Investor Update. October '22
What do we need to do to get TIKI launched and in the market? The first step was to figure out what "launch" looks like for us.
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Last month I wrote about the productization of our technology: an SDK to enable other companies to add our decentralized data exchange (DEX) to their applications. Our DEX opens up new data features such as loyalty programs and data DAOs, increasing opt-in rates for things like IDFA and mitigating data risk with on-chain consent.
The clarity moved us from "figuring it out" to execution. This update, and the next several, will be about execution.
As an aside (+ a bit of bragging), how do we know we're onto it? Seemingly, every week, I speak with another company, ranging from startups to major brands (w/ hundreds of millions of users), who are actively looking for solutions to these problems—the very problems our tech is designed to solve. Companies are excited to build on top of TIKI.
So, execution. What do we need to do to get TIKI launched and in the market? The first step was to figure out what "launch" looks like for us. If you follow us, you know we tend to err on the side of "just get it out there."
But, for this, a B2B2C SDK product, that's not exactly the right approach —I learned this the hard way in my last business. Companies have a heightened expectation of quality when they add your product to theirs. Your missteps tarnish their brand. Less is more, and right is better than fast. Similarly, your product is more than just the code —for example, great developer docs are critical to the success of an SDK product. All that said, we could launch our first SDK this week on the 18th. The Dart and Flutter SDKs are ready (from a functional code standpoint). We are not.
We decided to move our SDK launch to the end of October, and if we need another week or two after that, so be it. It's a massive milestone for TIKI, and we'll nail it.
An investor I spoke with recently commented that founder updates tend to only talk about the "good." It stuck with me, as it doesn't come naturally to me to talk about/dwell on the struggles.
Emotionally it sucks to delay the launch; it double sucks because the tech is done, but the materials, comms, website, etc., are not. It feels like we nailed the hard part and whiffed on the rest. I know that's not true, it's all hard, but emotions are funny like that.
A big part of the ethos at TIKI is to do things our way. Often that means "get it out the door and iterate." I worry that it's so easy to fall into the same trap as so many others, operate in stealth for years, and lose sight of what the market really wants.
It's something to keep an eye on. I think it's rarely all or nothing, sometimes, you need to take a breath and nail it, and other times speed is the advantage.
Okay, what have we accomplished in the last month, and what's left to do for the launch? In no particular order:
Content & Branding
We have been working with our design partners at IDS on a brand refresh and user journey templates.
We're at the goal line on both; user journey templates are critical for enabling companies to onboard quickly without needing to bring in their own design/UX team. With the product pivot, we need to expand our brand and story from direct to consumer to a message that equally resonates with developers. A new website is in the works; wireframes are done, brand assets are created, and now we need to put it all together.
Along with a new website comes a critical developer portal with guides, examples, and top-notch documentation. Stripe, AWS, and AdMob are all good examples. We have a little bit of webdev work to do, but the majority of the effort left is in content creation—a strength of our team (shout out Shane), but time-consuming.
As mentioned above, our Flutter and Dart SDKs are ready to go. Ricardo has done an amazing job making our blockchain a reality.
We're currently working on native iOS and Android SDKs to widen the scope of applications that can leverage TIKI. ETA is this week, leaving the only outstanding work left to polish up READMEs and APIs.
DAO & Governance
Marketplaces need guidelines, for example, Apple's App Store guidelines. Where it gets really interesting is the decentralized nature of TIKI. This is where our DAO shines; it's a decentralized protocol where participants in TIKI's DEX earn an active say in defining things like bumpers and interoperability.
I can't say too much just yet, as we have a few open legal items to button up on the topic. The basics are a non-transferable (soulbound) self-deprecating reputation token strategy. Without giving too much away, the objective is to deter consolidation of power while still enabling those who do the most with TIKI to have weight.
We hope to share the whitepaper in the next couple of weeks. While the DAO does not need to be live for launch, we do need an actionable plan in place. Barry has done a fantastic job over the last few months getting the paper, strategy, and plan in place. All that's left is a final review.
We need to scale the team; we're at four full-time employees, and the immediate opportunity in front of us requires 2-3x that.
Hiring and scaling the team is one of the most important tasks in a startup's success. Particularly early on, and a lot of it comes down to our own internal ability to recruit top-tier talent. Over the last month, we've built a strong candidate pipeline and have been interviewing like crazy. It has been a ton of work, but we've come so far. We've put out 3 offers. By the end of November, I anticipate the team will be double the size.
You can see open roles here.
New hires will be together, on-site in Nashville —there is a special energy and momentum that comes from all that talent under one wacky roof.
It's all about momentum, and we are gaining steam.
- Mike & the TIKI team.
Every week, I post a quick and informal update/recap in our Discord —it's kinda cool to see our thinking evolve. The following are from 9/16 to 10/14
We've been working hard at recruiting and adding to the TIKI team. So a little inside baseball for those interested.
When we first announced the open job postings we were thinking of aiming for a pretty large team of mostly mid-level developers. Folks that were still early in their careers but showed promise of becoming the next great leaders. We'd still love (and always make room for someone of the ilk).
The reality tho has been it's not at all easy to find them! The more and more folks we interviewed, the more apparent it became that in software there is a pretty significant gap between the best and those still learning.
After talking with our advisors and other founders/builders its become pretty clear that we need a more hybrid approach. Hire (and pay accordingly) a couple amazing folks and then add a couple more junior level devs to fill out the team.
