In October 2017, Horizon State concluded one of Australia’s largest software crowdfunding campaigns in history, raising $1.4 million from investors all over the world in just two weeks. Its mission: to give more power to the people.
And then a couple of months ago, the man behind it all, co-founder Jamie Skella, decided to leave it all behind, to pursue his own personal mission—to focus on the people who matter most to him, his family.
“It has been three years since my foray into democracy began. Now, between the intensity of the last year, the impending birth of my first child, the ambitions of the business having grown bigger and bolder than my original vision, and the foundations for development and delivery now solidifying, this seemed like an essential time for me to depart, gather myself, and put my focus on my family. I’ve been riding the startup rodeo for a relentless 5 years; I feel I owe a period without stress and 14 hour work days to them, and to myself,” said Skella, as he announced he was leaving.
Technologist and strategist Skella, Winner of the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer Award, and creator of Horizon State, a digital ballot box, which aims to make the process of voting more transparent, will speak be the keynote speaker at the Indian Executive Awards on 17 November, at Langham. He tells The Indian Sun about his journey in blockchain.
▪︎ Can you narrate your Horizon State journey?
The idea of a direct, online democracy is something I’d thought about loosely many times over the past decades. It has always seemed absurd to be that I’m asked to vote for packages of policies instead of individual ones, and that I need to line-up at a polling station every few years to do so. Just last year, when my friend needed to vote at a local election, his youngest asked, “Why can’t you just do it from your iPhone?”
Three years ago I was introduced to Adam Jacoby, Co-Founder and Chief Steward of MiVote, a democratic movement who solved my grievances with our current system and many more. Within a year of meeting Adam, we were beta testing a new vision for member experience, having devised technology that would quickly become the world’s first blockchain voting system in use by a national audience. Less than three months after releasing that first version, our discussions about setting up what is now Horizon State had begun. Receiving interest from not only democratic innovators and political incumbents, but NGOs and enterprise, we knew this idea had the potential to transform voting processes for all kinds of organisations worldwide.
During the past year alone, I’ve circled the globe talking about this technology, its inevitability, and its opportunity for profound impact. United Nations HQ in NYC, SAP TechEd in Las Vegas, Decentralised in Cyprus, Vivid Sydney, mayors forums in South Korea, World Bank sponsored events in Malaysia, and BMW Foundation’s Global Table in Norway are just some of the invitations I’ve had to tell our story and talk about what blockchain means for online voting, and what voting online means for constituent safety and improving participation.
▪︎ Steem is a remarkable response to Facebook and traditional social media. Why do you think they have not gained a whole lot of momentum?
Amidst thousands of projects are dozens of great ones. Yet even the greatest ones won’t necessarily work. Product-market-fit trumps the quality of product and, as always in technology: timing is everything. Some of these great projects are too early, some have overestimated the market’s appetite for their solution, and in other scenarios it’s just not possible to make these web 3 experiences as friendly or as accessible as their web 2 counterparts. Dev tooling is poor, and user experiences are complex. Before we see new blockchain product be adopted by wide public audiences, first they need to become products that are clearly better than the existing alternatives for the average person.
▪︎ Horizon State has had a recent tie up with a political party in India. Could you elaborate what actually the Democratic Party will do on blockchain?
Horizon State’s relationship to India is via MiVote. The Democratic Party of India has just recently been reincarnated, and will be adopting MiVote’s model of non-partisan governance to decide upon policy. Already three million members strong, all of the Democratic Party’s members will have the opportunity to have their say on policy issues as those issues arise, casting votes using Horizon State technology, directly to the Blockchain.
▪︎ What are the main industries you think blockchain will disrupt in the immediate future?
The industries that will be most heavily impacted—positively or negatively—by Blockchain include finance, legal, and supply chain. In the longer term, it’ll shift media, energy, and more. There are few industries that won’t be touched by this technology in some way, shape or form. After all, blockchain is a new kind of database, and almost all businesses use databases. It’s just a matter of whether this new kind of database will benefit them, or disrupt them.
▪︎ What are you ultimately—a thinker, a blockchain evangelist, or a tech geek? Are you planning on any new ventures?
If I had to choose between the three, I’d say a thinker. My passion for building a better future has led me to focus on technology: how to steer it and how to humanise, to ensure that our progress is truly progress, and not regress. Being on this path, many emerging technologies have arrived in my periphery—I’ve worked across VR, IoT, machine learning, future food, and more. Blockchain is one of the more recent entrants, an incredibly important one, and I am indeed an evangelist for it. However, it’s just one facet of my professional motivations and interests. I’ve no new ventures planned, yet. I plan to spend the back half of 2018 supporting my wife with our new baby girl. What 2019 holds is yet to be seen.
▪︎ Could you name some of the projects that you are betting on now?
I’m looking closely at EMU, another Melbourne based outfit, as well as ThinkCoin, ShareRing, Phaze, BlockGrain, and Skrilla.
The main sponsor of the IEC Awards is Coin Centric, Australia’s fastest growing crypto exchange.