Episode 98

Architecting integrity: Block.one transforms blockchain technology with Google Cloud and SADA

  • Tony Safoian

    CEO, SADA

  • David Carter

    Head of Technical Services, Global, Block.one

Episode 100 of Cloud N Clear starring SADA customer, Block.one. A software publisher specializing in high-performance blockchain technologies that help to build a more secure and connected world. Their mission is to provide technology and products that enable trust in transactions, transparency in systems, and efficiency in how our world works. Tony Safoian, CEO at SADA is back to host this very special anniversary episode with guest David Carter, Head of Technical Services at Block.one. Topics will include SADA’s project management organization, how it helped Block.one drive results when migrating to the Google Cloud Platform, and the partnership with Google Cloud has given Block.one a tremendous ability to evolve blockchain technology with the help of SADA.

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Transcript

Tony Safoian [00:00:46] All right, welcome to those Cloud N Clear episodes I really, truly, truly love, because they feature customers and their leaders and their stories around what they’re doing in the market that’s so transformational, but also how they’re doing it with Google Cloud. And with that, please welcome David Carter, head of technical services at Block.one. Welcome to Cloud N Clear, David.

David Carter [00:01:13] Hi, thanks for having me.

Tony Safoian [00:01:15] We love Block.one. We love that story, we love the company. But before we get into all the things that you’re doing that are, you know, very impactful globally on blockchain and everything else. You know, it’s so funny that apparently, a peer of both of ours, a friend in Eco-System insists that you and I met many years ago.

David Carter [00:01:38] Yeah. So our friends at The Channel Company, I’ve worked with them many times over the years and they insisted that we’ve definitely been together in board presentations. And my suspicion is, is that that is highly likely to be true. Just by virtue of the fact that both of our circles have overlapped, I think, multiple times over the years. And in fact, I have worked with SADA in the past, previous to your exclusive relationship with Google when you guys still had a practice that was connected to Azure. We had worked with your team back then. And I’ll tell you, even back then, and it was many years ago. Gosh, I want to say like 2010, 2011. It was quite a few years ago. It was a good engagement. It went very well. So when your name came back up –

Tony Safoian [00:02:33] Great, oh my god.

David Carter [00:02:33] Yeah, it did. When your name came back up to us as a potential partner in our developing relationship with Google, it seemed like an easy yes. Or an easy opportunity to say yes and reconfirm that commitment.

Tony Safoian [00:02:51] And I feel like we’re much better now than in 2010, 2011. I think culturally there’s a lot of things about us saying, which is, you know, we obsess over customer outcomes, we’ll do anything to help customers be successful. But we haven’t had always the people, and the breadth, and the scale to always deliver on what we want, right? But it’s great to hear that even then when we were much, much, much smaller you had quite a good experience. But let’s talk about that career. The reason you say that we probably met is because you and I are very active. Just out there, you know, talking about the cause, being vocal and opinionated about various things. And so I want to kind of follow your career a little bit about how you ended up in this role at Block.one, which you would probably say is a very exciting assignment.

David Carter [00:03:39] Yeah, I definitely would. So the truth is, is that I’m an accidental IT guy. Like, I didn’t really intend to get into technology as a career path. I had this mentor early on who really wanted me to be focused, and rightly so. You know, his notion to me was that I needed to be focused on wicked problems, and that I was never going to be satisfied unless I was working on wicked problems. And so inevitably, those wicked problems led to the need to better understand how technology works in an evolving ecosystem of lots of businesses. And so my start in IT was back in the 90s. The color of this beard betrays my age a little bit. But I started working in technology back in the mid-90s. And back then the Internet was still such a young and sort of unknown, and maybe even in some cases unknowable, situation that we were – back then what we were trying to really do was figure out a mechanism by which – and this is true in all innovation. You know, most innovation is iterative. And what a lot of folks are trying to do is figure out how to do the exact same thing on the Internet that they were doing with phones and fax machines. And I was dissatisfied with that innately. And, you know, one of the things that really got me into the idea of solving wicked problems was an actual, what I would call a de-acquisition that I was working at, where we became an independent company apart from a much larger organization. And in the act of doing that, they said to us, hey, you’re running this ERP system that we own and we’re going to give you one year to keep using this. In 12 months, we’re cutting it off.

Tony Safoian [00:05:36] Wow. That’s not a lot of time to get off of an ERP, by the way.

