Where is the money for mobile app developers in blockchain?
By Hammad Tariq
19 - 24 minutes
Like most others, I was drawn to the blockchain space at the start of 2018 when Bitcoin was around $19K (despite reading the news about 10000 BTC used to buy a pizza back in May 2010 and missed another opportunity to buy-in at $12 in 2014, of course, we all have these horror stories).
I made a couple of accounts on exchanges as per the custom, spent a massive amount of $20 and learned all about gas prices, wallets and private keys and saw my $20 evaporate during transfers. However, as most other engineers out there (as opposed to traders), this was necessary to understand the space and that’s all I was interested in.
I am the founder of a few failed startups and in my most recent one we were trying to quantify meditation experience by detecting a person’s heart & breath rate. That detection allowed us to provide continuous sound-based feedback loop to make the meditator go deeper into the experience (just like Muse but without the hardware!).
First we did that with a radar and then we did that by just using a phone’s front camera. Demo video is below:
To a lot of people and investors that sounded like science fiction, we were told that we needed at least a million dollar exit in the past to appear trustworthy! So, long story short, we couldn’t raise and I had to shut the shop back in March, 2018 (documented: My Startup Story: Believe in what you are doing and then do it!).
With that backdrop, I came to the blockchain space. I needed to survive and subsequently find money to do my next startup. While on the sides, I was always hearing about people becoming millionaires doing blockchain development. I learned all the buzzwords after coming here. I saw solidity, I installed Ethereum, found Github repos of ready to install decentralized exchanges, fiddled with forking a Litecoin repo etc.
FOMO was still in the air while most of the ICOs were failing by now and Facebook and Google were tightening the rules related to the ads of crypto.
I learned that core blockchain development is hard as nobody is writing tutorials (as everyone is busy earning with both their hands, fair on everyone’s part).
In late March, I received my daily email from Medium, one of the articles were about OST, a blockchain startup announcing developer POC program, promising 50,000 tokens for successful integration of their RESTful API with an app.
I promptly opened Binance to confirm if OST was real and it was listed at $0.19, a sweet $9500. My application resulted in acceptance into the OST Phase II developer program and subsequently, allowed me to combine my newly learned Swift skills to create Eato — an iOS app that allowed users to earn my own branded EXN tokens in exchange of sharing their meal pictures.
Here is the demo video that I did as part of final submission for the Phase II:
The price of OST coin at the time of writing is $0.06, less than half of what it was on March 27th, 2018. The BTC and other coins are also in bear market. Traders are worried and dumping their stash, the developers on the other hand seem not so worried and are just busy in coding their way. From last few years they didn’t have money, now they have millions of dollars to actualize their utopian goals.
Despite it being compared to wild-west and gold-rush, the crypto space is entering into the maturity phase. In my opinion, here is what is going to happen:
Mainstream infrastructure projects like ETH, EOS, Blockstack etc., will at least take 5–10 years to stabilize themselves.
Decentralization is hard, the tech is in early days, everyone wants to run after the same infrastructure backbone provider award.
Founders are just now realizing they exist in an eco-system, multiple layers of existence are opening up and from multiple layers I mean, 50 shades of decentralization. From just offering branded tokens to dumping TLDs in favor of decentralized DNS to making whole companies on Aragorn, everything is a shade of decentralization.
From app developers point-of-view, there will be a number of opportunities on each layer. The key here is to know what is mature at the moment and from where you can start and deploy before everyone else rather than getting tied up in a network where maturity is still years away.
A massive flood of tokenized apps is coming. Tokenization is best way to acquire new users outside of current monopolies of Facebook and Google.
Tokenization allows user-stickiness, gives you the network effect, the user becomes your loyal ambassador, automagically.
Mainstream centralized apps such as Askfm, Unsplash, Kik are already in the process of launching their own tokens. These services have millions of users.
Less than 1% of world population hold crypto at the moment while 67% hold a smartphone. You see where it’s going?
Of course, as an engineer I will doubt my beliefs and learnings till the grave, however, I formed them after following a few pillars of crypto space, I will share their tweets below:
And then there are a couple of podcasts that allowed me to understand what’s happening at the ground zero of legitimate blockchain development projects:
Just to touch the topic of fully decentralized vs somewhat decentralized networks (that’s the topic of great debate within in the community and that has motivated me to write this article, actually), there are clearly two groups in tech world, one entirely consist of engineers and others are of business type. Both are necessary for each other, yet they are often at a feud with each other.
