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DocuSign and Chainlink Founders Chat Real World Smart Contracts

Sergey Nazarov, CEO of Chainlink, and Tom Gonser, founder of DocuSign, gathered in San Francisco recently for a Fireside Chat. They discussed smart contracts that are connected to the real world. They talked about the benefits and challenges of real-world applicable smart contracts.

“One of the challenges of smart contracts is they are not very smart right now,” Mr. Gonser, who founded DocuSign in Seattle in 2003, said at the Fireside Chat. They’re not connected to the real world data-feeds and relationships they need to manage.

“…There isn’t this robust set of APIs that connect these smart contracts to the rest of the world,” he said. “That’s why I was so excited when I started talking to Sergey. It is very important for the future of the industry.”

At one point during the talk, Mr. Gonser asked Mr. Nazarov about the story behind Chainlink. Mr. Nazarov went back to the days before Ethereum.  

“When we started building smart contracts about four-and-a-half five years ago, we initially thought of smart contracts as these contracts that know what is going on,” he explained. “This is before Ethereum, before many of these protocols… [We asked ourselves], ‘What is a smart contract?’ Well, it must be a contract that knows what happens and executes a reliable outcome for people.”

And so Chainlink began building a full stack around this idea. “This was before [there were] other people building part of the stack for us, like Ethereum,” he notes.

Mr. Nazarov and the Chainlink team decided they could narrow their focus once Ethereum Foundation had focused on a key layer of the stack. So, Chainlink decided then to focus on oracles.

DocuSign took a different approach by building its own closed system and trusted network, and now it’s exploring new technology, including blockchain and smart contracts.

“We’ve done work with Visa and others in terms of integrating blockchain and smart contracts to interface with the DocuSign system,”  said Mr. Gonser. “The question is what is the most likely way you get a rich network of oracles and other components out there that span into other markets?” Chainlink is looking to solve this problem for blockchain.

During the talk, Mr. Nazarov asked whether a smart contract is a better form of digital contract.

“It’s secure and reliable and it’s deterministic…[O]nce given the right inputs, [it] will definitely provide guaranteed results to the appropriate contractual party,” he says.

But relationships can be complicated, Mr. Nazarov says. “The world we live in is a very probabilistic world. Maybe I don’t fulfill my end [of a deal], maybe someone changes their mind, who knows. That’s literally the world in which we all live.”

At Chainlink, as Sergey explains in the Fireside chat, we believe in a better world. “If somebody performs, they get what they’re due. If someone makes a commitment and something happens out in the world, they fulfill that commitment automatically. That’s a fantastic world from a contract perspective. Do blockchain-based smart contracts enable that? They do. They are the only infrastructure that can handle that…You will definitely get what you are owed. If you did what you said you would, that is essentially where Chainlink comes in as the reliable trigger. Its what is needed and its what is missing.”

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