David Carter [00:05:40] It was – and even back then, it was insane. It was definitely – and what made it even crazier is that we decided that what we were going to do is something revolutionary in terms of delivering service to our customers and clients. And so I was working at an extremely high-end custom kitchen cabinet manufacturer in their technology group. And we decided back in 1996, that we were going to design an order system that would allow a kitchen cabinet designer to build their kitchens in AutoCAD and press a button that would create a custom kitchen order on our manufacturing floor. Now, today, that doesn’t seem –

Tony Safoian [00:06:22] In ’96?

David Carter [00:06:23] Yeah, in 1996.

Tony Safoian [00:06:23] ’96?

David Carter [00:06:23] Oh yes.

Tony Safoian [00:06:27] You’re talking about like the beginnings of the Internet. Like I remember I got an email address from school in ’92, and our high school was super advanced. We had an IBM token ring network, everything was Unix-based on the back, and I had Pine, I believe, was like the email platform, maybe even before that. This was like – and then ’96 was like, maybe dialup was getting a little faster. This is like super early, David.

David Carter [00:07:03] Yeah, we really took a lot of risks. And the interesting irony is that a lot of those risks paid off. Because that tech has continued to evolve over the past 20 years and it’s still being used in some capacity amongst that group. It surprises me even now when I go back to that community and talk to them about this tech, they’re still using derivatives of that solution in the way they design their custom cabinetry. Even today. And that’s really kind of what sparked my like, oh my gosh we could really do interesting things, globally, that nobody has ever done before. And so, almost every one of my roles after that were really centered on, not so much like what I was called or what my title was, but am I getting to work on wicked problems that people actually care about solving? And I spent about a little over 10 years working directly in the public education space. And part of my motivation –

Tony Safoian [00:08:10] I find remarkable and interesting, because it’s such a different path. And knowing back where you are now. Like, tell me about that. Because that’s so unique, I think in someone in your position today to have done that.

David Carter [00:08:25] You mean like to start in manufacturing, then go into, like, public education?

Tony Safoian [00:08:32] To go from any private sector to education and back out.

David Carter [00:08:35] Yes. So it was – yeah so we had started a company in ’99 that was really centered on sort of like at the peak of sort of that dotcom boom initially. Where we were designing e-commerce and digital websites and spaces, in addition to data center construction which is really how I got further along into this industry, in support of small businesses and government clients. And so as we were preparing to divest that business and sell off our data centers and sell off our assets, you know, we were in the process of going through something of a merger there. One of my clients who was this school district asked me, like, would you be willing to come work with us and help us solve some of these issues that we’re having? And it was definitely different because I had already been part of the private industry, I had already been running in that space. And it seemed to me like, wow, this is a wicked problem. And the problems that the school districts were having back then, this is we’re talking early 2000s now, was that organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, were huge in funding school districts to help facilitate the acquisition of technology. And the initial theory, I believe, was that the installation of technology would lead to the usage of technology. And I think we’ve all known and proven now that that’s not actually true, but that wasn’t known at the time. And so the district that I went to work for had received several million dollars in grants for the acquisition of this tech and the distribution of this tech throughout the school district. And this is an urban district with a, you know, like a free reduced lunch rate of around 90 percent. So, I mean, it was definitely a district that needed some critical thinking about how to deliver technology to kids that wasn’t going to be both a wasted investment or a waste of time. And so I went to work with that group. I actually worked for a great mentor there, a gentleman by the name of Tim Fake. Who actually – he still does technology work at a place called the Milton Hershey School up in Pennsylvania. And he was a phenomenal teacher to me. He really gave me a lot of great insights into how to think about leadership and think about, you know, delivering solutions that our customers, which were really the teachers and the administration and the kids, would care about and take advantage of and use. And so it was this, it was really a journey through understanding how bureaucracies get aformed and then become what I would call rigid, and then how to proceed to break down that rigidity in order to bring innovation into a community that’s not necessarily designed for that. And whenever I look at the frustrations that I have for things taking too long or even now, when I think about the frustrations I have around how fast we can hire people or, you know, like how quickly we can bring on new tools, I look back at that time and I go like, know what? Nothing is as difficult or challenging as that was. And the truth is, is that a big part of that was my own personal ignorance. You know, I think had I known then what I know now, I probably would have approached a lot of those problems very differently. But the truth is, is that innovating inside of school districts has been extremely challenging. And what an interesting time that we’re in because school districts are now being forced to think about innovating the way technology is being delivered. And I’m super hopeful that, you know, sort of the intellectual capital that’s within that community really brings the best out in kids, because we need it. We absolutely do.