Engineers here want to stick dearly with the utopian dream of fair and decentralized world. Business types want to earn, disperse and support the ecosystem by bringing in the money. (Don’t get me wrong, I am an engineer myself!)
As an example of this feud, Ethereum’s founder recently said:
I definitely hope centralized exchanges go burn in hell as much as possible,
The Binance founder replied:
Since signing up for OST and building my first tokenized app, I have tried looking for other similar projects. I subscribed to subreddits, joined telegram groups, searched google, tried opening developer support pages on the network’s websites etc.
Couldn’t find much!
Except for Blockstack, EOS, OST and very recently KIN token!
Although, every project out there seems to be running wallet bounties, I couldn’t find much motivation to participate as lure of having my own tokenized app with millions of users is much greater than going through the hard learning curve of understanding a wallet’s anatomy and then implementing it.
I recently wrote about Blockstack, no matter how much I loved the company and their mission (they are building a whole new decentralized internet with blockchain based DNS, identity, and user-owned storage), they are still not mature enough to handle new app developers.
I tried integrating Blockstack auth with my app Eato, it worked but took me 7 days of piecing information together, running behind devs on twitter and forum to seek answers. I have done this kind of work before with cross-platform app development tool called MoSync. Through that experience I know that an app developer shouldn’t be on a platform that is not mature and ready to be build-upon as you get caught up in lack of documentation and system bugs that are mostly out of your control.
On the other hand, OST took an interesting route, the only blockchain problem they went after is of scaling it for millions of token only transactions. They made their own side-chain that is supposedly gonna support millions of API calls a day by their launch partner Unsplash and other centralized companies with millions of existing users.
The only service OST is providing is of having your own branded token that will be backed up by OST itself. By doing so, they remove the need of having in-house blockchain developers, running an ICO and having decentralized economy experts who would cost you a fortune.
OST is running their Phase III of the alpha program. Anyone can join, you must know how to build an app in any technology, must know how RESTful APIs work and that’s it! You can name your own token, create your own economy and integrate it with your existing or new app.
The challenge is just to show the integration in a POC format and every successful POC can earn a minimum of 100,000 OST, current price is $0.06 so that’s sweet $6000 plus the opportunity to be one of the earliest developers who is creating mainstream tokenized apps.
You can read the details of OST Phase III developer program by clicking here. The last date to apply is 20th July, 2018.
EOS is running their own physical hackathons, where the developers can get a total of 1.5M in USD. The hackathons are physical in nature and in reach of only a few developers. Generally, EOS is in the early days and I saw less eco-system support for developers, never tried to go any deeper!
Kin — Kik very recently announced their $3M developer program. They are giving away a total of 116,000 USD to each accepted developer who will meet the criteria, however, they will only accept 25 applicants. You can see the details of the program here. The last date to apply is August 10th, 2018.
I am still looking into KIN, however, the problem with this program is that it’s not open. 25 developers mean they may already know and have shortlisted most of the developers.
Other than that the whole point of participating in alpha and beta releases is to develop tokenized apps that can be launched as first of this world in the mainstream (there will be thousands of very similar such apps if I haven’t told you this already, so getting their early and branding is very important). KIN allows you to use their token but its not branded, you will have to use KIN in your app as well so you will be locked into their eco-system.
P.S I have used Blockstack vs OST just for comparison of readiness, they both are truly going to be amazing companies but they are following totally different trajectories. Blockstack is trying to solve much harder problems as compared to OST. I can’t compare the actual details of EOS, NEO, ETH etc., as I haven’t tried them myself. The only problem I see, even before starting with other blockchain projects is of the gas price. If I want to load an Amazon page and I have to part with $2.5 just for that, seriously, who is going to use my app? Secondly, they don’t have clearly stated developer programs, most are partners with some hacker teams who are building dApps and these networks want to keep the system closed (by not offering incentives to everyone!). To be fair on their part, when technology is not mature, its not advisable to open it for everyone!
P.S.S The author hold small amounts of OST and Stack coins. All earned, nothing bought with fiat!