In a chat with David Dawson, our CTO

We asked David Dawson, Chief Technology Officer at Cygnetise, a few questions about his role, blockchain technology and what the future holds for Cygnetise.

About David. David has over 14 years experience in the technology industry helping to grow some of the world’s most exciting startups and having successfully guided his last two to acquisition. Prior to Cygnetise, David was CTO of an innovative and sustainable fashion brand, WOOL AND THE GANG where he delivered a one-of-a-kind e-commerce platform, and Director of Technology Mobile Interactive Group (MIG) (acquired by NASDAQ listed Velti plc in November 2011). In September 2008, MIG was ranked No.1 in The Sunday Times Microsoft Tech Track 100, securing the title of fastest growing privately owned technology company in the UK.  

Let’s talk more about your role as CTO of Cygnetise. Why did you accept this position in the first place?

I had just finished my role as a CTO at WOOL AND THE GANG and after taking some time out, I was looking for a new exciting challenge where I could leverage my previous experience but also do something very different than what I had done before.

I was attracted to Cygnetise as it was a startup that was looking for a hands on CTO to build upon an existing MVP (Minimum Viable Product) using a set of technologies that really interested me Ruby/ Blockchain and which was live and generating revenue, with real clients.

What’s the progress in the development of the technology since you joined?

When I first joined, my focus was to bring the tech development in house from our partner Applied Blockchain. Since then the focus has been around laying the foundations and making strategic long term technology decisions, which will allow both the technology and the team to scale, something I like to call a linear development velocity.

What's the main challenge today for blockchain to become mainstream? And when will it change the world?

Blockchain is a “new” technology that has been around for a while, and is getting a lot of hype and interest these days. Like any new technology, it has its strengths and its challenges, and playing to these strengths and using it to compliment existing technology rather than treating it as a silver bullet that can solve every data storage/ business logic scenario to is key in making it mainstream.

At Cygentise we are doing just that, by using the blockchain/ smart contracts in combination with some more traditional data stores to ensure data validity/ persistence whilst also not compromising query-ability and performance.

What would really validate the use of blockchain, could be a legal dispute or court case whose outcome was influenced by the use of the blockchain.

You've had great experience working at companies that went through huge growth. What's your best advice?

Growing a businesses is never an easy thing, especially when you have to do so quickly but it is important to keep your core values which made the company so successful and such a great place to work in the first place, as having a happy team, that loves what they do and having an enjoyable workplace, are in my opinion key to a company's success.

On a technical level, it is about finding that perfect blend of keeping the technology stack simple, but also exploring new technology where it makes perfect sense. Ideally you want to keep complexity in both the technology and the business to a minimum and remove obstacles which prevent everyone from doing the work they enjoy.  

What does Cygnetise want to become in the next five years?

Cygnetise is a great example of how the enterprise blockchain can be used successfully, and I believe the underlying architecture can also provide a pluggable platform to run other vertical solutions, in order to solve many other problems affecting our users and their organisations.

What would you say are the trend, behavior or technology on the horizon that is going to most affect your role?

It has definitely become a lot harder to recruit technologists since I started hiring, with the increase in technology and automation putting a lot of demand on the supply of talent. Hopefully we will see a lot more technologists coming through from universities or people that want to change their careers through coding courses (in fact one of our recent hires was a plumber

I also believe smarter tooling and AI will have a positive effect on the way we develop and build technology, so may offset somewhat the current supply issues we are experiencing at the moment.

Is there a person, place, or thing that has really influenced your role?

That would be my father, who was always building or mending things when I was growing up and would always involve and encourage me to help. I remember a time when it was blowing a gale and lashing down with rain, and we were both outside the house fixing fascia boards to prevent the rain getting in. And I suppose that is where both my work ethic and my desire to make or mend things came from.

He also installed an attitude of give stuff a go and give it your best shot and also to only ask people to do things that you would be prepared to do yourself.