October 4, 2022

Rick Porter, CEO and co-founder of DSCVR

Rick Porter was disillusioned with the web2 social media space. He saw social media platforms using people for data and then changing algorithms to eliminate the whole reason people even joined the platform. He, and his team, created DSCVR to give people options, put emphasis on community and ultimately give control back to the user. They already have 115k users and are growing rapidly.

Julian: Hey everyone. Thank you so much for joining the behind company Lines podcast. Today, we have Rick Porter. CEO and founder of discover discover is a groundbreaking decentralized social platform built entirely on the internet, computer ICP. It is a new kind of social network that presents the potential of a different future.

Rick, thank you so much for joining this show. I'm really excited to dive into your product. Like I mentioned to you, I already signed up. Start to use it a little bit, and I'm excited to not only learn more about you and, and the conception behind the idea, but where you envision it going forward.

But before we jump in would love to know what were you doing before you started discover? 

Rick: Well, okay. First of all, thanks for having me. I'm really excited about this. I'm always excited to talk about discover. Yeah, but you know, before discover I was actually at Google I was just working in, within their, their GG and their Google global network.

And A lot of fun, really interesting projects, hard problems to solve. Yeah. But every time I got home at night, I was just like, oh, I gotta touch some, I gotta touch more code. Yeah. And [00:01:00] just, you start moving on code and you start building stuff and things happen. Yeah. 

Julian: Yeah. And, and, and remind me, your background is in engineering tradition in development.

Rick: Yeah. I've been a software engineer for 15, 20 years at this point. Worked for a couple companies. Yeah. So I've always. Pushing something forward and I've been an entrepreneur many times over, so yeah, Google, Google, and BCG. It was a previous company I worked with were very much my most corporate positions.

Julian: Yeah. What was the difference between other than obvious, but what was the difference between working within the startup space? Then going to a more structured kind of corporation, and obviously you transition now back to discover which we'll jump into, but yeah. What was that experience like going from kind of startup and then into corporate, what did you learn in that 

experience?

Rick: Yeah, absolutely. I think the first thing that came to mind was actually the mystery. But you know, in your corporate environment, it succeeds or fails, you know, you have a very data driven analysis that happens and a postmortem and also structure. [00:02:00] Like speed, right? Like how fast you can move in a startup, something's wrong. You have a feature idea. You can do it, you know, eight hours. It can be in production and users can be using it. You know, in a corporate environment, you may like wait for the sprint to be ready. You may have to be on a schedule. It may not be released for a month or two. And then you're build, measure.

Learn process is much. Yeah in a startup, but that's the thing, it's that mystery, like, you really don't know what'll happen because you just don't have everything you might have in a highly structured environment. 

Julian: Yeah. What are some of the key successes or I guess, strategies to, for success that you saw and that I'm sure you're implementing now in discover either through the startup experience or through the corporate experience.

Rick: Yeah. You know when to level. Ramp up process. Right. You know, like I think discover has gone through like almost every stage. Well, hopefully not every stage, many more to go, but like, you know, it's like the hacker mentality. It's like, you don't even have a Trello board. You have nothing, you maybe have a note, a Google doc that has like six lines in it.

And they're [00:03:00] really like, Abstract and mysterious words about what you're actually doing. And then you just start pushing, pushing code. Yeah. Testing with the user, cuz it's like, you want to get on that treadmill with the user of like, what are you doing? What's wrong? What do you, what problems are you facing?

What do you need? Right. 

Julian: Mm-hmm 

Rick: how do you actually facilitate the user experience? Mm-hmm and it's just, you, you go through the transitions. Eventually you get to a Trello board or you get to a notion and then you start. Stuff into JIRA and start tracking that way. 

Julian: Yeah. 

Rick: And I think we're like, we're at the very much at the mid JIRA stage right now, but like, there's so many more like how many project boards are you gonna have?

What are your PD PDs going to look like and things like that. 

Julian: Yeah, no I'm amazed. Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, it's amazing how they, they go through that kind of prescriptive transition throughout the process and from a lot of founders. And I'm not sure if you agree with this, but it, it goes within the customer journey, learning more about your customer, what they need what they're using in your product, what they're not using.

Has that been the similar experience with not only, I guess, with, with discover now in terms of [00:04:00] iterating and, and, you know, the evolution. 

