutes. It was like eight or nine minutes for the whole exercise. 

And she looked at these literally handwritten index cards on her desk and said, “This is by far the most comprehensive and strategic hiring plan I’ve ever seen. I’m going to do this and make my next hire.” 

And we just sat back and we looked at our stopwatch and it has been like eight-and-a-half minutes and zero investment. And we were like, “Goddamn, that was perfect.” 

So that really showed us that the the journey that someone has to go to from, “I don’t know what I’m doing” to, “I’ve a really good plan,” was quite short, and it didn’t require us to patent any new algorithm or any kind of asymmetric cryptography.


Marwan Forzley, Co-founder and CEO of Veem

“You become a lot better at validating ideas. That’s fundamentally the difference between doing it the first time versus the second time versus the third time”

When did you get your idea for your current company? 

In terms of how these ideas start and how you get started on them: in all the situations I’ve been in, it’s always been the same theme that you take a pain point that exists in the market and you work backwards to see, “Can I create a product that simplifies that pain point in a way that ends up being material? And is there enough pain and big enough pain to essentially create a scalable product out of it?” 

I think it also changes, depending on how many times you’ve done this. 

The first time, there was a need that I came across and jumped into it and figured it out on the fly, with more rapid iterations. The second time was more that I knew what the problem was, but we needed to do more work just to verify that this is actually what the problem is and people are willing to take a different solution and pay for it. And the third time around was more like looking at the market more broadly and at all the players in the market and making sure that the area of the market that I’m going after can be occupied by a startup. That land, so to speak, has not been occupied, and there’s no solution at the moment that that is adequate to the needs. 

You just get better at it over time. You develop sort of a feel for what works and what doesn’t.

How do you go about validating your ideas? Has this changed over time for you?

You become a lot better at validating ideas. That’s fundamentally the difference between doing it the first time versus the second time versus the third time. I’ve done this many, many times more. You become very good at how to get something validated quickly. And you become better at understanding the risk of things if they don’t work out. You just develop a rhythm.

The first time you’re doing it, you spend time on all kinds of things that are irrelevant in the big scheme of things. 

First-timers spend so much time creating PowerPoints and business plans and spreadsheets. That doesn’t really work, and so you end up spending more time actually getting a customer, talking to a customer, validating somebody’s going to pay for this or whatever you’re creating. 

If you’re selling to a consumer, your best first set of customers are friends and family. If you’re selling to enterprise, that’s more difficult. You have to figure out who is the right buyer within the enterprise, and you need to be disciplined and talk to the right potential decision-maker who can give you feedback that ends up being meaningful. 

And you want to make sure that there’s enough of that feedback to represent the broader market. Because one person tells you, “Hey, this doesn’t work for me,” doesn’t mean that it may not work for others in the market. 

So customer validation – for infrastructure ideas, hardware ideas, enterprise ideas — that’s more challenging than consumer, SMB or any other type of idea that you can get quick feedback on.

Some things you need to understand: How much are customers willing to pay for it? Who is involved in decision-making around approving the purchase? Would you pay this much or that much? And why would you pay? So you get more feedback that’s more colorful or precise, more qualified to the setting that you’re in, and become better at understanding the environment that you’re going after.

How has your experience changed the way you thought about Veem?

Veem is more of an idea that’s heavier on market positioning than my earlier companies. Veem is very big, with a high pain point. The other ones were more targeted and had very specific objectives to them, that narrower. So when an idea is more destructive and broader, you need to spend more time on the market positioning. Make sure where you’re at in the market compared to ideas that are more incremental in a more defined market.


Nimrod Lehavi, Co-founder and CEO of Simplex:

“You’ll never get funding, you’ll never get a bank account, you’ll never get a license. You’ll never be able to overcome the fraud”

When did you get your idea for your current company? 

I’d founded a software boutique, and at a certain point, I just didn’t want to do projects one day more. So I just shut it down and started working again. I just let the employees go to wherever projects they were working on, and with a friend, I started another startup that lasted six months but didn’t really work. We decided, “We’re shutting it down,” and the next day I registered the Simplex domain. 

I knew exactly what would be the next thing.

What did you have to do to validate your idea? Did you actually validate it, or did you run on some greater calling? 

I didn’t really vet the idea. It was like my own conviction. Simultaneously, I was also developing a short-lived platform myself – it was called Proxy Coins – and it was up for two months maybe, and then I shut it down because I started Simplex. 

To be able to instantly buy crypto with a credit card not only looked impossible but it was also considered the Holy Grail in the crypto purchasing experience. Everyone I spoke to discouraged me. Someone whom I hold in the highest regard in the credit-card industry told me it’s impossible for four different reasons. Like, “You’ll never get funding, you’ll never get a bank account, you’ll never get a license. You’ll never be able to overcome the fraud.” 

And we did all that.

Where did you get your conviction for Simplex? Where did your certainty come from?

I think I’m pretty good at getting feedback — but I just didn’t care. It was crystal clear to me that it’s needed. If you can buy anything in the world with a credit card, why the f*** wouldn’t you be able to do it with Bitcoin? Wait, what’s the difference? And the fact that it didn’t exist just looked insane. 

What’s ahead

In the weeks ahead, we’ll continue by exploring these high-level topics: 

  • How to build a founding team
  • Early funding strategery
  • Hiring first few employees
  • Life beyond the first few months

Each post will comprise a short set of questions about a specific topic. Our participants will offer their own views and we encourage you to add your voice to the discussion. 

Do you have your own questions for Digital Asset’s panel of entrepreneurs? Please write to us at community@daml.com.

Digital Asset can remove engineering roadblocks for entrepreneurs. Contact us to learn how to build and deploy software with DAML, an open-source toolchain for building applications, and DABL, a scalable cloud environment for launching SaaS applications with a serverless experience.

DAML has also a new learn section where you can begin to code online or try DABL here:

Learn DAML online

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How Smart Contracts Can Accelerate Your AI & Analytics Roadmap

A recent study showed that almost 40% of the AI, analytics and data management investments by an organization go towards aggregating data from multiple internal and external source systems, reconciling inconsistencies, and creating a clean golden source of information. In addition, a significant budget is allocated for IT and operational customer service spending to mitigate and address data quality issues due to inconsistent data silos.

