'Humanity Has Yet to Figure Out How to Develop Truly Secure Software': Adam Ernest by@followmyvote

'Humanity Has Yet to Figure Out How to Develop Truly Secure Software': Adam Ernest

Follow My Vote is a technology company striving to build a decentralized application development platform to facilitate the rapid development and secure deployment of decentralized applications (dApps) Founder: "I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, mowing lawns in the neighborhood to make some extra cash, and selling candy out of my backpack to kids at school". Read more below.
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HackerNoon Reporter: Please tell us briefly about your background.

I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur - mowing lawns in the neighborhood to make some extra cash, and selling candy out of my backpack to kids at school. But I ended up going the more traditional route, first graduating high school and then college at Virginia Tech. From there, I worked with a handful of others to build a digital marketing agency from the ground up, back in 2007, when digital marketing was first becoming a thing.

I was fortunate enough to get in on the ground floor and made the most of the opportunity to grow with the company, climbing the ladder at every step of the way. I parted ways with this company in 2013 but have continued to practice in the field to date. Since graduating in 2004, I have acquired 15+ years of expertise in the digital marketing industry.

What's your startup called? Which city is your HQ, and what is the startup scene like there? And in a sentence or two, what does it do?

Our startup is called Follow My Vote, Inc., and our HQ is located in Golden, CO. The startup scene is incredibly active in nearby Denver, CO, with many aspiring entrepreneurs heavily involved in all things fintech and blockchain technology.

Follow My Vote is a technology company striving to build a decentralized application development platform to facilitate the rapid development and secure deployment of decentralized applications (dApps).

Once that project has been completed, we plan to develop a dApp or series of dApps that brings to life our designs for a secure end-to-end verifiable blockchain-based voting system that can be utilized for polling/voting scenarios of all types, including government-sponsored elections.

What is the origin story?

As I approached 30, I reached my Saturn return moment and began questioning my life’s purpose and whether or not I was truly passionate about the work I was doing and, should I continue down my current path, would I be happy with what I had accomplished in my life while on my deathbed. By this time, I also realized that I had reached the ceiling at my digital marketing agency, meaning there wasn’t much opportunity left for growth.

I then realized I had a choice to make, ride the wave in a cushy digital marketing job making well over 6 figures while still at an early age, find a wife, get a house with a picket fence, have children and all that, OR take a chance on myself, that leap of faith if you will, and use my life savings to launch a startup of my own making and work to build a business I am truly passionate about leading.

Being that I have always wanted to make a positive impact on this Earth and the people of this planet throughout my lifetime, I really had no choice but to go with the latter option in this pivotal moment in my life, as my current path was only enriching myself and not doing anything to help my fellow man.

But I didn’t know exactly what the business would be about and/or what problems in society that they would attempt to solve. However, being that this was also around the time that smartphones had just started coming out, beginning with the Blackberry Storm, having downloaded my first app from the Blackberry App Store, I realized the world was going to be revolutionized by smartphones and their respective applications; therefore, I decided that I was going to start a software development company so that I/we can eventually bring software solutions to the pocket of every person in the United States and the rest of the world for that matter.

From there, taking a step back from the situation, over the next few years, I began planning my exit strategy. While analyzing the political landscape in the United States, in order to determine what problems were currently plaguing society, I came to the conclusion that Congress had been hijacked, as I had a hunch that Congress’ actions were no longer representing the will of We the People of the United States.

This couldn’t be more clear to me, as the United States Government had recently been shut down at one point due to Congressional gridlock, being that the members of the House of Representatives and Senate were unable to agree on a federal budget. I remember thinking, “There’s got to be a better way.” As an attempt to solve this problem, I architected a software solution that would allow anyone in the United States to enter their Zip Code and be informed of who their elected officials were in Congress (i.e. their House Rep and United States Senators). From there, users would gain transparency into their elected officials’ voting records on every bill that has gone through congress during their congressional term and/or is currently in the process of going through Congress, whether or not those elected officials voted on that bill, and, if so, how so.

Users would then be given an opportunity to vote on those bills themselves as if they were sitting in their elected officials’ seats when they vote on bills in Congress. The app would then create a scorecard for the user in terms of whether or not they agree or disagree with their elected officials’ job performance to date, meaning how often they agree or disagree with each of their elected officials’ voting records and by what percentage. From there, users would then be encouraged to vote when each elected official is up for re-election, to either vote to keep them in office (agree) or vote to kick them out of office (disagree) based on their voting record.

Last but not least, voting data in this application was meant to be accurately recorded and stored securely in a way that can be analyzed in a data analytics dashboard in an effort to establish consensus among We the People of the United States and within various jurisdictions (on any issue at hand) so that our elected officials can be properly informed of the will of We the People of the United States prior to Congress voting on bills in Washington D.C.

In this way, the app would help We the People hold their elected officials accountable for voting in ways that represent the people’s beliefs. I also envisioned people using this analytics dashboard to prove my theory that We, the People of the United States, actually agree on more than we disagree. This means that we have common ground to build upon regardless of age, race, sex, religion, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, education level, and even political party affiliation.

