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Becoming Blockchain: An Interview with Bitbay Founder David Zimbeck

What do Chess, Acting, burritos and C++ have in common? Bitbay’s founder tells his story.

We sat down with David Zimbeck, early Smart Contract pioneer, and founder of BitBay, BitHalo and BlackHalo with one question on our mind… “What does it take to become a Blockchain Developer?” Zimbeck transitioned to Blockchain development from acting, real estate, film development and chess, among other adventures. He shared with us his thoughts about the paucity of outstanding Blockchain developers and the qualities that make for good ones. Here is what we learned:

Blockchain developers must be well-rounded and analytical

Zimbeck himself appears to be a man of many lives. At one time, he loved Chess—he won the Ohio scholastic state championship three years in a row, becoming Chess Master at age 18 and defeating 10 Grandmasters in a tournament in Europe. Later careers included drilling oil, handling real-estate, producing films and acting. (Watch Zimbeck swashbuckling a minor role in Pirates of the Caribbean 2.) Each experience, he said, contributed to his Blockchain innovations.

“Chess,” for instance, “helped me visualize code. It helped me plan, memorize and problem solve, as well as anticipate problems well in advance. Working in Real Estate was crucial when I was developing BitBay’s double escrow smart contract program, and oil drilling taught me how to press forward through fatigue and discouragement. Being well rounded is critical for perspective and insight.”

Perseverance, self-discipline and willpower are essential

“I was literally a nobody in Cryptography, and I came completely out of nowhere. I’ve been persistent with my goals. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”.

Zimbeck said it took him 93 sixteen-hour days in a trailer to teach himself to program from scratch. This was mid-Winter in North Dakota under minus-13 degree conditions. “I lived on Taco Bell spicy potato burritos, almonds, chocolate, sunflower seeds and Mountain Dew,” shared Zimbeck, “I would wake up, roll out of bed, and code until falling asleep. I developed a cough so bad that I had to fly to Florida after my prototype was done and be nursed back to health by my parents.”

What motivated him? “[This work] was what was needed,” said Zimbeck, “to make the world’s first smart contracting platform. I was literally a nobody in Cryptography, and I came completely out of nowhere. I’ve been persistent with my goals. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Blockchain programmers must be meticulous in their work. Blockchains must be secure enough to protect large amounts of value. Platforms, once built can only be revamped through great expense and risk of disruption to the communities they serve. For these reasons, developers need to be painstakingly careful and thorough in their coding. One mistake may easily cause the platform’s clients to lose hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. David Schwartz, Chief Cryptographer of Ripple, who developed secure messaging and cloud storage software for government and military applications, compared Blockchain to a fortress. Enemies try to breach crypto infrastructure all the time. It takes a top developer to prevent and withstand these attacks.

Outstanding learning skills are more important than specific language familiarity

Job postings that seek outstanding Blockchain engineers usually specify a shopping list of requirements that include programming languages like LLL, Java, C++, Serpent and Solidity. To Zimbeck, the most important qualities are the abilities to keep on learning and to think “out of the box”.

“Smart contracts aren’t limited to one language. You should be able to deploy in any language you want on a sidechain or in a sandboxed fashion like JavaScript or Python. We engineers have many languages at our disposal,” he told us.

Zimbeck, a high-school dropout who only knew basic QBack and C++ when he first came to Blockchain programming, revealed that he taught himself Blockchain engineering by searching for information on Google. Indeed, Blockchain investor Zach Piester noted that Blockchain engineers need to think creatively, since Blockchain is an evolving technology, and since each usage case has its own unique requirements. The industry is moving at break-neck speed, so Blockchain engineers need to constantly update their skills, and need to have the courage to innovate audaciously.

It takes a great deal of passion to be a Blockchain Developer

“Money means nought to me. I want to lead a self-sufficient life. After programming, I want to be a builder or have a farm.”

Top Blockchain developers are not programming because they need the money, but because they genuinely love the industry, and/or because they see Blockchain technology as a tool for good. Zimbeck told us:

What got me into Blockchain was my prior search for solutions to world problems. Bitcoin didn’t impress me too much, since the decentralization of money won’t stop the media from dictating to people. However, I saw a lot of interesting potential with Blockchain, and this is what eventually lead me to the Halo idea”.