This has 2 clear benefits. 1) It allows us to hit the ground running with people who can contribute in a significant way (as they always say, hire people better than you). 2) It creates a fantastic environment for junior level devs to learn, grow, and ultimately become killers in their own right.
The impact of this is obviously fewer people (startups run on fixed budgets). From an initial planned total engineering team of 8, it's more likely we'll end up at 5.
An interesting non-intuitive tidbit I picked up along the way was that actually paying higher base salary and lower stock creates more buy-in and employee retention. When you issue employee stock options, they're typically on a 4 year vesting (meaning you earn 1/4 of your stock award each year you remain employed). Instinctively this would seem to create great 4 year retention, but in reality it attracts talent that views your company as a venture investment. Employees are constantly pushing for liquidation, preferring the short-game to the long-game, and jumping from job to job after 1yr. to maximize the breadth of their personal portfolio (smart for them, bad for building a successful company).
Subsequently, today we've now announced two new positions: Senior Software Engineer (data) and Principal Engineer/Architect offering highly competitive salaries.
As you can see it's a pretty stark difference in both comp. years of experience, and responsibility in our new Principal Eng. position compared to our previous Distributed Systems position
We’re heading into a critical 2 week stretch for tiki. If we deliver on the following, we will be rockin’ and rollin’ at a new pace. An important pace as we scale tiki.
We’re making great strides on packaging our data ownership technology into an SDK for developers to add to existing applications. We need to finish & launch.
We’ve spent a lot of time developing a talent pipeline and expect to begin making offers asap. Our team is about to get much larger with some killer talent.
We’re heading towards close on a very exciting investor-y update. Per SEC rules, I can’t say much but it’s been a long time coming and a big big step. Can’t wait to share with y’all.
DAO. Shout out @BOC. We’re almost there and it’s gonna be a very cool drop.
We had a strong week as a team, so I wanted to highlight a few accomplishments (in no particular order).
@BOC was on-site all week, and together, we powered thru and completed a draft of our DAO whitepaper. It's been a long time coming and required several pivots, but I'm very excited about where we landed. At the crux of it is a reputation DAO, a fascinating variant that is both powerful and very "TIKI." We have a few legal things we need to button up before sharing publicly, so stay tuned.
On Tues. @Shane took us thru a recap of our content & social highlights/analytics. I wouldn't say it was the easiest of conversations, but the clarity we got to was essential and excited us for what's next. The goal for content moving forward is to create positive awareness of the TIKI brand, meaning we can measure the next objective in net new eyeballs. Expect more podcast clips, new and different guests, local events, and a new Twitter strategy.
@Ricardo Gonçalves completed the ownership & consent NFT layer for the TIKI SDK!!!! <- I'm not going to say too much more on this topic. The impressive simplicity of that statement matches the code (toss us a star).
We had our first weekly design call w/ our partners at IDS. They started walking us thru a branding refresh, and we are so thrilled about the direction we're heading in. A universal design language that spans our website, SDK, and App will be critical to maintaining product speed.
We've been interviewing a ton of great candidates and aim to expand the team soon. If you or anyone you know of is a good fit for TIKI, apply here: http://angel.co/company/mytiki/jobs
Continuing with the style from last week, I'm going to highlight this weeks accomplishments.
At the beginning of the week, each team member sets a weekly goal. They're usually stretch goals and we routinely fall short. This week we almost went 4 for 4 (I'm the only one who fell short). Momentum is building fast @ TIKI.
I've been working with any spare hour I can get on messaging/materials for the new SDK product launch. You can see the first of it on our Github page. More coming very soon.
@Ricardo Gonçalves is making excellent progress in wrapping our L1 blockchain (native Dart) into the first 3 application SDKs, which will be Flutter, iOS native, Android native. Version 1.0 is imminent.
@Shane has been interviewing like crazy for the open producer/content role we have. We are doubling down on podcasting being the primary source of content creation, which will be clipped and shared extensively. Everyone should be very excited to see this function at TIKI grow. There's so much going on, that it's often hard to capture and share it all.
@BOC has begun circulating the DAO whitepaper internally with some trusted advisors gaining critical feedback. We're just about ready to review with key investors/stakeholders next week. Very soon ya'll will get to see what've we been designing. I'm fairly certain it's unique, powerful, and charts a course for long term success, the TIKI way.
Enjoy your weekend everyone. I just crushed some steaks on the smoker @ the office (+ and a handful of miller lites). Twas a good week.
Quick CEO update tonight. I’ll be publishing a detailed monthly update via Substack tomorrow.
@BOC is back home in Ireland. He’s prepped the DAO materials for final sign off before we can share publicly. Hope we can deal y’all in next week.
@Shane & myself have been updating the podcast studio. Should be live next week as well. We’re doubling down on the content efforts investing in better video & audio. Aiming to add to the content team asap.
@Ricardo Gonçalves is hard at work trying to get the iOS & Android native plugins ready for launch. It’s going to be so awesome. I just wrote a blog (not published yet) on why on-chain consent. It really hit me just how far we’ve come with the tech and how easy it will be for developers to add decentralized data ownership to apps.
I’ve been working on prepping materials for product launch. It was a highly productive week, things are going to look very different at tiki in just a few short weeks.
in addition to our first offer, we’ve extended 2 more! Come Nov. our team may be twice the size it is!!!
Very excited for the progress, launch is in sight.