podcasts

Empires and politics in blockchain, Sunny Aggarwal of Cosmos Tendermint

podcasts

Empires and politics in blockchain, Sunny Aggarwal of Cosmos Tendermint

August 2020

Posted by

Jamie Burke

CEO and Founder

As an early investor in Bitcoin and Ether Jamie went ‘all in’ during 2013 founding Outlier Ventures, Europe’s 1st venture fund and platform dedicated to blockchain and Web 3....read more

We talk with Sunny, the lead researcher at Tendermint, and core contributor to Cosmos and Cosmos Hub as well as cofounder of Blockchain at Berkeley. We talk about the political theory of blockchain as well as its main narratives: sound money, DeFi, Web 3 and open law. We look at the story of Cosmos and how its ecosystem has evolved and the natural devolution from initial founder to community and how they can been so successful at beginning to onboard the 99% of developers with a ‘build your own blockchain’ model.

Posted by Jamie Burke - August 2020

August 2020

Posted by

Jamie Burke

CEO and Founder

As an early investor in Bitcoin and Ether Jamie went ‘all in’ during 2013 founding Outlier Ventures, Europe’s 1st venture fund and platform dedicated to blockchain and Web 3....read more

Key Themes:

  • The 4 narratives of blockchain
  • Onboarding 99% of developers
  • Build your own chain
  • Unpacking the Cosmos Ecosystem
  • Devolving a project from founder to community
  • Decentralising Ethereum
  • Empires and politics in blockchain

Listen on iTunes

Transcript:

Jamie Burke
Welcome to the founders of web three series by Outlier Ventures and me, your host, Jamie Burke. Together we’re going to meet the entrepreneurs that backers and the leading policymakers that are shaping web three. Together we’re going to try to define what is web three, explore its nuances and understand the mission and purpose the drivers founders. If you enjoy what you hear, please do subscribe, rate and share your feedback to help us reach as many people as possible with the important mission that is web three.

Today, I’m really happy to welcome Sunny Agarwal, lead researcher at tender mint or was the lead researcher at tender mint contributed to Cosmos hub, and now founder of seeker Welcome to the show.

Sunny
Hey, thanks for having me. On.

Jamie Burke
So to give some context, the cosmos network is a decentralised network of independent, scalable and interoperable blockchains. The Cosmos network is also built around tenement core, which is the kind of linkage to tenement the company and effectively that is a solution that packages the networking consensus layers of a blockchain. You then got tender mint Inc, which is the software development company, which is your previous employer. And that is contracted by the interchain Foundation to develop the cosmos network, in particular the cosmos software development kit SDK. Did I get that right as a summary?

Sunny
Yeah, so many names. And some of them tend to be like, reused and some pieces like you know, tender Mint is this consensus protocol, but it’s also the softer and it’s a company. So but yeah, you You nailed it right on the head.

Jamie Burke
All right, great. Now obviously, we’ll kind of go into a little bit about how all of these various organisations comprise the ecosystem and how they’re evolving a little bit later. But you’re also a co host of epicentre, so I’m a little bit nervous to be honest with you, you’re kind of a pro. I’m just starting out at this. So maybe you can help me along. But I

Sunny
love your episodes already. And they’re discreet.

Jamie Burke
All right, okay, thank you. I appreciate that. You kind of gotta say that right? So, so the reasons why I want you on the show a number of them, so you’re not technically a founder at tender mint or Cosmos Cosmos network. That was obviously Jay and Ethan, but you were one of the kind of first hires almost the kind of initial core team and you’ve been heavily involved in most of the network’s developments. And I think, you know, you look at Cosmos as representative of the wider blockchain movements and how these protocols are formed and evolve will evolve to the community. I think that is a really interesting perspective that from, from a founders perspective, it hasn’t really been that well covered. And I guess in many ways, you are the community guy, right? You’re at the core of the community, and provide that kind of interface. And I also think, you know, when I kind of listened to your stuff, whether it’s panels that you’ve done or the podcast, you’re very good at simplifying complexities and, and helping people understand blockchains through useful sometimes kind of historical analogy. So I’m sure we’re going to get a few of those really great soundbites throughout the podcast. We’ve also run a number of initiatives both at consensus for theorem and at Berkeley about onboarding developers. And again, I think that’s a really big theme for where we are as an industry right now. So I really want to pick your brains about how we onboard the 99% of developers into into blockchain. So if I kind of just quickly try to summarise your backgrounds, you did an undergraduate in electrical engineering Computer Science at Berkeley 2015. As I said, he spent some time at consensus as an aetherium, developer, intern 2007 And you helped kind of train enrollees of the consensus Academy and you did a number of fixes around ontology. You then were a course designer lecturer back at Berkeley, or I guess that was kind of during that same period, where you co designed and taught the cryptocurrency count over 200 students now I think since since fall 2016, and did a number of other things there. And then of course, you’ve kind of contributed a lot by way of blockchain at Berkeley and the circulation of various white papers and helping students develop proof of concept. So like very hands on right at the edge of onboarding, you know, people into this new space, some of which maybe are new to development more generally. You then joined tenement in June 2017, as a research scientist, and you worked on everything from crypto economics through to, you know, the technicalities of tolerant system design, and the cosmos SDK, and I believe I’ve tried to keep these podcasts quite timeless, but you have left literally yesterday or last week, tender mint and got onto full seeker, which is a blockchain infrastructure company. I think it does a number of things, but in particular for Cosmos hub, your top five validator. So again, I think that’s really representative, this evolution of how teams kind of work together and then and then start to spin out. Did I miss anything in that I tried to keep it as tight as possible.

