Advice and Tips from the VCs Judging Impervious’ Inaugural Hackathon
Their thoughts concerning potential high-impact use cases of applications and services building on the Impervious API.
Impervious’ inaugural Hack 4 Freedom kicks off August 4, 2021 with high stakes and eager competitors. While Impervious will dedicate time and attention to the developers over the duration of the competition, we wanted to take a moment to highlight the judges behind the prize.
Who are they? What are they looking for?
Wonder no more because we sat down with the trio to pick their brains.
Meet our judges:
- Christopher Calicott @mecee of Trammell Venture Partners
- Hank Thomas @hankthomasdc of Strategic Cyber Ventures
- Brian Murray @murr of Craft Ventures
STRATEGIC CYBER VENTURES: What excites you most about developing for the P2P internet?
Christopher Calicott: Since I was a little kid, I’ve always been super enthusiastic about technology. But increasingly, I’ve become very keenly aware of this acceleration of technological incursion into essentially all areas of our lives. There are huge pools of personal — sometimes very personal — data that are siloed and controlled by corporations. So, for the future that I hope to live in, privacy and security can no longer be ‘nice to haves’ — those things must be integral to the tech stack. Right now, what’s exciting is that given the Bitcoin protocol stack and how people are beginning to think about that in a Web3 context, we’re right near an inflection point where a very high level of rapid development is going to happen. I believe we’re about to do a great deal in terms of new companies and tooling creation specifically germane to Bitcoin, Layer 2, and Layer 3 technologies — including companies like Impervious. I think this coming wave will actually push us toward the promise of decentralization that’s been talked about for a decade or more now.
In a genuine shift away from corporate controlled and owned silos, with their implicit permission that we can participate in their playgrounds, I see us moving back toward human ownership and control of one’s own destiny in different contexts online. And I think that we’re going to see a bunch of that. I am very excited right now because there are multiple hackathons that are happening this month. This will be a great seeding period and we’ll soon start to harvest what’s planted now, reaping the benefits for many years. It’s really exciting. I think peer-to-peer, secure, and private are fundamental components to that future ethos.
Hank Thomas: It feels like the late 90s all over again, except this time we are smashing elements of BitTorrent and TCP/IP together in a smarter way. There is a sense of privacy and security urgency this time that wasn’t there in the early days of the internet. We know what we must build now to avoid unwanted surveillance, repressive regimes, and rebuild core American values by building highly encrypted, flexible, and easy to access highways of information. A new internet is just around the corner.
Brian Murray: It’s going to change everything. Today the internet runs on giant centralized services, like Facebook and Google, that all traffic routes through. They are the gatekeepers and their abuse of power is growing. P2P changes the wiring of the internet and will result in a renaissance of new products and business models.
SCV: Developers can leverage the Impervious API to build secure p2p data transmissions and payments into their applications and services. What applications/use cases would be interesting to see built/explored during the hackathon?
CC: It’s early days. So it’s interesting: we’ll be able to see very early ideas. One of the things I’m hoping to do is be available conversationally for some of the teams, if they just want to spitball ideas about what they’re actually going to build.
One of the things artists often talk about is how they get some of their skills and ideas by reimagining a painting or sculpture that someone else had done. In this context, for example, Zoom. What if there was a decentralized, open-source style Zoom, with private p2p videos, channels, or tunnels opened up so that it’s unclear who’s talking to who, that’s fully encrypted and private, and the only two people in the world that would know about the call are the people who are actually on the call? Building these kinds of proofs-of-concept is absolutely doable. Perhaps it’s a bit of an ambitious project for a hackathon, but it’d be great to see some people tinker with that because there are probably 15 different video conference software platforms out there, but they’re all essentially centralized. It would be great to have a consumer-grade product with the guarantees of privacy and security that we’ve come to expect (but don’t necessarily get) with the status quo.
HT: I’m looking for hackathon participants to smooth out the onramp to a highly encrypted internet that runs parallel to the traditional internet. The traditional internet has become a continuously surveilled valley surrounded by high ground that regular people that built it no longer control. I want to feel the ease of use oozing from the applications and use cases to this internet of the future. I want applications that repressive regimes and surveillance capitalists alike, the world over, fear.
BM: VPN tunneling seems very exciting. Mainly because this is not a theoretical need. There is a large, existing VPN market and if developers can use Impervious APIs to build a better version of VPN, they should be able to go to market quickly.
SCV: What is the most important quality you’re looking for in a winning team?
CC: I tend to respond best to people who are coming from a place of genuine curiosity. I also love it when someone sets out to do a project, and along the way, they discover some other opportunities and it becomes something almost entirely different. That’s the kind of thing that makes me very happy for the creators and founders, because you can see their developmental arc in real time — as it happens during the hackathon sprint cycle. So that’s always really exciting to see.
HT: I’m looking for the ability to explain what they built to the average person, combined with passion for whatever it is.
BM: Discipline. To expound on that, I mean that they know what they’re building, and they have some sort of milestones or checkpoints in place to measure their success.
SCV: How will you measure the “wow factor”?
CC: For me, especially in this context, I think it’s definitely when someone’s like, ‘I didn’t even think that that was going to be possible yet’. The API set for Impervious is just about to be released, and it’ll be the first version. It usually takes a while for people to think ahead and see, ‘Oh, yeah, I could do that, but what about this other thing?’ And when these developers get new tools in their hands, and they go into the zone, sometimes they will amaze you with ideas that others haven’t even begun to conceive.
HT: How engaged I become with the person and technology being presented to me. If I find myself wanting to interrupt to ask questions, that generally means I’m very interested.
BM: Three measures: does it work? is there a need? how close is it production ready?
SCV: If you were to enter the Hackathon what would your team name be?
HT: John Wesley Powell’s Arm
BM: Well, impervious is such a great name. I don’t know if I can top that. ‘Inexorable’ is pretty cool.
BM: Don’t build a science project. Build something people want. If VC financing is something that you’re seeking, keep in mind that the more ethereal or abstract your value prop, the harder it is for VCs to rationalize an investment.