I guess now that I have spent the past week preparing for the Startup Battlefield 2021 Application (seriously, it took a lot!), I am more in the writing mood and can start putting together some additional thoughts around what I have been working on and the field I am entering here with starbeam.one.
Recently I have been assessing risks. Of course, the biggest risk with any company is that it could fail. And companies, especially startups gulp fail all the time.
This is particularly tricky with starbeam.one, or any company that does what I am doing (centralized digital ownership), as if it goes away, then all the licenses that fall under its provenance also go away as well. This means no more sales or resales.
This is two failures in one.
Of course, this is a huge value proposition with decentralization: companies can fail and/or go away but the digital products they sell are enshrined/memorialized on a decentralized network that survives as long as at least one node across the world remains online and synchronizes its database.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for this one at the moment. First, it would mean that I have to seriously contemplate that what I am working on could fail. For any self-respecting entrepreneur that’s a tough task to undertake. Secondly, I do have some answers and while I am not happy with them at the moment I will share them in the spirit of perhaps improving them by examination (sort of the exercise with this post).
The most obvious to me is that at some point I would like to believe that if worse came to worst, I would at least build an off ramp to at least one blockchain for product enshrinement. This makes the most sense to me. There’s no way I am going to put so much effort into this only to allow it to die without people enjoying their product if it goes away. The investors that I bring aboard must have an understanding of this as well.
The other consideration is perhaps creating a new product/system that allows products to live on after the system has passed. Something that is a little different from the blockchain. A new file format, perhaps? Kind of an intriguing proposition that requires more thought.
Keep in mind that starbeam.one plans to eventually support numerous blockchains. So the “off-ramps” should be there. The primary risk is failing before those integration bridges are fully built. However, just because the off-ramps have been built does not mean the products can be effectively enshrined. The off-ramps will still point back to our centralized/hosted assets. To properly enshrine these puppies we will need to get those assets into an accessible form, whether hosted on decentralized solutions (e.g. IPFS), or something more novel where owners can collectively host them on OneDrive/G-Drive/etc.
Additionally, when sales/resales occur they will somehow interface with the corporate entity. If the process is enshrined we will have to find a way to get royalties back to the creator.
The point is that by building an off-ramp/blockchain integration, it is not the same as enshrinement and it will take some further work effort.
In any case, this is the one area that I fully concede the blockchain has the upper hand. But, since it only has it when the worst has already happened to my company, does it really?
What’s important is that this threat is not only properly identified, but finding investors that also understand this risk and account for this accordingly. We have to ensure that the products sold are properly enshrined somehow in the event of the catastrophic (and in my case, unthinkable).
Ironically, doing so only furthers confidence in the system, which should improve adoption, which correspondingly makes it less likely that we will ever have to utilize such a plan in the first place. ✌