Sunny
Yeah, no, that was a that was really great. I was an intern at consensus. I was there only for like, you know, two or three months, and I kind of dropped off halfway through my internship Jessica’s while I was at consensus, back then they were like really much more focused on like application layer stuff. And I just really wanted to learn, like do more protocol, their stuff. But while I was at consensus, I just got super into proof of stake. And so I just kind of slacked off on my job by consensus, but instead spent the entire time really like every proof of state White Paper I could find, and that’s sort of how I found out about tender mint. I’m like, Oh, I want to go work on this. This sounds really cool. So I was doing my internship at consensus at after my sophomore year. And then I dropped out of my internship, I consent to start working on tender man. And then come September, I was so into it that I dropped out of Berkeley as well to keep working on an image.

Jamie Burke
Right. So okay, so that’s interesting. So this is, I guess, was driven by an urgency you need that you kind of felt that you couldn’t waste more time if that’s the right word in kind of going through academia. You just wanted to get straight into the space.

Sunny
Yeah, basically, I mean, I tried to do both. And then literally the day before classes, the syllabus for like, one of my courses came out. I don’t know if you know, Nicholas Weaver. He’s like a professor at Berkeley who like Yeah, yeah, he has some weird hot takes on crypto but no for his course. The syllabus came out and one of the midterms conflicted with the DEFCON three, I think it was. And I wrote an email to him being like, Hey, you know, I’m giving a talk here at DEF CON, can I like, move this midterm around? And I don’t know if it was because it was a crypto event or not. But you know, he’s like, no. And I’m like, fine. I’m just gonna drop your course. And then I’m like, Wait a second. You know, this is gonna keep happening. Let me just drop all my courses during,

Jamie Burke
but then you went back to Berkeley, right? And kind of help them develop their course around blockchain. So what was it that you kind of took you back there? Why did you think that was an important thing to do?

Sunny
Yeah, so I was one of the co founders of this organisation called blockchain at Berkeley. I did that while I was still a student there so well, what Berkeley does is they have this really cool programme, where anyone can sort of teach any students can teach a class, you just have to go find a faculty member to sponsor your, you know, like back your class, but you know, you’re teaching four credit classes. Me and two friends so max Fang and the pays, we sort of went to dawn song who is you know, she finds the Oasis protocol now. And we asked her like back this and we started this class at Berkeley, just to teach people about Bitcoin To be quite honest mostly to teach ourselves about Bitcoin because for me, the way I learned is by teaching, because your lecture on something next week, you better learn it this week.

Jamie Burke
That’s why I do the podcast By the way, it forces me to learn the desert. Yeah,

Sunny
same here epicentre, it’s like, you know, once once a week I learn something new. And it’s a course. It’s like this across the space, not just like, so pigeonholed on one field, or one topic. Yeah. So we started that course. And a lot of people took it really liked it. And we’re like, hey, let’s do something bigger with this, you know, instead of just having people take this course, and then like, go on and do you know, go take the next like AI or machine learning course next, like let’s see how we can retain these people. And so we created this organisation called blockchain at Berkeley where we started to do a couple of things. One, the organisation kind of took over that course. And then we had a Throughout the education department, and then we had r&d and consulting, you know, a lot of college students are really trying to fill up the resumes were like, hey, at that time, it’s like, you know, peak 2016 2017 like, all these companies are out there like wanting to get their hands on blockchain. And so we’re like, Well, you know, we know a thing or two, how can we help them? And so we started that helping and that organisation grew pretty big. And then even after I dropped out, I still continued to live in Burke, the city of Berkeley, like I said, I dropped out the day before classes started. So you know, I already was living in my frat house and stuff at the time. So I continued doing that. And I was still really involved with blockchain at Berkeley, you know, even up to even up girl like today, like, you know, I still know help out with like mentoring and stuff for any students who are interested in talking about stuff.