Rick: yeah. You know, there's actually one caveat to all that. It's like we're pure web three. Yeah. so all the data user tracking tools really don't work on our platform. So like, even if we run GA we have our user count, but like really extracting detailed information about what they're doing is like kind of against the ethos and a little bit against our principal.

So it's like we're working with, we had a, a decentralized GA built through another team that we actually use. So we're learning as much as fast as they can develop products and stats to teach us what we're doing. Yeah. But honestly, just it's, it's a startup, you know? Yeah. You've gotta be talking to the user, like every moment of every single day, you've gotta be listening to and talking 

to 'em.

Julian: Yeah, no, that that's it definitely seems like that's, that's the way forward in terms of whether identifying ways to, to build new products or features or continue on what's already working. What inspired you to build, discover and, and, you know, you were working [00:05:00] in these different environments, it sounds like you were touching code, you know, when you, when you head home, even when you clocked off and continued working on different ideas, was this always the idea that you were working on or what was the particular inspiration for this product?

Rick: Yeah, you know, I've been developing decentralized technology now for almost six years. And that's what I've really focused on and started off building a diamond traceability app for de. And only a subset of things really end up on chain historically when working with Ethereum or other kinds of decentralized protocols.

So an example is, is like, I want to store all this data, but I want it to be decentralized. Well, it's so expensive to store all that data. So you end up storing just a small hash on chain, and eventually you only start putting that hash on there every so often, because the cost of actually writing that hash to.

And so when Definity started building the internet computer, it's always been this vision of, we can put the whole thing on chain. So I was sitting there like, well, I want to build something for this. And I want to see what is the feasibility of this. And so [00:06:00] as soon as we got something up where I got something up on the chain it was a, it was an example of like, wow, this could actually work.

And at the time it was the pandemic, right. Yeah. I was really lacking community. I was really lacking, like communication, like diving into problems with people. And so discover was really, for me, a place, a community that was being built. And so people that I could talk to and it felt like I had that that capability with discover.

So it's just like them wanting to use the platform and wanting to communicate with me and actually. This platform just continued to try features and it wasn't like, Hey, we're gonna go change the world. Let's build a decentralized social network. It was like, can, can, does this actually work? Is this actually possible?

And through that, through learning through the users, through talking to 'em, it was just fuel to the fire for me. you know, it was just, yeah. Wow. There's people out there who are talking and I'll always remember the first comment that I communi the person. I have no idea who they are, where they are at [00:07:00] this point in time.

But I remember that first hello world and me, hello world backing to them. Yeah. And then they're like, it works thumbs up and I'm like, yeah, this works. that's cool. Yeah. So it, you know, it's just, and then everything forward has been like, okay, what is the problem that we're solving? What is the problem that.

The user is facing and how do we resolve that? Yeah. And prepare, and that's just how discover got built. It's just through the process of working with the user and building something functional for them. 

Julian: Yeah. What has been since you've been building in tech, in Webster and decentralized technology for over the past six years, how, how has the evolution looked and where are we in terms of its kind of overall adaptability to whether it's DS, DeFi de so is what they're calling it.

And all these other kind of. Subsidiary technologies that come about with, with decentralized technology. How's that evolution been from your perspective on building it and where do you think its capability is in terms of, you know, the adoptability kind of widespread? 

Rick: Yeah, that's a good question.

[00:08:00] It start, I mean, it really started off with like Bitcoin, right? Yeah. And we could securely and safely and cryptographically trans transfer value between two addresses. Okay. People started asking more questions. Like maybe there's more complex data associated with this data. There's some sort of data structure and, you know, thus things like Ethereum were created and people could start running minimal applications on top of these protocols.

And then the question of course, was people who started building on Ethereum sort of like started constructing larger applications. And it came to the point where it's like, well, maybe this application's too large for an Ethereum. For the EVM, but maybe not for something else. Yeah. And so you started seeing more corporate protocols born to try to facilitate this.

And you had like was created, which wasn't very corporate, but the idea was, is you could like build larger, larger scale applications on chain and you know, through the ICP and Dominic Williams, they were able to see this very early on and actually come up with a way that you could [00:09:00] actually run an entire applic.

