We interviewed Lachlan Greenbank, CEO and founder of Smartpress, about their platform that simplifies using EOSIO Smart Contracts for businesses.
Could you introduce Smartpress for us?
Smartpress is a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that lets you rapidly connect your apps to an EOSIO Smart Contract.
We describe Smartpress as: “The Smart Contract Cloud”. It’s for those who would like to adopt Smart Contracts, verify transactions on a third party block explorer, and add security, trust, and validity to their data.
We provide an API wrapper so that you can easily launch a Smart Contract on our platform. You can then create accounts for your users that you can map to your own internal IDs without having to worry about the blockchain layer.
This makes life a lot easier for those teams who would like to enjoy the benefits of using an EOSIO blockchain, but who aren’t quite ready to take on all the complexities of Smart Contract development from scratch. They can get their app connected to a Smart Contract and get things flowing fairly quickly. If they like, down the line they can then take over completely. We will provide the Smart Contract(s) to them and sign over the active and owner keys.
What inspired you to create Smartpress?
The inspiration came from our experience at the EOS Global Hackathon event in Sydney in August 2018. There were hundreds of participants there, from different sectors and industries. Only a few of them (myself included) had significant experience setting up and writing EOSIO Smart Contracts.
When the time came and we started hacking, most teams had to spend a couple of hours at least getting started with EOSIO, whereas we were up and running immediately. This gave my team an edge technically and timewise. But, most importantly, it allowed us to observe and identify this use case: What if you could set a few parameters, press a button and have an app produce secure code for you?
We realized this would have saved hundreds of hours of effort at the hackathon, so we created Smartpress to save time for anyone new to blockchain and EOSIO technology. This software has the potential to reach millions of developers in the years to come, and we hope that our product will have a massive impact by saving them time and money.
Why did you decide to use blockchain technology, and specifically EOSIO?
Blockchain can be used in a powerful yet simple way. A basic Smart Contract can be used to build trust with your users by allowing them to audit and verify the data themselves. This is what we believe blockchain is about: not trusting companies anymore and making them prove to you that they are doing what they say they are.
EOSIO is the highest quality blockchain software out there. It is highly performant, which means that data publishing and validation can be done very quickly. The eosio.contracts repository has a selection of useful basic contracts which offer functionality with vetted and robust code.
We also believe in the leadership and vision of Block.one, and that they will continue to innovate and work to improve EOSIO as time goes on.
What stage is Smartpress at?
The Smartpress core platform is built and functioning. We have a number of paying customers and are ready to onboard new users at any time. Public EOSIO blockchains change over time, due to their governance, and adoption of changes to the core software. We are constantly working to keep up to date with these changes which is a compelling reason to use Smartpress:
The user experience will stay close to constant due to the work we are doing on the backend of the platform.
What are the challenges you had to overcome, and how did you do it?
One of the challenges that we are facing right now is convincing people of the merits of using blockchain technology to solve their problems. It’s tricky to explain something new and technical to people.
This all makes advertising difficult. So far we haven’t been able to find a scalable, repeatable model using common digital marketing tools. We’re getting closer to being able to predict that if we put in X amount of marketing dollars into a strategy, then we get out Y amount of revenue. Some days we have a lot of success, and some days we have none at all.
In addition to improving the effectiveness of our digital marketing, we are focusing on a “warmer” approach to contacting potential customers. This involves meeting potential customers at events and conferences. We plan on attracting new users as a result of our scaling efforts as well.
What are your plans for scaling?
We are actively scaling the business by growing the Smartpress customer base. We are planning on offering a suite of user focused products as well.
Users will arrive on the site and see that Smartpress is the Smart Contract cloud, but they will also see a number of products which they can use built by Smartpress, on Smartpress. This will help us to onboard new users to Smartpress as well as educating the market as a whole about the benefits of blockchain technology.
One product which we are working on will solve the problem of document verification. We can look at education providers to demonstrate why this would be so useful. If you want to verify that a candidate has completed a course in programming, for example, you would need to go to the course provider. You would probably need to go through a support process and they might send you a letter or an email after several hours of effort going back and forth.
If they had used our new product, all you would have to do is drop the PDF of the certificate in, and we would tell you everything you need to know about it (when it was issued, which grade was attained, which course it was for, etc). In this way you can vet the candidate for the job instantly without having to rely on anyone else.
I think these types of verification solutions are going to show people how quickly blockchain technology can be adopted to save people and businesses lots of time and effort. A lot of organizations could benefit from this service: universities dispensing degree certificates, local councils granting liquor licenses, construction companies who need to check workers’ forklift licences. They will all have the convenient option to use a Smartpress product to verify their documents instead of writing their own Smart Contracts and providing a website.
What EOSIO community initiatives have you engaged in, and how has the EOSIO Community responded to Smartpress?
We have hosted several meetups in Canberra to tell the community about EOSIO. We are planning to do a lot more outreach in Sydney now that we are based here. That includes going to meetups and events to tell people about Smartpress – general technology themed ones, not just blockchain.
We were grand finalists in the EOS Global Hackathon series in 2018 which was a great opportunity to meet and connect with EOSIO community members from all over the world. That gave us a headstart with name recognition in the ecosystem, some great resources, and knowledge about where to go and who to talk to about all things EOSIO.
Can you introduce your team and tell us what makes them/it special?
The only permanent member of Smartpress right now is me. I have a few contractors doing design and sales, though. When we originally won the Sydney EOS Global Hackathon and progressed to the Grand Finale in Cape Town, there were other core team members. They have since left the project, due to timing and family commitments.
It is exhilarating (and terrifying) to be in total control of the company. I can hire people to do what needs to be done and set the strategic direction, but the consequence of this is that the success of the business rests solely on my shoulders. I am confident in my ability to lead and manage Smartpress to achieve profit and growth.
I started out learning coding when I was 17. I went to a community college which was fairly laid back. I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about higher education at that point in my life – I was more interested in hanging out and having fun with my friends. I turned out to be an apt student and even won a coding competition when I was there.
After I gained my college diploma I studied an IT degree at ANU, which is actually the highest ranked university in Australia. I was two years into my degree when the EOS Global Hackathons started. I was also working at a small company and I quit my job there a couple of months before the events because I thought that EOSIO was something special. It turned out to be a huge opportunity and I am glad I took the risk and embarked on this adventure!
Where do you see Smartpress in the future?
The core vision of Smartpress remains strong: making it easier for users and businesses to benefit from EOSIO blockchain technology. Our niche is simplicity, because I am a simple sort of dude. When I am building things I like plugging stuff in and getting it done without a whole lot of configuration and setup.
So we are going to continue to attract customers to our platform by offering them a convenient and cost effective way to use Smart Contracts in their business activities. We will be releasing a suite of products that leverage our platform to offer useful functionality to customers.
Because we are laser focused on providing value for our customers and demonstrating how our products can save time and effort, we remain resilient to a range of market conditions. If blockchain explodes in popularity then that’s great, and we are ready to scale up and onboard a million users over the next six months. If it takes another few years though, with slower growth, then we are ready for that too.
In a sentence, how would you want readers to remember Smartpress?
Smartpress is the smart contract cloud.
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