Jamie Burke
Very cool. And so it’s interesting topic in terms of how do you win mindshare? So, obviously, without all the price action that’s happening in 2017, maybe that won’t happen again, maybe with everything’s going on in Tic Tock right now there’s going to be a whole new wave, but how do you win? mindshare? Close? You got a lot of very bright technical people, they could be applying that to any number of different domains. I guess the, you know, whether it’s quantum, whether it’s machine learning, you know, how do you win mindshare? What is it? What is it that seems to cut through with developers that are looking for where to kind of, you know, develop that career and apply their brains?

Sunny
Yeah, it’s definitely our hard challenge, especially at like such a large school with like Berkeley where there’s so many things people could be doing, to be honest, you know, the price action definitely brought a lot of people along back in those days. Another thing that I think was kind of really important at Berkeley were this like, student organisation at Berkeley was probably like one of the came up much earlier, like it actually started back in like, 2014. I feel like I think maybe Berkeley MIT are sort of the only two that were doing sort of crypto stuff this early on MIT, I think was doing it a lot like, you know, they were really into the technology side. I think what’s interesting about Berkeley is Berkeley, as you know, as you might know, it’s a very political school, right? Like, the students at Berkeley tend to have like a lot of political, you know, ideology and stuff that they’re really passionate about. And so that was actually, I think a lot of the early members of blockchain at Berkeley were actually driven more so by that side of things, and, you know, if you remember back in like, 2016, there was like, a lot, you know, it was long with the US presidential election. There’s a lot of like, political stuff actually happening on the Berkeley campus at the time, especially with regards to things like free speech and stuff like that. And so I think that just sort of definitely helped me get that and so we kind of really did try to focus on that early on. And then when we wanted to expand beyond that, then we started kind of figuring out what what are students looking to do where, you know, if they want a lot of students were looking for, like opportunity to do sort of consulting style work, and so we were able to build out something where they can do consulting, but still learn about a new technology at the same time where it goes like, you know, there’s other consulting clubs on campus where like, you know, they would go do web design for like these companies and like, we’re like, Well, you know, you could do that or you could like, get some consulting work under your belt, but also like me learning something much cooler alongside back.

Jamie Burke
Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s interesting, because, again, you’ve that kind of political origin, or perhaps the hook is, is the political possibilities, or looking at life changes political systems. And again, I know, you’ve used a lot of analogies where you say, compare Ethereum to an empire and what you’re doing with cosmos. Actually, I forget the direct comparison.

Sunny
World of nation states

Jamie Burke
yesterday. Yeah, that’s it. I know. You’ve talked about things like shared security in the context of being at NATO. So from your perspective in that kind of motivates you. It is it in that context, if you look at the mission of say interchange I mean, just quoted it says we believe that open source cryptographic consensus driven economic networks hold the key to an anti fragile global economic system and equal opportunity for all. Sure, that’s not necessarily exactly representative of your perspective. But can you work in blockchain and not have a political ideology? Can you can you look at it purely as a as a technology? Is that possible?

Sunny
Um, yeah, I think so. So, I actually am in the middle of, I just finished writing up a blog post, sort of, I’ll publish it pretty soon but I kind of talked about sort of the three or maybe four narratives of the blockchain space and so it start know the three main ones are what I would say sound money, web three and open finance or or defy. And then I kind of think there might be a fourth one called Open law, but which is like sort of still in its very infancy right now. And I think the sound money one might be the one where you have You know, maybe it’s the most political of the all, but I think all of them do at least have some notion of decentralisation. Web three is not necessarily about political decentralisation. But it’s about decentralising, you know, the control of like the large internet giants or the defy is about decentralising control of large financial institutions. So, it’s not necessarily always having to be decentralising government but it there usually does have to be some form of decentralising some large entrenched actor.