On chain, like all your business logic on chain, which is a huge paradigm shift from where everything started, but it's like natural progression. So taking this progression, we're just going to continue to see larger and quicker applications built on chain, where you can have like full multi game game servers, you know, you're gonna have like full all your streaming services are coming from chain.

Like, you know, all these types of analytic tools and data processing and search engines. So it's like, What type of chain would be needed, what type of protocol would be needed to actually facilitate these types of applications? And, and this is why I'm on the internet computer. I feel like it is on the bleeding edge and it has a lot further way to go before it reaches that ceiling of, okay, this is the largest application that can be built.

Yeah. And discovers far from that. Right. Which is really interesting. So that means from a discover perspective, like we have so much further to go. How, what type of features and products can we actually keep on? . [00:10:00] 

Julian: Yeah, no, that's incredible. I, I love the, the, the truth that kind of comes with the, you know, decentralized products.

I was talking to another founder and they had built a way to, for, for you know, research institutions and corporate institutions, but as well as individuals get loans and build credit scores on chain and this idea of, you know, understanding where your data is coming from and the history of the usability of that product influencing the way you.

Productively using that or, or gaining more access is incredible to, to see and how it's continued to grow. So it's amazing to see how the technology is becoming more and more or, or I guess the barriers are becoming lesser and, and you have more accessibility overall. What problems is discover solving?

You talked about, you know, you, you said hello world and, and, and from that conception, that idea and that the fact that it works now, you're looking to solve more problems for your user. What kind of problems are you looking to? . 

Rick: Yeah. You know, at this point in time, we're completely decentralized social [00:11:00] platform running on there in a computer.

As we were saying, we have like NFT verified profile photos. We have the ability to tip and gift NFTs. We have the ability to gate and create communities and then gate those communities by NFT ownership, even gate 'em by traits. So full role-based access control. We're starting to explore governance is our next big one is like, how do you. govern these communities, right? What type of rules and tools do you need in place? And there's a lot of knowledge out there, especially within how Dows are run right now. Yeah. So it's like, how do we take that, those type of mechanisms and create 'em in a way that's palatable to a discovery user and palatable to somebody who's actually building a decentralized community.

Yeah. And so like at tokens, how do those, how do we actually progress through these types of rules? So we can. You know, further finance the problem the platform, but I think really governance is highly focused right now. 

Julian: Yeah. Why, why does, I guess, you know, for me, I, I, I see the idea and, and maybe I would love to hear [00:12:00] it from your perspective. Why does something like social and social interaction, social networking need to be need to be on web three and go and go web three. 

Rick: Yeah. It's really about your digital ownership, right? Like, do you. The digital content that you upload to Facebook and Instagram? No. I mean, I think you even sign it away through one of their terms of services when you actually upload it.

But like, it's not like it's, it's not like terrible. I mean, it's godless this far and it's proven how, how people want to communicate. And I think just the progression is, is that we want to shift the ownership from the companies to yourself. Like you should own your own digital. And that's one thing that discover really wants to get right, is like, how do we make sure you own your digital footprint on the platform and that you have control over it?

Yeah. And if there's some sort of monetization in place because of the activities that have happened on the platform, what percent of that are you getting? What, what slice of that pie? And you have a right to things because you're creating this platform along with all the other [00:13:00] users. Yeah. 

Julian: No, that's incredible.

I love that perspective. And and it. It kinda leads into my next question. How, how is the community or how are products I guess, and especially with discover being influenced by the community that they're cultivating. 

Rick: Yeah. You know it's a really good question. So the community drives, discover. It's like, there's no doubt in my mind, you know, it's really about monitoring things and being like, okay, what are they trying to do? What are they trying to accomplish? Mm-hmm reaching out to them and you know, the gating is one of those. It's like, Hey, I want my C. But like, can you restrict it? So people with this NFT can gate it and it's like, yeah, that's a one off.

Let's try it. You know? And as soon as we put it up and put it in place, it's like, whoa, this is amazing. Let's let's scale this. And I think we're at like 48 right now. And we have self gating tools coming out. That'll hopefully exponentially increase that. So the users can do it like just through a couple clicks of buttons, but and like, You know, someone on the platform is like, Hey, I have this new [00:14:00] token I'm launching, but how do I give it out to users?

