Take it from a girl who learned kendo when she was a child and is such a big violin fan that she got the level 10 certificate, she certainly knows what she’s doing. She’s got the determination and resolve to see things through, which is how her agricultural blockchain company Xcener Blockchain that she founded in 2014, received A-round financing of more than US$10 million earlier this year. She is the founder of Scry.info project, Eva Foo. Let’s learn a bit about her business experience.
Crossing new heights: Farmer income goes up from RMB1,000 to RMB10,000
I was involved with the Internet right from the time I was in college. Whether it was PC web games or mobile games, I soon moved on to private blockchain systems for agricultural supply chain-blockchain, and now I’m dealing with the underlying protocol in public blockchain. It’s like I have always been crossing new heights, feeling my way through. To be honest, I had not foreseen the opportunity at the outset. What has happened has been beyond my expectation.
We began our blockchain business pretty early. We created XcenerBlockchain in 2014. This was a platform to cooperate with farms and help them sell their products by developing supply chains.
Back then, we didn’t have any reference point and the only way for us was to keep trying. After several attempts, we realized that smart contracts were an integral component in blockchain. Using smart contracts for data related to farm products helped increase sales and lowered costs for the farms.
Xcener Blockchain began to purely focus on agricultural supply chain from the 2nd quarter of 2015 when we managed a case related to selling kiwi fruit produced in Cangxi, Sichuan to Germany. In this case, all 3 product lines were connected to our system and that deal was worth US$30 million.
In Jiangxi, there is a farm that grows sweet potatoes, which are quite sweet and have a high product rating. The farmers growing these sweet potatoes worked very hard, even though their hands were severely damaged. However, their annual income was only slightly higher than RMB1,000. We then included the rating of the farmers’ sweet potatoes into smart contracts and helped them sell their produce to France directly. The French buyer gave an order for all their sweet potatoes.
Later, we visited the County-level Agricultural Bureau and homes of these farmers. When they learnt that the order was for all their sweet potatoes, they naturally became very excited. Many farmers told us that their children were doing well in school but they were unable to afford college tuition even if it was as less as RMB3,000 per year.
After our efforts to help them sell the sweet potatoes, their annual income exceeded RMB10,000, more than 10 times their earlier income. We used blockchain to include product quality into smart contracts, and we managed to promote these products much better than traditional methods, which required endorsements from intermediaries. Often, such intermediaries are well-established companies who charge a service fee in millions of RMB, making their service very expensive.
Some of these actual real-life cases affected us deeply. We have become profoundly aware of how blockchain can add value to an existing product.
Simply speaking, we walked through this process through numerous trials, and all this happened because I had predicted that blockchain had a wonderful future indeed.
From close to open source: sharing technologies
This year, the founder of Fenbushi Capital who is also our investor asked us: Since you have traversed this difficult path through trial and error, would you be willing to share your technologies and experience with others?
Traditional companies develop systems that are part of their business layer and their applications have closed layers and closed loops. As a result of this, traditional companies never share their core technologies with others, because if they do so, they stand to lose their revenue. In this sense, it is vicious competition at company level.
Originally, I believed that starting a business meant fierce competition, where only the best can survive. Mr. Shen from Fenbushi Capital, told me repeatedly for at least six months that we should move towards becoming open source.
Since we started our blockchain business, both Mr. Shen and Vitalik recommended that we should share our technologies. Gradually, we came to understand that it was a good idea to become open source.
You will discover that in the blockchain field there is a lot of code that act as bridges, connecting the old and new code. The new code is modified, optimized, iterated and redeveloped based on existing concepts and codes.
To develop an industry, you must invite and make room for more participants
In July 2017, we started the Scry.info project, which intends to have more participants and will help further develop blockchain industry.
To develop an industry, you must make way for more participants
As Token protocol layer participants, the founding team generally holds a small percent of tokens. For example, I only hold 0.7% tokens. However, in a traditional company, a large shareholder often has 40% to 50% of shares in the company.
