Love and friendship

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I have stepped down as an advisor to Finhaven (formerly Frontier Foundry).

Why? Is there some terrible problem there, which we need to run away from? No. Just the opposite, in fact. I actually co-located with them in January and am working closer with them than ever before.

Being an advisor meant that I was tying my financial incentives in with Finhaven. I had the option to purchase 0.5% of their Common Stock, but I never exercised that option. I never claimed any expenses, nor received a single penny in any other form. I was “informally” advising them for many months before we had any formal relationship.

“It isn’t about the money. It was never about the money” ™
Bob Summerwill 2015-2018

I am also too busy with other world-changing projects to do much more than talk with Finhaven (lots, every single day). However, the fact is that I am willing to talk to anybody in the world for free wherever I see value anyway. I don’t need to be an advisor to do that. Those numerous conversations are likely providing a lot more value than many “advisors” just in themselves.

I have a similar dynamic with RightMesh, Zipper and Status.im, which are all projects and teams which I love to death, and would jump with joy to advise. But the truth is that I can provide greater value from the outside. That has been the case for me on the Ethereum Project too, where I have been able to do much more to help the project from the outside of the Ethereum Foundation then when I was working for the EF.

Being a friend is the best relationship of all. It trumps employment, contracting, consulting, advising.

Here are some examples of being a friend trumping any formal relationship just in the last few days:

I will forever be a friend of Finhaven and do everything I can to help them.

I love you guys!

New Year. New Role. New Office.

Happy New Year, everybody!

2018 sees a few changes in my daily routine. All good ones 🙂

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The first change is a physical one. After a year or so working out of coffee shop turned Mexican cafe Tapatio Mexican Cafe and Bar in Kitsilano, I have switched to an office in the Vancouver Financial District with Frontier Foundry. It’s got a great view, and it is a nice change of pace to be Downtown.

I am telling myself that I will force myself to cycle in each day (only ~15mins ride) so that I am doing at least a modicum of exercise each day. We will see how that goes! I’ve not cycled in yet, but do have the doorpass to be able to access the bike cage now, so should probably do so very soon!

My role at Sweetbridge changed just before Christmas too. I started work for Sweetbridge on 23rd October as Principal Developer. When I was first talking to Sweetbridge, I was absolutely certain that I had to drop everything I was doing at ConsenSys and the EEA to go and join this amazing project. What was not clear to me, though, was exactly what position at Sweetbridge would work best for me and for Sweetbridge.

There were two main options – joining the Sweetbridge Alliance side with Mac McGary, or join the R&D/Product side with Glenn Jones. I was a little hesitant to put myself in a position with the Alliance where I was ineffective (or indeed a liability) because of my complete lack of supply chain experience, despite having worked in a similar role at the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance for the previous year. Joining the product team looked like a much safer bet. I have been a software engineer for 20+ years, working on Ethereum for 2.5+ years, wanted to help build a real product, so my choice was made.

Only a week into my time at Sweetbridge though, I was off to Cancun for DEVCON3 (which I still owe the world a blog post about!) That trip had been scheduled for months, and is not something I would have missed for the world. I offered my services, despite being brand new to Sweetbridge, for media interviews, talking to potential partners, alliance building, etc. I do love all that kind of work.

Then I took my first trip to Phoenix (which I also owe the world a blog post about) to meet the team, and the media focus and alliance building continued, in addition to what was meant to be my primary job at Sweetbridge, helping out in numerous roles on the product team (Agile, DevOps, technical leadership, architecture, protocol work). There was no way that I could do all of these things at the same time.

On my second trip to Phoenix on November 20th I got to speak to Scott Nelson face-to-face for the first time. In a conversation I had with Hamid Moutawakkil, Hamid made an excellent point. “Bob, with all the experience you have and value you can bring to Sweetbridge, why are you writing Jenkinsfiles?” He was spot on. I was in the wrong place in the organization. Scott agreed, but it has ended up taking another month or so to get from that conversation to my switch of role. So I am delighted to now be:

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This could be seen as me finally “hanging up my boots” as an individual contributor and professional software engineer and moving “into management”. In paradigms past I would be a miserable middle manager now. In this new paradigm it actually means that I get to spend my time talking to fascinating people around the world about the cool projects they are working on, and connecting them to others doing similar things. It means I am spending time engaging with our community, and building alliances and bridges with the EEA, Hyperledger, Microsoft, IBM, ConsenSys and building up the Sweetbridge Alliance. It is going to be absolutely delightful 🙂

Please do come join our Rocket.Chat and our Telegram. As well as my new physical work home, those are my new online homes. I am delighted to have the opportunity to work closer with Melissa Gilmour, Jason English and Ryan Charleston as part of my new role. Melissa has been focused on Events, Jason on Protocol Marketing and Ryan on Social Media. We will work together to tie all of these elements together in a more cohesive message and dynamic community. WATCH OUT WORLD!