Tony Safoian [00:12:08] Yeah. I’ll tell you, schools are near and dear to my heart for many reasons. I think one is, of course, the cause of when you’re doing and providing services for K through 12. Which, by the way, early days of our Google relationship, we cut our teeth in three areas. One is ISPs, just global implementations of G Suite and Google Apps across massive ISPs globally. And then it was higher ed, but right after was K through 12. So, the Chicago Public Schools Project 10, 12 years ago was like one of the most meaningful – because it was the biggest implementation of Google for any K through 12 district, it’s the third biggest school district in the country to begin with. But you feel so good about the work that you’re doing. You’re like, oh my God I’m giving these kids the same tools that, like, the biggest enterprises have. Holy cow. We hope that it translates to democratization of access to technologies and information, and they get to learn these tools and skills that are transferable to university and work. But the other part that you pointed out was like, the frustration of trying to provide services inside of a highly politicized bureaucracy, was also sometimes very challenging.

David Carter [00:13:30] Yeah and I get how, you know, one of the things that I’ve sort of come to this conclusion about, just in general, is that because organizations are created by people they are also natural structures because we’re a part of nature. And in that sense, when an organism becomes a thing and it becomes a solid thing, it wants to defend itself. Naturally, it wants to defend itself. And one of the challenges that you run into is that – I think it’s Jim Keller who says this really well. He’s an innovator in the sort of Intel and AMD and chip-making space. And one of the things that he says quite a bit is that once you start the process towards order, it’s this inevitable train that just like never ends. And unless you’re purposeful about the introduction of innovation, because a lot of people attribute innovation with chaos. And I think there’s a fair sense towards that. I think it’s a fair association. But pressuring an organization towards chaos requires a purposeful intent and an insistence, and your insistence has to be much greater than the resistance. And so I really try to take those sentiments to heart. And in public school districts, the pressure towards order is built on the number of constituents that they have to satisfy. And in school districts, it’s the public, taxpayers, it’s business and community, it’s the parents, it’s the teacher.

Tony Safoian [00:15:03] Federal government, school board. All that stuff.

David Carter [00:15:03] Yes. Yeah, and so it’s really difficult. I never envy a superintendent, their role. Because of just the sheer number of individual differing expectations and demands from groups that they have to keep satisfied. It’s very hard to do.

Tony Safoian [00:15:21] Yeah. My first cousin who I grew up like sister and brother, we’re both only children a year apart. So we’re very close. She’s now a principal at a L.A. Unified School. And I remember years ago she was kind of in this and she was into like change management and all these other things that she was really good at. I was like, hey, come to the private sector, let’s do this. But she was like insisting on the cause, the mission. And I don’t know how she does it, but I know that the people that stick around and do are unique, and they’re gifts to the world. And they’re doing it because of the kids. And I just admire it greatly. I admire that population greatly.

David Carter [00:16:00] Yeah, totally agreed. And interestingly enough, like the thing that got me to leave working inside of public education and going back to the private sector was a relationship that I developed with Dell. In the late 2000s, early 2010s there was a pretty large-scale initiative. There was a recession occurring at the time and there was some extra funding that was being delivered to school districts, specifically. The district that I was leading at the time, from a technology perspective, we decided that we were going to work with a partner to try to really bring proper one-to-one computing to every kid in this district. And that required a whole lot of foundational construction. But we needed partners to work with to help us facilitate those efforts. And Dell came in and we brought in a lot of players. I mean, it wasn’t just Dell that we brought in. We brought in a lot of folks that really helped us get from here to there. But Dell was one of those partners that truly communicated an understanding of what it meant to deliver a meaningful education to a kid, using technology. And it was really a person at Dell, who is still there and I still admire greatly, who leads their education work. And he was really the foundation of our thinking about one-to-one computing and how to deliver proper one-to-one computing to kids. And I loved that mission so much that I wanted to be – like I could tell that he was working on a wicked problem. And so that’s what actually led me back to the private sector. When we started chatting so much about the kind of issues that school districts around the world have and how to innovate with not just technology, but really retraining the way educators think about using technology in the classroom. That was a worthwhile problem to solve. And so I went back to the private sector to work for Dell in their – It wasn’t just K-12. I mean, we did a lot of work in the higher ed space, I did do some work in the government space. But what was tricky back then was the fact that it was during a very brief window of time at Dell when Michael Dell was not the CEO. And, that was the Kevin Rollins era. And that was an interesting time at Dell. I know that, you know, I had a great time there, but there was a lot of folks that I respect a lot who definitely did not have as great of a time as I did. And it certainly led me to realize that their wicked problems were much more internally focused at that point in time than externally focused, like towards their customers. And while I had voice in that, I didn’t want to shift my focus of attention towards the internal, I really wanted to stay focused on solving problems for clients. And so I made this leap to the value-added reseller and the partner industry. And what I found there, again, was a whole bunch of what I would call centers of excellence. Around delivery, around talent, around security, around, you know, how to facilitate engagements. I mean to me, you know, one of the things that makes, frankly SADA special, is your project management organization is frankly phenomenal. And one of the things I’ve learned over the years is that great talent doesn’t matter if you can’t organize them well. And, yeah.