When we developed Xcener Blockchain, I closed deals with two farms in Vietnam and some other farms in the US. Later on, I realized that though this model will ensure our profitability, it is limited only to our internal resources. This is not the case with the entire industry. For example, developers who wish to enter the field are unable to do so because they are blocked right at the door.
Xcener Blockchain focuses on the agricultural field which is restricted by industrial bottlenecks, and is affected by politics, geography, transportation and trading environment, despite being quite stable. As a result, we have thought of developing an underlying open source protocol that is more inclusive and compatible, to promote the entire industry.
We hold the idea of developing this protocol layer close to our heart, so that the lessons and experiences we have accumulated over the last 3 years will be made into an underlying protocol that can be shared with everyone.
We spent more than a year studying blockchain. There were countless trials and errors, numerous bugs in code demos, and endless error reports. We had no available resources to learn from, and our only choice was to think and find solutions step by step. But if we are able to manage the underlying protocol, it will provide a great convenience for startup teams or developers in this area, as they can directly utilize this protocol layer to create their own applications, thereby eliminating the mistakes that we have already made.
It typically takes 6 months for a developer to develop an application on Ethereum. However, after we package our technologies, even entry-level developers will be able to create their own applications with just a couple of months’ effort.
After the project reaches this stage, we hope that 20 to 30 projects can operate on our protocol layer in the next stage, and we intend to provide our utmost support for these projects. In the next 3 to 5 years, I think we will witness a cascading explosion of smart contracts at application and industrial level, which will wash away many shell projects. The real blockchain era is going to be here soon, and the real open source era is coming. We only want to help more people embrace this era.
10 years have passed, blockchain industry is all set to explode
At the moment, we feel that blockchain industry is on the verge of an explosion.
REST and Go languages were created in 1999, and it took 10 years for them to become dominant. It has been nearly 10 years since Satoshi Nakamoto published his white paper in 2008.
The span of a decade typically forms a cycle for development of any technology. In any technology’s tenth year, it’s a given that there will soon be some form of accelerated development. In 2014, when we founded Xcener Blockchain specializing in blockchain, hardly in the general public knew what blockchain was. But now, after 3 years, blockchain has developed into a brand new industry, and is being valued and embraced by engineers.
Blockchain is also helping traditional industries grow rapidly. Today, increasingly more products based on blockchain applications are emerging. For example, CryptoKitties is a pretty good starting point. While basically, it is just a game, it has caught on because it has virtual cats that are created through matching, generation upgrade and reproducing algorithms that are priced differently.
This is a good start. Blockchain industry is quite sensitive. As soon as there’s the slightest opportunity, the entire world will catch on to it and create a dynamic situation leading to explosive development in the industry.
The events of 2012 and 2013 have shown that we are definitely era-based people and we can safely say that each era has its own heroes. No matter how great you are, you are doomed to die if something goes wrong at crucial points of time. It makes it very difficult to develop and become better if the surrounding environment doesn’t provide any support.
Starting a business is like a Marathon
Starting a business is a never-ending process. Several times, founders are on the verge of giving up. When we started promoting Xcener Blockchain, many people didn’t understand what we were doing. They asked us: How much money can this system help us earn?
There is no place for regrets or second thoughts once you start a business, it’s like running a marathon. If you hesitate, you will fail. In Chinese Zen philosophy it is said that, ‘one should not dwell in the past, nor fear the past’. Only by doing something in the present and firmly believing in it, can you move forward with determination. Leaving a window open can easily lead to your work grinding to a halt.
From the time I was a little girl, I have been learning fencing and I have the greatest regards for Bushido. According to Bushido, stopping means ‘death’. Someone once asked me, ‘What will you do if you fail?’ I never even consider this question because as a founder, if you think of failure as an option, you will constantly fear everything.
Starting a business means being persistent and believing in the future.