Paul shared the story of building a protocol for real-time finance.
Hello! What’s your background, and what are you working on?
Heya, I’m Paul Berg, inventor of the Sablier protocol, and co-founder of the company with the same name. I’m an engineer by heart, having spent the last six years bouncing between building startups and working as either a contractor or a full-time employee. I stumbled upon smart contracts two years ago, and they’ve been my main area of focus ever since. In 2019, I joined AZTEC and helped build their privacy protocol on Ethereum, only to quit my job during the summer to found Sablier.
Sablier is what I call “the protocol for real-time finance”. It can be used to make by-the-second payments. Why is this important? It’s a new way of establishing trust in financial contracts. If I’m a remote employee who just got a new job, I have to trust that my employer will wire me a lump-sum payment in one month from now. With Sablier, this problem doesn’t exist, as I’d be seeing my income grow in real-time.
What’s Sablier backstory?
There have been two important moments in the conception of Sablier:
- Noticing that piracy of design tools like Adobe Photoshop is big business because people don’t want to pay one year upfront for something that they may not use every day
- Getting my own paycheck delayed by three days, which is a pain in the neck if it happens during Brexit, when people like me were selling the Pound Sterling like crazy
I figured out that viewing money as a stream would solve not only these two problems, but it could also help secure a plethora of financial contracts where time, trust, and money overlap. I loved the idea so much that I quit my job and started working on it. My friend and colleague Razvan Apostu joined shortly afterward.
In August 2019, we received a grant from MakerDAO to fund the development of Sablier v1. Most of the money went towards securing our smart contracts and paying contractors. Later on, we joined the 1st cohort of MetaCartel, which helped us with sourcing more user pilots. Finally, in December 2019, we launched and received lots of love from the community for what we built.
What went into building the Sablier?
A lot of coffee, for sure! Sablier has two main building blocks: the smart contract protocol and the end-user product. We spent four months going from whiteboard to Ethereum mainnet, between August 2019 and December 2019. Last month was spent on auditing the smart contracts; we thank Quantstamp and ConsenSys Diligence for helping us here.
In parallel, we started writing a frontend code. We thought that the contracts were the hard part, but we quickly realised that coding the web interface in React is a feat in its own right. I shared my thoughts on Twitter about this, but the gist of it is that there’s some missing infrastructure.
I’d also like to mention that we didn’t rush to add a bajillion features since we like being experimental in everything we do. As we were approaching the launch date, we onboarded users for an alpha version, measured their response, and implemented only the most requested features.
What’s your business model?
We’re toying with two models:
- Tiered software-as-a-service. The free plan has an upper limit on how many streams you can create, how many people you can pay & so on and so forth.
- Charge interest. We built a neat way of splitting the interest earned by keeping cTokens in our smart contracts, but our fee is currently set to 0.
Who would buy this? Initially, the DeFi community, but the long-term goal is to make Sablier a product so good that even people outside of crypto want to use it.
What’s your position on the regulatory landscape today?
There’s an information asymmetry between us, the developers, and them, the regulatory bodies. I’m not sure many of them are aware that we’re just some well-intentioned folks interested in building a more open financial system. Time will probably heal this.
What are your goals for the future?
Build a product, talk to users, measure their feedback, and rinse and repeat. At the same time, we’re committed to finding the best use cases for real-time finance and leverage that knowledge to build a 10x better Sablier v2.
What are your future thoughts for the DeFi market?
I genuinely have no idea. As I previously said, there’s an information asymmetry, but I am in no position to know what will happen and when let alone if it happens at all.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions, ideas, or issues, ping us on one of the channels below. We’d love to hear from you.