Just like on my own free will. Like, I just want to have it and just like start dishing it out. So we did a little bit of research and we're like, oh man, this is, if we do this, connect these three dots, the user can click a button, then just give away some of these tokens. And now tipping has turned into many, many tokens.

I, I think that's, by the end of the year, it's probably gonna be a couple dozen who knows. Yeah. And there's this, this perpetually happens though. Like I have a problem, but I need it fixed. We're listening to the problem. What are you trying to do with it? Okay. Let's how would you like this solution? How do you like that solution and giving the presenting that optionality to the users has we found, takes us down paths that we couldn't envision, right?

So it's like, it's not always up to us to solve the problem. The users are solving problems. Mm-hmm 

Julian: that I love the progression of, of the way you're interacting with users and the, the ability you offer them to create certain. And it seems like it's also beneficial for discover to create these different communities. A, a question that popped up as I was looking [00:15:00] into discover and knowing kind of the social climate with, in, you know, these, these other platforms is the question around, you know, a malicious user or, or what the consensus feels as a malicious user, how. Is web three and decentralized technology going to kind of combat individuals or monitor or, or I guess inactivate in users that are from the consensus, maybe not pushing out content that is productive or maybe even harmful.

I'm sure you you're, you're in the news with different, you know, social figures. Oh yeah. You know, speaking out and, and being you know, kind of banned from certain areas and there's, there's a lot of divide. My philosophy. I don't know if it's popular, but if the consensus is, is not with it, then, you know, we all don't want to hear it.

But how does web three, because of its decentralized nature combat or, or address individuals of that nature, have you thought about that? And if you have, what are, what are your thoughts about the technology and, and how it, how it interacts? [00:16:00] 

Rick: Yeah. You know, high level for discover, you know, we have, there's no like root community on discover.

Yeah. It's all sub. So by just joining a sub community, you're abiding by the rules of that sub community or that community itself, and anyone can create a community. So if you, so if bad actor is coming into communities, those communities can remove that user because that's their community. They can do what they want with it, right?

Yeah. But if a bad actor creates a community that is intended to harm or breaks some sort of rules. So we have global rules on the. And they're very standard, you know, there's like no dosing you know, no illegal content things like that. And then we can come to a quick vote to remove that community and potentially permanently bend that user.

Yeah. But the idea there is, is like, that should be the very extreme situation on a, on a micro scale though, each community can decide who can post and not post in their own community because it's, you know, 

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. [00:17:00] I love, I love that sense of ownership, especially as you know, communities. Self-regulate naturally, you know, in kind of human nature wise, we're all we're all beings that like to group in certain you know, whether it's based on a similar idea or, or similar goal or, or what have you.

And that, that self-policing, or self-regulation I think is something that has been taken away from. More centralized platforms. And so it's awesome to see discover kind of allowing people, the capability to, you know, regulate their own communities and foster you know, or, and create their message that they feel is, is, you know, in essence, either.

From the, what they, what they conceived it as, or that it's evolving to. Tell me a little bit about the traction. You talked about these different technologies, these sub communities that you're building these gated communities that are really you know creating, you know, and compounding on themselves.

Tell us a little bit about the traction, the users, how many users are on the platform, what do you intend to grow to? What do you expect? Yeah, we'd love to hear about some of the progress that discovers seeing. 

Rick: Yeah, absolutely. So we're at a hundred. 30,000 users at this point in time, we grew maybe [00:18:00] 30% in August alone.

You know, September the numbers are not in yet, but it's gonna be another big growth period for us. And you know, the, the biggest uses use cases are people wanting to build communities and drive decisions in those communities like through polling or NFT, gating, and tipping and things like that.

You know, it's, it's becoming a launchpad. And it's always kind of been where people are like, Hey, I have a new NFT project. I'm about to launch. First thing I want to do is build up a community around it and start whitelisting those users for airdrops because it's a form of identity by joining this community, by participating in this community in a positive manner, people are able to select them and white whitelist them.

