You might have seen Bend’s Matthew Gregory pitch his idea for a blockchain-based startup that creates a registry for IoT devices during the runup to the Bend Venture Conference. Well, while the rest of us have been reading Buzzfeed and eating Christmas cookies (OK just me), Matt has been readying to launch his startup, Ockam.
We caught up with Matt late last month to learn more about his company and its progress. We’ll dig into what Ockam actually is in a minute. But first, Matt’s recent news to note: He hopes to hire 20 engineers this year. All in Bend? Probably not, but he’s certainly open to local talent.
Creating a device registry
Ockam aims to be a blockchain-based registry for connected devices. The idea is to use the machine-to-machine trust established by blockchain technology to improve the interoperability of IoT devices. Right now, brands operate within their own ecosystems, which is good for security, but frustrating if you’re trying to get devices to work together.
Matt, an engineer who has built open source developer ecosystems for Salesforce, Weather Underground and Microsoft, had the idea for Ockam while trying to turn his house into an IoT mecca with everything from his blinds to his porch lights automated and connected.
Turns out, it wasn’t actually possible because all these devices don’t communicate with each other. Ockam attempts to solve this by providing devices with a trusted identity on the blockchain. “Because the blockchain is decentralized, all device brands can come together to create a single connected device ecosystem that is secure, interoperable, and scaleable,” the Ockam website explains.
(Side note: After talking with Matt, I actually ordered this book because I realized I needed to do some learning). The takeaway here is that Matt’s idea is a big one. He wants to create the predominant registry for devices, which requires among many things determining a finite number of device tokens to issue, and then convincing manufacturers and brands that they should register their devices to the Ockam network.
“What we’re trying to do is exceptionally difficult,” Matt says. But he believes they have a pretty good head start, as well as some good buy-in from potential early adopters.
A token sale
Build a giant decentralized network. Hire two dozen engineers. Sounds expensive? Yep. But one of the more interesting things about Ockam is how Matt plans to fund it. He’s banking on a pre-sale of tokens, the blockchain’s operational fuel, to investors and manufacturers. “The token sales model is part of the mechanism that democratizes the Ockam Blockchain network to anyone that wants to participate in it,” Matt says. He estimates such a sale could raise $100+ million. That’s a lot of money.
I noted this astute observation to Matt, who pointed out that the token sale is essentially a one-time event that capitalizes his company. Once the tokens are out in the world, Ockam doesn’t make money from them—though others most certainly can. This is because the Ockam Blockchain will ultimately be decentralized and owned by it’s token holders. The role of Ockam Inc, however, is to build the registry and sell ancillary software that allows devices to exchange data across the Ockam Blockchain–all of which increases adoption for the underlying blockchain network, Matt says.
Ockam has retained a law firm to ensure that their token sale is above board as far as U.S. regulators are concerned. “We want to be the poster child for how to do this right,” he says. They also plan to release a lengthy white paper on January 16th to explain more in depth how Ockam Blockchain works and the potential for a device registry to improve the IoT experience for everyone.
Back to the bay?
Matt moved to Bend in 2013, after working as an engineer in the Bay Area. He bought a home, and has been tearing up the mountain bike trails in his off time. But he notes that Ockam may take him back to San Francisco sooner rather than later. In part to find enough engineers to turn his idea into reality.
“We’ll basically need to onboard two engineers a month, starting in February,” he says. In meantime, reach out to Matt at [email protected] if you’re interested in learning more about his open positions. And we’ll keep you posted on Ockam’s progress in 2018.
You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].