Ecosystem Zoom Out Ep. 4 — Pillar & Blocknative

Written by
Savannah Lee
Writer, Content Marketing
October 24, 2019

As the Pillar Platform grows its ecosystem of products, services, and breakthrough technical integrations, we want to celebrate and showcase the minds behind the code.

It wasn’t too long ago that we started talking with the team from Blocknative. Yet this partnership has already had a transformative effect for both our teams, and helped us recognise the true value of collaboration.

We spoke with their co-founder and CEO Matt Cutler, who is currently “crushed with inbound demand” — the best kind of problem to have.

Who is Blocknative?

Blocknative provides real-time information for in-flight Ethereum transactions. They help people understand what’s going on with their transactions as they’re being processed, from hitting that send button all the way to being confirmed on the blockchain. They work with wallets like Pillar, providing an API that connects to our backend infrastructure. They also work with DApps who need this kind of visibility.

Blocknative specialises in the mempool, the number of transactions waiting to be confirmed ‘on-chain’. They know more about how these transactions progress towards completion — or don’t.

Blocknative originally began as a crypto collectible game, inspired by Crypto Kitties. However, their original user testing feedback was “terrible”, says Matt. But not because their game was necessarily bad — it was difficult to just get people onboard. And once they were, they had no idea what was going on!

In response, the team started to build tooling to improve their game. When they showed it to people, the most positive reactions were to their in-app ‘helper’. After the Blocknative team heard users get excited about it six or seven times in a row, they decided to pivot the organisation, shut down the game and focus purely on developer tools.

Alerts in Pillar Wallet are now powered by Blocknative’s Notify API

What’s in it for #Pillaristas?

For everyday Pillar users, Blocknative gives direct and live feedback for every transaction. For something that seems so commonplace in traditional banking, it’s actually an incredibly tricky thing to pull off when it comes to blockchain systems.

For crypto users, one of the associated challenges of transacting has been to hit confirm and wait, without a single clue of what’s happening. Blocknative’s platform detects your transactions and provides real-time updates for every single state change. If you’re an end-user, you can see your transaction is progressing as expected and this helps settle down any anxiety. And if things are going a little differently than they should, the team can help correct that.

While most people feel like this functionality is designed for new users, Matt’s team finds that experienced users get as much value out of it as anyone else.

These crypto buffs are more likely to make higher-value transactions, as well as unusual types of transactions, so they have just as much anxiety as anyone else.

Blockchain — the Collaboration Nation

Matt says that the blockchain space is all about “composable capabilities”, meaning different organisations with different competencies are able to mix and match these capabilities. This requires working together in an open, honest and direct fashion.

In fact, the kind of work Blocknative has been doing for Pillar wasn’t even a possibility when our teams first started talking. Our Product Owner Drew and CTO Vitor looked at everything the Blocknative team was developing and focused on one specific capability — one which their platform wasn’t even really focusing on at that time. As a result, our teams worked collaboratively to understand what the exact requirements were. Matt then made a whole series of changes to support Pillar Wallet effectively.

Because of this cross-team work, Matt believes they are way better company now as a result, providing a far more effective service.

Blocknative is helping to power a really critical part of the entire Pillar experience, which they can also apply elsewhere to reach even more crypto users. Our work with other projects means that Blocknative is then able to connect with these teams.

These partnerships have an “amazing catalytic effect on the space,” says Matt. This collaborative pattern will help our whole industry and the ecosystem progress to where it needs to be.

DApp today, Web 3.0 tomorrow

There are amazing experiences that are being enabled right now which make blockchain-based transactions faster and easier for users. But despite this shift towards a more seamless user experience, the consequence is that transactions themselves are getting more complicated. More parties are involved, more hops required, and there are more areas where transactions could potentially go sideways.

As the industry progresses, higher volume, value and variety of transactions occur, driving the need for services like Blocknative. Luckily they provide the exact kind of monitoring tools needed, regardless of transaction type or how many parties are involved, ensuring that every transaction goes the way you want it to.

Matt says it’s interesting to witness these very clear industry trends. It does put a lot of pressure on their team, and makes very real demands on their infrastructure, but as a general movement it is bringing a flawless DeFi experience.

As it’s still early in our ecosystem’s development, there is a lot of opportunity; “little companies” like Blocknative can have a big impact, and hopefully become bigger organisations which grow their capabilities and have a broader impact across the whole space.

“We have an opportunity to be better than Web 2.0, to enable whole new classes of interaction, transparency, visibility and governance. All these innovations will apply beyond the technology — beyond on-chain alone.”

What about old-gen tech?

Matt believes there’s a lot of focus in our space around needing “to be as good as Web 2.0”. But his view is that we have an opportunity to be better than Web 2.0, to enable whole new classes of interaction, transparency, visibility and governance. All these innovations will apply beyond the technology — beyond on-chain alone. It’s a very interesting space to be in as we all carve new ground and invent new things. From here we create new possibilities, new frontiers. While it’s “really fun” to do, it’s also really challenging.

But at the end of the day, it’s what makes working in this space unlike any other.

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