Bill Ottman is Co-Founder and CEO of Minds, an open-source social network that leverages blockchain. The social network provides a censorship-resistant, transparent communication platform with more than 1.25M registered users. Minds has just raised $6 million in Series A funding. The investor was Medici Ventures, a blockchain subsidiary of Overstock.com. In addition to the funding, Patrick M. Byrne, founder and CEO of Overstock.com has joined Minds’ board of directors. In this interview, we hear from Bill Ottman about building a team, integrating blockchain, allocating resources, entrepreneurial routines and how the Minds platform works.
Please tell us about Minds. How does the ecosystem work? What makes it different from other social/communication platforms?
Minds is a crypto social network where users earn or purchase tokens and can use them for advertising, digital content subscriptions, and other premium services. We invert the model of traditional social platforms by focusing on transparency, privacy, decentralization, and Internet freedom.
Do you remember when you first had the idea? What inspired you to actualize it?
Our minds are a network. So Minds is a social network to facilitate and amplify the communication of ideas sustainably and ethically (as opposed to the mainstream extractive model of big tech). Traditional social nets are centralized, secretive, surveillance-based, and manipulative. Minds is fully transparent, encrypted, reward-based, and on the path to decentralization. I’ve always known there was an inevitability to an open network rising to the mainstream and the abuses of Facebook and friends certainly fueled the inspiration.
How did you begin allocating resources to build your team? How did you prioritize?
Engineering has always been core along with creative viral marketing and partnerships with influencers who align with our philosophy. The product should really get to a point where it works for itself. That’s the beauty of smart contracts and well-designed code/reward systems.
What led you to integrating blockchain and tokens into the Minds platform?
We launched a non-blockchain digital point system in 2015 where users would earn for activity and could then utilize on the network for more exposure, tips, etc. Over time we found there could be numerous benefits to shifting to blockchain such as greater transparency and security. It also supports our decentralization ethos. The more autonomous and trustless, the better.
What are some highlights so far?
We’ve been consistently in the top 25 ETH dapps, which doesn’t even account for our off-chain transaction volume. We are serving around 75 million ad impressions that users have received by using tokens.
Do you have a daily routine or things you do every single day? If so, please tell us more.
We do daily stand-ups ad nauseum! We are deeply synchronized with the community of over 1 million users and constantly seeking to understand the consensus on what’s most important to build next through analytics and community forums.
Are there any unique legal challenges related to your business that you feel comfortable sharing?
Many things, from content policy to crypto regulations to managing a large-cap table. These are some of the most difficult yet stimulating aspects of our company.
Do you have any advice to share with other entrepreneurs with regards to growing a brand or business?
- Build something that puts equal attention into your philosophy and principles (eg transparency, privacy, free speech) while simultaneously hitting the human nature nerve (eg. incentives rewards, viral reach).
- Keep the branding clean and open for evolution. We have made a few small pivots and that wouldn’t be possible without a brand/domain that was too limited in language.
- Control your tools. Use as much open source software as possible and don’t cave to the convenience temptation for aspects of the product that matter. For instance, everyone who used Facebook login on their apps just decimated their user’s privacy in the recent hack of 50m accounts. Reliance on major tech companies for your infrastructure is high-risk.
What about advice for an existing business that is considering implementing blockchain technology?
Start with the use-case and have a real product that people use. Don’t follow the buzz for the sake of it. There are many decentralization tools other than blockchain that are better for certain tasks, so make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons!