An interview with Chris Obdam, CEO Betty Blocks.
When Blockchain first appeared on the tech radar, it was heavily associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. We know now that this was just the tip of the iceberg for the new technology. Since Blockchain’s inception, the brightest and most disruptive minds from around the world have started to unlock its potential as a groundbreaking security solution. Not just for online currencies, but any data transmission and validation imaginable.
More than 10 years later, Blockchain is still something of a mystery to most non-IT professionals. So what exactly is the value of Blockchain for businesses? And what technologies are available to help companies adopt this groundbreaking, disruptive security solution?
To answer these questions, we caught up with CEO and co-founder of Betty Blocks, Chris Obdam. He explained Blockchain and how no-code application development platforms can help businesses implement it easily, without the expense of employing specialised software developers.
1. What is the value of Blockchain?
Blockchain is a distributed ledger system which has a clear and simple benefit. It allows people to work together, share information, create contracts, and make transactions securely. Everything created (such as transaction data) is done outside of privatized, central systems and stored in a distributed system, the Blockchain. Unlike most technologies, Blockchain requires multiple parties’ permission to create, edit or move information.
For people like you and me (or even businesses), information is a private and valuable asset. Knowing data is secure gives real peace-of-mind to individuals and is an essential factor for businesses to work together. Blockchain technology and the security it offers and can be an essential factor in winning collaboration.
As a side note: Until Blockchain technology became available, the market for centralised contract systems was owned by just a few players – a near monopoly. Blockchain technology disrupts that entirely. Taking advantage of it enables businesses to bypass the restrictive practices (and sometimes high prices) of powerful market players.
2. What are some of the challenges of incorporating Blockchain?
The real challenge right now is that people don’t fully understand what Blockchain is and how to apply it. People seem to have this idea that Blockchain is a complex series of algorithms and technology barriers which make it difficult to connect with existing processes. But it is in fact simply a new and better tool in your development team’s toolbox. Companies that fail to consider it are simply hanging on to the old way of doing things and risk falling behind the competition. Implementing Blockchain is where a no-code platform can come into play to simplify and speed the process.
3. What are no-code development platforms and how can they help?
No-code platforms enable anyone to contribute to software development without writing a single line of code. Instead of hand-coding, non-IT professionals create applications using a visual interface and pre-fabricated code segments (or modules). Ultimately, the goal of no-code is to remove the technology barrier of programming languages and allow anyone to contribute to innovation efforts.
When it comes to Blockchain, people need to understand that creating the software is the smallest piece of the project. Technical setup only has to be done once. Your user interface, back-end, and logical flows are the more time-consuming aspects.
The advantage of using a no-code platform is that the ‘technical’ setup will already be available to your developers. Meaning your focus can be entirely on delivering the best possible result for your end-users.
4. How can the banking industry benefit from no-code platforms?
We all know that the traditional banking sector is under constant pressure from new digital players. Both private and business customers expect better services on all fronts, including via digital platforms and they absolutely expect total security. Fail to meet these ever increasing expectations and your customers can easily switch to another provider.
Given their huge demand for new digital processes, Banks have had to radically change their approach to software development. They have had to become highly innovative and fast to market with new digital services. So when it comes to software, many have turned parts of their development strategy over to rapid innovation teams who build applications using no-code platforms instead of via traditional coding. Firms that are able to design, test and launch new services in weeks instead of the many months it took just a few years ago; are gaining customers from their slower rivals.
5. When can we expect the first no-code built applications to incorporate Blockchain?
Blockchain technology already exists in no-code platforms today. It’s a pre-built ‘drag and drop’ feature which a developer can add to an application’s workflow. So it isn’t exactly a matter of when, but where Blockchain will be used within a no-code application on a large scale. You could start building an application that incorporates Blockchain today.
Blockchain is here to stay and it’s important to get your head around it. You can easily incorporate it into your new applications if you take a no-code development approach. If you need any help, do reach out to us at Betty Blocks.
HOW NEW TECH START-UP IS SHAKING UP THE IT CONTRACT MARKET
Neil How, CEO and Co-founder, ten80
1. What is ten80?
ten80 enables cost savings on SAP/software projects by an average of 43%. We do this by switching companies to an on-demand workforce – think Uber and how that has disrupted the taxi industry.
The ten80 marketplace connects companies with around 47,000 verified contractors, using algorithms to match companies with the very best experts that then deliver on projects remotely. This enables SAP customers to utilise a global workforce and break free from geographical borders, as well as take advantage of international market rates. In other words, it gives them the exact resources, when they want them, for however long they need them for and at a cost-effective price.
2. How did the idea of ten80 come about?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with SAP my entire career. My journey first started at the end-user side. I ran my first SAP implementation project in my early twenties and went on to form an SAP Centre of Excellence to allow for long term improvement.
Over the next six years, I ran three other major change programmes before joining the consulting world, and for the next 10 years I worked with various consultancies running numerous projects in a wide variety of sectors, including retail, utilities, banking public sector and government.
But having spent time working both end-user side and consulting side, it became clear that SAP clients were struggling to access the best in class consultants and contractors. Wanting to get this knowledge into the wider world, ten80 was formed to digitally link the global contracting workforce to a global customer base, while allowing clients to digitally access the ‘best in world’ not the ‘best in organisation’.
3. ten80 is solving business problems, but how is it helping contractors?
