We’re thrilled to introduce our new Head of Product, Richard Esplin. He is an accomplished product leader and passionate technology evangelist. Richard's dynamic career journey evolved from engineering to sales and marketing across startups and multinational corporations. He loves creating solutions that not only meet business goals, but also benefit the larger community. Open source and digital identity have been themes throughout his career. Richard's current focus is digital empowerment with Self-Sovereign Identity.
In addition to his professional pursuits and his role at home as a father, he makes time to mentor a church youth group, coach recreation soccer, and play in the gorgeous Utah mountains.
If you are not familiar with open source technology, “open source” means that the creators of a software program have decided to share the code they used. This allows other people to not only use the program but also to study how it works and even make changes to it if they have the skills. This collaborative approach lowers the cost of innovation and often leads to better software, as many people can contribute their expertise and ideas.
We interviewed Richard and in this article we share highlights that illustrate Richard’s approach to product management, which provides insight into how he will contribute to the team.
What led you to work on Self-Sovereign Identity technology?
“In college I was studying Computer Science and took a job with some friends doing network administration. They introduced me to the Linux open-source operating system. At first I thought it was complicated but my friends told me, ‘whenever you have a question, you can find the answer by looking at the code and playing with it. It’s yours; you can do anything you want with it.’ From there, I fell in love with the open source methodology—the idea that we’re all equals collaborating together, and that the technology is working with us.
I heard that a good workman owns his tools. I don’t want to spend my career learning software tools that can be taken away from me. I want to spend my career working with tools that I can keep building on for decades to come. Identity has a similar problem: I don’t want my identity locked into someone else’s platform, or subject to their inflexible rules.
I love technology and I love how technology solves problems. But technology has no soul and can be used for good and bad. I ask myself the question: how do we deploy technology in a way that builds the society that we want to live in? I love working on digital identity because privacy preserving decentralized identity solutions will make our connected society better to live in. Open source development plays an important role in ensuring that these identity solutions are good for everyone.
It’s an interesting challenge to develop sustainable open source technology solutions for digital identity. If technology isn’t self-sustaining economically, it’s never going to make a difference. It’s an engaging field and I’m grateful that I can be part of it.”
Why were you interested in joining Dock?
“I was looking to work with a small and nimble team that could ship consistently. I’ve followed Dock’s technology for a while, but what really impressed me was when one of my contacts in the digital identity space told me that Dock was powered by a team of 10 people at the time. They were building and shipping so many innovative features that I thought they had a much larger team. Dock knows how to execute and that’s what really got me excited to be part of this group.
Dock already has great technology solutions built and it’s my job to find the market fit so we can scale. Because we have the blockchain and the application tier, we can do some things that other people can’t. Dock has unique capabilities that come from that integration.”
What shifts have you seen in the development of digital identity technology?
“For digital identity as a whole, we’re at the point where we are finally seeing it break out of the innovation lab and get used by real people to automate business processes. The beauty of digital identity is that it applies to every online interaction (and a lot of offline interactions too).
The next step for our industry is to take these capabilities beyond experiments and put them in people’s hands for day-to-day use. And then the sky's the limit. Once this technology is broadly adopted, we can tackle use cases that are impossible today.
We’re also starting to see the regulatory environment shift so that people are recognizing that customer data is a liability. As maintaining and securing customer data becomes more expensive, businesses will want people to hold their own data. Companies that adopt privacy-preserving technologies will have an advantage in this environment and Dock will be a key part of their compliance toolbox.”
How has your diverse experience shaped your approach to product leadership?
“My challenge is to deliver the right product that will resonate with the market. This can only be done with the right organization aligned around a common vision. It’s tricky to evolve our organization as the product evolves and the market matures. I’ve worked in every department in a software company, so I understand how to help teams collaborate. We have a great culture and we need to focus on how we keep this culture as we grow.”
How do you expect Dock’s products to evolve?
“I joined Dock because I think they have a great product and I like the direction the team is taking it. Don’t expect big changes in the roadmap, but I am looking forward to making our products easier to adopt for common use cases and helping our team meet the demands of large scale enterprise customers.”
Key Career Highlights and Achievements
- His academic achievements include a Master's of Science degree in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Brigham Young University.
- At Evernym, Richard was responsible for the development of Hyperledger Indy, Aries, and Ursa, and the deployment to the Sovrin network.
- Richard was also on the team who launched the cheqd SSI network and token.
- At the time Evernym was acquired by Avast Software, Richard was leading the team responsible for Evernym’s Verity platform for credential issuers and verifiers.
- As Avast rebranded to become Gen Digital, Richard led one of the infrastructure teams helping to launch the Midy identity wallet for consumers.
More on Richard’s Extensive Career
- Fresh out of school, he started a business with friends doing custom web development and was an early employee at Mozy online backup.
- Later he was responsible for product releases at a graphics software company where he managed the quality assurance team.
- He started a business with his brother and sister-in-law to consult for the United States Federal Government (mostly for the procurement team at the Veterans Administration).
- After joining the technical sales team at Alfresco Software as an expert on their content management solution, he held several roles on their marketing team working with their IT stack, their open source community, their partner community, and their technical customers.
- He eventually moved to the product team at Alfresco, responsible for their open source content management solution. He then took over their flagship enterprise product, which he led through Alfresco’s acquisition in 2018.
- At Alfresco, he also worked closely with the Activiti open source workflow engine.
- He has lots of experience consulting with government agencies and large enterprises on procurement, solution design, and process automation.