Given the importance of AI in today’s data driven digital economy, these challenges with data management inhibit agility and slow down insights driven innovation. In addition, poor data quality can lead to significant overhead in meeting compliance needs and regulatory reporting. 

In this blog post, we will first review the traditional approach to data management, and then outline a new approach to bridge data silos using smart contracts. We believe this can be a useful addition to an organization’s data science toolkit to address this data management problem and achieve a clean source of data to drive AI and analytics initiatives. We will also introduce how this has been achieved in practice using our enterprise integration solution Gen.Flow which uses DAML smart contracts and allows all digital applications to operate using a golden source for both business processes as well as data silos.  Special thanks to Manish Grover from Digital Asset for his insights.

How do current data management approaches work?

Typically, an enterprise business process is executed by multiple applications that work with each other to take actions and move the workflow forward. Each of these applications may have their own application databases (aka source systems), and would pass data back and forth to keep these data silos in sync with each other. 

For example, a credit card business process may consist of a new card origination system that creates a new credit card, followed by business applications that then handle transactions processing, fraud detection, loyalty management, e-statements, and customer service. These individual applications may be a combination of home-grown or externally sourced technologies, and they may be added at different times for different geographies.

The complexity and business need driven evolution of such an applications landscape does not allow an enterprise to maintain a single, tightly controlled monolithic system. As a result, multiple applications exist, often with their own separate databases, and are synced with each other through enterprise grade mechanisms. Common approaches to achieve these process and data management objectives are middleware enabled hub and spoke architectures, BPM systems that connect applications, API exchanges, and plain vanilla batch file transfers

As the business process is executed (as in the above scenario), various analytic demands must also be satisfied. For example, the marketing organization may need insights to perform targeting and segmentation analytics so they can optimize upcoming customer campaigns.

So in order to serve these business reporting and analytics needs, the traditional approach has been to aggregate the data from various source systems, clean and reconcile inconsistencies, and then load it into a central enterprise data warehouse. The extent of this central data store may vary by enterprise. The golden source of truth is still the individual applications that own the business process. Many enterprises have multiple such warehouses (e.g.  typically for marketing and compliance), while other enterprises create specific data marts off a central warehouse. As a result, tracking a data inconsistency back to the system that owns that data is complex to say the least.

 Data management for analytics without smart contracts

It is natural that significant effort is expended in staging, reconciling and aggregating data.  The bigger the organization, the more source systems and application silos exist, and the overall data management infrastructure becomes even more complex. Challenges arise in business innovation due to the complexity of integrating additional services.

Finally, there is the issue of access control and compliance. Not everyone must get the same level of access to information, and every step in the business process must be reported and audited for compliance and regulatory purposes. For example, anti-money laundering and audit are common use cases. 

So, what can be done to solve this data management problem? How can these multiple application data stores be bridged to produce a clean version of data without having to constantly aggregate and reconcile these source systems?

How Smart Contracts Can Enhance Traditional Data Management

Smart contracts bring two fundamental changes to the way we look at our business information and processes.

  • The first is that any business action causes a change to underlying data in a deterministic manner. That means we can now think of key entities in terms of “digital assets” on which actions are taken. For example, a credit card issued to a customer is a digital asset, on which a fraud flag is raised, a payment is made, a campaign is run etc.
  • Second, the entire business process of an enterprise now takes tangible form instead of being buried in multiple flow charts and documents. As any enterprise technology practitioner knows, documentation is out of date as soon as it is produced. With smart contracts, your business process is codified easily into functioning software which is then maintained as often as you make a change, and governed as the organizational hierarchy demands . 

Data management and bridging data silos for analytics using smart contracts

In addition, a smart contract-based applications landscape enjoys a single version of truth in the form of the contracts store. This source of data does not need to be reconciled or aggregated post-facto, but is automatically created as business processes execute over time.

In addition, data no longer just works as a static record driven by applications. It can itself trigger events and drive processes forward when it is changed, regardless of what is set up on the application layers. For example, a fraud alert being raised on a credit card, can trigger an action on the payments receivables system to alter when a payment is due. New views or data marts can be created off the central smart contracts store.

So, we transform the challenge of post-facto aggregation of data, to a problem of post-facto distribution of data to those who need it.

The Smart Contracts Approach in Practice: Introducing Gen.Flow

At this point it is important to note that while smart contracts and Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) are complex to architect and implement, there is a key difference between the two.

  • Smart contracts (specifically DAML smart contracts) do not need a blockchain to run. Instead they can utilize traditional data stores. Thus they can be adopted by any institution looking to harmonize processes and data, regardless of their technical landscape. 
  • Blockchains and distributed ledgers on the other hand, are indeed a medium-term bet. Most organizations do not have incentives to adopt DLT and blockchain for internal use cases. Some of the most common disincentives are the complexity of consensus protocols, infrastructure management overhead of nodes and security keys, performance bottlenecks and potentially high cost of operations. Consortia and shared-services providers can definitely benefit from modern mutualized ledgers because multiple organizations are involved and require a high-trust threshold.

Based on this new approach using smart contracts, we have created Gen.Flow, a smart contract-driven orchestration layer that uses DAML smart contracts and is hence persistence layer agnostic (can run on both blockchains and databases). This approach mitigates the data management problem, reduces the complexity of adoption and accelerates the time-to-market for AI and analytics programs by bridging data silos without requiring constant reconciliation. 

Gen.Flow is the culmination of our efforts to help solve some of the key challenges that organizations have shared with us. By using DAML, Gen.Flow is also capable of integrating seamlessly with an external DLT network.

Gen.Flow smart contracts for data management to enable analytics

Some interesting points to note:

  1. Gen.Flow’s smart contracts-based approach works along with your BPM or EAI based architectures. The BPM or EAI layer invokes the Gen.Flow API exposed by smart contracts.
  2. In addition, a unified API interface allows for organizations using Robotic Process Automation to integrate robots with smart contracts to unlock next generation intelligent automations and industrial savings. For example, a robot may need to create an audit trail, or access the status of a fraud flag before closing a case opened by the contact center. By integrating RPA with smart contracts, the robots can become more intelligent and also create a ready-made audit and compliance trail.
  3. The architecture allows organizations to abstract technical complexities of blockchains and smart contracts so they can focus on developing process-driven applications

In order to augment AI and automation capabilities, organizations can now pair smart contracts-enabled technologies with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning applications. The general idea is that smart contracts can be used to orchestrate processes and transactions closer to both business rules and core data, thus harmonizing the underlying information to create a golden source of truth. Robots can more seamlessly connect to core data and orchestration workflows. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning applications can leverage smart contracts and harmonized data to further extend analytics capabilities – we call this full-stack automation.