Consistency of regular work is becoming a challenge for many contractors, and the impact of ‘dead time’ becoming more severe and likely. This is made worse through an ever increasing pool of expert contractors.
In addition, selling time for money is not a sustainable model for financial freedom, and contractors are tired of being capped at an ever decreasing day rate. Contracting also puts a huge pressure on family life, especially if you have to be on-site away from home — missing out on time with family and loved ones is a huge drawback, and there is little work life balance.
With ten80, contractors can benefit from the following:
- An ‘always on’ demand for work
- The ability to sell their knowledge and capabilities rather than a day of their time
- Being able to carry out their role wherever in the world at any time, with total bulletproof security
4. What are the main challenges for your business?
ten80 is operating in a completely new area — outcomes-based delivery, so not being able to be ‘put’ us in a specific vendor box type is a challenge. Often corporate organisation’s procurement processes want to categorise us as a systems integrator or recruiter, but we are neither.
Being the first to market is always hard. We are offering some really powerful benefits to businesses and contractors, but we have no one to follow and are learning at every step of the way. There is a great saying that I have always believed in – “Success leaves footprints.” The big difference with ten80 is that we are making them! We are running agile processes on each stage of our journey. Everything is tested, iterated, refined, repeated. It’s the curse of being the first, but actually embedding continual improvement into our business has been one of our rocks of success.
Another challenge has also been controlling deal size. Big corporates have latched onto the benefits of what we are offering and are immediately referring us globally. It’s great but can quickly escalate and then take longer to close.
5. What’s next for ten80?
Our focus/goal is to secure a major investment over the next six months. That’s the first ticket to the major league and will give us the potential to grow to 150 people and some pretty big numbers revenue wise. We are entertaining some pretty important investment houses and are looking forward to one of them closing.
Running alongside that we have some really amazing companies in our pipeline, and I am looking forward to welcoming them onto our platform.
GOING FOR INVESTMENT IN CENTRAL EUROPE: START-UP LIFE OUTSIDE A TRADITIONAL TECH HUB
A Q&A with Bence Jendruszak, Co-founder and COO at SEON
- At what stage did you realise you were going to need an investor onboard?
During the early stages of the development (when completing our minimum viable product), we managed secure a Central European payment gateway in order to start using our system (free of charge). From this point on our product development was user feedback driven. It was at this stage, that we realised that our product has gained enough proof of concept, that we were ready to pitch the idea to investors.
- How important was the investment to getting your business to the current point?
Our pre-seed investment (50k EUR in January of 2017) was the initial kick-start to arriving to the current point. That micro-investment allowed myself and Tamas (Co-founder and CEO or SEON) to start working on the project full time and also to scale up the development team (from freelancers to full time programmers).
- How did you start the process of looking for an investor?
We started by setting up our very first pitch deck. Of course, a lot of market analysis and USP shaping went into this. Once we had our first deck, we started contacting investors and started pitching the project to them. That specific pitch deck was very different to what the current version looks like.
- Were you aware of the challenges you could potentially face as a tech start-up in CE?
We were very well aware of the challenges. The European investment mentality is different than that of the US investment mentality, for example. Investors tend to be more conservative in the EU. Now imagine what the investment mentality may be like in the CE region. Nevertheless, we were also aware of the advantages of setting up a tech start-up in the CE region. The talent pool of
engineers and the cost of labour is by far the best in our home-turf – so the challenge was worthwhile.
- What was your journey to finding an investor like? Challenges / milestones?
Initially, we were faced with multiple unacceptable deals. The terms and conditions weren’t right for us in the long term. We were always aware that in order to build an international start-up (that would later develop into a scale-up), we had to on-board investors that we were fully comfortable to cooperate with – and vice versa. We needed to be on the same page and have a shared vision for SEON’s future.
- How did you find your lead investor, Portfolion? What else do they offer in addition to financial investment? (international network etc.)
We met them by introduction from an acquaintance. Portfolion is a well renowned VC in the CE region. They seemed like a partner that we could on-board into our boat and we could steer the ship together with them. They are the subsidiary of OTP Bank, one of the largest banks in the CE region. A potential gateway to partnering with a major bank seemed like a mutually beneficial setup. Aside from receiving a financial investment from the fintech fund of Portfolion, we can happily say that we are providing our fraud prevention services to OTP Bank as of today.
- What have you learned about the investor landscape in CE?
We found out that European investors are even more sceptical when it comes to CEE countries. They tend to avoid start-ups that aren’t located in hubs like Berlin or London. For them, Hungary is still seen as a former Eastern bloc country playing catch up with the rest of Europe in terms of living standards and infrastructure.
That said, there are a lot of investors in the region, but you really have to focus on getting in touch with the right organization. Onboarding an investor is a long-term partnership, there has to be a fundamental alignment in terms of the vision and mission of the two teams. We believe that we’ve managed to partner with investors who share the same vision and mission as us (up to date).
- What role will investment play in the next growth stage of the SEON?
The next growth stage is focused on international expansion. We will be seeking an investor that can provide not only funds, but also somebody that has a solid portfolio of fintech companies and a partner network of financial institutions.
- Do you have any advice for other businesses in your position that are looking for funding in the CE region?
Do not rush into any deal that is in front of you, time is on your side. If you are in an early stage, make sure to approach as many investors as possible, in order to be able benchmark each opportunity.
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