From behalf of the entire ShipChain team, I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year! 2019 was big for us- we wrapped up our Pilot with Perdue Farms, officially launched our Track and Trace Platform, created the Delivery Experience Manager (our Final Mile solution), solidified a few key partnerships, and hit the ground running.
I want to take a moment to thank you all for your continued support during the last year; we are so grateful and lucky to have you all along for the ride. I would also like to answer any lingering questions that you, our ShipChain Community members, may have, so I gathered the latest round of questions and put together detailed responses to each. As always, some things are under NDA, so please bear with me as I try to answer everything as thoroughly as I can without violating any confidentiality clauses. I hope that this Q&A helps you all better understand our goals for this year and how we plan on making them happen.
Whilst we understand Shipchain Inc. would likely not commit on deadlines, can you outline top priorities for 2020 and share an update on the development of Engine 2.0, Transmission, the Shipchain web front-end, and the mobile app?
One of our top priorities has been what we’re informally calling “1.5” for the overall platform, which adds much more detailed containerization levels – i.e., items per pallet, pallets per truckload, all effectively belonging to each other, where an item belongs to that pallet, but the pallet belongs to that truck, which belongs to an organization. This is necessary for much more granular supply chain management as a whole.
The sidechain we still are targeting mainnet launch for Q1 2020. Auditing and reviewing are crucial for this, as we know once the mainnet is launched, rolling it back is not really an option.
Our mobile app was recently approved for the Google Play store and is in the hands of registered users that are working with it. Our Mobile team works exclusively on the app every day, so this progresses outside of any other development as well. Increased NFC and RFID use in the mobile app, as well as shipment based GPS routing, are in the works.
Other key features include more advanced Geofencing, better identity management for shippers, and payment triggers. Payment triggers are key for many participants, as being able to automate the invoicing and payment flow process based on verifiable proof of delivery will help make many supply chains significantly more efficient, with reduced errors and costs.
What can you disclose today about your activity with first partners like Scanlog or Casestack (recently acquired by Hub group), are there live pilots projects in place with daily txs (presumably running directly on the ETH mainnet waiting for Shipchain’s mainnet readiness) and will they switch to the Shipchain network?
We do have live pilots and partnerships, and the plan is for all live transacting to switch to the ShipChain mainnet when live.
Can you briefly explain the benefits of integrating oracles like Chainlink, for example, into the Shipchain network?
Oracles (third party information sources) will be necessary to provide information about real-time information, such as fuel prices, commodity costs, and even other information like sea scheduling and flight information in a more decentralized way that any dApp developer can make use of. We’ve been in contact with the Chainlink team to discuss ideas and how we can collaborate.
How would you describe the remaining steps until the Shipchain network goes live and staking can start?
The goal is still Q1 2020 – Finalizing certain tools like Engine on the sidechain is necessary, and also working with Loom to flesh out and finalize the Karma system details. Staking would begin right as the mainnet launches.
Are there already more dapps teams interested in running on the Shipchain network? How vital is it for the health of the ecosystem to host more dapps?
We see it as crucial to invite more teams to develop on top, and we do have a number of teams interested in being able to integrate.
What are the main reasons why Shipchain is a hard fork of Loom Basechain, and what attributes would trigger other SC dapps developers to launch on the Shipchain network than directly on Basechain?
Loom’s Basechain is targeted primarily towards Gaming dApps. We wanted to ensure enterprise throughput is maintained without any congestion issues that may arise from a sudden spike in game use, for instance. It makes sense to segregate these use cases out rather than using one “big tent” sidechain we feel. Loom has been a fantastic base layer for the sidechain, but for us to prepare it for enterprise we’ve done a good bit of tooling and additional building on top to prepare it for wide-scale enterprise use, which will have very different requirements.
Some other SC projects are considering non-token based solutions like Holochain to scale, whilst a dPoS like Loom ticks all the scalability, decentralization, and token centric criteria, what is ShipChain Inc. ‘s Plan B if Loom development ever brutally stops?
ShipChain is a fork of Loom with a lot of enterprise-focused development on top that we have done, and as a result, does not directly rely on Loom’s operation. ShipChain’s sidechain operates fully independently of the Loom Network.
Financial Health and Regulatory Compliance:
Since the last AMA 6 months ago, how would you say that the regulatory framework around blockchain evolved in the US and globally? Is the current uncertainty representing a showstopper for some clients to pursue pilot projects and beyond with ShipChain Inc.?
The regulatory landscape hasn’t really changed or become much clearer in the US. Globally, certain jurisdictions have developed clearer frameworks, but we don’t see any of this as a showstopper for pursuing clients or pilots. Our solution is a creative logistics solution powered by blockchain technology.