Gen.Flow leverages smart contracts as a process-driven layer of applications that is more abstracted from technology and organizational constraints, and more in sync with the business information flow itself. Smart contract applications closely emulate and help centralize business rules.

In Summary

The potential benefits of smart contract applications to create automated and intelligent digital capabilities are becoming clearer and more appealing to organizations. They allow organizations to leverage functionalities such as non-repudiation and atomic transactions, process-driven development, seamless multi-party integration and higher abstraction from technical constraints. This consists of approaching automation from a business and process-driven perspective.

In our view, a smart contracts based integration layer across applications is a powerful addition to the enterprise data management toolkit. It accelerates digital and insights driven business transformation, and unlocks a variety of operational benefits.

DAML has also a new learn section where you can begin to code online or try DABL here:

Learn DAML online

 

How to Start a Startup: Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?

Welcome to “How to Start a Startup,” a short series aimed at giving aspiring entrepreneurs a range of views about starting a new team, product, or initiative.

This week, our panel of founders will share how they first assumed the role, including the psychological and financial considerations that put them on the path. 

Our panel of founders will share how they first assumed the role, including the psychological and financial considerations that put them on the path. 

What was your first experience with starting a company? How early did you catch the bug? 

Michael Shaulov, CEO and Co-founder of Fireblocks: 

“Our first “startup” was when we were in ninth grade” 

I actually started my entrepreneurial endeavors when I was approaching high school. Me and a couple of my friends were introduced to this thing called the internet and I learned how to program in HTML and Java. We were basically doing all kinds of commercial projects. Our first “startup” was when we were in ninth grade. One of my friends came back [to Israel] from some student exchange in Germany and he’d discovered that people in Germany really like hookahs. And what we actually built was the first website that sold hookahs online.

In the Arab market in the city where I grew up, we photographed all the hookahs over there, and we basically created this e-commerce marketplace for hookahs. We didn’t even have an inventory; every time that someone would put in an order, we would drive to the market, we’d buy the hookah, if it was available, and then we’d ship it to them.

Our mistake was, we also took photos of the tobacco you put in the hookahs and so we were also selling the tobacco. And we were using some U. S. free trade card processor, and because we were 14 years old, we didn’t read the terms of service of that credit-card processor — which said we were not allowed to sell tobacco. They basically shut us down. 

But throughout high school, I did a couple of other projects like this — creating an e-commerce platform in 2000 that was very popular in Israel. And then I joined the IDF — in Unit 8200 — and built my skill and knowledge around cybersecurity. 

Ben Milne, Founder and Chairman of Dwolla Inc.:

“When you sold online, no one cared how old you were”

I think actually the thing that thrust me into building companies was the way I got opportunities. I grew up in the country, so it’s not like I could get a normal job and go to work once I needed to start earning money. 

The cliché: I could mow people’s yards because they have more money than they have time or segue to, “I can actually pull in more by not driving into town.” And then that turned into, “Well, I’m making a little bit. How can I invest that to make more of it?”

When I was in high school, I started a manufacturing company that sold all of its products directly to consumers through the web. 

The reason we sold online is because none of the retailers would carry our product. An 18-year-old kid walking in the door with this, like, speaker, saying, “You should buy these from me and make more money” — why would you do that? When you sold online, no one cared how old you were. As long as the product was good and the specs were right, no one cared. 

It wasn’t a massive business. I think if it still existed, it would probably be a $30- or $40-million-a-year business. We were doing maybe a million-and-a-half in revenue, and that was really just doing the work. 

Arti Arora Raman, founder and CEO of Titaniam: 

“I’ve been biding my time and waiting to do it again. Finally, my children are in middle school and high school. I’m sort of ready to do it, and I’m doing it all over again”

I am a second-time entrepreneur, and my entrepreneurial efforts have been 20 years apart. My very first one I did in my early 20s. I came from India with no money. I went to business school, took loans and so on, and joined the highest-profile thing I could find to pay those loans off, which was basically a consulting job.

I always liked consulting. I did that for two years, helping other people build new things. I realized very quickly that I wanted to build something of my own, and so I left. 

I have an economics and mathematics background. A lot of what I think about is algorithms and ways to optimize things and all of that. From watching and helping other companies do their thing, I had this idea about how either human resources or capital could be optimized inside companies. I wanted to try my hand at that.

Not knowing anybody in the country, I called the guy that wrote the textbook that I studied as an undergraduate, an economics professor out of Stanford. 

We hit it off, and that’s how my first company was founded. It was called Liquid Engines, and we ended up doing great things. He ended up becoming chief economist for George Bush. He sort of had his own high profile, but he wanted to try his hand at entrepreneurship as well, so it was sort of like a match made in heaven: the wise, experienced person and the kid that wants to do all the work. That was when I was in my 20s.

That was a very interesting journey. Because we had somebody that was super important, we got a lot of attention, and eventually that company sold to Thomson Reuters. 

That was an incredible journey. We were in the enterprise resource optimization space, basically helping large companies make investments while optimizing all kinds of things like taxes and such. It was fantastic, but then I wanted to start a family. I took time off, and I had two children. They’re 12 and 14. Since then, there were so many lessons learned. For example, I was young. I had no idea. I did not understand dilution.

I was happy to get as many important people involved and get them equity. By the time I was all done — and I don’t regret it for a moment because I hung out with incredible people and learned amazing things — I was left with very, very little. 

I’ve been biding my time and waiting to do it again. Finally, my children are in middle school and high school. I’m sort of ready to do it, and I’m doing it all over again. In the middle, I made a career switch.

When I came out of taking time off, I went to work for the guy I hired to replace me in my startup. I got introduced to security. That’s what my journey has been. 

I’ve been 10 years in security. I’ve been seeing problems, waiting to jump in, and here I am. I’m about a year into this startup, and that was my journey.