Tony Safoian [00:19:38] Oh my God. I’m so happy you’re talking about this. Because I get in trouble for this, but I really do put the PMO on a pedestal. Because – and everybody’s like engineering and engineering and engineers, yes, whatever, right? Sales gets a lot of attention because they, you know, without revenue we have nothing. But I’m like, yeah, and we need the best engineers, of course, but put the best engineers in a chaotic project, not only will it not succeed, I don’t care how good they are, but they will also probably quit.

David Carter [00:20:10] That’s it exactly. And that has been my exact experience. Like seeing what I would call poorly thought through project management has probably been one of the chief problems that I’ve had internally in any engagement that I’ve run through. Whether it’s developing software, whether it’s engaging in, you know, like physical construction of data centers, doesn’t matter. Great project management, it covers up a lot of sins. It covers up a lot of sins.

Tony Safoian [00:20:43] By the way, David, a lot of those sins, so to speak, are not even like – there’s just stuff that’s always going to go wrong, or unexpected or unplanned. Even if you’re perfect in the things you control, the uncontrollable will definitely try to knock things out of, you know, out of control, like towards chaos. But, you know, the thing that I admire about project managers, especially when you get to the kinds of engagement we have with you, but really any enterprise-level engagement – And you’re the vendor and you’ve been on the vendor side like the partner side, right, yourself? You know that we get blamed for everything.

David Carter [00:21:18] Oh, yeah.

Tony Safoian [00:21:20] Like, propensity.

David Carter [00:21:20] Oh yes.

Tony Safoian [00:21:21] Between Block.one, Google, and SADA, like if anything goes wrong it’s probably SADA’s fault, right? Is everybody’s default.

David Carter [00:21:29] That’s fair, that’s fair.

Tony Safoian [00:21:29] So we like have to be even better, right? But not only that, like project managers in every organization, internal, external, they have to control and manage a group of people and things they don’t have direct authority over. Even within SADA, they’re trying to manage and rally these folks outside of their own little PM group, which is most of the folks on a given project, they don’t report to them. And, they even have to be responsible for like your team’s work streams. They’ve got to make sure your team is doing what they’re supposed to do. And they definitely don’t – they’re not even in the same company! But they got to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. That is an amazing set of soft and hard skills. That is like, it’s a beautiful thing when it’s done right.

David Carter [00:22:14] It is a beautiful thing when it’s done right. And I want to call him out because he’s good and he did a great job. Patrick, on your project management team, in particular. He handled the fact that our internal project management systems and services are very different from your team’s project management systems and services. In fact, we actually took a couple of lessons away from your team and have incorporated them into our technical services work, too, because of what we had a chance to bear witness to. Because we have the same challenge where we don’t control many of the factors that enable our success, in terms of delivery. Like we are an internal vendor in technical services to our engineering and business community. And so we have to take that same sort of thinking that Patrick brought to the table with our projects, and make sure that A, we can encourage people to do things that we don’t control. And, that we all come to alignment on the output of an engagement and what we define as success for an engagement. And that skill is really hard to come by. And I got to say, in fact, Patrick is actually the second project manager we worked with originally working with Tony, and both of them were phenomenal. They both – like the handoff between the two of them was excellent. I could not have been happier about – I was nervous, I want to be honest with you. I was very nervous, but I could not have been happier.

Tony Safoian [00:23:41] Shout out to Patrick. We’ll tag him on this podcast because – and he helped me prep for this as well. Yeah, I mean, Sharif came in, consolidated our PMO. We had, you know, workspace team and a GCP team with their different practices. And again, we’re very self-critical. But we have the kind of metrics today that we haven’t had before, we’re building those out. NPS and CSAT are critical to us. Retention of customers, you know, recommits, next project. You know how it is, you’ve been on our side. And imagine now, well you were part of the team that decided to choose, you know, Google, right? And that’s not the easiest decision for every customer to make. And that’s you. Imagine like, a traditional enterprise who makes that decision. It’s not – nobody gets fired for buying AWS or Azure. Just you know, if you care about just preservation of your job just buy those. So anybody choosing this is taking a bold step. And so winning these customers is hard and it’s a lot of work. So once we win them, we have to keep them forever. Like our business model just breaks if customers don’t renew, or customers don’t buy more services. And so much of that depends on the PMO. It really does.