Jamie Burke
Yeah. Now, I mean, I guess one of the beauties of something like cosmos is that it does allow you to cater to a spectrum of sovereignties you know, so on the one hand, I know you talked about there being zones, more link to this cypherpunk type mentality and others that could be specific China are fully functional and integrated into what they’re trying to do with the government backed currency. So compared to if it was one protocol with one set of belief systems, one set of governance, then I guess it gets a bit more binary to just kind of untangle the cosmos ecosystem a little bit more. So as we mentioned, this kind of all in bits, Inc, which is effectively tender mint Inc, you have Cosmos hub, you have tender mint. Cool. Could you just talk about the constituent parts, how they interact, and I guess how they’ve evolved? So kind of from the Genesis to what they’re becoming now. And of course, in that context, in general terms, you know, the role of a founder that creates that and how things might might devolve outwards?

Sunny
Yeah, sure. Probably just do that. What you mentioned earlier. Yeah, I guess I never thought of it not term. But I think what an interesting way to think of cosmos is it’s trying to decentralise Ethereum Ethereum is a larger entrenched actor, which is maybe not, you know, it’s been a good actor up until now. But if you don’t want the entire blockchain ecosystem to be reliant on like, this one system and that you want to decentralise that as well and give smaller communities more power. Yeah, maybe we can come back to that. Yeah. Let me answer your question about the ecosystem itself. So it started back in 2014, where J. Kwon, he was interested in consensus protocols. And he, a lot of people were like talking about proof of stake at the time or not a lot of people but a few people were, but most of them were kind of putting it trying to adapt it to the like, Nakamoto consensus of Bitcoin. What what Jay is, like, really big insight was, was he like, went back and read all these old consensus protocols from the 80s and 90s. and realise that, hey, maybe there’s a way we can actually use them today with proof of steak. So the problem is that they were these old consensus protocols were usually only meant to work in a permissioned setting. But what he realised is you can combine the proof of stake system with these old BFT consensus protocols in order to create a permissionless BFT protocol rather than a Nakamoto consensus protocol. And so this insight turned out to you know, be really valuable. And so the other thing, what kind of was wrong with the old consensus protocols as it was that they were considered to be not very, you know, performant like, they like oh, you can maybe get like 10 machines talking on a local network, and that’s about it. But you know, quite honestly, all of those reference implementations then were written by like, PhD students for their theses in like Python or something. So what Jay did was he worked with Ethan Buckman, who was he was working at mon x at the time or back then it was called, yeah, it back kind of just called modaks now called hyper ledger borough. But they started basically collaborating to build a reference implementation in go using like modern concurrency and like just generally just good engineering practices. And it turns out, they were able to build a consensus protocol, consensus engine, I kind of in core, which is the software that can scale to hundreds to thousands of validators globally distributed. And we can actually get some real scale there. And so that’s sort of how when they decided to form this company called tender mint, and now that they had this consensus protocol, they have this hammer, now they’re in search of a nail, and they’re trying to figure out we have a consensus protocol, what can we use it for?

And that’s sort of when the cosmos vision sort of came out came about sort of in You know, late 2016 or so, where they kind of had this idea of you know, what causes vision is today have many chains that are all able to talk to each other and you know, this BFT consensus protocol will be really useful because you have the fast finality you have finality in one to two seconds. And, you know, block stream wrote their side chains protocol as well back in like, you know, similar time period, I don’t remember exactly when maybe 2015 or so, but you know, Bitcoin block headers will like take 60 minutes before you can like, consider them pseudo finalised and this just doesn’t work. And so they realised Hey, we can use this great banality engine we did to make this sidechain vision that sort of blocks and kind of really originated it but like we can actually make this a reality using this. And so that’s sort of where the cosmos vision came about. And we realised to make that Cosmos vision come about, they were sort of three main tools that we needed. The first was kind of in core which you know, we had already got obviously there, you know, we’ve been developed And making it way better over the years. But then the other two tools were the cosmos SDK, and IBC. So if we want a world where all these chains can sort of more and more chains are coming about and they’re all talking to each other, well, we need two things, which is one a toolkit to make it very easy for developers to build these new chains. And to is a protocol to allow all these chains to send tokens and data and contract calls, amongst each other a sort of TCP IP for block chains, a standard protocols to allow any two chains to talk to each other. And so that’s sort of what we’ve been working on. Since then, where we basically spent most of 2017 and 2018, building the cosmos SDK and making this toolkit and then we built our own chain called the Kosmos hub in partially as a sort of dogfooding to like, walk We’re building the cosmos SDK, we’re building the cosmos hub, and making it better and better. And then we spent basically most of 2019 and 2020. So far developing IBC. And hopefully that should be releasing pretty soon and hopefully on a scale of a few months, but that’s sort of the roadmap where we are today. Oh, and so. So, as a couple organised, organisations, not to mention was when they sort of did the cosmos idea, they did a public fundraiser or Ico, in order to raise funds for the atom token was the staking token for the cosmos hub. And that was they created a new organisation called the interchain Foundation, which is a Swiss foundation. And so the ICF is sort of technically the, maybe you could call them the steward of the ecosystem. And then ICF would contract pandemic to do a lot of the core development up until now so now ICFs sort of decentralised a lot more of it’s called More development more teams than just tender mint. Got you? I guess.