Daniel Chait, CEO and Co-founder of Greenhouse:

“I was sitting here frustrated at this big company and a really good friend of mine had a great opportunity for us to go off and do a project on our own with our own client, Citibank”

 Looking back on it, it feels like I was kind of predestined for this life. In 1982, my dad brought home an Apple II. I loved it immediately and wanted to spend all my time on the computer And weirdly, I loved programming and productivity. I played my share of games — don’t get me wrong — but I loved VisiCalc. I loved programming in BASIC. It’s what I did.

In high school and college, I got side jobs writing computer programs for businesses and my school district. I graduated with an engineering degree, and I got a job as a programmer. But I was used to a world where I was talking to businesses about their problems and then solving it through technology. I always thought that was the magic part.

And I got to this kind of big company that didn’t really want to solve customer problems. They wanted to keep the money flowing. And I just wasn’t going to do it. I just remember thinking at the time, “Like, this is all a big waste of my time. I have so much potential and so much interest in what the customer wants and how I can help do it.”

I was sitting here frustrated at this big company and a really good friend of mine (who was my college roommate and was working the same company with me) had a great opportunity for us to go off and do a project on our own with our own client, Citibank. And so we quit our job and we started our first company. That was in 1997, and that was when I started my first business and we’re in lower Manhattan down on Wall Street.

When the dot-com crash hit, all of our customers were investment banks. They were all wiped out. We were done and we just looked up one day we’re like, “Yeah, we’re done, we have no money.” 

In fact, I paid Chase every month for about five years because we had taken out a loan and we had to pay it back. So, that was my first shot and we lasted almost four years and then had to wrap it up.

The second time, I had joined up with a couple of other folks who also, like me, had started companies and lost money in the dot-com crash and we knew the finance industry a little bit. And so we targeted the financial-services industry with Lab 49, a project-based, next-generation consultancy. 

We thought there was a big opportunity, and we didn’t have to go get venture capital; a nine-step Rube Goldberg machine where you make money at the end. It was like, “No, get your first customer. The business is basically sustainable as long as you don’t spend more than you take in.”

And then with Greenhouse, that was really the big one where I took like a year and really six months of full time work on, “What are we going to do?” And I made a spreadsheet with my co-founder, John, a college roommate I’ve known for 20 years. 

Marwan Forzley, Co-founder and CEO of Veem:

“I’ve spent all my career basically just going back and forth between startups and big companies”

I started Veem in late 2014. I used to run e-commerce for Western Union and prior to that, I was in a startup that I founded and sold to Western Union called eBillme. And prior to that, I was in a startup that ended up with Nokia. 

So I’ve spent all my career basically just going back and forth between startups and big companies. The first one was four years long and the second one was two years, at a big company. It’s not like there’s a specific amount of time, it just depends on the situation. If you’re enjoying the work and learning and growing, then you spend more time.

Nimrod Lehavi, Co-founder and CEO of Simplex:

” I became a startup founder by mistake”

I became a startup founder by mistake. I started as a developer in ’97 — I signed a contract to build a website to someone, and I didn’t even know how to program. So I bought a computer, learned programming, invented a stupid database, hacked my way through Photoshop and launched the website, and it all went downhill from there. 

My first company was basically an evolution of that. We started as a software boutique. We just recruited some developers, and they were working instead of me just working. 

I do think that took me a really long time to understand that I was undervaluing myself. I was making good money, but it wasn’t amazing. It was doing software projects — a fine job that worked well with my ADD, moving from one space to another every three months. But it wasn’t something that you can actually sink your teeth into. It was like delivering a baby and giving it away! 

Eric Saraniecki, Co-Founder and Head of Product at Digital Asset:

“I was just really happy to dive into the deep end on something and get buried”

I’ve always been entrepreneurial. We’ve had a family business in my family for 80 years, and I guess it’s unfair to say I’m a first-time founder. I think that realistically, Digital Asset is probably my third or fourth startup, but definitely my first at this scale, consequence, and import. There’s something about being completely on your own starting something from scratch that’s quite a bit different than the stuff I’ve done historically. 

Before this, I was a trader for the better part of a decade, and I did well — trading was great to me. I had no complaints, but I realized that it was a niche skill. It wasn’t designed to be a career and it wasn’t something that I felt I could rely on for the rest of my life. 

I wanted to learn a whole new set of skills and something that would grow over time — something I can look back on and have a wealth of knowledge that would be cumulatively more valuable than it was at any specific moment in time. Some traders can do this and can make a life out of the skill but it wasn’t my forte — I always considered myself a terrible trader but a good problem solver. 

I was fortunate to be trading in commodities as they transitioned from open-outcry, pit trading to electronic where there were new problems to be solved on an almost daily basis. The markets were so dynamic and healthy at that time in spite of some very large market and hedge fund failures. 

Around the same time, I caught the crypto bug and got myself involved in the cryptocurrency markets from the very beginning. I participated in everything from in-person exchanges, to mining at large scale, and eventually to starting Cumberland Mining with my good friend and colleague at DRW. 

My experience with Cumberland left me excited for opportunities outside of just trading. With DA, I was just really happy to dive into the deep end on something and get buried. For me, that was the calling. 

What’s ahead

In the weeks ahead, we’ll explore these high-level topics: 

  • What to consider before taking the leap
  • Tips on building the founding team
  • Early funding strategies
  • Your first few employees
  • Life beyond the early days

Each post will comprise a short set of questions about a specific topic. Our participants will offer their own views and we encourage you to add your voice to the discussion. 

Do you have your own questions for Digital Asset’s panel of entrepreneurs? Please write to us at community@daml.com.

Digital Asset can remove engineering roadblocks for entrepreneurs. Contact us to learn how to build and deploy software with DAML, an open-source toolchain for building applications, and DABL, a scalable cloud environment for launching SaaS applications with a serverless experience. 

DAML has also a new learn section where you can begin to code online or try DABL here:

Learn DAML online

Try DABL for free

What is a Central Bank Digital Currency and why should people prefer CBDC over bank accounts

Recently, Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) has emerged as a hot topic in the financial world. Several Central Banks are running analyses and studies investigating the technical and economic feasibility of the introduction of digital money and the impact it might have on monetary policy, liquidity, etc.