David Carter [00:25:00] Totally agree. I mean one of the biggest things that, from my perspective, really made the difference was the agreement and the delivered commitment on continuously managing our expectations. You know, like nobody hid from things that they couldn’t do. Nobody hid from things that they needed us to do. Everything was clear, everything was concise. And when there was a problem – and just like you described, like inevitably chaos starts to creep in as you start to do a project. There’s just things that you didn’t know were going to be there. And when they appear dealing with them is actually part of the professional expertise. And what I can say is that, you know, as our expectations are managed very consistently. You know, it gave me a heck of a lot of confidence. And actually, you know, I don’t mean to be self-congratulatory, but the reality is, is that we weren’t sure whether going the GCP route was going to work for us and we weren’t sure whether going the SADA route was going to work for us. Because like in anything, what you try to do is you try to get as much collective information as you possibly can. And like you described, like the ability to lose a customer is very compromised when you’re choosing to dedicate your relationship to the very cloud provider that is the smallest of the big three. And in those situations, there was a lot of risks that we were taking. But I think those risks were well-founded on not just a commitment from Google, but a commitment from you guys to be there for us when we needed you. And that has been true till now, and it’s true today as we’re dealing with situations right now. So I feel like that, yeah well the return on that investment for us is already proving great.

Tony Safoian [00:26:55] It’s not lost on us, the risk that customers take. And not companies or anything, but the people within our customers, the risks that they’re taking when they choose us. Like whether it’s perceived or real, we are – it is not lost on us. We’re like, oh my God, we got to make sure that not only David Carter doesn’t get fired, but we want him to get promoted. Like, that’s our view. And it’s pretty simple. But if we make sure that this decision is not only accepted but celebrated a year from now, six months from now, you know, we’ll be fine. Like we’re solving for that and then really everything else kind of models after that. I do want to pivot a little bit because I think Block.one as a company, as an organization, as an entity, is so freakin interesting. Right in the middle of what seems to be a complete transformation in terms of how people think about identity and authority and, you know, I think when anybody says the word blockchain, it’s sort of like anything that becomes sort of a meme gets lost in translation to begin with. But, I think you have generally two sets of people, ones that are like can’t stop talking about it because they feel like it is everything, right? And then people that are like, I have no idea what it is, I just know that, you know, apparently a bunch of people are making money on this crypto thing and now there’s like this other thing and, but like blockchains a different way of authorizing things. I don’t know. They’re like in that camp. So why don’t we hear from someone who’s actually doing the transforming?

David Carter [00:28:36] Sure.

Tony Safoian [00:28:36] And just tell us, like just start from the beginning. What’s Block.one? How did it get founded?

David Carter [00:28:43] Yeah. So Block.one is, or really was, an evolution of several earlier sort of blockchain ideas that were centered around this notion of like, transparent and democratic delivery of decision making. So like the notion of smart contracts, without the sort of – and I hate to even use the word traditional because let’s be honest, like Bitcoin wasn’t a thing 20 years ago. So, but one of the inherent challenges with engaging in some of the traditional styles of blockchain delivery was this notion of massive amounts of compute and really compute resources that, even today, are actually starting to cause real – like they’re starting to cause real problems. With power grids and with how we handle, you know, individual services and how we deal with the fact that these things are finite, particularly with Bitcoin, are finite endpoint resources. And so one of our founders was particularly interested in this notion of creating a distributed ledger technology that would allow stakeholders to both participate from a like, a proof of stake perspective, but more importantly, be able to create use cases that were way beyond cryptocurrency. I mean, the truth is, is that I fundamentally wish that cryptocurrency was not the first innovation in Blockchain. Because I think it’s actually clouded the abilities that blockchain inherently creates for customers and clients. So I’ll give you an example, like I think it was even showcased here recently. But, you know, there’s an EOS.IO project right now that’s centered on this notion of being able to properly track like commodities materials from their source all the way to their delivered endpoints. Food sources, all the way from like how those food sources were provisioned, how those food sources were given nutrients, all the way up to how it got into your food. And the ability to trace that material all the way to its source has real value. Particularly from a resource management perspective, from a logistics perspective. And that’s just like one idea of millions that are like way outside of cryptocurrency. I almost feel like, you know, cryptocurrency is this – it’s not nothing, it’s clearly an important concept. Because the truth is, is that the nature of the way that we think about money does need to evolve, I think. And I don’t think there’s an inherent problem with putting the control of the way we engage in commerce closer to the people who engage in the commerce, right? I don’t think there’s a problem with that. And I don’t think – neither does Block.one. So in that sense, our focus of attention at Block.one is building a set of technologies that allow enterprises, and individuals really, to create blockchain solutions that are performant, that are particularly fast, that are secure, and traceable. And in those sense, I do fundamentally believe that EOS.IO is among the best in the business. There are others out there that I think are interesting that are worth considering. I don’t think EOS.IO is going to be the only DLT out there that adds value. I think this notion that there’s going to be sort of like one blockchain to rule them all is a complete misnomer. I think ultimately what’s going to happen is just like we have a preponderance of database designs today in the sort of the traditional school SQL world, we’re going to have a preponderance of blockchain technologies that serve specific use cases and purposes that are going to be value in an individual point in time. And it might not always be EOS.IO, but one of the things that I think does make EOS.IO special is the fact that its ability to scale, from a transactions per second perspective, is not just proven but it’s being actively used. And that to me speaks well to the future of the kinds of work that we’re doing. So a lot of the focus of attention that we have today is on building products that prove solutions like EOS.IO are perfect for not just the enterprise, but any industrial work.