What can you share today about the non-profit Foundation registration, and what are the remaining steps or challenges ahead?
Making sure we have the legal framework properly worked out is key, as this is one similar to the sidechain; once it’s done, it’s not easy to change – for good reason. We’re working with our legal team to hammer this out and get the registration going, which isn’t a fast process and does require Swiss government approval for certain steps.
A blog post meant to clarify ownership and purpose of the token company reserves was referenced in the last AMA. Are there any reasons why this information has not been disclosed yet?
We still plan to release this blog post, but before we make this public, we want to finalize a few things with the Foundation first. To preface, the goal of these reserves we will say, is to make sure staking and network security are prioritized. ShipChain Inc., the for-profit entity, will not have a monopoly on network gas and will not be using the network for free. Further details will be outlined in the post, which we hope to put out by Q3 2020.
Business Development & Communication:
How would you rate the logistics industry’s awareness and its recent evolution about the differences between a private permissioned blockchain vs. a public permissionless one like ETH or Basechain?
Low – the logistics industry is still wrapping itself (like many legacy industries) around blockchain as a whole, and that’s not a bad thing. It gives us the opportunity to educate and show why permissionless is the better choice for them. We saw it recently with a permissioned chain having to ask US Regulators for an antitrust exemption even – permission to monopolize.
Your last blog post mentioned commercial discussions with a major fast-food US company. Without disclosing any NDAs, would you be able to emphasize the size of the companies that you are either exchanging with or have already a contractual agreement (in annual turnover, millions, billion USD…)? Has ShipChain shifted away from its initial target (small and midsize 3PLs)? If so, why?
Coming out of the Plug And Play Accelerator enabled us to speak to major food and beverage companies, and the one mentioned was one of them. For obvious reasons, they can’t be named, but they are a very well known domestic and global brand. The sales cycles with these large corporations are extremely long, so we haven’t shifted focus from small companies at all, we’re just offering them different solutions. The Final Mile Delivery experience was designed to specifically be built to be a quick integration for small and midsize 3PLs.
Is ShipChain Inc. still collaborating with Perdue Farms, and is there a link, direct or indirect, with the fast-food company that you recently hinted on?
We are currently not running any active pilots with Perdue Farms, but we did successfully complete our initial pilot with them and are very grateful for the opportunity. As for the other, NDAs do prevent us from discussing for now.
What can you disclose today about the Foundation governance and its community tools?
These are a part of the formation, and the charter is being rewritten to be much more logistics- and community-friendly. We should have more on this soon.
We have recently observed that Roger Crook was active with another project, is it still relevant to mention names like Roger Crook, Chris Perdue or Kevin Harrington on the website? Do these advisors still have a role to play going forward?
Both Roger and Chris have fulfilled their advisory roles with ShipChain and provided a lot of key insights into the industry. We are very thankful for all of their hard work in helping us get to where we are. In general, advisors still play a role in exactly what their name describes, giving us advice and a sounding board for ideas that are independent of the company and have been very helpful in this. We utilize our active advisors often, and their contributions are invaluable.
Wrapping It Up
Lastly, I wanted to take a moment to share a few team updates.
First off, I was recently accepted as a “Supply Chain Expert ” for The United Nations Center for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), the UN’s International trade facilitation group. The UN/CEFACT is working on blockchain solutions to make trade easier, and reduce the headache of EDI, and it is an honor to be a part of it all.
In other news, Devika Soni has been promoted to Director of Marketing. This comes after two years with the company, and we are excited to watch her take on a leadership role on the Marketing team.
Jianwei Liu will also be taking on a more senior role after successfully completing his Ph.D. at Clemson University. Jianwei began his ShipChain journey last year as a Software Developer Intern and has since moved his way up to Backend Research Engineer, and now, Senior Research Scientist. We are very excited to watch Jianwei continue to learn and grow while taking on more responsibilities.
Additionally, Lee Bailey is no longer a part of the ShipChain team, and as such, will no longer be serving as our CTO. We wish him all the best and are so thankful for the groundwork that he helped put together. Although we will miss him, his absence will not impact any of our commitments and goals, and we look forward to sharing those milestones with you. Additionally, we will ensure that whoever fills this role will bring all of the experience and technical acumen needed to excel and propel us to new heights.
Lastly, our Sales and Biz Dev team is growing! We are currently looking for talented sales reps to join the ShipChain family. These positions will have a flexible schedule and an opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business! If you’re interested and think you might be a good fit, please email your resume to email@example.com.
Again, thank you all for your support — onwards!
John Monarch, CEO