In a series of posts, we will cover various aspects of this topic, including economic significance, modeling approaches and properties, and what benefits distributed ledgers might bring for CBDC. This first entry will answer questions like, What is CBDC exactly? How does it differ from physical cash and the money on your bank account? Why is it such a big deal, and why would it impact financial institutions? 

What is CBDC ? 

CBDC is a digital form of currency that is backed by a Central Bank and through that has legal tender status. This definition means it is recognized by law as a means to settle debts or meet financial obligations such as tax payments. 

How does CBDC differ from physical cash?

CBDC is indeed reasonably similar to the bills in your wallet. But storing and transacting with physical currency is very inefficient and tedious. A digital representation of that value would be much more convenient and efficient.

How does CBDC differ from the money in your bank account?

It is actually significantly different. The money you have with the bank is typically not legal tender. A dollar in your bank account is not the same as a dollar bill in your hand. It is much more a promise of the bank to give you a physical dollar upon your request. It is a bank’s liability to fulfill those requests. Usually, a bank has no issues in fulfilling that promise, hence the line between your money in the account and the physical cash gets blurred. But if the bank ceases to function and goes bankrupt, this distinction makes all the difference. Because you don’t hold a legal tender in your checking account but only the “bank’s promise”, so to say, it means that if the bank doesn’t exist anymore, you can’t hold anyone to your claim, and are effectively losing your money. What is even worse is that if enough people think that their bank might run into solvency issues, they will withdraw their money to save it from loss. If too many customers of a bank do that – called “a run on the bank” – the solvency of that bank is reduced additionally and can lead to the bank’s collapse.

What are the benefits of CBDC?

CBDC has a couple of interesting favorable properties. The two most relevant ones are probably the following:

  1. Since CBDC would have legal tender status and would not be your bank’s liability, you would not have to rely on the bank’s solvency. Your money would be safe, no matter how well the bank does.
  2. The Central Bank would have a much more direct way to exert its monetary policy in that it would have a more potent tool to fulfill one of its main tasks: ensuring financial stability.

What would be the future role of banks?

Since owning CBDC would effectively mean that you have a relationship with – or an account at – the central bank, one could wonder what the banks would be doing?

Banks have a much better insight into the needs and wants of their customers than central banks. Hence, they can be much more innovative when it comes to services around the usage of money. A bank could distinguish itself through various financial services like a particularly useful mobile banking platform, new mobile payment methods, investment advice, or an excellent trading platform.

But one must also acknowledge that the banks’ essential role of a loan giver would indeed be at risk. To understand why this is the case, we need to know how banks can give loans nowadays.

How do loans currently work?

As discussed earlier, when people deposit money at a bank, they get a promise from the bank to pay out cash upon request. Now let us assume that a business wants to take up a loan to be able to expand. After a vetting process, the bank gives them money under certain conditions, most importantly, the repayment schedule and the interest rate. This interest covers the administrative effort, the bank’s profit, the interest payments for the depositors, and the risk of the loan-taking business going bankrupt and not being able to repay the loan.

So far, so good, but from where does the money for the loan come? It comes, among other sources, from the funds deposited earlier by the bank’s customers. That is precisely the reason why if all the customers want to withdraw their funds, the bank wouldn’t be able to pay everyone back. Hence, in the current system, the bank’s capability to give out loans relies to an extent on the fact that it cannot cover all accounts at once. 

What would be the effect of CBDC on the economy?

If a significant number of the bank’s clients decide to hold CBDC instead of having a bank account like today, the bank would have less capital to give out loans, which would, in turn, make loans more expensive and potentially even not viable.

The implication is that a thoughtless implementation of CBDC without mitigating actions could have a drastic and adverse effect on the economy. It is probably one of the biggest reasons why central banks have not yet jumped at the opportunity to create a digital currency that would have legal tender status but are running analyses on how to solve the problem best.

What would be possible solutions?

There is not yet one final answer on how to mitigate the effect of CBDC on loans and banks’ balance sheets. There are quite a few approaches to tackling this problem, and the real answer might lie in a combination of them.

For example, banks could transparently offer their customers that they deposit their CBDC so that they can use the capital for loans. The customers could choose to expose themselves to the risks we discussed above in exchange for interest, but they would do so well-informed and willingly.

Another approach would be for the banks to take out loans from the central banks to fund their customers’ loans. Banks use such sources of capital already, and it would be primarily.    

It is only a matter of time until the analyses provide the right combination of measures to implement. 

Why should people prefer CBDC over bank accounts?

The main reason people would prefer CBDC over a bank account is that CBDC is not at risk when banks fail. The removal of that risk would be beneficial to individuals and the economy alike.

Furthermore, the transfer of money across banks and country boundaries becomes much more straightforward. Various bank systems would not need to interact with each other to facilitate such payments. All that is required is an update of the record at the central bank. This simplicity makes the process faster and cheaper.

There are further benefits.

  • Money laundering could be easier to identify,
  • There is a better chance for financial inclusion (i.e., people who can not afford a bank account, could have a CBDC account).
  • There is potential for innovative payment systems and financial services.
  • And many others…

Possible Future: The introduction of CBDC could remove risk from users, and allow banks to focus on services.

Final thoughts on CBDC

The introduction of CBDC might not be trivial. But there are ways to mitigate the problems, and the benefits for the broad population would be significant. We should strive for cheaper and quicker digital payments, more transparency about what your money is used for, and the possibility to make a conscious choice which risks you want to enter for which payout.

In the next installment of this blog series, we will look at what technical properties a CBDC solution should have. We are going to explain how such a digital currency could look like using DAML.

DAML has also a new learn section where you can begin to code online:

Learn DAML online

How DAML smart contracts are digital twins of human relationships

Pacta sunt servanda – also in the distributed digital world

Part of the challenge I face daily is that I want to explain to partners and clients the essence and benefits of shared transaction systems in general and DAML-driven applications in particular.