So my new office is at Frontier Foundry, who are the only company which I advise (see my Conflict of Interests statement). I first met Boris in 2015, and I am delighted to be part of the Frontier adventure. In addition to the primary product which Frontier are developing, Frontier are acting as the catalyst for growing the blockchain ecosystem here in British Columbia, which is something very close to my heart, and which I am also actively participating in.

See my schedule for 2017 and 2018 to get an idea of the number of Vancouver-focused events and meetups which I am attending. I am making a conscious effort to attend just about every Vancouver-based conference or event, all the BC Blockchain Forum and Blockchain for Product Developers meetings, and will be adding Blockchain @ UBC engagement onto the slate imminently.

During 2015 and 2016 I was hardly part of the Vancouver blockchain scene. All my time was spent remote-working on global initiatives. Well I am changing that focus, and I will also be doing the same for Canada-wide initiatives. I see a huge opportunity for Canada to be world-leading for blockchain. Vitalik is from Toronto. Lots of the Ethereum story has Canadian roots. I want the “next Ethereum” to stay in Canada and not have to move to Switzerland to come to fruition. We should encourage and foster innovation. There is a fabulous opportunity given the state of “South Canada” for us to take the lead here. Both Toronto and Vancouver have great pools of technical and business talent. We should take advantage of that, and turn the tide on the Silicon Valley brain-drain. I plan to be a big part of that.

I will blog more about Frontier Foundry and these BC and Canadian initiatives in the future. In the meantime, here are a few photos of Boris Mann (CEO), Tom Carchrae (CTO) and Chelsea Palmer (Community), just a few of the growing Frontier gang.

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I am with my tribe at DEVCON3

I have just landed in beautiful Cancun, Mexico, for the DEVCON3 conference which starts on Wednesday.

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DEVCON is the crowd jewel of the Ethereum community, where developers, business people and enthusiasts of all stripes gather in one place to hear the latest news about this fantastic platform which we are building together.  Right from the mouths of the developers who are at doing that every day.

Unlike many other blockchain events, DEVCON is always about the technology and the people – never about money.   It is a developer conference, with many deeply technical sessions.  It is a delight.

These are my people.   I will be with my tribe this week.   I can’t wait.

Bob’s Next Adventure

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My active Ethereum journey has been underway for well over two years now, starting in the months leading up to Frontier launch in July 2015 when the mainnet went live.   I had been lucky enough to meet Vitalik even earlier than that, back in June 2014, when my friend David Lowy hosted a dinner for Vitalik and various interested Vancouver locals as he was in town for the day.

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Left-to-right: Manie Eager (Chairman, Blockchain Association of Canada), Alex Alexandrov (CEO, CoinPayments), MaRi Eager (Co-Founder, Digital Futures), Lauren Richer, Vitalik Buterin, Ward Stirrat (CMO, Coinpayments), Bob Summerwill, David Lowy.

David was one of the first customers at the world’s first Bitcoin ATM, right here in Vancouver in October 2013, and was heavily involved in Bitcoin for many years before that.  His first Bitcoin trades were at 5 cents.  in 2010 he sought out and acquired the domain name Bitcoin.com, later selling it for a substantial profit.

David has been quiet for the last few years, but will soon be launching a very exciting project which has been in gestation for many years.   Keep your eyes on this man.  He is the reason that I am in this space, and I was very lucky to meet and become friends with him when I did!   He is a visionary.

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By 2015 I was living in Toronto and took advantage of their great crypto Meetup scene.   Techno Crypto with Jeff Coleman at Decentral, Ethereum Toronto Meetup with Paul Paschos, DEC_TECH at the Mars Discovery Centre with Anthony Di Iorio.

This photo was from a special session of the Ethereum Toronto meetup just prior to the Frontier launch, showing some other familiar faces 🙂

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Left-to-right:  Paul Paschos, Ethan Wilding (Co-Founder, L4 Ventures), Vitalik Buterin, Nick Dodson (ConsenSys, GovernX), William Mougayar (many hats) Michael Perklin (CISO, ShapeShift)

I started doublethink.co and hired Anthony Cros to start working on cpp-ethereum-cross while my days were full at TD Securities.

