Tech writer sharing insights in a fun and informative way.
Welcome to this exciting interview series "Mondays with Entrepreneurs", where we will be talking to small business and startup leaders about how they came up with an idea, difficulties they faced, how they got through difficult situations, what was their inspiration, what advice would they give to wannabe entrepreneurs, what keeps them motivated, and on and on.
Today, we have with us Jordan Earls, (Co-Founder QTUM) who loves to code 👨💻. So before starting your week, pause for a coffee break ;) and enjoy this chit-chat with Jordan.
I’m an entirely self-taught software engineer at heart, I’ve been writing code since I was 13. I got my start in the crypto space when Dogecoin first came out and it was actually the first coin I mined. I really dug into the community there and eventually started digging more into the tech side of things in the ecosystem as a whole. I eventually made a name for myself in the early community by reviewing cryptocurrency code and publishing security problems.
I reviewed over 100 different projects before coming on board Qtum as a Co-Founder.
In the early days, I basically took Qtum from “here’s what Qtum should do” to “this is how Qtum will work” and invented (with help from others of course!) some key concepts such as how the EVM can be made to work on it, and reverse-engineered the staking algorithm to properly improve it for better security.
Today I’m in a more high-level position at Qtum leading the team and operations in the US and EU regions, though I still get to write some code occasionally.
Qtum (pronounced Quantum, but plenty of people call it “Q-tum”) is an open, permissionless blockchain and ecosystem that combines security aspects from the Bitcoin protocol together with the “programmability” of Ethereum.
This puts us into a unique position with regard to ease of blockchain syncing and integration, while still having the power of Ethereum smart contracts including innovative products like NFTs, Decentralized Exchanges, Tokens, etc.
All of this is kept secure by using a low energy proof of stake consensus algorithm. We believe proof of stake is the morally right thing to do instead of burning tons of electricity to throw it away on cryptographic hashes meeting some condition, and our algorithm is unique in that anyone can stake, there is no $1M minimum to stake nor do you have to be voted in to start contributing to the network security of the protocol.
When it comes to the community, the secret sauce is to be open, transparent, and responsive to our community.
We listen to our community as to what they want and expect from us and try to work from that.
Since space is ever-evolving, we need to be susceptible to quick changes in focus. From the beginning, we have been a very tech-driven project and we never wanted to become the fancy project that burns all the investors’ money on empty marketing.
The Qtum Fast Lane version is a hard fork that decreases our block time to 32 seconds, which means that on average every 32 seconds, a new block of transactions is appended to the blockchain. Instead of 128 seconds (about 2 minutes) as we had in the past. When making changes to the consensus algorithm, you always have to weigh the pros and cons.
For this change, we were potentially facing more forks and an increase in the size of the blockchain weighted against faster processing of transactions effectively making our Defi ecosystem faster. Turns out we could handle the orphan rate (the potential problem with the forks) and additionally we optimized the staker, making transactions faster and rewards more linear.n
QTUM is used both as a currency due to our UTXO compatibility and fuel to our smart contract ecosystem. Analogous to ETH in Ethereum, QTUM is used to fuel the smart contract that builds out our DeFi money legos, among other things.
The pandemic surely affected businesses worldwide. What impact COVID-19 had on Qtum? Both positive and negative.
The Qtum Chain Foundation is like a lot of other projects in the space, a decentralized entity with people all around the world. We have offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Stockholm, and Denver since the start of the project we have had a trusting “work where you feel most the productive” culture which made us well equipped to handle the new work environment that came with the pandemic. So our internal work culture was not really affected by this.
However, the big thing that did affect us is that all of the crypto conferences went online. This was necessary and they can still be fun, but for making new and unique business and partnership connections it can be a lot harder working virtually. We’re really looking forward to being able to get back out there and connect with our community members in person as well by having meetups and other events.
There is a cyclical nature of the crypto space and frankly innovation as a phenomenon. I guess that it’s partly because when a new technology like blockchain is born, there are very few people who fundamentally understand it.
The lack of understanding paves the way for speculative behavior in crypto markets.
I believe the key point this time around though is what we’ve seen thus far with DeFi and what seems to be rapidly approaching with NFTs. These are straight-up impossible concepts to do on a digital protocol before blockchain. Previously a lot of the hype with blockchain was things like “oh it’s like YouTube, but on a blockchain” or “it’s like Uber but on a blockchain”. DeFi and NFTs are different because without blockchain the concept simply can not reasonably exist.
Sure there were centralized exchanges before blockchain, but it was impossible to have a trustless decentralized exchange that you knew you could trust. I think the community is seeing this and thinking the same thing as I am, that even though crypto is very cyclical, that this cycle feels different. What does that mean though and is it a good thing? I don’t think anyone will know for a few years, but I’m optimistic.
It’s not really advice, but I love building and proving the impossible can actually be done. We had a ton of skeptical people in the early days of Qtum saying “there’s no way you can put EVM on Bitcoin and also do PoS”, but yet here we are with a thriving and secure network 4 years later.
Anytime I hear people saying “this would be awesome but it’s impossible”, that immediately makes me start to try to figure out ways it can be possible.
I have a few concepts I’m still trying to figure out from 2015 along those lines even, but even though it is not an easy thing to accomplish, the reward for doing so is often huge.
As it’s still the very early days of DeFi, we are observant of projects that have been longer in the DeFi than we have. We have researched DeFi and especially DEXes since 2018 but it would be presumptuous for us to give any advice on how to be a successful leader in the DeFi space at this stage.
We are listening and allocating a lot of resources to become successful leaders in DeFi and are open to partnerships that bring synergies along the way. We also have a DeFi grant program to further incentivize organic growth in the Qtum ecosystem.
It’s no secret in my team that I’m not a morning person, especially on Monday mornings.
My best ritual is saying the week before “avoid Monday morning meetings if at all possible”.
Otherwise, though I just do the same thing I do every morning, have a light pastry for breakfast and drink some good coffee and warm up by going through my emails.
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