Different conversations require different approaches:

  • Some people don’t know much about business process digitalization and take for granted that some background processes must be in place, supporting the applications they use daily. They experience firsthand that such processes sometimes fail, but if it doesn’t happen too often, they are willing to accept such failures as part of the human condition.
  • Some people know a lot about the usual workflow implementations and think this is all there is to it. “We’ve been doing it for 15 years, what’s the news?” – I got asked recently.
  • Some people have heard about “blockchain” and “smart contracts,” and they take it for granted that the essence of blockchain is the immutable data secured by a “chain of blocks,” and that “smart contracts” are neither smart nor contracts (which is valid for many implementations, by the way). 
  • Some people have heard about the “trustless” nature of blockchain, and think every ledger eliminates all trusted intermediaries.
  • Some people find that the usual kind of application software implementing complex business scenarios is hopelessly complicated.

The common denominator: the “agreement mental model” 

It might seem impossible to find a common denominator for such diverse audiences. But luckily, there is a shared mental model that is inclusive enough to resonate with a wide array of audiences, and specific enough to explain the essence and benefits of shared transaction systems. 

I call this “the agreement mental model.” It seems to be so common that none of the famous mental model collections (like eg Farnam Street) feature it, suggesting it doesn’t have a place beside “standing on the shoulders of giants” and the like – but I hope I can convince you it does have a place in the hall of fame of mental models. (Italian people seem to have a special sense for the importance of agreements: they gave the world the proverb “Patti chiari, amicizia lunga”.)

In the following sections, I will show how agreements are indispensable for our everyday life, how useful and at the same time how intricate they can become in a digital world, and explain how applications running on the open-source DAML platform implement them–with the added benefit that DAML models can run on public ledgers (including the most popular among them, Ethereum), private consortium blockchain systems and centralized databases.

The basis of the “agreement mental model” is “the strength of weak ties.” We interact daily with people with whom we don’t have a lasting relationship. Still, we rely on them to sort out sometimes significant matters. 

Sometimes the people we interact with represent an organization with which we have signed General Terms and Conditions. Still, in the actual interaction, it’s not always easy to take effect on them. 

More often, we follow implicit rules without a formal agreement, generally not being able to make a list of the exact conditions. The legal jargon knows such expressions as “oral contract” and “implied contract.” Nick Szabo, the father of smart contracts, uses the term “contracts embedded in the world,” referring to hardware and software, which makes it expensive to breach interaction rules.

Signing traditional contracts written on paper “with wet ink” and going to court to enforce them is costly. It’s outright impossible to do so for every interaction we have with half-strangers. So if we can bake in the agreement mental model into our transactions at a fundamental level, it also means we can drive down transaction costs substantially.

Agreements can become quite intricate in the following cases:

  • Sometimes we want to delegate our rights. In the legal jargon, the name for this is the “power of attorney,” although we use it much more often than we see our attorneys.
  • Sometimes we wish to form agreements with more than one party, where the rights and obligations between one set of parties depend on the interactions between another set of parties.
  • Often, we want the performance of our duties to be mutual: we don’t want to risk giving something without the assurance of reciprocation.

Nowadays, many of our interactions are digital, often between parties in different jurisdictions, which exacerbates the concerns around the possible consequences and enforceability of our agreements. 

Implementing agreements in DAML

It’s important to note that in everyday parlance, “contract” and “agreement” are synonyms, which isn’t the case in the DAML vocabulary.

For a DAML modeler, everything is a contract. Contracts are the basic units for recording milestones of relationships, with authorization about who can make the next moves. A DAML contract can be the digital equivalent of a possibly unilateral legal statement, such as an offer, a disclaimer, or a will.

For a DAML contract to be an agreement, we need at least two parties who sign it. And this part seems for the uninitiated quite a mystery.

Forming agreements signed by two or more parties is made possible by a couple of features of DAML contracts and the DAML ledger model. 

One trick is that DAML contracts can have a variable set of signatories and have a feature called “flexible controllers.” The initiator of a multi-party agreement can make all the intended signatories observer on a contract, and allow them to archive and recreate the proposal contract in a way that they add themselves to the set of signatories. In this way, in every step, the intermediary contract is well authorized.

On the other hand, a contract with a variable set of signatories is not safe in a legal sense because the rights and obligations of the parties can change along the way. That’s where another smart trick comes in: one contract can carry another contract as payload. This feature makes it possible that one contract with a variable set of signatories carrying another contract (with a fixed set of signatories and the data and rules of the intended multi-party agreement) doubles as an offer contract. The details of this design, which is called the “offer-acceptance pattern,” is explained in detail in the DAML documentation

This is how this mechanism is shown in the DAML documentation:

DAML basic principles of contract law with Obligations need consent, consent is needed to take away on-ledger rights and  On-ledger obligations cannot be unilaterally escaped.Multiple Party Agreement Diagram

Under the hood, the DAML ledger model is at work. It is a way of implementing the principle of “pacta sunt servanda,” put differently, the basic principles of contract law

  1. Obligations need consent
  2. Consent is needed to take away on-ledger rights
  3. On-ledger obligations cannot be unilaterally escaped.

As a visual metaphor, we can think of a space shuttle and its carrier. The function of the carrier is just getting the shuttle off the ground, which realizes the real mission. The following meme depicting this was created by Anthony Lusardi of Digital Asset, inspired by the author of this article.

DAML Multiple Party Agreement MemeDAML Multiple Party Agreement Meme

DAML agreements are no cul-de-sacs

When we enter an agreement, we want to know if and how we can get out of it, if circumstances change. 

This happens the same way with DAML contracts as with traditional contracts: the options to terminate an agreement must be included in the contract template in advance. For DAML contracts this means that we have to include choices in the contract template for any party to archive it after the expiry date, or other ways to archive it, given the prescribed conditions.

DAML has also a new learn section where you can begin to code online:

Learn DAML online

Announcing DAML SDK 1.1.0

DAML SDK 1.1.0 brings a lot of improvements under the hood, increasing performance, stability, security, and operational readiness for ledger integrators and operators. This is a focus we will also maintain over the next months on the SDK side.

In parallel, we are hard at work improving our educational and getting started experience. Following the recently improved WebSDK, we are now creating interactive DAML learning materials using that platform. You can try out the Getting Started Guide in interactive format now.

InteractiveGSG

Release Candidate for DAML SDK 1.1.0

The preliminary release notes for DAML SDK 1,1.0. can be found here. A community open door session will be held Monday 11th May 2.30pm-3.00pm CET on Zoom.

