Chi Tran joined smart furniture business Autonomous to build out its ecommerce operations as CMO almost seven years ago, soon after it was founded. Autonomous’ sleek work pods and standing desks – which have been sold directly to more than 600,000 customers in more than 100 countries via Autonomous.ai – are in high demand right now, but Tran knows that she needs to always be planning for the future.
She’s long viewed crypto as the future foundation for payments in commerce. In fact, in 2017, Autonomous designed and built the first version of a “crypto payment stack” with a set of open Ethereum smart contracts. They got zero orders. She knew if she did it again, she’d need a blockchain that prioritized low-latency, high-throughput, and low-fees.
When the Autonomous team saw Solana, they knew they had the ideal candidate.
“As much as we were excited about deploying the 2017 crypto payment stack on Autonomous, it was a different world,” Tran said. “Fast forward to 2022 and it’s so different. More people have crypto, wallets are more popular, USDC is growing exponentially, a lot of composable smart contracts can supercharge the user experience, and there’s Solana.”
Tran put a team to work on redesigning their payment stack with Solana and Solana Pay, a new decentralized permissionless payments rail, making it easy for merchants to transact digital dollars like USDC for a fraction of a penny and without intermediaries at the point of sale (read more here about the latest with Solana Pay).
"Unlike credit card payments, Solana Pay enables a direct payment rail between sellers and buyers that avoids intermediaries and their high fees,” Tran said. “As a direct-to-consumer retailer ourselves, we pay millions of dollars in fees to credit card processors, and our customers, in part, pay for these fees too."
In short order, Autonomous enhanced, integrated, and rolled out several unique innovations to its payment flow via Solana Pay that are now being utilized in live transactions.
“A simple transfer from a buyer to a seller in crypto is great, but crypto can do so much more, such as all the logic and agreement between the two parties, managed by trustless smart contracts,” Tran said. “This is an advantage not just for us, but also our buyers and sellers. The smart contracts we’ve implemented truly transform the way we buy and sell products.”
Autonomous’ integration with Solana Pay brought to life several key innovations:
- An escrow smart contract to protect the buyer: The payment is not released immediately to the seller on Autonomous but is held in an Escrow Solana Program for 30 days. The high-ticket nature of Autonomous transactions as well as its reliance on a network of sellers makes this a critical implementation for Autonomous.
- Yield generation for escrow funds in Solend: While funds are held in the escrow smart contract, it can be deposited at Solend to earn yield for the seller and buyer. For the first time, sellers and buyers don’t have to pay fees to intermediaries; they now get paid. This feature in particular illustrates the composability of building one on-chain feature into another on-chain feature, an advantage of the single state of Solana.
- Dispute Resolution smart contract to resolve conflicts: If there is a dispute, a group of oracles (judges) will vote on the outcome. Currently, the oracles are the Autonomous customer service team members but Autonomous would like to extend this capability to its external community at a later stage.
- Passing on savings to customers: Autonomous is offering a discount that starts at 7% to users paying with Solana Pay, made possible in part through savings generated by avoiding credit card processing fees.
Customer reception has been great but this is really only the beginning. “The smart contract capabilities of Solana to implement trustless agreements without intermediaries has changed how we think about the potential of this technology and has made us think so much bigger about what’s possible,” Tran said. “Fundamentally, everything we do is some form of an agreement.”
Autonomous wants the community to benefit from its early work and has even gone so far as to introduce a Solana store and Solana-themed desks for anyone who wants one. Devs and merchants can check out its repo on GitHub here.