Interview with Mr. Harsh Rajat, founder and Lead developer of EPNS project
Hello Mr. Rajat. Please tell us a few words about yourself and how you ended up building crypto project like EPNS?
Hey Everyone! Awesome to be here. A little bit about me. I have 10+ years of experience in creating a lot of tech projects, from mobile apps, to games, to web services, before finally realizing that I want to be a blockchain entrepreneur.
While working in the space for past 2+ years, I always found it to have something missing when I was using a dApp versus a service, took me some time to realize that blockchain early days are very similar to the Internet early days, i.e: 2003 Gmail where you had to log in and check email or Orkut to see what your friends wrote about you (yes, I am that old).
But that is not the norm today, services don’t expect users to come to them, instead, they notify the users. That is the missing piece of the blockchain ecosystem which Ethereum Push Notification Service aims to provide.
Please describe to us what is EPNS project, where did the idea come from?
EPNS is a decentralized DeFi notification protocol built on Ethereum. In short, using the protocol, any dApps, smart contracts or services can send notifications to users (wallet addresses) in a platform-agnostic way (mobile, tablet, web, fav. wallets, etc). The DeFi aspect of the protocol also ensures that the user receives and earns from those notifications.
Blockchain like the early internet
Our eureka moment was realizing that blockchain communication still behaved like early 2003 days of the internet. Services or dApps expect the users to come to them. Imagine having 15 or so services, would you really be checking everyone out? Or is it easier to just receive notifications about them in a platform-agnostic way (mobile, tablet, web, or even favorite wallets of yours).
To expand on the above, you can find the communication pain point in any dApps or protocol currently present:
- Trading on DEX? Check if it’s complete.
- Have a domain on the blockchain? Well, better put a reminder for its expiry or lose it.
- Want to tell users your protocol got compromised? Too bad, reach out on Telegram, Twitter, and hope the news reaches them.
EPNS is created to solve those problems. That is, let the service come to the user instead of users going back to service. Of course, we also know that notifications are a double edge sword and that’s why our protocol ensures that the user decides which services they want to receive the notifications from.
We had an exciting journey, each leg of the journey helped us in improving the EPNS protocol further. We started ideation and conceptualization in February, then reached out to Ethereum Foundation for their feedback and mentorship.
- Got guided by the awesome guys there to join EthGlobal
- Launched a working PoC (Proof of Concept) and got access to even more amazing mentors.
- Got selected in IDEO PVD (Product Validation Day) to synthesize and improve our product, amazing guys and awesome experiences . This led us to see what users and services really want -> leading to further improvements on the features.
- And currently we are extremely humbled by our selection in Gitcoin Kernel.
We are learning so many new things here and forming bonds for life with people who are so much smarter than us.
I guess the journey has just started and we are super grateful for having awesome and amazing mentors to guide us through this.
What is the current development phase, is the product already available, and how does your roadmap look like?
We are available for Early Access on Ropsten! Yes, that’s right, push notifications are available and working from blockchain!!!
Any service can integrate our protocol for free and can deliver notifications to its users! Yey!!!
The roadmap is getting constructed, we are still gathering ideas from our Users who have tried the protocol and product out and have so many amazing ideas for us (I am talking about you Vedran 😀 ).
We just launched the community ideas Trello board, that contains the most creative ideas from the community, so would love for your readers to check it out and share any ideas/ feedback.
We have 2 years of roadmap and features planned but are carefully putting them together in a schedule that can be followed sequentially (with of course few hush hush features which we will share in the coming months).
I would like to focus more on your business model. How do you plan to finance your operations since you don’t have the token?
This is really a tricky question to answer. We do have a business model that involves charging for infrastructure services in the future (which is a completely opt-in process for services using our protocol).
We are clear that for users, the service is always free, and in fact, they will earn from it.
In terms of services, we know for sure that when we charge them sometime in the distant future, one way the fees will be charged will always be in ETH, though we are also exploring a hybrid model which can have our utility token. But yes, as I said, the services have the flexibility to choose which one they want to go for.