Highlights

  • New package management endpoints on the JSON API
  • Better TLS Support for the JSON API

What’s Next

Our priorities for the imminent future remain unchanged.

  • DAML Triggers currently need to be started one-by-one using the daml trigger command making them difficult to control dynamically at runtime. We are working on a solution to make them easier to use in practice.
  • We will work to complete the Websockets streaming part of the JSON API.
  • We will work to complete DAML REPL.
  • DAML will get a generic Map type as part of DAML-LF 1.9.
  • We will work to make the integration kit components used to build DAML Ledgers more performant.
  • We will continue to work on our release process and to tighten the interfaces between different components of DAML so that we can give clearer compatibility and long term support guarantees.

Release of DAML SDK 1.1.1

DAML SDK 1.1.1 has been released on 13th May 2020. You can install it using

daml install latest

If you’re planning to upgrade your DAML SDK to take advantage of our newest features please note that some action may be required on your part. If you’re not planning to upgrade then no change is necessary.

Note that we had to skip the 1.1.0 version number due to a glitch in our release process. The 1.1.1 release is the release of 1.1.0-snapshot.20200506.4107.0.7e448d81, which was the release candidate for SDK 1.1.0

Summary

  • New package management endpoints on the JSON API
  • Better TLS Support for the JSON API
    • Action required if you start the JSON API using daml json-api and do not run it behind a reverse proxy.

What’s New

New Package Management Endpoints on the JSON API

Background

The Ledger API’s package management service allows uploading, downloading and listing of DAML packages available on a DAML Ledger. For situations where connecting to the Ledger API is not possible or is inconvenient, these services are now available through the JSON API as well.

Specific Changes

  • The JSON API has three new endpoints
    • GET /v1/packages — returns all package IDs
    • GET /v1/packages/<package ID> — downloads a given DALF package
    • POST /v1/packages — uploads a DAR file to the ledger

Impact and Migration

This is a purely additive change. Users who connect to gRPC from their applications for the sole purpose of managing DAML packages may switch over to the new endpoints to eliminate dependencies on gRPC or Ledger API language bindings.

Better TLS Support for the JSON API

Background

In addition to the numerous new TLS options introduced in SDK 1.0.0, the JSON API can now also connect to the Ledger API via TLS. To protect against insecure connections which may leak access tokens, it also adds a warning if not run behind a reverse proxy that terminates TLS connections. This warning will become an error in a future release

Specific changes

  • The JSON API accepts new command line parameters –pem, –crt, –cacrt, and –tls, which configure it to connect to the Ledger API using TLS.
  • By default, the JSON API now checks that connections are made through a reverse-proxy providing HTTPS, ensuring that JWT tokens don’t leak. To disable this check, such as for development, pass –allow-insecure-tokens. A failed check currently results in a warning.

Impact and Migration

daml start automatically sets this flag so there is no migration needed. If you are starting the JSON API manually, we advise you to add the flag –allow-insecure-tokens for development environments, and to run the JSON API behind a TLS-enabled reverse proxy in production.

Minor Improvements

  • Faster Sandbox reset via the ResetService.
  • daml trigger and  daml script now default to wall clock time if  neither –wall-clock-time or –static-time is passed.
  • daml script now has an –output-file option that can be used to specify a file the result of the script should be  written to. Similar to –input-file the result will be output in the DAML-LF JSON encoding.
  • You can now disable implicit party allocation of the Sandbox by passing the flag –implicit-party-allocation=false. This makes it easier to test as you would against another ledger which does not support this feature.
  • The daml ledger commands no longer require the Bearer prefix in the access token file. This matches the behavior of DAML Script and other SDK tools.
  • Added –max-commands-in-flight to Sandbox CLI configs. This limits the maximum number of unconfirmed commands in flight in CommandService.

Improvements to Early Access Features

  • daml damlc visual now works properly in projects consisting of multiple packages.
  • Fix a bug where `exerciseByKey` was not properly recognized by daml damlc visual.
  • DAML REPL now produces better error messages on calls to  error and abort.

Bug Fixes

  • Fix a bug where scenarios with names containing special characters resulted in a crash in the scenario service.
  • The Sandbox properly respects the –log-level CLI parameter
  • The sandbox now properly delays command submissions using minLedgerTimeAbs or minLedgerTimeRel. See issue #5480.
  • Migrating from Sandbox 0.13.55 to Sandbox Classic 1.0.0 could have introduced contracts falsely reported as active when in fact they are not. Migrating to Sandbox Classic 1.1.0 will fix the issue. See issue #5659.

Changes to Ledger Integration Kit

These changes only affect ledger integrators and operators that consume the metrics emitted by the DAML Integration Kit. We have introduced new metrics and adjusted the naming of existing metrics to be consolidated. If you have built a dashboard for a ledger built using the integration kit, then you will need to adapt that dashboard. The changes are as follows.

  • We have introduced these new metrics:
    • a timing metric for the commit at daml.kvutils.writer.commit.
    • a metric for command validation upon submission, daml.commands.validation.
    • daml.commands.submissions is a new timer that measures all submissions.
    • daml.commands.valid_submissions is a new meter that counts valid (unique, interpretable) submissions.
    • daml.kvutils.reader.parse_updates is a new timer that measures the translation time of ledger log entries when serving state updates to the indexer
    • daml.kvutils.reader.open_envelope is a new timer that measures the deserialization time of ledger log entries when serving state updates to the indexer
    • daml.ledger.log.append is a new timer that measures the time for writing new log entries
    • daml.ledger.state.read is a new timer that measures reading from the ledger state
    • daml.ledger.state.write is a new timer that measures writing to the ledger state
  • We have renamed these metrics:
    • daml.lapi.command_submission_service.failed_command_interpretations has been renamed to daml.commands.failed_command_interpretations.
    • daml.lapi.command_submission_service.deduplicated_commands has been renamed to daml.commands.deduplicated_commands.
    • daml.lapi.command_submission_service.delayed_submissions has been renamed to daml.commands.delayed_submissions.
    • daml.lapi.command_submission_service.submitted_transactions has been renamed to daml.services.write.submit_transaction.
  • The metrics registry should now be passed using the new com.daml.metrics.Metrics type, which wraps/replaces com.codahale.metrics.MetricsRegistry
  • maxDeduplicationTime configuration (the maximum time window during which commands can be deduplicated) has moved from SubmissionConfiguration to the Configuration class
  • Engine is now mandatory in several  participant api server related constructors to avoid running multiple interpretation engines.

