On the Record: Salad.com
Bob Miles has had quite the career to date. After creating Green Way Up and becoming the subject of a 12 part Netflix series, Miles founded Salad, a compute sharing to turn computer downtime into earnings.
Salad began life using the Salad.io domain name but managed to upgrade to Salad.com after raising more than $3 million in funding.
Here, I chat with Bob Miles about his entrepreneurial background, domain names, and Web 3.0.
Can you tell me about your journey as an entrepreneur and how you came to create Salad?
My first business was straight out of school installing gutter guards and shower screens, and I used the income to get my pilot’s license. After abandoning my childhood dream of being a pilot, I spent six years at university studying engineering, during which time I spent more focus on a tour business I founded.
After university, I lasted 9 months in an engineering job at an international airline before quitting to start the Green Way Up, an expedition where we traveled across Australia without filling up at a gas station; I designed and built a portable waste-to-fuel processor that turned used oil/fat into biodiesel. This became a 12 part Netflix TV series.
After a failed connected car startup in Australia, I moved to the US and worked in Utah at a consumer drone startup before founding Salad.
The ‘why now’ moment for Salad came when I recognized that crypto networks assign a meaningful value to all connected compute cycles: gaming PC’s can generate $20-$80 every month supporting these protocols… yet the vast majority of the 400 million gamers with powerful PCs don’t extract this value.
What does Salad aim to do?
We aim to be the easiest and most trusted way to share your PC.
Today, that means turning your computer downtime into games, gift cards, subscriptions, and other digital purchases. Yet as we see the emergence of Web3, there is a whole new relationship with the internet we’re seeking to introduce.
We see a future where individuals with their ‘self-sovereign servers’ power parts of this new P2P web that are most meaningful to them.
As Satya Nadella said at Microsoft Ignite 2021, we are at peak centralization and the future of the cloud is ubiquitous and decentralized. This is the future we are building towards at Salad, making it easy and meaningful for anyone to firstly contribute their compute resources, and subsequently participate in the P2P internet with the value their machine generates.
How did you come up with the Salad brand name?
As an engineer, I tend to give a more pragmatic reason. That is, we had a shortlist of names that the lawyers cleared for any IP or trademark issues, as well as names that had available domains.
The shortlist included Mineflare, NodeTree, and Salad. We went with Salad because it was the stickiest, easiest to remember and we felt it would be appealing to gamers… there was also salad.io available for purchase, for around $1,000 from memory.
That said, there is also a real ‘branding’ story behind the name Salad. I give credit to our Head of Design, Arlo Vance, who recognized this and saw the synergy with our mission.
Salads are universal, understood, and a part of every culture, and they are the sum of many ingredients. We see our network the same way, many individuals contributing their resources to power something that is more than the sum of its parts.
Why did you opt to upgrade to Salad.com from Salad.io?
If you think about our value proposition it’s pretty uncomfortable and radical: “when you’re not using your computer, share it with another individual, company, or network that needs the resources – the compute cycles, storage, and bandwidth”
This requires serious credibility to bring to market and achieve significant scale, for this, a premium domain carries clout. We operate within the gaming and crypto spheres, where there are plenty of scammers and nefarious actors.
For Salad to achieve the brand recognition we need to become mainstream, a solid domain is incredibly helpful.
How did you first find out Salad.com was for sale? Was it a simple process to acquire the domain?
The domain wasn’t actively for sale. It was owned by Hidden Valley Ranch since 1996 and sitting unused. Given this piece of incredibly valuable digital real-estate was sitting idle for so long, I took it on myself to reach out to the company and pitch them on selling it to us.
This took a few cold emails, and eventually, a response from a domain broker was received. Once there, it was a standard process to purchase and take ownership of.
It looks like you acquired Salad.com just after announcing your seed funding round. Was the acquisition of Salad.com always planned, or did your $3 million funding round create the possibility of purchasing the domain?
It was never planned. With money in the bank after our seed round of funding, and with the awesome growth in revenue we were experiencing, the opportunity to spend some money on a premium domain became possible.
How important is the Salad.com domain to your overall digital strategy?
Similar to Airbnb and Uber introducing radical ‘sharing economy’ models, we have a challenge on our hands to make compute sharing commonplace. As demand for computing resources explodes across all verticals of AI, the internet of things, gaming, and Web3, there will be a ‘land grab’ to ‘own the relationship’ with consumers and their latent compute resources. It’s zero-sum and it’s going to be a winner takes most market.
For Salad, this means sticking out, being memorable, and maintaining credibility. A premium domain is key to our digital strategy and maintaining our leadership being recognized as the easiest and most trusted way to share your PC.
Have you noticed any effects, positive or negative, of upgrading to Salad.com?
The engineering challenge of migrating a domain is never small, plenty of negatives there and it’s a process that continues to this day (within the backend). In terms of searchability and traffic, we’ve only seen our metrics go up and to the right since moving to salad.com.
By far, I would say the biggest benefit has been the ‘human element’ of owning this domain, there is hard-to-quantify value in having a scarce dotcom domain, an inherent value that is intangible but widely understood.
How did you transition from Salad.io to Salad.com? Was it a gradual process, or an immediate change? Did you inform customers of the change?
The transition was phased, starting with our company emails and website. The application and its back-end infrastructure are still in the process of migrating today.
On your website, you say you’re aiming to “build the foundational layer of computational resources for Web 3.0.” Following your investment in the Salad.com domain, do you think there’s a place for the Web 1.0-era .COM extension in Web 3.0?
I see Web1 as the ‘read only’ internet. Then in Web2, we saw ‘read-write’ with the emergence of social platforms and user-generated content. The emergence of Bitcoin as the first example of digital scarcity was the silent start gun for Web3, or the ‘read-right-own’ era of the Web.
We’ve always had control-c control-v, copy-paste, as a known element of computing. That’s now changed, where now we have true digital ownership. I would suggest that domains are the only element of Web3 that’s always been with us, the ‘own’ element of the web. They absolutely have value within the future web, the only question is how much weighting this value will hold.
How does Salad.com fit into your company’s plans for the next 5 years?
As we work towards building the largest distributing computing resource the world has ever seen, Salad.com will be a cornerstone piece of digital real estate for Salad.
As the concept of compute sharing becomes more prominent, we seek to have Salad.com be synonymous with being the easiest and most trusted way to share your computer.
*The domain will serve as an access point and information source for both suppliers on our network (i.e. those who share their excess compute through our open-source client) and consumers of the network, the companies, businesses, and protocols who wish to run workloads across Salad’s infrastructure.
Thanks to Bob for taking part in On the Record. To find out more about Salad or to download the Salad software, head to Salad.com. You can also follow Salad on Twitter or join the company’s Discord channel.
Answers have been edited for clarity.