For Zimbeck, it was the drive that he’d had childhood on to make the world a better place. People like he see smart contracts as tools to not only protect cryptocurrency traders, but to make the world more democratic and trusting.

Blockchain engineers are often called “crypto-anarchists.” They believe in the power of Blockchain to remedy injustice, to restore trust, to help individuals escape government interference, to shatter borders, and to end corruption (among other benefits). These kind of individuals are neither grooming their LinkedIn profiles, nor searching for a way up the corporate ladder. “Money means nought to me,” said Zimbeck, “I want to lead a self-sufficient life. After programming, I want to be a builder or have a farm.”

We here at Blockchain Developers, Inc. are world-class at helping you find and hire the talented Blockchain developers you need to grow. Just fill out our contact form, and we’ll be happy to see if we can help!
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When to Hire Smart Contract Developers

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are already highly innovative for businesses, but the real revolution is in the underlying blockchain technology and opportunities for smart contracts. A large part of the appeal for enterprises and organizations of smart contracts is the ability to reliably and securely transact amongst themselves, without needing lawyers, banks, or other intermediaries.

Smart contract developers can help businesses to sell, buy, rent, license, and more, faster, at a lower cost, and even more reliably.

Which Smart Contract Advantage Do You Want First?

Contract breach prevention, property law, financial services, and credit enforcement are all possibilities, and the rest is only limited by the imagination of enterprises and their smart contract coders. With the right blockchain programmer on your team, your company can start making the most of any or all of the following advantages of smart contracts.

First, the smart contract is permanent, as it is recorded on the blockchain. Second, the contract is a program and can automatically manage assets, for example, by making rental items available or locking them down, according to whether rental payments have been made. Third, the smart contract is also tamper-proof and will always function as it has been programmed to function.

Is the Race on for Smart Contract Coders?

The real race, the one for the lowest costs, smoothest operations, and highest customer satisfaction, has always been on. Enterprises aiming for business success see a smart contract developer as a resource to help them achieve those goals. The opportunities to streamline activities and transactions make smart contract engineers sought after by different businesses, which are consequently stepping up their recruitment activities to bring this talent and know-how onboard.

How Much time Do You Have?

The attraction of cost savings and improved transactions is not the only force at work when it comes to hiring blockchain coders for programming smart contracts. If you’re not pulled into the world of smart contracts by your own volition, you may find yourself being pushed into it by your business partners, suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders.

Any persons or entities with a vested interest in the profitability and efficiency of your enterprise can make the link between these parameters and programmable contracts running over a blockchain base. They’ll want to know what you’re doing to harness the power of smart contracts, save money, help them do better business, increase the share price, or other desirable results.

What Does It Take to Have These Developers in Your Company?

The first question you might ask is, “Do we already have this expertise in-house?” Smart contracts are pieces of software, and your enterprise, like many others, may have its own software development resources. Nevertheless, there are two dimensions to a smart contract engineer that must be considered.

The first, and perhaps more obvious one, is technical ability. An understanding of blockchain technology will need to be accompanied by strong software programming skills, possibly in multiple programming languages, and knowledge of networking and cryptography. These requirements alone may lead you to the conclusion that you do not currently have employees with this combination of skills.

Is The Solution Internal?

Your next question may then be, “Can we train them?” After all, there are trainers and training courses for many branches of IT. However, now the second dimension of the smart contract developer comes into play, which is an understanding of business transactions and their legal, economic, and financial aspects. These two dimensions together, technical and business, make a blockchain software engineer of any kind a rare bird, and those who can program smart contracts even rarer. They also make it more difficult to find competent trainers to inculcate this spread of skills and knowledge into your employees.

Is the Solution to Finding Smart Contract Developers External?

Blockchain software engineers for smart contract development also exist in third-party service providers. While the advantage is in being able to access resources that are already operational, with no lead time for training, there may also be significant disadvantages.

