PrimaBlock is a blockchain platform for pooling funds on Ethereum. PrimaBlock’s smart contracts allow gathering Ether from many people to participate in an ICO.

What is your background (professional and education)?

I went to Carnegie Mellon University, a college located on the east coast of the US, where I studied computer science. During my studies, I did a few internships: one at Salesforce and another at Microsoft.

After my graduation, I moved to San Francisco where I worked at Yelp for two years. I was part of the team responsible for a variety of user-facing features on the website. My work touched on both the frontend and the backend but I preferred doing backend work.

After two years there I wanted to try living abroad to discover a new place and I was also interested in working on a new product. At that time I was using Spotify a lot, so I decided to apply to work for Spotify at their headquarters in Stockholm.

Had you been to Sweden before?

After completing the interviews I went to visit Stockholm for two weeks to see if I could live there and I liked it!

 

At Spotify, I focused on backend development. I worked on the notifications system which was responsible for delivering email and push notifications, as well as notifications inside the application itself. An example of the type of notifications we delivered is, when a new album was released, we’d notify users who liked the band which produced the album about the release.

After spending some time on the notifications system, I moved on to working on an analytics platform for people who create podcasts. A lot of people do not know this but you can listen to podcasts in addition to music on Spotify. We had an application for podcasts creators so they can see information like, the demographics of their listeners and which of their episodes were popular.

My last project at Spotify was working on some backend systems related to launching Spotify in new markets. The software I worked on was used to help launch Spotify in Japan.

 

After Spotify, I worked at Trello for two years. I worked on a lot of different features mostly on the infrastructure side. One of the longer projects I worked on involved adding mechanisms in place so that people would not abuse Trello’s API. We did not want a few people to overwhelm Trello’s backend and make it a poor experience for everybody else.

Why did you leave Spotify?

I was looking for a different workplace setting. I was interested in traveling and I liked the idea of working remotely.

Actually, it was interesting how I got to work at Trello. One of the original founders of Trello, Joel Spolsky, wrote a blog on software development called “Joel on Software.” It was really popular among programmers and I read it a lot when I was learning about programming in high school. I continued reading it through university as well.

Joel had a lot of cool ideas on how to run a software company. His description of Fog Creek (the company which started Trello) seemed like the ideal place for a software developer. I never would have thought that, ten years after I started reading “Joel on Software,” I would be working at one of the companies Joel started! I really enjoyed my time at Trello. They have a great culture and I learned a lot about working remotely.

But deep down you always wanted to become an entrepreneur?

I lived two years in San Francisco and worked as a developer there so I was exposed to a lot of startup clichés. In San Francisco, you can go anywhere and find someone pitching a startup to you. I always thought, “why does the world need another startup?” To be honest, I never thought I would do one.

So how did you get here?

Last year I listened to a podcast which covered the topic of smart contracts. I found it to be super interesting. It was a two and a half hour long podcast and I even listened to it a few times again.

Later, I did a bit of a reading on how smart contracts work in practice and, coincidentally, my friend, Rolando, told me that he was in this telegram group consisting of cryptocurrency enthusiasts. He suggested I join and I did!

It turned out that Mickael was in the telegram group as well; we were actually the only 2 developers there. In this telegram group, I started to learn about ICOs for the first time. I was observing how people were participating in presales and it seemed obvious that a smart contract could be used to improve the workflow.

This telegram group became your first users?

I had been thinking about smart contracts for a while at that point and I was really excited to be able to apply what I was learning. I told the members of the telegram group that I wanted to work on a smart contract to help with their presales. I worked on the smart contract in my spare time. I spent a lot of time thinking about different use cases and failure scenarios to make sure that nothing could go wrong.

Was this the beginning of PrimaBlock?

It started out as a passion project to explore smart contracts. Then, I realized it was very difficult to use these smart contracts in their current form. There would need to be a UI, otherwise, it was very tough for non-technical people.

I asked Rolando who is a designer if he wanted to help with the design but neither Rolando nor I knew how to do frontend development. We ended up releasing a super barebones version without a UI. To my surprise, the smart contract was used to raise around a million dollars in ETH.

 

Mickael actually participated in that first deal and he told me he was interested in helping us with the UI. Mickael came on board and he worked tremendously hard. He completed the frontend and most of the initial backend on his own despite not being a frontend developer himself! Mickael’s experience is more on the backend side but he has a very broad skillset.

And then you founded PrimaBlock?

PrimaBlock became a company a few months later once it started to get a lot of traction.

Do you regret your attitude towards startup from before? Do you wish you could have created a startup earlier in your career?

Every project is unique. I’m very attached to PrimaBlock; I think I have an irrational devotion to this project. I wouldn’t be able to produce the same energy for something else unless it captured my passion in a way that PrimaBlock has.

 

It’s good that I’m able to work on something like PrimaBlock now after accumulating so much experience elsewhere. I would not be able to do as good of a job if I had started working on PrimaBlock right after university.

 

I would like to go beyond pooling for ICOs and to offer access to all types of financial services to as wide of an audience as possible.

What were you the most passionate about this project? Why did you continue?

When I was working at other companies I never had much direct interaction with the people using the software I helped write. There was the tech department and the customer support department. Working on PrimaBlock was the first time I was participating in every role spanning from development to production to customer service.

After we launched PrimaBlock as a web application, whenever somebody had trouble using it, I couldn’t stop myself from trying to make sure they got the help they needed. If anybody had a question I saw it as an obligation that we had to provide good customer service. As I mentioned before, Mickael and I are both irrationally driven to make sure everyone has a good experience.

It’s often the case with cryptocurrency exchanges that, when someone sends a support request, it never gets answered adequately. We will do our best to make sure that never happens at PrimaBlock.  

Looking back, who was the person that inspired you the most?

I had a really good computer science teacher when I was learning programming as a 16-year-old in high school. Thanks to him I got started on this career path.

What has been the biggest surprise?

I am always surprised by how many people are using PrimaBlock and the amount of impact that we have had on ICOs and syndicates. When I was working on the original smart contract for my telegram group, I never would have thought that it would lead to having one of the most popular apps on the Ethereum network.

What is your vision for PrimaBlock?

This is something we are still thinking about. The most important thing is figuring out what people want to do and making sure that we build something for these needs. But I would like to go beyond pooling for ICOs and to offer access to all types of financial services to as wide of an audience as possible.

What will determine Primablock’s success in the future?

Mickael and I have done a good job bringing PrimaBlock up to where it is now. Whether we can take it to the next level depends on the people we bring into the company. It’s going to be a collective effort. We have to make sure we have a great team, a really motivated one, who can take ownership and feel as attached to the project as Mickael and I do.
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