Simona Pop is helping put people on the blockchain. As the co-founder of Bounties Network, a decentralized platform designed to allow people to list tasks as diverse as code, design, music, and art and anyone, anywhere to pitch for the work has become one of Ethereum's most popular use cases. In this interview, we explore her journey into blockchain and why anyone thinking of starting a business in the space needs to put people, not technology first.
How did you first get into blockchain and the decentralized web?
I am one of those rare (still) non-technical background blockchain builders. I have a marketing and communications background and one of my roles is to “translate” all the amazing work being done into inclusive, relatable and accessible language and initiatives. I got involved back in 2017 because I believe in blockchain’s power to level out the playing field in terms of access to information, resources, and work.
When did you set up your company?
I came into the Bounties Network a couple of months after Mark Beylin had already launched the StandardBounties protocol and our very first explorer, back in Autumn 2017. My work as a co-founder then focused on expanding and diversifying the use of bounties across verticals, communities, and geographies.
What need does it serve?
We discover more and more uses for bounties each day! In essence, individuals, communities, and organizations use bounties when they need to get something done. The bounty as a format is incredibly flexible so it enables the creation of tasks across a wide range of verticals from code to design, music, art (a good example of which can be found here), research, social impact, the list goes on. The rewards for the completion of tasks are, of course, in cryptocurrency so the typical costly complexities of international money transfers are gone. Automated payments on successful submissions are also a significant leap from existing outsourcing models. In a nutshell, it’s about getting things done much better. Whether it’s a design or a beach cleanup, in the US or Romania or the Philippines.
Can you give us a summary of your career thus far, how did you get here?
I’ve spent most of my career in communication, community, marketing, and experiential events. I’m a big believer in the power of great communication and immersive experiences as a means of translating a lot of the complexities some - particularly tech - products and projects can involve. Blockchain was a natural progression, really, as I’ve always been interested in improving our human experience, particularly when it comes to broader access to social and economic freedom.
Did you know?
I speak five languages and my family is originally from Transylvania.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in building a business in this space?
The lack of understanding of what blockchain is and its potential. But that has a lot to do with the material we, as an ecosystem, have been putting out there and the need for more focus on human-centric design and user experiences when creating applications. As we’ve evolved the Bounties Network protocol and product, we’ve always consulted our users - both bounty creators and fulfillers. As one of the projects with actual users - The Bounties Network Protocol is actually one of the top 5 most used Ethereum smart contracts(excluding games and exchanges), and has seen continuous growth in usage despite crypto winter - we see it as a key advantage in maturing the platform and making blockchain broadly accessible.
What’s the best piece of advice you were given when it comes to being an entrepreneur in this space?
I’m learning new lessons every day - it’s one of the great things about working with such clever and visionary people. I think a great piece of advice for everyone in the space is one from Steve Jobs and it goes something like this: “Innovation has nothing to do with how many R & D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R & D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led/you lead, and how much you get it.”
What advice would you give to someone setting up a business in the decentralized web?
Be a bootstrapped, human-centric product shipping machine and make sure you surround yourself with the right people. It’s tough redesigning better ways of doing things, it’s going to test you! So you must make sure you can count on the people around you.
What project or projects are you most excited about (that aren’t yours!)
I have been loving the art projects - KnownOrigin, Pixura, SuperRare, DADA.nyc - lately as we’ve started working on art bounties a lot. I think there’s great synergy between art, the way it pushes boundaries, creatively re-imagining reality and what we are doing in terms of building blockchain products.
What is (or what will be) blockchain’s ‘killer app’
As Joe Lubin said at Devcon IV, it will be a killer ecosystem, not a single app. We need that interoperability, those connections, the flow that multiple projects connected can offer. And this is where the power will come from: enabling connections never before possible in terms of information, resources, and work regardless of currencies, geographies or existing socio-economical frameworks.
What’s the difference between setting up a company in the decentralized space versus regular business?
The same metrics for growth will not always tell you the same story and patience in these early stages is definitely a virtue!
How would you describe blockchain to someone who has never heard of it before?
I use this quite a lot as the answer to the question: WTF is blockchain? It’s like a spreadsheet that everyone can access. It doesn’t just live on my computer, it lives on everyone’s so there is no central point of control and no single point of failure. If my computer goes down/is hacked, the spreadsheet is still secure and can still be accessed.