Third parties are less likely to understand the specific business needs of your enterprise. Also, if your agreement with the provider ends, the provider keeps the know-how, while your organization is left high and dry. Alternatively, you can hire full-time developers who specialize in blockchain and smart contracts. This may be the best solution of all. You get to have your cake and eat it, too, with ready-to-go expertise that stays in your enterprise afterwards.

The Time to Hire a Smart Contract Developer is Now

Naturally, other enterprises have already come to the same conclusion and have recruitment programs in place for blockchain coders for smart contracts. Note that hiring blockchain programmers often differs from classical hiring approaches. You need to know where to look and how to make career opportunities attractive to people who for the moment at least are seldom short of a tempting job offer. With the right methods, however, your enterprise can acquire this talent and start reaping the benefits of smart contracts almost immediately.

We here at Blockchain Developers, Inc. are world-class at helping you find and hire the talented Blockchain developers you need to grow. Just fill out our contact form, and we’ll be happy to see if we can help!
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Ask any Bitcoin development company what they wish they had more of, and you’ll likely get the same answer:  Smart contract developers. Not just any smart contract developer, mind you, but someone who’s really good, who is timely and responsive, knows the field, and cares about the qualilty of work.

Top smart contract engineers are in short supply. Former chief information officer at UBS and founder of Bussmann Advisory, Oliver Bussmann, reckons there are only about 20,000 such individuals in existence. It’s difficult to find them. Your smart contract developer is most likely gainfully employed, rich or retired, or started his or her own company. Hiring such talent is woefully difficult and expensive. The demand is high and the supply low. In fact, Jimmy Song estimates that the lack of such qualified developers is the one thing that constricts today’s bitcoin ecosystem.

So how can you get lucky and find your smart contract developer?

Shidan Goran’s Advice

A rather pessimist article in Bitcoin Magazine discussed the looming shortage of qualified developers. William Mougayar, author of The Business Blockchain, reckoned there were about nine million Java developers and 18.5 million software developers worldwide. In contrast, he said, there are only “5,000 developers dedicated to writing software for cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, and blockchain in general.” Steven Nerayoff, Founder and CEO of Maple Ventures, a Venture Capital firm primarily focused on emerging blockchain-based technologies and payment systems, dipped this number down to “about only a few hundred people that truly understand this blockchain development at a foundational level.” He added that there are more blockchain projects than people qualified to contribute.

The sole optimistic voice in that article was Shidan Gouran, an angel investor with several blockchain startups and innovative tech firms, as well as the organizer of the Blockchain Event, a North American conference series. Gouran says that companies needed to develop a viable and interesting idea or proposition to interest targeted smart contract engineers or developers. “More than anything,” he elaborated, “I think there is a shortage of good ideas. If a startup has a project that’s interesting and can really impact commerce and lives, then qualified people will sign on to start working on it.”

Another problem is that too many companies take the safe route and replicate projects presented by other ICOs and startups, rather than butting their heads against something new.

“I’ve often said that we need fewer white papers and more code,” said Gouran. “We need people who are starting projects and actually seeing them through rather than just doing crowd sales, raising money and kind of squandering it away, which we’re seeing a lot of nowadays. Ultimately that’s what I believe will attract top talent to this space.”

Applying Goran’s Advice

Shidan Gouran’s insights can help you in two ways:

  1. Develop an outstanding idea

Your idea had better be unique. Great smart contract developers don’t like wasting their time, and tend to only go for ideas that help them change the world. Indeed, Nerayoff says that those firms working on what he calls “uninteresting projects” will find more of a shortage. “As an advisor to Ethereum,” he told Bitcoin Magazine, “I can personally tell you that people were fighting to get onboard there. They had no problems getting qualified programmers.” Nerayoff also mentioned other innovative blockchain companies. “In my opinion,” he said, “the best programmers always want to go to the most interesting projects, while others will continue to struggle to hire people.”

  1. Your project should make sense and endure

The typical developer wants to use his or her time and use it well. He or she hates connections and rules, is wealthy enough to make one’s own future and not be subservient to you. The bad news is you may well end up subservient to him or her, as you recast your workplace culture, philosophy and standards to attract that developer.