Jamie Burke
So that kind of evolution now of is that being kind of run through grants programmes then primarily right. So rather than than just being a contract with tender mint ink is now grants being given out to multiple parties?

Sunny
Exactly. Yeah, it’s more, you know, earlier on, it used to be sort of more of a blank check sort of thing where tender mint would go off and do whatever it needs, and then send a bill for it at the end of the year. But now, it’s much more sort of objective base where it’s like, okay, these are the things that we’re going to do. And there’s more competition for these grants from the ICF as well, because there are many more development companies within the cosmos ecosystem. Now, some that are, you know, were formed by sort of companies that splintered off of government, but also some that are just from like brand new projects all together. Like for example, you know, region, that’s the team that sort of started using the cosmos SDK because they wanted to build their own project with it. But then they’ve just started contributing a lot, lot more and more to the cosmos, core development as well. So they’ve been doing a lot of really good work. And then also what’s also cool is now there’s also some funding coming from the cosmos hub, governance itself, because what happens is a poor percentage of all inflation gets put into what’s called the community pool. And the governance of the cosmos hub can use the community pool to make payouts to do sort of different things. And so two of the things that have already been approved was one Figment network, which is the name of a validator they were approved to do a lot of great governance documentation. And then there’s another company called convio. They were approved continued development on Kazim wasum, which is there a smart contracting system that they’re developing?

Jamie Burke
Yeah, and I guess you know, so really, it’s kind of introducing a bit of an a market economy around the protocol. And, you know, we all know the benefits of competition. So with hindsight, you know, retrospectively if you’re kind of sat in front of a founder now and they’re rolling out a new protocol, likely not going to be a layer one, given where we’re at, but you know, some kind of primitive. What lessons are there in the cosmos journey? I mean, it sounds like I know, there’s been drama, but which, where hasn’t that been drama? I would say, it’s good luck chase

Sunny
marks of a mature ecosystem. Yeah.

Jamie Burke
Right, exactly. But, you know, the place that you find yourself in today looks pretty good. But is there anything with hindsight, you would recommend to be done differently to a founder that was starting out?

Sunny
So my recommendation I would have many founders, you know, based on some of the experiences tendermint I think Zaki put it really well Zaki Manya and he had this tweet where he said, For all you know, I don’t want this to come across as I’m no I’m attacking Jay, I’ve had, you know, I’ve talked to Jay about a lot of these things. And, you know, he agrees that some of these were issues and so, you know, we’re on pretty good terms about this. But the way he phrased it was for all of Jays brilliance in designing decentralised protocols, he failed to sufficiently decentralised tender mint as a company. And it kind of got into this position where sort of Jay was the CEO, and the largest shareholder and the only board member. And I think this sort of led to some problems where, you know, when he, if the, if when he becomes a Byzantine node, like, you know, I think maybe back in January, maybe he was having some, you know, issues with like, certain things. And now, he kind of started acting a bit bizarrely, and that kind of concerned a lot of people, especially given the amount of control he has in the company. And so I would, one thing I would recommend to founders would be is to really You know, make sure that you don’t build yourself into this like central point of failure. And so this is something that’s great. Now they’re just happening where Jay has actually, you know, we switched to a CTO role. We have a new CEO. And we actually just expanded the board as well. So these are sort of, we’re sort of all tendermint is all sort of learning from its mistakes and improving as well.