Tony Safoian [00:33:19] Hey, by the way, I also signed up for voice. Which I think is interesting, right? As I was researching this, I was like, oh, what do you mean? Like a platform in which people’s identity is like authenticated.

David Carter [00:33:35] That’s right.

Tony Safoian [00:33:35] So there’s not all this noise, and bots, and crap. And, you know people can be very bold when it’s all anonymous, you know.

David Carter [00:33:43] That’s right. Well I think there’s something else, too. Like one of the things that I find really interesting about the work that they’re doing is this notion of creating a platform where the actual content creators themselves have a whole lot more control over how their information gets used, taken advantage of, and how it can be monetized. You know, ultimately, content creators, you know, people who publish material need to make a living. And, sort of the fundamental vision behind voice is to give these content creators that voice and that control over how their content gets valued. And, gosh, that is such a separation.

Tony Safoian [00:34:24] That’s fantastic.

David Carter [00:34:24] Yeah, it is such a separation from, you know, some of the more traditional, you know, sort of media outlets. And I think the future in that –

Tony Safoian [00:34:33] Yeah, you have very limited choices today if you’re a content creator, of how to do it. One is you’re just going to make it free and, you know, you have ads-based kind of support, whatever. And then the other ones like great publications, like the information there’s a complete paywall, like this is how we do it. And we control all of our content, you know, we have our own editors and stuff doing stuff, own journalists. So I think there’s as far as, you know, opening up the gig economy in a safe way for content creators, journalists, authors, artists. Who knows? I think that’s – I’m excited to kind of get in there and check it out for myself. What would be some other really easy to understand, either customers or users of the platform, that you’re able to talk about?

David Carter [00:35:17] Sure. So there’s a company that we’ve been working with now that’s out in the open called Mythical Games. They’ve built a game that’s just been published. It’s an MMO that has EOS.IO as the underlying blockchain technology. And it’s a service that really allows individual users – I think the game is called Blankos Block Party. And I would call it, I’m probably going to get in trouble for saying this, but I would call it Minecraft meets MMOs with gamification. I mean, it’s a really interesting, fun game. Like, my children have been playing it and I’ve enjoyed spending time in there. And here’s – that individual use case, for the creation and construction of a game, wasn’t necessarily something that Block.one themselves had thought through or considered. But the community itself had started to engage in building these distributed applications that enabled this sort of tech. And what’s cool for them is that using EOS.IO affords them the ability to properly track the actual individual user’s journey through the game over time. And that’s, you know, an incredibly interesting use case for, you know, for a blockchain-style service, I think. You know and there’s –

Tony Safoian [00:36:36] And I’m sure that’s just the beginning, right? There’s a bunch of stuff you can’t talk about that’s going to, you know, it’s up and coming, which you warned me about so I’m not going to dig in. Are you able to talk about the broader I mean, it’s public on your own website, but the whole Google cloud and Block.one relationship? The broad relationship outside of like GCP, yes you’re GCP customer, but what’s the broader partnership mean?