Later that year on my return to Vancouver, I was able to get hands-on with that project, seeking to get an Ethereum light client working on a Gear S2 smartwatch.   That work morphed into helping out the cpp-ethereum project which morphed into a part-time job on Christian Reitwiessner’s team, which then morphed into a full-time role.  On we went through Homestead, major build system and DevOps work and the repository restoration of cpp-ethereum-1.3.0 (“Homecoming”), the DAO fork, the failed Apache 2.0 relicensing attempt and on to the amazing DEVCON2 conference in Shanghai.

I had real hope there with the arrival of Brian Behlendorf as Executive Director at Hyperledger (who I met at OSCON in Austin that April) that we could forge a shared future which could see both public-chain and private/consortium chain systems built on top of a common kernel, a la Linux, and bring all these communities together.  Alas, it was not to be.

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With Ethereum/Hyperledger grand unification off the table, I was delighted to have the opportunity to work towards the goal of Ethereum Everywhere again as Joe Lubin hired me to work to help form the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance at ConsenSys.  The EEA launched earlier this year in New York and is now the largest blockchain consortium in the world with over 200 member companies.

The photo below was taken at the JP Morgan offices in Brooklyn during our second round of face-to-face meetings in the run-up to the EEA launch, with Shahan talking Vitalik through our technical vision.

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Left-to-right:  Bob Summerwill, Kirk Dameron (ConsenSys), Shahan Khatchadourian (ConsenSys), Joseph Chow (ConsenSys), Vitalik Buterin, Amber Baldet (JP Morgan).

Joe is one of the most inspirational and enlightened leaders who I have ever met, and ConsenSys is one of the most unique places that I have ever had the pleasure of working at.   This is going to be a world-renowned company in the very near future.  It is already getting there and can now hire the cream of the crop.

Gather smart people.   Empower them.  Go!  Just magic.

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[From Can Ethereum Restore Online Freedom & Transform the Internet?]

After a year of mainly organizational work at the EEA, it is time for a new challenge – back in a hands-on development role.   In all of this time within the Ethereum ecosystem, I have never built a decentralized application at really large scale.   It is time for me to do just that at Sweetbridge.   Their ambitious and transformational goals have inspired me.  I could not resist the challenge!   I will be joining their protocol team as Principal Developer.

Sweetbridge is also building an alliance to work towards a liquid supply chain on blockchain technology.   Scott Nelson, their fantastic CEO, can explain The Vision much better than I, but the starting point is solving structural inequalities related to access to capital within global supply chains, which form two-thirds of the world economy or $54 trillion in annual trade

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What’s really unique and special about Sweetbridge and what attracted me to them is their team and it’s depth of invaluable industry experience (many 20-30 year veterans). Scott had the vision to build this platform for more than a decade, recognizing the blockchain is the technical innovation that unlocks the potential to turn this dream into a reality.

These are good people.   How many companies have you seen who lead off with a series of Medium posts on their Core Beliefs?   This is just fabulous to see.

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One of the primary advisors to Sweetbridge is Vinay Gupta, an Ethereum community and cypherpunk old-timer and hugely prescient thinker who I have been following and engaging with for several years, but still never met in person.    I really look forward to collaborating with Vinay more closely as part of my work at Sweetbridge.

Block off some time to watch this awesome video where Scott and Vinay deconstruct the problem-space:
The Ultimate Gupta vs. Nelson Blockchain + Supply Chain Throwdown.

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In addition to my work at Sweetbridge, I will also be advising Frontier Foundry, who are based right here in my home town of Vancouver.   They also have a great leader in the form of Boris Mann, whom I have known since 2015.  Our paths crossed in a wearables/blockchain context.    Boris has been involved in the startup scene, angel investing, advising, open source ecosystem building and more for many, many years and is now bringing those talents to bear full-time in the blockchain world.  Frontier is building a global investment platform for blockchain based capital pools.  Check them out!

I am also getting more involved in the Vancouver crypto-business community, which is growing in leaps and bounds in 2017.   We had the ADI Summit in September which I spoke at, and have had the inaugural meetings of Blockchain for Product Developers and BC Blockchain Forum meetups in the past couple of weeks.   We have Blockchain @ UBC, and we have active discussions ongoing with the BC regulators.   It is all great to see, and Frontier are primary drivers of this change.

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Boris Mann (Frontier Foundry)

So that’s what I will be up to next.   It should be a lot of fun.    I wish all my former colleagues at ConsenSys and the EEA the best of luck for the future as we continue to build this new ecosystem together.   As Joe recently said at ETHWaterloo, we are still in the “first minute”, and have years of collaboration and building ahead of us.   Our paths will cross many times again in the future.

For anybody thinking, “You have a lot of photos of people in this article, Bob,” well, yes, I do.  Because it is always about the people.   They are what make the technology work.