  1. Consider qualified remote smart contract software engineers

Nako Mbelle, Founder and CEO of the Toronto-based Fintech Recruiters, says that Python developer shortages are particularly acute, and that her firm has also been receiving requests for developers who know the hugely uncommon languages of Erlang, Golang, Python, Haskell and Scala, among others.

Mbelle recommends that “In order to attract talent, startups should be flexible about remote working options. We’re seeing a trend where startups want people in the office in order to build a corporate culture. However, the more experience a software developer has, the more likely they will want to work remotely, or have very flexible working environments.”

Bottom Line

Smart contract software engineers are mostly unconventional people who like nothing less than feeling they’re changing the world. They’re highly competitive, love the accolades of their peers, and are radical libertarians, so their philosophy is to decentralize everything from government to the money system and everything in between. Their goal is to give the people full control over their money and lives, and liberate them from government interference. Peacefully, of course. You want to hire a top smart contract developer? Consider these questions: Is your idea attractive? And why would they want to work for you?

We here at Blockchain Developers, Inc. are world-class at helping you find and hire the talented Blockchain developers you need to grow. Just fill out our contact form, and we’ll be happy to see if we can help!
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Timing is the one element that visionary companies must get right. Many great products built by highly competent teams have failed – even in good markets – because they missed out on this key factor. Sometimes it is too early, and other times too late, but when things are just right, magic happens. Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Uber, and Airbnb are all examples of exceptional teams with top-notch products that entered the market at just the right time.

So how does one get this timing thing right? Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure, but you can choose to be prepared. Like a surfer waiting for a wave, when the big one comes in and you are ready, you can reach spectacular heights.

Even as you read these words, there is a cryptocurrency wave approaching fast. Is a team of blockchain developers enough, or will you need an entire army of Ethereum developers, smart contracts developers, distributed ledger engineers, Bitcoin engineers and other blockchain software engineers?

In order to answer that question, we must accurately assess where we are with blockchain development as of 2017. As the industry paves its way to Web 3.0 from Web 2.0, infrastructural development is on the rise. New browsers, developer tools, Chrome plugins, wallets, and decentralized exchanges are among the most prominent products that the market is seeing today. Several promising decentralized applications and  protocols have raised tremendous amounts of capital for venture capital firms, and for members of the general public, as well. As the infrastructure gets stronger, new applications pop up around the globe daily.

Some infrastructure development companies have already been working under the radar for the past few years, and will soon be able to satisfy much of the market demand. If your company wants to help build the infrastructure needed for this growing industry, then you need to get blockchain developers, blockchain software engineers, Ethereum developers, distributed ledger engineers, smart contracts coders, and smart contracts developers onto your team today. Now is the time to start creating the blockchain-based products that the future demands. There will never be a better time.

Industry Examples

As the race among protocols continues to develop the next cutting-edge infrastructure, a handful of products hold more promise than others.

Metamask (https://metamask.io/) is a chrome plug-in that bridges the gap between the decentralized Web 3.0 of tomorrow and the current Web 2.0 of today. Through Metamask, one can connect to the Ethereum main net and pay to use decentralized applications. The plug-in also has various test nets such as Ropsten and Kovan, which are used by Ethereum developers to deploy smart contracts to the blockchain.

Parity (https://parity.io/index.html), led by Ethereum’s co-founder Dr. Gavin Wood, is working on creating a fast Ethereum client that directly integrates with a browser in order to interact with the Ethereum blockchain. With Parity, a user can access the various decentralized applications within the Ethereum network, as well as the Ethereum’s cryptocurrencies. It has high performance and reliability with a small memory footprint.

Jaxx (https://jaxx.io/) is one of the leading wallet providers in the cryptocurrency industry. It allows users to store their various digital assets (such as Dash, Augur, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Bitcoin) using keys that are created in the local device. This gives users full control of their privacy and their private keys. Jaxx is also a bold participant in the crypto open-source movement and its source code is available on their website.

Soon, Web 3.0 will affect our lives in the same way Web 2.0 did, and the companies that lead the industry will be able to create and capture value like never before. It’s not too late – hire a smart contracts engineer today!

We here at Blockchain Developers, Inc. are world-class at helping you find and hire the talented Blockchain developers you need to grow. Just fill out our contact form, and we’ll be happy to see if we can help!