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Startup Interview with David A. Smith, Founder & CTO, and John Payne, CEO of Croquetby@croquet
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Startup Interview with David A. Smith, Founder & CTO, and John Payne, CEO of Croquet

by CroquetSeptember 4th, 2021
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Croquet is the technology leader in Edge Collaboration, a new, rapidly-growing sector of Edge Computing. PiiX allows developers to quickly and easily create a vast range of multi-user collaboration apps for web and mobile, at virtually limitless scale. It’s fast, simple to implement, and changes the entire multiuser app development dynamic so developers can build and deploy multi-users apps in days, not months. Croquet has its spiritual roots in the Croquet Project, an open-source environment for collaborative 2D/3D apps written in Smalltalk.

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HackerNoon Reporter: Please tell us briefly about your background.

David: I’m David A. Smith, Croquet Corporation (Croquet) founder and Chief Technology Officer, and have been working in technology for many years. I developed the original first-person shooter game called “The Colony”, which was named “Best Adventure Game of the Year” by MacWorld Magazine. I also created the visualization software behind James Cameron’s “The Abyss” and was the co-founder, with author Tom Clancy, of Red Storm Entertainment, developer of the highly successful Rainbow Six game franchise. I’ve been recognized as one of the pioneers of VR and AR and have sold 10’s of millions of multi-user games and applications.


I’m a serial entrepreneur, having founded multiple companies including Virtus Corporation, the first real-time 3D PC design tool. I collaborated with everyone from Alan Kay (Father of the Personal Computer and Croquet advisor) and Doug Engelbart, to Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton. Previously, I was the Chairman of Gensym, the first public AI company, and also served as the Chief Innovation Officer and a Senior Fellow at Lockheed Martin.


John: I’m John Payne, the company’s CEO. I’m a two-time public company tech CEO with significant private company startup, go-to-market, turnaround and strategic experience. I am the former CEO of two public Internet technology companies, Stamps.com, Inc. and Day Software. I was the founder of two successful banking software firms and have served as jumpstart CEO of numerous early stage companies with multiple resulting exits. I’ve raised over $700 million in public and private equity, including $250 million+ in early stage venture, and am the inventor of more than 25 patents in smartphone, cybersecurity, social search, digital mail and mobile messaging technologies.

What's your startup called? And in a sentence or two, what does it do?

John: Croquet Corporation (Croquet) is the technology leader in Edge Collaboration, a new, rapidly-growing sector of Edge Computing, and operates a global Edge Collaboration Platform and Collaboration Infrastructure that enables developers to quickly and easily create a vast range of multi-user collaboration apps for web and mobile, at virtually limitless scale.


Croquet is easy, even for novice programmers, because no back-end code is needed; front-end development is all you need to know. It’s fast, simple to implement, and changes the entire multi-user app development dynamic so developers can build and deploy multi-user apps in days, not months.


Croquet is delivering all of the tools and infrastructure developers need to easily build mind-blowing, real-time, fully synchronous collaborative apps that make today's multi-user apps look like anachronisms.

Try out Croquet PiiX, a Real-Time, Collaborative Annotation Tool Demo.


First, scan the QR code with your phone. You’ll see the below PiiX app hop onto your phone.


Then, tap the “share link” icon to share the app with a friend.


Anything you draw on your phone will instantly be mirrored to your friend’s phone, and vice versa. Using PiiX on a desktop computer will show each participant’s cursor.



What is the origin story?

David: Croquet has its spiritual roots in work begun in the 1990's by myself (David A. Smith), Alan Kay, David P. Reed and Andreas Raab in the Croquet Project, an open source 2D/3D environment for collaborative work written in Smalltalk. Croquet Corporation was formed in 2019 and funded by SIP Global Partners and a group of experienced technology and financial industry veterans to focus on delivering the missing protocol of the Internet for collaboration and multi-user experiences.

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

David: Our team are galactic-class engineers who came to Croquet from Y Combinator Research. We have collaborated with Alan Kay for many years, and the company has deep roots in the Internet’s evolution, going all the way back to Xerox PARC, where the $30 trillion technology industry was born. We understand the history of personal computing, and how important ideas were lost over the last 50 years, because we’ve worked closely with many of the industry pioneers.


“I think Croquet is the best thing I’ve seen in computing over the last 15 years. It solves massive problems associated with building real-time collaborative applications in extremely elegant ways. The Internet has been needing this for many years.” - Alan Kay

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

David: I would probably be...building another startup.

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

John: Success for us is about providing solutions to the problems developers face when building collaborative user experiences in web apps and games. The speed of integrating Croquet into any web app or game, no matter how complex, is very important to us, and we’re constantly looking for ways to make it easier for developers to work with our technologies.


Long-term success 5 years from now means having 5 million developers building and deploying collaborative and multi-user applications around the world using our Edge Collaboration Infrastructure and Developer Platform.

What’s most exciting about your traction to date?

John: We’ve been very surprised to find interest from a broad spectrum of users, with applications ranging from business collaboration to medical technologies, construction, and even consumer media and marketing.


David: We believe that all future applications should be collaborative – including apps for productivity, social collaboration, telemedicine, sports, interactive marketing, AR/VR, SaaS, gaming, you name it.


We expect that developers will find amazing ways to use this technology that we haven't even imagined yet.

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

David: We’re particularly excited about Edge computing and 5G. With our technology, applications generate events which are sent to an Edge Reflector, the architectural center of the Croquet infrastructure, which then redistributes them to each session participant's replicated virtual machine, providing precise synchronization with exceedingly low latency. Reflectors are small pieces of software that sit on the Edge and are spun up or down as needed anywhere in the world to support high performance sessions. Croquet Infrastructure is highly scalable with reflectors running around the globe, all designed to work with existing online and mobile networks, including 5G.


Also, simple things, like the explosion of QR code use in the post-pandemic years excites us.

Croquet eliminates dedicated servers and server-side code from online multiuser apps. Instead, users connect through our worldwide network of public reflectors.

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

David: We see HackerNoon as a place where young hackers gather to learn about the latest developments in the industry. HackerNoon is a great platform for helping developers understand the power of what we have built, in their worlds.


HackerNoon attracts lots of new developers who are looking for simple tools to build their ideas, and Croquet is fast and easy to implement. All the "smarts" of the application are on the client side, and we abstract the developer from the powerful underlying infrastructure; it just works. Croquet changes the entire multi-user app development dynamic, so developers can build and deploy multi-user apps in days, not months, which is the kind of ease that new developers everywhere are looking for.

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

David: Take more risks!

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

John: The market for collaboration technology as a whole is massive. COVID-19 has accelerated demand by 10 years, but so far the technology has lagged. Croquet changes the conversation, enabling a huge leap forward in developing Instantaneous Shared Experiences.


Vote for Croquet for Startups of the Year, Los Angeles