Yeah. So the other part of that too, is like, because you don't like discover by the, when you sign up, you're automatic, you already have an address and this address can act like a wallet and can already see. Fungible tokens and non fungible tokens. So users, once they whitelist them can drop 'em directly to the user on discover by just grabbing their I, their wallet address on discover and sending it right to it.[00:19:00] 

So it's like, we've kind of solved that typical problem that you might face for the onboarding for web three. Yeah. And so that's where we're seeing a lot of growth is people who are like learning about the web three process process. Yeah. And getting evangelized through actually interacting with a platform and receiv.

Fungible are non fungible and being able to actually go get the sell 'em to trade 'em, to keep 'em, you know, to do all sorts of things with them. 

Julian: Yeah. How, how does a user best utilize discovers platform? 

Rick: Yeah. You know, it it's, by, from our perspective, you know, if you want to extract the most amount of value out of your experience on discover it's about really submitting valuable content, it's really about engag.

With the community. And it's really about learning about what the community wants to get built. You know, what kind of community can you manage? What kind of community can you preexisting community? Can you actually join to be a moderator on, right. It's really about getting that engagement for those power users.

Yeah. But like a typical user who's who's browsing [00:20:00] the platform, you know, just submitting content, like taking place in discussions, you know, voting on content, help us curate these feeds help. Know, what is actually valuable content on the platform. Cause at the end of the day, the more, more type of these users who want to come on the platform and engage will just continue to grow a quality user base on the platform itself.

Julian: Yeah, no, that's incredible. And, and super helpful advice, especially for audience members who wanna join the platform and, and myself selfishly for, for how to interact with it. But but, and, and kind of a follow up question to that is how do you view community just. I don't know if this's more of a philosophical question, but community has been kind of I don't wanna say disrupting, but becoming kind of parallel with building products now with a lot of startups and, and companies, it's, it's almost like if, if you're not building and thinking about community at the same time, then, then you're a step behind.

But what is it to you in, in your eyes of like, why is community so important? And what do you view community as I guess, you know, in, in, in how it [00:21:00] functions as an organism within, you know, a products lifecycle and growth. 

Rick: Yeah. You know, we're a social platform, our biggest stakeholders, the users themselves.

Yeah. So it's really about, you know, facilitating the needs of the stakeholders, which is the. Yeah. And it's like, if you're, if you just don't have that direct line of communication to 'em and have, have them comfortable to, to be able to reach out and tell you about something on the platform. You're just not going to know.

I, I mean, like, I would say 30, 40% of our bugs come in through Twitter, DMS or telegram DMS or just like random emails or posts on the site. Like people who may not feel comfortable about posting publicly on the. Or just by reaching out or visa versa, people who feel really comfortable and they're posting it and having a discussion.

Yeah. And I think like the discussion is the most useful because it's like, it brings other users ideas and, and figures out how to actually solve those problems. Mm-hmm but I think when they do reach out, you know, it's like [00:22:00] thanking them and, and, and really engaging them and understanding what other problems are trying to face, because that's your first line of defense.

A lot of times is like, Hey, how. What's actually wrong with the platform, if I'm not on it, like if I'm not on every single page on every single component on every single browser. Right. And we're a small startup. So it's like, you know, like there's only so many automation tools that we can run. And if you're a small startup, there's only so many points of your process you'll have through actually your deployment, like your how do you do regression testing and all these things?

Yeah. So like open that line and really, really care about what the user really wants and always, and always thank them for that. It's for them to reach out. That's like, that's work, you know? Right. So that must mean they really care about that platform. 

Julian: Yeah. Yeah. What are some of the biggest risks that discover faces today?

Rick: Yeah, you know, I think the biggest is always going to be identity. You know, and what, at what level of identity is appropriate. And right now we, we turn that over to the portals [00:23:00] or which we call which are our. And these communities draw, decide what type of identity the user needs. Do they need a verified phone number?

You know, do they have to have specific types of NFTs to join? Right. Do they have to create an introductory thread and get ex accepted, but like as decentralized social grows, like how do you avoid the pitfalls of web two and, and somehow create a more diverse community, but also some. With some form of identity.

And like, I have a lot of theories on identity and the biggest one is we all are all multiple people online. So it's like there can't be just one identity that represents me. And I feel like I wouldn't be as, as interesting a person and none of us would be one identity truly represented us. And I want to figure out way, how do we let people be themselves while still maintaining a well formed.