Jamie Burke
This isn’t unique to blockchain, right? You could eat you could make equal arguments about Facebook and the power that Zuckerberg has over that through preferential shares. And you know, any other open source communities, which are largely benevolent dictatorships, right? They have lots of contributors, but they’re still ultimately, somebody whose voice swings the community. And, you know, clearly there is a requirement for that to be a strong voice that the community can rally around. But of course, as projects evolve, and I think people sometimes forget that entrepreneurs are also people, right, and they’re They’re kind of evolving and maturing and learning as as they go as well as the organisation so I definitely don’t think this is anything specific to cause muscle even blockchain more generally. And so when we look at your main competitor and I don’t know if you see it in those terms with with polka dot right but i don’t know you see this as a zero sum winner takes all or these these different networks can coexist. But you’ve you’ve kind of taken different approaches to rolling out Cosmos came off the ramps much quicker. The polka dot, was I intentional was that kind of a design choice compared to say, say polka dot and what do you think the advantages of that approach of rolling?

Sunny
Yeah, I would say one of the differences between the cosmos team is mindset from the polka dot team’s mindset. Early on, I think it’s changed since then. But early on Cosmos took a much more iterative approach. We were like, Okay, first, we’re building tenorman. And we released that and had people using tenement core, then we’re going to build the cosmos SDK, and just released that and half people started building on the cosmos SDK, then now we’re gonna now we’re building IBC, then we’ll release that and have people start using that the polka dot team sort of wanted to go for sort of a more finished product as their initial product, where they wanted to have the full fledged system with like, shared security and cross chain and everything all at once. And that’s what they wanted to launch with. And so I think that was sort of one of the main differences were, you know, cosmos, we also want to go to where church security like that’s also a goal of ours, but that’s like, you know, the next step after IBC and so, this iterative versus all out approach. Just sort of has been one of the main differences. But I think since then the polka dot team actually has realised that, you know, maybe this iterative approach does also make sense. Because, you know, if you look at the polka dot chain that’s launching today, it doesn’t actually have para chains or anything like that right now. So I think they’ve also realised that sort of this iterative approach is the correct one. And I guess the other main difference is we really tried to see cosmos and the cosmos hub as two somewhat distinct projects. You know, the polka dot relay chain is the polka dot ecosystem. And so what that means is, in Cosmos we take a sovereign first approach where it’s, you know, you want to build a blockchain using our the cosmos toolkit, no, go use the cosmos SDK and you can have your own validator set. And then if you don’t want to find your validator own valid ago said, you know, the cosmos hub will have better Be able to have sort of shared security where if you want to, you can opt in having that, well, polka dot sort of, by default, you know, assumes everyone wants to use polka dot security. And, you know, you can go use their toolkit like substrate to go build a separate chain, but it’s not really their core focus, per se. And so that I would say, is one of the main differences. And from a collaboration or some competitive point of view, you know, I would say that the cosmos vision is pretty collaborative with the polka dot one where the vision of cosmos is just get as many chains being built and connecting them all together using a standard protocol. So there’s a company in the cosmos ecosystem called chorus one, they’re actually in the process of developing an IBC module for substrate. So that way, you can have Cosmos SDK based chains, talking to parody substrate base changed and I and you know, for me, I love substrate as well. I’ve developed change using some stream. And so whether people want to use Cosmos SDK or substrate, I’m happy with both as long as they all use an IBC. And talking to each other, I would say eventually down the road, I think the cosmos hub and polka dot are maybe more competitive because they’re basically going to be offering similar features, which is the shared security. And so I think those two will start to maybe compete more going down the road, but both of them are arguing at the point yet where they’re offering those shared security features.

Jamie Burke
Yeah, I was gonna say, I mean, you can’t really talk about market share at the moment, because there isn’t really a market, right? It’s who’s gonna, who’s gonna help grow the industry most effectively. And again, I think that’s why it’s really interesting to speak to you because if you’re experiencing in onboarding developers, maybe just stay at the high level, for the purpose of founders on here that might not be so technical that might not necessarily fully understand how Cosmos works. Could you just give like a very high level on hubs and zones and how that works.