This is still quite early, we are focusing on the users and services preferred features list first and we are going to remain on Ropsten for some time (3-6 months) till we perfect features. The way we have built this, it doesn’t affect users receiving notifications or services interacting with our protocol in any way. They will not even know the difference even when we switch to mainnet so that’s a really cool part.
Speaking of funding, you participated in the latest Gitcoin Grant round. Did you apply for any other fundings, and how did you handle the expenses so far?
Haha, Yes, we are completely bootstrapped at the moment. In fact, we aren’t working on any side gigs from February as we completely focused on getting this delivered. Of course, this comes with some hardships, but till now the affection of the Ethereum community has made it a breeze! And I do hope that continues in the future as well.
We entered the Gitcoin grant extremely late (with just 7 days to go) but were humbled by the response. Right now, we are exploring other options for getting funded.
Tell us a few words about your team, how big it is? Do you work remotely? Where are you all from?
Love to share more details about the team, our rockstars !! We started with 2 members – Richa Joshi and myself.
I am the Project Lead, while Richa’s primary focus is product and product marketing. We are based in India. This was before we found some awesome core team members in June:
- Jafett Sandi, who is our brilliant (think crazy scientist) Product and Development Lead;
- Awosika Ayodeji, who is our never sleeping, always working Community and R&D Lead.
We are also lucky to have 2 new additions to EPNS family at the end week of June:
- Jude Dike: Who is our senior developer and awesome in solving problems;
- Victor Nwagbogwu: Who is a blockchain developer intern with a really promising future ahead.
We work remotely and are proud to call ourselves a global team.
Privacy is a popular subject nowadays, what is the level of privacy on messages sent over EPNS.
EPNS takes privacy extremely seriously. Even the sign-in process doesn’t ever send out private credentials anywhere… we designed our customized
challenge -> response -> authentication model for it and it is so worth it.
But don’t take our word for it guys… this is blockchain — Trust, but verify: https://github.com/ethereum-push-notification-service/epns-mobile-app
The secret messages follow the same strict standard, so only the user who has the private key can see the messages sent to them even when they are indirectly available on-chain.
You mentioned that you are decentralized and blockchain agnostic. Does your protocol work on other blockchains?
Sure, EPNS can work on other chains by simply creating a bridge to other blockchains to enable notifications over there as well. We are platform agnostic, that means the notification sent to protocol not only comes to a user (wallet address) phone or tablet, but it can also be delivered as Chrome or Firefox notification, can be read on our dApp and hopefully in the future can come to everyone’s favorite wallets as well.
As I have said before, users control where they want to see the notification and which service they want to receive the notifications from.
Are you open to partnerships? Did you attract any big names in the DeFi space yet?
Of course, we are open to partnerships and would love to showcase our protocol to other services, it’s made for them to interact with their users.
Huge shoutout to Anthony from EthHub.io for talking about us. It was an awesome conversation and he still helps us a ton!!! I would also like to thank DefiDad for coming to IDEO PVD and being super helpful with all the things and of course, you Vedran, the brilliant ideas, and the brainstorming alone took our product to the next level 😀.
Dear Harsh, thank you for the time you spent on this interview.
I am confident that there is a bright future for the EPNS project, and I wish you and your team all the best. We will stay in touch to keep my audience informed about your progress!
Thanks for having us Vedran! It would be amazing to interact with your audience and we would love to stay in touch with them. We have a Telegram group where we hang out and do candid conversations, and of course, we are always active on Twitter as well.
Also, attaching our quick and easy early access steps below:
2. Visit alpha dApp and subscribe to either BTC Tracker / ETH Tracker which sends prices every 6 hours.
Note: Subscribe from the same wallet you signed in to the alpha app
3. Start receiving notifications!!
And what better way to end this than by showing our awesome EPNS early access teaser video:
Again, thanks a ton Vedran for having me!
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