David Carter [00:37:02] Yeah. So there’s really a couple of things that are going on here. So, you know, the first one obviously is a reciprocal relationship, where we’re taking advantage of GCP’s capabilities and skills, particularly in their confidential compute space. I mean, we think very, very highly of the nature of the need to secure, really blockchain solutions. And so Google’s been a great partner in helping us facilitate that work, particularly around their, you know, their AMD SEB tech underlying that. So that kind of stuff is extremely meaningful. So there was definitely a reciprocal relationship there where, you know, we had a chance to make an investment in our relationship with Google. And in exchange, you know, we get access to their product teams and the ability to work with them to better understand our use cases so that they can align their products to our needs. And that has already proven, you know, we’ve only been at this since October of 2020, as it stands. But even in these six months since we’ve started this, it’s already paying dividends for us, which we obviously want to see quick returns on those investments. And it’s now happening. But there is, like you said, there is a larger framework to the relationship. And one of the things that really motivated us to want to engage in a relationship with an organization like Google and GCP was this notion that blockchain tech does have that moniker that you were describing earlier, this sort of notion that it’s cryptocurrency and it’s about, you know, trying to do things that are apart from, you know, what we traditionally think of as the economy. When the reality is, is that blockchain tech has actually been around for substantially longer than we’ve been using it A, and B, the potential use cases for it are well beyond cryptocurrency. So what we wanted to do was to work with a partner who understood that value, who understood that there was going to be a future in blockchain tech that wasn’t just tied to cryptocurrency. And to engage them in getting an understanding of how this works, and us in getting a better understanding of how they work. And so part of what we’ve been doing with Google is working with them on them becoming an actual block producer for the EOS mainnet. And the beauty in that is that they get a chance to get educated into the difference between the way – because I think they are already doing this with Bitcoin and with Ethereum. But our tech does work substantially different than that. And so because of that, giving them a sense for how that functions and why it works the way it does helps them understand the differences between these bits of tech and the different use cases that this tech might bring with it. And so they’ve been great partners in helping to facilitate that onboarding for them becoming a block producer. And here’s a real truth. Having an organization like Google be a block producer brings the thought of this kind of idea to the mainstream. Like when you start seeing companies like Google, and Microsoft, and IBM, and Amazon, like these types of companies starting to engage in this style of work, it gets a whole lot of other – it starts knocking dominoes down.

Tony Safoian [00:40:23] Totally. Yeah. Has that mainstream effect, for sure.

David Carter [00:40:24] Yeah. That’s exactly right. And so getting a brand like Google to partner with us has value from that specific perspective. Like getting folks to understand that this is not just, you know, an idea for folks that are, you know, sort of behind the scenes. This is a concept that we need to think about very, very seriously. From how we facilitate voting in elections, to how we facilitate the tracing of equipment, and how we manage our finances. So there’s a lot of inherent capabilities of blockchain that just haven’t yet matured to the mainstream. And this is really, I believe, the first step in that journey.

Tony Safoian [00:41:11] And that they’re willing to talk about it publicly as well, like the partnership, you know? And I just on a strategic standpoint, what we’ve seen from Google, not just for Block.one, but for other platform companies or SAS companies, is Google’s idea of partnership with their customers is, I think, quite different. And we’ve really been, you know, benefiting from being able to engage with Block.one or Quantum Metric or whoever. Virtru now, some others I can’t think off the top of my head because I’m not sure which one’s cleared for publicity. Or PacketFabric. All these that are like, hey, we’re going to partner with you. We’re not just going to be the underlying technology that runs part of your offering to customers, but we’re going to partner with you in these interesting ways. And I think that is definitely unique from what I see from the bigger providers. But I think Google does clearly see itself as a partner to its customers because. And I love the business models, right? About the incentives, how it drives the right incentives. Even for us, like we play a role in this arrangement. But clearly the more successful Block.one is, the more GCP you will consume. So it’s not very you know, it’s not a mystery why this partnership is so important and why they want to see you succeed, just like they want to see all their other customers succeed. And we just love being able to take that to market in a way that’s like, yeah, Teekay actually cares what’s happening with Block.one, you know.

David Carter [00:42:50] Well, I would say that, you know, when it comes to organizations like Google and organizations like Block.one, when you connect organizations together like, you know, like SADA and Block.one have been connected together. When you engage that, you start what I what I call the journey of the circle of trust. And in the journey of the circle of trust, at the very edge, almost everything is about verification of statements, right? It’s not an inherent trust relationship. It’s a, you know, essentially a set of rules that have been both established by two groups that you agree to abide by. And then as you move closer to the center of that circle of trust, what begins to happen is a mutual stake in each other’s success. And one of the things I felt very strongly about in our relationship with Google and our relationship with SADA is that the speed at which we moved from that sort of like the edge of that circle to the center of that circle was both quick and purposeful. In that, there was a desire on all parties to demonstrate a mutual stake in each other’s success in ways that made everybody uncomfortable. And, you know, like, you know you’re doing something interesting when everybody feels like, you know this is going to be hard, but this is going to be worth it. And I felt like that journey towards the center of that circle of trust has been quite fast. But because it was purposeful and because it was agreed upon by all parties, it was able to happen with a level of alacrity that I was surprised by. In fact, pleasantly surprised by.

