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Me walking through Sahara desert in 2016

Whenever I present about BlockParty at events, people ask me “What do you do besides working on BlockParty?”. When I say I work in an insurance company, there are three types of responses.

  1. Oh, I am sorry to hear that (implying it must be boring)
  2. Are you working on PoC?
  3. Why the hell are you still not working 100 % on Blockchain?

Oh, I am sorry to hear that (implying it must be boring)

I have been happy working at my current company called Simply Business for the last three years. The company has been in business for about 15 years, which is still new compared to all other insurance companies with over 100s years of history. Our company prides itself to be one of disrupters in the UK online insurance market and the recent acquisition by US insurance giant Travelers group is known as “UK InsureTech success story” in our industry.

It is not just work which is great but also our culture. Our company won “Best company to work for “ award in two successive years, and recently certified as BCorp company, which is usually given to companies that meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

We have Yoga lessons in office twice a week and there’s always plenty of donuts in the kitchen. What can I complain about my work environment?

Are you working on PoC?

Our company is very supportive of my interests in the blockchain space. That’s why I have been hosting “CodeUp” Ethereum study group in our office for nearly two years (in fact, I started the study group as charity events for our company fund raising adventure trip to Sahara desert).

After prototyping BlockParty during our hackathon, our internal slack channel #blockparty remained as a channel to discuss about various blockchain use cases. We have brainstormed a couple of ideas but hard to come up with something really useful to our customers. Our website allows users to compare different insurance quotes just like any comparison sites. The big difference is that we actually sell insurance policies(as compared to redirecting to the insurer page). In one sense we are the middle man which many blockchain companies suppose to disrupt. If our customers and insurers trust us , what do we gain by replacing our internal database with blockchain? The real power of blockchain is for enabling different organisations to collaborate together. This idea led me to pitch to my company that we host a Blockchian + insurance hackathon called #breaktheblock.

I had support from over 10 colleagues from our company plus 4 members from our new parent company Travelers (all the way from USA) and welcomed our participants to our new office back in July 2017.

Did we take ideas from any of the hackathon results? No, but that’s not the point. Our point was to encourage collaboration between blockchain developers and insurance professionals and to spark new ideas. I took this point very seriously so that we made it clear that all the hackathon results were to be made open source (some participants argued against though). I followed the very successful model of status.im global hackathon where hackathon submission was done through Github issues and pull requests. I also forked all the submission results so that they stay forever (even after the original authors decide to delete the repo). I heard that a couple of people carried on their hackathon ideas even after the hackathon which I am very proud of.

I’ve presented our hackathon result at D1Conf(Decentralised Insurance Conf) which you can watch here.

Why the hell are you still not working 100 % on Blockchain?

This is a tweet during DevCon2 when I hosted a so called “Smart contract security hackathon” with Manuel Araoz from OpenZeppelin.

You can also see Maurelian who is now at Consensys diligence team and known for his “Ethereum Smart contract security best practices”. @loi_luu was at that time presenting his smart contract security tool called Oyente, but now known for the decentralised exchange KyberNetwork.

When I was at DevCon2 conference in the summary of 2016, there weren’t many people working on blockchain as a full time. However, when I reunited with some of them at Edcon (predecessor of Ethereum community conference) in Feb 2017, they started getting jobs from blockchain companies.

By the time I went to DevCon3 in November 2017, many developers in the conference were working on blockchain companies.

Even just a blockchain enthusiast like me started getting enquiries for smart contract security auditing works. Thanks to the appreciation of Ether and ICO rushes, blockchain industry now has tremendous amount of funding but looks like in a severe shortage of blockchain developers. Two years of experience is usually counted as beginners/mid level in most programming languages, but people somehow started seeing me as an expert in this field. I may still have a bit of edge by working on BlockParty but people who already immersed themselves 100 % in the space are far ahead of me. It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with the latest tools, ideas, and techniques while balancing time to work on BlockParty as well as doing a few auditing works all during evening and weekend .

Because I can spend so little time on BlockParty, I am always very cautious of making changes to the smart contract and expanding the number of participants (the more deposit at stake, the more risk it becomes). It is actually quite upsetting that I have to turn down offers from other people interested in using BlockParty at their meetups.

The new chapter

Even though the whole blockchain space is in such a bubble and it may burst tomorrow, it’s undeniable that it is such an exciting space to work on. For that reason, I made a decision to leave my lovely and comfortable employer and dive myself 100 % into the blockchain space.

My first blockchain gig is to work on ENS which I am very excited about.

For the longer term, I am working on an arrangement to be able to spend more time on BlockParty so stay tuned!

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