When Scott Adams announced his company would embark on an initial coin offering (ICO) on his blog Friday, he wrote without sarcasm that the day might be one of the "biggest" of his life.
Quite the statement from the creator of the beloved Dilbert comic strip, readers may be surprised given Adams' recent, pointed take on blockchain mania. But far from just lampooning the technology, Adams is gearing up to get firsthand experience of how it can be used for fundraising.
WhenHub – a time visualization firm co-founded by Adams – is now preparing to launch a token of its own, preceded by an offering of Simple Agreements for Future Tokens, or SAFTs.
The project, according to Adams, allows subject matter experts to sell small amounts of time to clients, who will consult in a Skype-like video call session over the platform, the WhenHub Interface Network (WIN). The new product will facilitate auctions and payments, a system that would be built on top of ethereum using smart contracts, taking the tedium out of payments and invoicing.
In interview, Adams explained that he went through much the same process as everyone else: going from asking "What the hell is this?" to having days where he kind of started to get it and others where he could see the bigger picture.
Adams told CoinDesk:
"Once you see different applications for the blockchain, you start to see: This is way more than I ever imagined."
Adams went on to explain his recent strips about blockchain aren't intended to inspire others to write off blockchain tech.
Rather, he said, they have been inspired by how difficult it can be to explain the technology. In this way, he reasons the comics reflect the way it feels when someone understands something very new and they have to talk to someone else who doesn't.
"This is based on a real technology that I think you can say is tried and true," Adams said. "It's not like a management fad ... It's more like the internet in the early days."
Bitcoin, in particular, has impressed Adams because "the secret inventor merged technology and persuasion," he said. His recent writing has focused heavily on the latter topic, including a new book, "Win Bigly," on how Donald Trump convinced voters to elect him president.
Later on, Adams would use similar wording when discussing how bitcoin took advantage of the psychology of scarcity, hipness and greed to convince people to adopt it and treat it like it like gold.
"It's one of the greatest pieces of persuasion the world's ever seen," Adams said.
Getting to WIN
WhenHub's CTO arrived at blockchain after creating previous products that helped people conceptualize and manage time, such as calendar management, timeline visualization and meeting coordination.
"As the world often goes, you start with one good idea and then you discover others that might be more fun and more profitable to chase."
The company held a hackathon early in the year in which one of the entrants included a blockchain element in his not-quite-completed project. It came to mind for another WhenHub co-founder, CTO Nik Kalyani, when he was speaking to a consultant friend about the struggle to find that next client after completing a project.
WIN will now allow skilled people to squeeze revenue from gaps in their schedule, while enabling consumers to get knowledgeable answers to very specific questions. Adams said he could have used WIN recently when he spent six months trying to set up a live-streaming studio in his home that could work on all the platforms, such as Facebook and Periscope.
"There are just some things you can't Google," he said.
An hour with someone who has set up a lot of such systems, he continued, would have saved him a lot of time and headache.
Adams, too, says he gets lots of requests for his time, but finds it difficult to manage all the requests. When he does sit down with people, "most times they have 15 minutes-worth of questions," he said.
So experts on WIN can post increments of time as small as 15 minutes on their calendar, setting a minimum price for a consultation. Clients interested in talking to them can then bid for the time slot, and the winning bid is permitted to connect with the expert.
After WhenHub verifies the session took place, client funds are released to the expert via a smart contract.
The WHEN token
Equally important to the network will be its custom cryptocurrency.
An ERC-20 token built on top of ethereum, WHEN will manage payments between experts and clients on the WIN platform. By creating its own token, the company is able to seed early adopters with rewards for participation for useful activity without the need to spend fiat money to buy ether to provide those incentives.
"This is a case where the token is marketing as well as technology," Adams said. "The two worlds collide."
Early experts on the platform will be rewarded with tokens for doing things like completing their profile, linking it with social media (such as LinkedIn) and getting their identity verified with WhenHub partners. Provided they do a good job and manage to attract clients, those seed rewards will start to take on real value.
The company has devoted 26 percent of the total pool to drawing influencers onto the network.
Adams expects the earliest adopters to be people with technological skills, though he also expected that counselors of various kinds might use the service as well.
"I would be amazed if sex workers don't find this, because they find everything," he added.
Going forward, WhenHub aims to sell enough tokens to fund the company's operations for two-and-a-half years, which Kalyani estimated will require about $35 million.
Of the total 875 million tokens, 350 million will be offered via a SAFT, according to its white paper. The pre-sale is open now, with a minimum investment of $50,000, and a token bonus of 30 percent.
A public sale will open on Nov. 10 and run through the end of the year, with a minimum purchase of $250. Early buyers in the public sale will get a token bonus as well.
Still, for those sitting on the sidelines, Kalyani was keen to note that the team believes WHEN tokens could also end up finding a place in other products, hinting at a larger strategy in mind that he believes might continue to make it compelling.
"We've always had this vision to solve problems with time."
Scott Adams image via VLAD TV/YouTube