Sunny
Yeah, sure. So the idea of cosmos is sort of build your own chain. So if you have an application you want to build, instead of building it as a smart contract on another chain like aetherium node, which, as you mentioned, I call it the Empire model, we recommend you go off and build it on your own chain where your community is sort of owns this chain, you’re never subject to that weird governance stuff that happens on the other chain. If your code has a bug, your community can decide whether to revert it or not. You don’t have to go off and try to convince this massive theorem community to do it. And quite honestly, I would say many projects don’t actually benefit much from being on a theory. I’m like, I can give an example, which is maker dow maker dow doesn’t get any security from being on aetherium because realistically What happens is in maker dow, you get your security either from the security of the MKR token, which was governance, or the security of eat, which controls the operation layer. If you wanted to break maker, you weren’t an attack eath you were attacked MKR. But so what this means is that if you’re using di, you’re actually only getting the security of MKR. But you’re paying for the security of eath in the form of on chain fees and everything. And you know, this is also why I call it the Empire model. You have to pay your fees and someone else’s currency.

Jamie Burke
So the differences for example, that you have this wide scale economic integration, but you have the political diversity and are I really like that framing?

Sunny
Yeah, yeah. So empires basically try to get economic integration you you allow people in Italy to trade with per job, because you put them all in one, like political sphere, the idea of Cosmos have, you know, the modern world order is that we can get like large scale economic integration without the large scale political integration. And we get this, like couple, a lot of technologies made this possible. One is like Free Trade Zones. institutions like the UN and the World Bank. And I think one of the most important is containerization containerization is this idea like, basically in the 70s if you ever go to like the docks, you know, you see all those like shipping containers, it’s like, every shipping container in the world follows the same standards and dimensions. Any ship can pick up a this box full of any good and any port in the world and transport it to any other port in the world and they know it will be able to be unloaded properly. And so this containerization of like shipping crates, is sort of how we see IBC is like, the goal is to build this standard protocol of like, okay, all messages that are outgoing between chains, they have to at least follow these common standards. So that way we can get anyone, all these chains talking to each other. Yeah, so the idea was build maker on your own chain, build augur on your own chain, build a, you know, zero x on your own chain. And then we can connect all these chains and have them start talking to each other using IBC. Where the cosmos hub comes in is it kind of offers two things. One is, let’s say two chains. You know, let’s say my chain is built using the cosmos SDK and it knows tenorman consensus and your chain is built using parody substrate and you know, the whole grandpa babe consensus system. If I want to talk to your chain, I would have to, you know, add, some we call these ICS is interchange standards. So we’d have to, I’d have to upgrade my chain to support the interchange standard to talk to your chain. But now let’s say a third chain Chain comes along. It’s built using a gorrik like system with a different consensus protocol I, well, now both these chains have to upgrade to support that. And so you don’t want to constantly be upgrading your chain to be up to date with so you can connect to everyone else. The idea is the cosmos hub can act as this sort of universal translator, where you can you just be able to talk to the hub and the hub can talk to everyone else, sort of like what ISP is do today, right? Like you don’t connect to everyone over the internet, you have these sort of ISP that do this sort of hub and spoke sort of connecting. And then the other feature, it will add what the main thing and offers is those sort of shared security, like features where it’s a highly secure chain, and again, sort of leased out its security to other new chains that want to borrow it and like be able to bootstrap their security.

Jamie Burke
Yeah, and you know, we’re seeing huge traction. I mean, you mentioned a gorrik there. One of our portfolio but I know of several others who have you started out building what might be considered a layer one, and are very quickly migrating over into, say cosmos. And, you know, the kind of reasoning the iPhone beyond even interoperability actually is that for them to achieve the same level of security and network hardening, it would just take too much money in too much time and distract them from applying it to the use case. And what I found is a lot of a lot of infrastructure was built because somebody just wanted to execute on application and they couldn’t, the infrastructure wasn’t there, they ended up kind of moving down the stack. And here’s kind of what

Sunny
happened was, when I was at consensus, there was a lot of stuff I wanted to build. And I was not happy with like solidity development, which is one of the reasons I switched you know, I started working on causes were like, I want this development process to be much easier.

Jamie Burke
Yeah. So if we look at the some of the stats in terms of the traction with with tenement cosmos, I think it’s 6 billion plus dollars in digital assets cured on the cosmos blockchain just under 9000, GitHub stars on tenement projects, 100 plus projects in the ecosystem now actively working so as the interface to the community. And as we said, I think success isn’t market share now, but growing effectively growing the ecosystem. And what how are you seeing that success? And I guess, in your day to day when you were where you’re at tender mint, like, actively what what does that involve?