Yet we allow the media to influence our thinking, splitting the nation in two (i.e., Republicans and Democrats), leaving us squabbling over 10% of issues (the hot-button issues it seems that humanity may never agree on until the end of time), instead of allowing us to focus on the 90% of the stances we take on the issues we actually agree on and weigh in with our perspective ultimately pushing humanity forward in the direction the people want it to go, sustainably.

Armed with this idea in mind, having worked on our off-hours with a developer from my digital marketing agency to get the app to the MVP stage, I returned to Virginia Tech and recruited a team of interns to help promote launch beta-test the initial application. Follow My Vote Co-Founder and Marketing Manager, Will Long, was one of these initial interns and has since established his own digital marketing expertise.

It was at Virginia Tech where Follow My Vote was accepted into a startup incubator called NuSpark, where FMV’s original app idea and business plan were called into question with the introduction of the Lean Startup Method.

While at NuSpark, I was introduced to the concept of Blockchain Technology (or Distributed Ledger) and the notion that it could be utilized as the underlying technology for developing an open-source end-to-end verifiable voting system capable of securely hosting government-sponsored elections where the people can vote remotely using their own electronic devices, and the election results can be independently verified by all participants.

Interestingly enough, the first election that I had the opportunity to participate in was the United States Presidential Election of 2000: George W. Bush vs. Al Gore, which made quite an impression on me, as it was one of the most controversial elections in U.S. history.

As a result of how things played out with respect to the 2000 election, I had already bookmarked the lack of transparency in United States elections and their results as a societal problem worth tackling. In fact, I considered it to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, and most fundamental problems plaguing society then and to this day. It was just that, in 2000, at the ripe age of 18, I had no idea where to begin in solving this problem.

However, fast forward 14 years, now armed with an understanding of the promise of blockchain technology and what it can deliver, the team at Follow My Vote decided to pivot their business and make solving this problem the core focus of the business. It was at this time their project caught the attention of Nathaniel Hourt, Follow My Vote Co-Founder and CTO, who decided to join the FMV team and embark on this journey with Follow My Vote.

Officially kicking off the project in 2015, in working to bring the MVP of our secure end-to-end verifiable voting software to life over the years, the FMV Team came to the conclusion that, in order to fulfill the promise of blockchain, we must secure the front-end of the applications we develop to the same standards as the blockchain backends (distributed ledgers/databases) and that the only way it seemed possible was to first develop a decentralized application (dApp) development platform, which has led to Follow My Vote’s latest pivot. Once this dApp development platform is completed, we intend to pivot back to developing our voting/polling software as a dApp or series of dApps.

It’s worth noting that we recently received a grant to pursue the development of this dApp development platform, which is meant to be an open-source project owned by the tech community at large that will only run open-source dApps, and the project is well underway.

What do you love about your team, and why are you the ones to solve this problem?

What I love most about our team is that we all share a mutual respect for each other, our ideas, and our opinions. We also have an extremely complementary skillset to one another. We are passionate about our mission and our current project and, with our powers combined, we have the necessary skills and abilities to bring this solution to life and are determined to do so for the betterment of all life in existence. Another way of looking at it is, we are like the Wright Brothers (except there are 3 of us). If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

If you weren’t building your startup, what would you be doing?

I would be learning to code if not for building Follow My Vote.

At the moment, how do you measure success? What are your core metrics?

We host meetings weekly to ensure meaningful progress continues to be made on all fronts.

What’s most exciting about your traction to date?

We received an official grant to formally explore our concepts and ideas in an R&D-type environment. Being that grants are typically indicative of premarket validation, it’s confirmation that we could be onto a big breakthrough.

What technologies are you currently most excited about, and most worried about? And why?

I believe that Blockchain Technology might be the key to humanity establishing The Truth in humanity’s timeline and that it is here to save humanity from the error in our ways, which for me makes it the most exciting technology known to man. What excites me even more, is the open-source movement that continues to flourish around Blockchain Technology, which will undoubtedly create more opportunities for all in the future. In the grand scheme of things, I’m not worried about anything.

Life’s too short. It also helps that I believe that no matter how many times our respective societies crumble to the ground due to a mess of our own making, humanity will eventually find a way to sustainably build on what, if anything, is handed down from generation to generation.

What drew you to get published on HackerNoon? What do you like most about our platform?

I got an email stating the following: “I bring good news: You’ve been nominated as one of the best startups in Blacksburg, Virginia, the United States in HackerNoon Inaugural Startups of the Year.”
When checking out the HackerNoon website, it seems to be a platform built by coders for coders, even down to the look and feel of the UI. The name is genius too, as it’s a site that coders might want to visit on their lunch break (which typically happens around noon).

What advice would you give to the 21-year-old version of yourself?

I would tell him to read a new book every two weeks and write down what you learned. Open a Roth IRA and max out your yearly contributions every year, until you are ready to start caching out.

Learn to mine BTC and ETH as soon as they launch, stay competitive, mine as many as you can, and wait at least until Q4 of 2021 to start selling them.

What is something surprising you've learned this year that your contemporaries would benefit from knowing?

I have learned that humanity has yet to figure out how to develop truly secure software.


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