I hope to be face-to-face with many of the fabulous people in this community very soon.  See you in Cancun for DEVCON3.

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What’s been happening in the EEA?

I’ve had a number of people asking me recently what has been happening on the technical side of things within the EEA over the last month or so.   The answer to that question is “lots”, but it has mostly been churning under the surface.

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[Churning Water by Indi Samarajiva]

The mundane reality of setting up a new organization on the scale of the EEA is that you need a lot of structure, defined operational processes, rules and bureaucracy.   Without that you have lots of talk and nothing much being achieved.

There is also plenty of administrative work to be done, which Virtual, Inc. have recently come on board to help with.   We don’t have an Executive Director.   We don’t have any permanent staff (yet).

In retrospect, our initial efforts at a Technical Working Group were pretty ineffective, so we’ve taken a step back and looked at the broader goals of the EEA.   What are we trying to achieve as an organization?   How are we going to tackle that?  What is a Committee?   What is a Working Group?   How can we decompose the problem space?  What is a rational scope for each of these groups to consider?    Where and how can EEA members best get involved?   How do we avoid stepping on each others toes?   What should happen inside EEA and what is best left to the members outside of the EEA?

We didn’t have good answers on some of these matters.   We’re getting to much better answers now, I think, between the board, Virtual, the governance committee, Alex Batlin and myself.   These new documents are still under review, but should be in a state to be shared with the membership very soon.   They should give us a solid basis on which to proceed, and if they still aren’t feeling quite right then they can be revised further.

The break in momentum for the last few weeks has been quite painful, but was very necessary, I think.   The EEA was brought to life in record time, and the level of interest has been astonishing.   Going from nothing to having a 100+ company organization within a few months is really hard.

The aim of this downtime and seeming inaction has been to ensure that we have the structure in place such that all EEA members can get involved and productive moving forward.   If you have felt unsure, or excluded, or confused by the EEA to this point, I would like to extend my apologies to you.   I will try to blog regularly from this point onwards.

The Technical Steering Committee should be rebooted within a week or two.   We should also have more Working Groups in an active state, and have clear processes for our members to get involved and help driving this cruise-liner towards our mutual goals.

The Technical Mailing List is the best way to communicate between ourselves.    I would still encourage members to introduce themselves and their interests there.   Even in the absence of organizational clarity, please don’t stop talking!

The following technical working groups exist in an early form and will soon be relaunched with clear charters and defined goals:

  • Consensus Algorithms WG
  • Identity WG
  • geth and Quorum WG
  • Python Client WG
  • Integration and Tools WG

We have also identified that we will need to launch working groups on at least the following additional topics:

  • Data Privacy WG
  • Access Controls WG
  • Documentation and Specifications WG

There are plenty of other working group proposals floating around too – though many of them related to specific industry verticals or problem spaces, so I won’t list them all here.

I am always happy to talk to anybody, so if you are an EEA member (or EEA prospective member) with questions, please feel free to contact me at bob@summerwill.net, or https://twitter.com/bobsummerwill or https://linkedin.com/in/bobsummerwill.

Here are links to our Confluence site and to the main website.

EEA Technical Working Groups Need YOU!

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The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) has a number of technical working groups (WGs) already in motion:

Self-organizing working groups are intended as the primary mechanism for members to contribute to the EEA.    There were 30 member companies at launch, and it appears likely that number will grow rapidly in the coming months.   It is impractical for every company to be represented on the primary committees without those bodies becoming unwieldy and ineffective.

HOWEVER, there are numerous topics where coordination within working groups would be very beneficial, and much of this work can happen in parallel.  This breadth of effort should allow us to take advantage of the scale of talent and resourcing available across our collective membership without getting bottlenecked.

If you haven’t got involved in any of the working groups yet, the best place to start is by joining the Technical Mailing List, which is acting as the “lobby” for the working groups.

Please introduce yourself and share your interests.   Better yet, offer to create and lead new working groups where you see a need.    We don’t have heavyweight process.   The most important thing is for the conversation to get started.   There is a suggested template to help clarify scope.  There are Confluence pages for each group here.    You do not need anybody’s permission to create a new sub-group.

The intention of the EEA is not to dictate any kind of top-down structure, but for members to self-organize around their key requirements and needs, and for those groups to make concrete proposals which then filter upwards to define our standards and best practices.    With that caveat in mind, here are some possible Working Group ideas which have been raised in the past and might make sense:

  • Benchmarking
  • Testing
  • Architecture
  • Security
  • Cryptography
  • IoT
  • Best practices
  • Interoperability
  • Requirements and use-cases
  • [Bring your own suggestions]

So please do jump in and help!   Many thanks.