How to Start a Startup: Introducing Our Panel

Welcome to “How to Start a Startup,” a short series aimed at giving aspiring entrepreneurs a range of views about starting a new team, product, or initiative.

When I initially had this idea to collate some answers from founders for would-be-founders, I had no idea I would get so many great people willing to lend their time and wisdom to the series. In early interviews, I’ve been impressed with the candor and weight of the perspectives expressed, often leaving with the wonderful feeling of knowing there is so much left to learn and accomplish.

When conducting these interviews, I asked the participants to be true to themselves and present a strong point of view – their own! I think that can otherwise be difficult to do because they want to be as objective and balanced as possible. My hope is that the format of presenting several answers, side-by-side, provides the balance and objectivity that good advice requires. 

I’m excited to introduce our panel and am looking forward to sharing their advice over the coming weeks.

Meet the founders

“How to Start a Startup” panelists, a short series aimed at giving aspiring entrepreneurs a range of views about starting a new team, product, or initiative.

Who is Daniel Chait?

Daniel Chait, CEO and Co-founder of Greenhouse, speaking at the Digital Asset’s panel of entrepreneursDaniel Chait, CEO and Co-founder of Greenhouse, speaking at the Digital Asset’s panel of entrepreneurs

Daniel Chait is CEO and Co-founder of Greenhouse, which builds software tools to help companies make recruiting a competitive advantage. Before Greenhouse, Chait co-founded Lab49, a global firm providing technology consulting solutions for the world’s leading investment banks.

Who is Marwan Forzley?

Marwan Forzley is the Co-founder and CEO of Veem, speaking at the Digital Asset’s panel of entrepreneurs

Marwan Forzley is the Co-founder and CEO of Veem, a next-generation global payment provider that enables businesses to send and receive payments in local currency quickly and securely. Veem uses the blockchain as a new settlement rail to enable frictionless and inexpensive payments.

Who is Nimrod Lehavi?

Nimrod Lehavi is the Co-founder and CEO of Simplex, speaking at the Digital Asset’s panel of entrepreneurs

Nimrod Lehavi is the Co-founder and CEO of Simplex, a licensed financial institution that provides an online fraud-free payment processing solution. 

Serial entrepreneur, tech, maker, geek, crypto head, Nimrod’s career spans more than two decades of entrepreneurship and management experience. His reputation precedes him in the startup scene and blockchain community for his vision, leadership and proven ability to innovate and scale as well as his no-BS mentality.

Nimrod is a board member of the Israeli Bitcoin Association and holds a BA in computer science from IDC Herzliya, Israel.

Who is Ben Milne?

Ben Milne is the Founder and Chairman of Dwolla Inc., speaking at the Digital Asset’s panel of entrepreneurs

Ben Milne is the Founder and Chairman of Dwolla Inc., the programmable payment platform. Dwolla has been recognized by Fast Company as one of the world’s “Most Innovative Companies” and is based in Des Moines, Iowa. The company services millions of end users enabling billions of dollars of commerce annually.

Milne has been recognized by MIT, Goldman Sachs, Forbes, and Inc. He holds various patents for payment processing technologies and helped invent an era of social, contactless, and real time payments. Milne has participated in the development of solutions with governments organizations, a global non-profit, and the world’s largest exchanges on adopting real time programmable payment technologies.

Who is Arti Arora Raman?

Arti Arora Raman is the Founder and CEO of Titaniam, speaking at the Digital Asset’s panel of entrepreneursArti Arora Raman is the Founder and CEO of Titaniam, speaking at the Digital Asset’s panel of entrepreneurs

Arti Arora Raman is the founder and CEO of Titaniam, a cybersecurity startup that is aimed at addressing a major vulnerability in big data platforms. The company has recently finished building its first product with the help of early customer design partners and is on the verge of emerging from stealth. Arti has over twenty years in Enterprise Software of which ten have been in the information security industry most recently at Symantec and RiskVision. Prior to her career in security, Arti was founder and CEO of Liquid Engines, an Enterprise Resource Optimization company. Liquid Engines was acquired by Thomson Reuters.

Who is Eric Saraniecki?

W. Eric Saraniecki is one of the founders of Digital Asset, speaking at the Digital Asset’s panel of entrepreneurs

Eric Saraniecki is one of the founders of Digital Asset. Prior to DA, Eric built a trading desk at DRW trading that specialized in illiquid commodity markets and co-founded Cumberland Mining, one of the largest crypto-asset liquidity providers in the world.  

Who is Michael Shaulov?

Michael Shaulov is the CEO and Co-founder of Fireblocks, speaking at the Digital Asset’s panel of entrepreneursMichael Shaulov is the CEO and Co-founder of Fireblocks, speaking at the Digital Asset’s panel of entrepreneurs


Michael Shaulov is the CEO and Co-founder of Fireblocks, a secure digital asset infrastructure company. Prior to Fireblocks, he co-founded Lacoon Mobile Security, which was acquired by Check Point, and was then appointed the Head of Products, Mobile and Cloud Security for Check Point. Michael is a serial cybersecurity entrepreneur and investor. He is also a recognized industry speaker, delivering talks at RSA Conference, BlackHat and Infosec. 

Before his commercial endeavors, Michael pioneered the mobile security field in an elite military technological unit (8200), where he received the Israeli Presidential Excellency Honor for his contributions. He holds a BSc in Computer Sciences and Physics from Ben-Gurion University, Israel.

What’s ahead

In the weeks ahead, we’ll explore these high-level topics: 

  • What to consider before making the leap
  • How to build a founding team
  • Early funding strategy
  • Hiring first few employees
  • Life beyond the first few months

Each post will comprise a short set of questions about a specific topic. Our participants will offer their own views and we encourage you to add your voice to the discussion. You find also the first blog here: How to start a startup. 

Do you have your own questions for Digital Asset’s panel of entrepreneurs? Please write to us at community@daml.com.

Also find out how you can build the startup of your dreams in just days by visiting Project DABL