Monax is pivoting. Here’s why!

After three years of building as a horizontal software company, Monax is pleased to announce that it is moving up the stack to build a vertically integrated legal technology solution. In this post Casey discusses the background behind that decision.

It’s been a long time since I, or anyone at Monax, posted an entry on our blog. While we’ve been publicly quiet, things have been very different behind the scenes. Indeed, we’ve been extremely busy building the next generation of legal technology solutions.

Before I get to what we’re working on now, let’s start with a bit of background. For those new to the community, our company has been around since the early days of smart contract technology.

We were the first to market with a permissionable, smart contract capable blockchain design which was later moved into the Hyperledger Foundation as Hyperledger Burrow. When we first released this codebase to the open source community, folks looked at us in wonderment (to put it nicely) and asked why a permissioned blockchain made any sense. Those days are largely over and the logic of having a permissioned layer within a blockchain network is now more widely understood. I have no hesitation in saying that we at Monax (previously Eris Industries) played a very big part in ensuring “blockchains for business” really are a thing.

We were also first to market with scalable, reusable smart contract frameworks which provided the base for a broad range of early use cases that were being explored within industry. Our previous business model was based on the ‘razor blades’ idea. Essentially the razor was our open source blockchain (which we “gave” away) and the razor blades were our smart contract frameworks, which we intended to sell. Alas, we miscalculated the market timing and the buyers for these frameworks (or, as we called them at the time SDKs) were few and far between. We, as many other startups before us, were too early for our cutting edge products.

Last summer we took the decision to shift our focus; or, in startup parlance: pivot. Our early mover advantage gave us a distinct edge: not only did we have a thick skin from arguing with folks on Reddit about permissioned blockchains, but we also had a very clear view of what a huge swathe of market participants were interested in exploring. These areas of exploration – driven by key market participants – were early indicators of where the value in the technology may reside. The largest market opportunity also, interestingly, aligned with (a) the strategic advantages we at Monax have been building for a while, and (b) the talent base we had also been working towards.

We realized when we explored the idea of a pivot that the strategy we had previously been pursuing was too low level, too horizontal, and too complex for many to be able to quickly grasp. Much of the difficulty we faced when communicating our visions was due to the fact that we were operating as a horizontal actor building low level infrastructure technology. This is very far removed from the average user and communicating the value of what we were building to investors, buyers, and potential users was not easy. It became clear that to take Monax to the next level we needed to divorce ourselves from being a horizontal software provider and move toward being a vertically integrated solution provider. This realization spawned our analysis of the possible market opportunities and was the original sin out of which our ensuing pivot flowed.

This change in direction also necessitated other painful changes. We lost a founder, we cut staff, we dramatically reduced our spending in preparation for an unknown future. We spent a very long time thinking through the strategy, design, and operational upside of how and why we should build what we’re currently working on.

Despite these challenges, the upside we felt was huge. We realized that the market opportunity is tremendously large and that we had a set of talent and technologies which we had been steadily building for three years had the foundations for actually capturing a significant portion of that market opportunity. Simplifying our message and shifting our team’s focus from being a horizontal actor towards providing a singular solution took time, but it greatly improved our performance and ability to deliver.

And so, for all of the above reasons and more, I’m pleased to announce that Monax is now laser focused on being one of the founding companies behind The Agreements Network – a decentralized contract management system built on public, permissioned blockchain technology and optimized to be the Legal Layer for a Networked World.

Over the course of the next few posts, I’ll be working through the background, features, and reasons we are beyond excited to get the Agreements Network out into the world. If you’d like to join the growing list of companies working on the Agreements Network please visit here to learn how to participate.

Photo by daniel plan on Unsplash

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