Before there ever was an idea for a company, there was a stressed out dad at a barbecue being asked by his oldest daughter whether or not she could have a Facebook page. What followed was another daughter coming online, a lot of arguments, and a ton more stress. I imagined that there must be a smarter, more scaleable way to tackle the problem and help others in similar situations. In September, 2013 I attended Lean Startup Machine at 1776 in Washington, D.C. in order to perform validated learning and determine whether or not I had a company, not merely a good idea.
In January of 2014 I moved to New York City to launch the company in full, securing a friends and family round by October of 2014. I was riding high on a wave of momentum, but unfortunately nothing lasts forever. I never quite found the product/market niche due to unforeseen negative feedback associated with the deluge of notifications for parents when kids broke the established contract rules, but I still felt there was a good idea somewhere in the mix. Many companies are solid ideas with implementation or technology challenges and this was one of them. To put it bluntly, I didn’t do a good job. Monitoring kids online was like trying to drink the ocean and there was no good way, yet, to turn this my idea into a profitable business so we closed up shop.
Tail firmly between my legs, I returned to work as an IT profession in 2016 as a cybersecurity consultant and immediately fell in love with my job. Besides being in a red-hot vertical within the industry, an additional unforeseen benefit was it placed me squarely in the orbit of bleeding edge technologies where I discovered bitcoin, the concept of digital currencies, and the blockchain. I’ll talk about each of those in detail in later posts, but the big takeaway is that there exists the technology allowing any person to create a secure digital token, assign it a real-world monetary value value, exchange them for products and services via encrypted transactions, and store them in a virtual wallet. The technology has been around since 2009 when the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto (still unknown) set out the idea for his/her/their digital currency model in a white paper (here) and released to the masses in 2009 for open use.
Here I was flying my kite, struck by lightning, and knocked out of both my shoes AND socks.
Revisiting my original idea I soon realized that having a cryptocurrency and marketplace to make purchases, along with a non-profit to facilitate development (a la Mozilla Foundation) and donations for items in the marketplace, I could achieve the same strategic objective as my original company — improving the behaviors of people online and incentivizing social good. SocialGRADE, Inc. evolved in to the SocialGRADE Project, with a goal of building the technological infrastructure, using blockchain (here) and social physics (here) to facilitate social good on a broader scale. In order to flesh it out more fully and to augment my cybersecurity skillset (because learning about encryption and securing data is a huge part of the curriculum and makes me very good at my real job), I enrolled in a FinTech certification course at MIT. As one of our first assignments we were asked to create a brief pitch and powerpoint deck.
I figure, rather than drop off the grid again, I might as well document the evolution for posterity. Welcome to our journey.