A Monthly Letter from the Founders
This August has proven to be a tumultuous month of emotional highs and lows. About mid-month, we received some incredible news in the form of a major partnership confirmation for the beta launch of our Shopify plugin.
Building on the relationships we formed in Miami back in April, Gabe and I had several meetings over the summer with BTC Media; the company that runs Bitcoin Magazine. They have a Shopify store on their site, selling BTC swag, and after presenting them with a demo of the finished plugin, they verbally committed to being our first beta launch partner!
This is incredible news, as a partnership with BTC Media and Bitcoin Magazine is sure to garner some attention and buzz throughout the industry. A partner of this caliber substantiates and legitimizes our platform and its capabilities in a world full of vaporware and trivial projects. So we are over the moon at their commitment to working with us.
However, last week, we met with the head of blockchain at Shopify, after requesting a meeting, since the review process was dragging on into its 6th week. (we submitted the app for review in mid-July).
In this meeting, Shopify told us that they will not approve any fungible token rewards systems due to regulatory uncertainty. This includes Bitcoin rewards too, not just ERC/ZRC tokens. As of now, they currently only permit NFT minting and airdropping, and that’s the extent of their support for blockchain. This news was like a kick in the teeth, that took 6 weeks to wind up. Having invested loads of valuable time and resources into engineering an embedded app for Shopify, and then waiting an unreasonably long period for review, only to be rejected based on rules that Shopify has not published anywhere on their site or developer documentation… anywhere.
The level of frustration we feel is inexplicable. Building crypto-based products in a world still adapting to Web3 is hard; mostly due to US regulatory uncertainty, but also due to poor experiences with companies that are slow to adapt. We’ve already expressed our frustrations with Zilliqa, and the lack of communication/support offered to devs on their network. Then we had Stripe fail us by approving loads of botted KYC submissions, and then charging us tens of thousands of dollars for those fake users, only to offer a $17 refund. And now Shopify has hamstrung our fully functioning plugin, citing lack of support for fungible rewards.
As a business owner and startup founder, these are the types of roundhouse blows that land squarely on the chin, and sting the most. But we are still in the ring, having regained our composure; and we are still in the fight. What we do from here will be instrumental and multifaceted.
One option we are exploring is accelerating NFT integration in such a way as to appease Shopify’s unwritten standards, and gain approval for the app, while maintaining the ecosystem and role of PORT. But there are many loopholes to identify and properly navigate to remain in good standing with Shopify’s mandate of non-fungibility. That will take some time to assess, design, and implement. We are also looking at Shopify competitors like Woo Commerce and others that are more nimble and agile, and open to creative ways to compete with Shopify. But both of these options require more engineering time and won’t be ready for months.
But the fact remains that our platform functions perfectly well outside of Shopify, and we merely sought out to package it up into their dashboard for easy access and integration for store owners. Now that they’ve moved the goalposts on us as they figure out how to support fungible crypto without fear of legal repercussions, we will focus more attention on Web3 companies who stand to gain by integrating our surveys and rewards.
Since our standalone platform works just fine, we are engaging discussions with the appropriate people at crypto exchanges, trade desks, news publishers, and price tracking apps. We know that fungible rewards will not be a stumbling block for these companies, and their user base is already crypto savvy and eager to earn, so we are confident that we can still close meaningful deals and announce landmark partnerships in due time.
As we work to reposition our product offering to Web3 companies, we’ve also been exploring interchain support more deeply. Our Eth contracts have all been updated and are ready for deployment, although we put them on hiatus, set to go live with the Shopify launch. But those ETH contracts are designed to make it much simpler to deploy tokens across networks. And we are looking most closely at Solana and BSC, as well as a new network called SUI By Mysten Labs. One thing remains true; no chain is perfect: Solana has centralization issues, while BSC is scam central. But both of these chains offer something that Zilliqa doesn’t — vibrant user bases and industry presence, and for PackagePortal to succeed, we need both.
Spreading out across multiple chains will be integral to the future success of PackagePortal, and we intend to get it done. The closed loop of Zil’s economy has proven to be a handcuff, but we are picking the lock to escape its limitations. This is the precursor to exchange listings as well. Since listing a ZRC token is not an option for 98% of exchanges, having the ERC is vital. But beyond that, bringing PORT to Solana or another chain will open the doors to a wider community of holders and users.
We’re aware of the unfortunate delay between first communicating cross-chain capabilities, and the deployment of those integrations. But its not a trivial matter, and requires careful attention to detail, as well as the need to be cognizant of all the future ramifications; good or bad. So our approach here is a thoughtful and careful one. No one wants to see PORT where it belongs more than myself, with buzz, adoption, and revenue all increasing to fair market value for a real-world project like ours. But as with most things in life, it takes careful planning and attention to detail, to safely navigate in today’s climate, while also ensuring adaptability for the future, as this space moves and pivots at breakneck speeds.
In closing, the Shopify debacle is a maddening one. At no time has their lack of fungible support been conveyed in public, and engineering teams will continue to develop apps that will ultimately be denied, until/unless their terms are updated. But ultimately, Shopify is a door that we just recently opened at the start of summer, so having it closed right away isn’t as detrimental as it might seem, (although it still frustrates me to no end). But our platform has wide applicability, and doesn’t need Shopify to succeed; it was just another branch of the tree we had already firmly planted, of which the roots continue to dig into the earth and be strengthened against the winds of change. We will push forward, lean into Web3 companies for partnerships, and broaden our reach into other networks, to build up our community. I look forward to sharing the fruits of those labors in next month’s letter. Cheers.
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