The Bison Trails Origin Story

The Bison Trails Origin Story
Co-Founders Aaron Henshaw (CTO) AND Joe Lallouz (CEO) / Photo by Sasha Semenyuk

By Joe Lallouz ·

Shortly after Aaron and I met, over fifteen years ago, we started building our first software company together. Since those early days, we built and shipped many software products to help other businesses and entrepreneurs. We held leadership roles at top tech firms, and built some of the best technical teams in the startup space together.

We had bitcoin in the very early days, but it really wasn’t until 2016 that we started looking closely into how crypto works from a technology and an economics perspective. We connected with many innovators working in the space and realized that they are some of the most intelligent people trying to solve very serious problems in trustless systems, decentralized systems, and transfer of value networks.

We couldn’t get away from the idea that blockchains, transfer of value networks, and modern crypto networks were going to be the future.

Blockchains, by design, are a distributed record of information that anyone on the network can access. The incentives for network participants are also built into the protocol and are transparent. So as a technology, blockchains provide data integrity, transparency and access to this verifiable source of truth. We were captivated by the potential of a world of products and services built on data integrity and decentralized networks.

As we learned more about the blockchain space we also saw first-hand that the technology is not easy to build with. If you’re an entrepreneur and you want to create a new product or service, you don’t immediately think “oh I should be using crypto or blockchain.”

We spent a large part of our careers exploring how to democratize access to systems, like a company we created to connect real world manufacturing with software systems. Focusing on building blockchain infrastructure, to enable greater access to decentralized networks, was a natural progression of our interests and experience. We couldn’t get away from the idea that blockchains, transfer of value networks, and modern crypto networks were going to be the future.

Aaron and I are both very technical and we wanted to understand the infrastructure behind everything. We asked questions like: “Ok I understand Bitcoin and how it works, but what’s powering it?” At the time, the majority of networks were powered by proof of work mining. So we built a small proof of work mining operation to test it out. Once that made sense, we asked, “Ok how does this work at scale?” So we built a larger proof of work mine from the ground up and wrote software to automate and optimize the infrastructure.

Part of the story of the Bison Trails name is a hat tip to time Aaron and I spent in Wyoming, Montana, and the Pacific Northwest building out this first version of our infrastructure. We were obsessed with the idea of a future where pieces could be built to make this technology easier and more accessible to more innovators, technologists, and entrepreneurs.

“Ok, how does this work at scale?”

Aaron and I started working on a few different projects in the space. Not companies, but projects. We built a bot that was trading on exchanges for fun, we started building a wallet app we never released. Every time we built a product or service, we realized we had to keep rebuilding this robust piece of infrastructure to participate in the blockchain itself. We were building connectivity into these networks that are by definition and by design, decentralized, in order to create security and resiliency. Building the underlying infrastructure layer was a time-intensive process because it was technically challenging and many of the protocols were unstable.

At some point, we finally realized that we understand how to scale the infrastructure—and we keep rebuilding this thing—maybe we should ask other people if they’re having the same problem. So we started asking other founders, “What does your engineering team look like? What are your challenges?”

Most innovators told us that about twenty percent of their resources were spent connecting to Bitcoin or Ethereum networks, running nodes to help read and write to the network, or trying to fix unreliable services or APIs they needed to build their own products and services.

At that moment, Aaron and I recognized “Ok, we are solving our own problem. Other people in the space are experiencing this problem too. And reliable infrastructure is very clearly something that will make it easier for more innovators and entrepreneurs to enter the blockchain space and build new products and services.”

We realized that if the ecosystem is going to grow—if crypto assets are going to be mainstream—the underlying infrastructure must be mature. There needs to be a company to enable new product builders and innovators to enter the space. This idea also aligned well with our interests, our backgrounds, and our ability to solve infrastructure problems.

This is a quick version of the backstory, the series of events and insights, that led us to the inevitable conclusion: there’s something here that we really want to work on, and we want to build the company to do it. So we started Bison Trails. We began to assemble the world-class team and to build the infrastructure platform to democratize access to the blockchain.

Several years later, the ecosystem—and our company—has grown tremendously. Our mission remains the same. Bison Trails provides superior infrastructure across multiple blockchains, to strengthen the entire ecosystem, and enable the pioneers of tomorrow.

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