Julian: Yeah, no, that, that's incredible. I love the piece on identity, especially because I think we've learned, you know, [00:24:00] in, in many iterations of psychology and research where people have a mask or social mask and there's different aspects to themselves that function you know, in different situations as, you know, a form of adaptation and, and just human behavior and the way, and it's not, you know, creating any barrier to that.

That's success. Creating the opportunity to allow those different personalities or personas. What have you behaviors act productively positively in these different situations. So I love, I love that theory. And if everything goes well with discover, what's the long term vision for the company.

Rick: Yeah. For discover, you know, it's really about getting that global reach, looking for that mass adoption, creating a platform that could truly take. To user and onboard 'em into web three, allow them to build a fully decentralized and autonomous community on discover and allow 'em to manage that community through their governance tools and create a way that they can actually monetize themselves and those communities through these tools.

[00:25:00] Right? So if, if, if you're a traditional community builder or you're a traditional influencer, and you're looking to monetize your own digital. While still maintaining ownership and proof of ownership of your digital footprint discover will be the right platform for you. And I think if we, if we're smart about this, right, and we, we take the powerful elements of web three and some of the traditional elements of web two and figure out how to merge 'em together in a decentralized social platform will have a new type of user that can actually monetize themselves and have some sort of proofs behind these Monet.

Julian: Yeah, no, that's incredible. Yeah, no, I, I love, I love not only the vision that conceive the company and the idea, but where it's heading to and how it's allowing people to you. And ideally, you know, adopt web three from web two in a very I guess authentic way where, you know, it exists as a social capacity and, and not have to be so tied to finance or, or tied to some type of application.

It, it, it ties [00:26:00] into kind of an emotion that we all feel, which is. You know wanting and longing for a sense of community. So really excited to see where the product goes and grows. And I always like to ask this question because I get different answers from different founders. And I it's selfishly a way for me to learn more and do more research, but for also my audience as well to, to get some more information.

But what books are people have influenced you the most? 

Rick: Oh, wow. Let's see here. Like I've always been a big sci-fi fan. I'm a huge anime fan too. So like, it's like, I'm spending a lot of time watching sci-fi at a bay and steins skate and like really like living that dream of like, what is the, what an alternative universe or an alternative future could be like, you know?

And it's like, like really watching these to meet great works and experiencing them and like kind of like taking these abstract ideas and figuring out, oh, how can we fit this into discover? Right? Like, this is such an interesting concept. you know, and it it's really, like for me, it's [00:27:00] been highly focused, like what is, what are the right elements that I can extract from web two and web three and like reading as many papers as I can.

Yeah. To actually try to put those pieces together. 

Julian: I love that what's the anime of choice or, or what's the one that's most interesting right now? The man, 

Rick: I just steins gate's always been my favorite. Yeah. One of my only favorites. Yeah. There's an actually. how I have to think about it, but there's this actually one I watched recently psychopaths.

Julian: Oh yeah. 

Rick: And I was like, wow, this is like a, it's like the, it ends in like a weird blockchain universe where like everyone's mind or all these like collective minds are driving identity and like determining people's you know, anger levels, I guess, through some sort of decentralized network of minds. 

spooky. It's kind of cool. 

Julian: Yeah. Yeah, no, I, I love I'm a huge anime fan too. And I, I grew up watching, like case closed. You know, when, when sort out online came and, and obviously I'm huge NATO fan, I think Mo are. And if you're not, I'm, I'm curious if you're more of a bleach fan or, or [00:28:00] where, where, where you stand there, but thank you so much for.

Giving us your background, your experience, walking us through the evolution of discover and where it's going and, and how technology is really allowing us the opportunity to have that ownership and companies like discovers allowing kind of a location for us to congregate and, and share ideas and share that last little bit, where can we find you?

Where can we support you? Give us your plugs, your LinkedIn, your, your websites, your Twitters where can we support the vision of discover?. 

Rick: Check out, discover.one. DS CVR dot O E show up, check out the site, sign up, create a post. Say you heard about this podcast and we'll see what happens. 

Julian: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Rick, for being on the show, I'm really excited to see where discover goes and to play around over the platform.

Hope you enjoyed yourself, but again, thank you so much for being on the show. 

Rick: Thank you. No, thank you so much for having me great questions, your great interviewer. So this was awesome.

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