Tony Safoian [00:44:34] Yeah. And look, I think that once you’re there and you defend that position vigorously, what’s possible if you’re there for a long period of time is magic. I think the speed of execution, the persistent intention, the transformational work, the risk that you can take together, like it’s really what we try to get to within all groups, within SADA. I think that’s why we perform certain things cross-functionally so well within teams. But really with our customers, when you get that three-way trust, us, our customer, and Google. Oh man, we can do amazing things. But also, look, I think that’s where competitive advantage comes from.

David Carter [00:45:23] Well, I would say –

Tony Safoian [00:45:25] You want definitely to be in a position to, like, outcompete. Because they have the trust, and the speed, and the team.

David Carter [00:45:30] Well, I think that – well, and I can say too – I mean, like, we just finished a pretty big capstone project with you guys. And that project had a lot of risks associated with it. You know, we were taking a design architecture for how we were thinking about the distribution of our infrastructure and thinking about re-architecting it in a way that gave us lots of advantages. So things like better resiliency, things like better regional control, things like higher security profiling, things like the incorporation of our back and identity access management best practices. There was lots of what I would call like – We had the list of the things that we wanted to accomplish. I fundamentally did not think that we would actually be able to hit every one of those. And we did, like we really did. And it was really a testament to our willingness, right? To bend to the best practices that were being given to us through SADA. SADA’s willingness to bend to our design and our design – particularly, not just our design criteria, but really the fact that, like what we’re trying to do, like one of the things I fundamentally believe about the technical services work that we do is that we’re making products and we’re making products that serve customers. And my customers right now they’re internal clients, primarily. But those internal clients create solutions for our outward-facing communities.

Tony Safoian [00:46:58] That’s right.

David Carter [00:46:59] And in that context, being able to do such a massive engagement so well, and on time. And we’re – you should be aware of this, too. I should tell you this, because literally today we deployed all of the heavy atoms inside of our Google infrastructure. And that new heavy atom architecture is now, we haven’t transitioned over to it yet, but it’s now running inside of our fleet. And so far, so good. I mean, it’s really treated us right. It is well-aligned with our future path. And what’s great is, is that it gives us an iterative evolutionary opportunity to continue to add features to the service that our customers want. So I dig it.

Tony Safoian [00:47:45] Oh, David. I think that’s a great note to end on. I feel like you and I could talk forever on this and geek out and talk culture and strategy. And I can see why our two organizations get along so well. Also I feel like we’re just, very culturally we see things the same way in many things. And I’m glad this engagement brought us together, you and I. Hopefully we’ll see each other in person within the next few months.

David Carter [00:48:10] I’d enjoy that.

Tony Safoian [00:48:11] And we really look forward to taking on this promise. I mean, we’ve committed to each other for years.

David Carter [00:48:17] We have.

Tony Safoian [00:48:18] Just as a starting point. And our intention is to have you as a customer for life and to keep doing this for a very, very long time. Because I think what we do and bring to market, as I think you’re testifying to here, is special and I’m really proud of my teams. Big shout out to PMO, Patrick Watson and team, Sharif, everything with their building, Miles, the engineering team. And, you know, we intend to just keep getting better at what we do and provide more resources, hire more people. And so I hope that we get to fulfill the the parts of the roadmap for you. As much of it makes sense, we hope to be there every step of the way and be part of the success that Block.one has.

David Carter [00:48:59] Well, one thing that I would want to close out on is that this is a recruiting mission for me, too. We have a lot of wicked problems to solve, and we are using technologies that are at the very edge of what is possible. And we are absolutely in the market for top minds to help us solve these issues and to help us engage in creating solutions that the rest of the community is going to be able to take advantage of. So we’re constantly on the lookout for that engineering talent. We’re constantly on the lookout for that development talent. And for those of you out there who are hearing this, if blockchain technology is interesting to you and if you’ve got an engineering mindset to you, like you like solving really wicked problems, find us. Because we’re looking for you.

Tony Safoian [00:49:51] Yeah. Block.one. David’s hiring, you heard that. And, you know, work in this ecosystem, that is a fantastic opportunity to enhance someone’s career. Just to spend some time with blockchain, with Google Cloud, under David’s great leadership. Definitely take him up on that. And again, thank you so much for being my guest. This will go out in a couple of weeks. I just can’t wait for the world to hear this.

David Carter [00:50:16] Tony, appreciate you. I had a great time.

Tony Safoian [00:50:17] Thank you.

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