Sunny
Yeah, so some of the main things that we’re looking for is we look at the number of chains like people that are starting to build new Cosmos SDK based chains. That was sort of one of our primary metrics

as well as

One of the things that we were we try to focus on is like cross collaboration and communication between teams using the cosmos SDK. So one of the whole premises of the cosmos SDK is it’s built using this very modular architecture. So if, let’s say, the Kaabah team, they go ahead for their use case, they’ve built an options module because for their CDP system, well, you know, you have your own chain that’s doing something else. And, you know, but you happen to also need an auction system. And so you want to be able to sort of borrow that auctions module that copper has written and reuse it in your own chain. And so that sort of cross collaboration is also another sort of important piece that we look towards. And so one of the shining examples of this is that Kazim wasum project, I mentioned where it was originally started at hackathon like last year, but now more and more chains are in the cosmos community are starting to use Cosmos blossom. So Tara and Nick enigmas for so for sort of example, they are using cosmology, but then they’re adding their own whole, like privacy stuff too. And so it’s turning out to be this like really cool piece of completely community originated infrastructure that is becoming this like very key piece throughout the cosmos ecosystem. So I guess that’s another piece that we look towards.

Jamie Burke
Yeah, I mean, I guess, as you say, an instance of Enigma, and I know several others, who believe that, you know, in that instance of cosmos, they will have some specialist, you know, functionality. But one of the benefits is, is that that can then be leveraged by the wider Cosmos ecosystem, rather than just in their own instance. So obviously that promises for some Really great rate of innovation to be coming out from from across that ecosystem as a whole. So your next thing is seeker. So is this your first founder initiative?

Sunny
I sounded sick about

two years ago now. So while I was at tender mint, what happened was, you know, so tender Mint is like a for profit company. And so we were considering running validators. But we kind of decided that, you know, maybe if hendrerit runs validators, it would become too centralised and you just get too much delegation. And so instead, what we did was we said, you know, any employee that wants to go run their own validator, you can go ahead and do so. And what that kind of does is it distributes the reputation, that tender mint will get and kind of distribute it over a couple of different validators. And so a couple of validators came out of this such as you know, occlusion crip Diem labs, umbrella, a couple others, and so sicko was one of them. So I started with one of my coworkers, I tender man and also my friend from Boston at Berkeley. And so we started secara, we started running it, kind of To be honest, I started it as a way to improve my core development work, where it’s like, if I’m developing infrastructure for the core internet, I want to also run an ISP company just so I can be a user of my own tools. And so that’s sort of how it got started. And then, you know, going through it, I just started doing better and better. And, you know, we quickly became one of the largest validators on Cosmos hub. And then we started running on some more chain. So we joined caba. And we’re also now the second largest validator on caba, as well, so it kind of just became a larger and larger thing and so excited to see where it goes next. But yeah, that’s sort of the story of seco.

Jamie Burke
How do you see that space evolving? How do you avoid commodification and you know, how do you maintain margins like how do you use See that market? forming?

Sunny
It’s gonna be a tough one. To be honest, I think I think it’s a really tough market. I think validators really are going to become like heavily commoditized I think what’s going to happen is we’re going to see a larger rise of exchanged validators, but really just what we’re gonna have to happen is validators have to differentiate themselves, and they have to provide other services or just use validation as a loss leader towards other services. So, you know, this is big movement of staking is deep dive. But running a validator without providing some proprietary or some advantages, like integration with the deep eye ecosystem. I think that has to be the future where like, you know, people can stake with you, but then, oh, they can also go use your tokens and you Know you, when they stick with you, they get some other benefits on some other protocol here. An example, you know, I’ve seen is like initial delegation offerings. It’s like an idea I had a little while ago, which is, a lot of the people running validators are building other chains as well. So like, for example, for ball is one that they’re building their own chain called Desmos. But they’re also a major validator. And so they could do something where it’s like, hey, instead of doing an Ico, but instead, you know, put their commission rate as to something maybe higher than usual, let’s say 20 30%. But say like, hey, the longer people delegate to us, you get tokens on this new chain as well. So that’s like an interesting example of where you have to have something where it’s like, you want to make it so delegators are not just going through like, the highest yield you want. You want them to have something else they’re going for. Yeah, that’s

Jamie Burke
really interesting idea about how you kind of create stickiness around that. Look, Sunny, it’s been great having you on conscious of your time I really appreciate your candidness and I think it’s gonna be really interesting for people to understand how the ecosystems evolving. I wish you the best of luck with seeker and thanks for coming on to that. Thank you. If you enjoyed today’s podcast, please make sure you subscribe rate and share your feedback to help us reach as many people as possible with the important mission of web three.