Ishan Pandey: Hi Ken, welcome to our series “Behind the Startup.” Please tell us about yourself and the story behind Cronos?
Ken Timsit: I consider myself a global citizen and have always been fascinated by the power of technology to connect people across borders and languages. After I graduated as an engineer, I worked at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), where I basically spent 15 years learning about growing global businesses and organizations.
The turning point in my career was in 2017 when I met the folks at ConsenSys, the pioneering Ethereum company, who were dreaming up completely new ways of linking people and creating decentralized economies. There were dozens of teams reinventing payments, capital markets, identity, the creation and circulation of cultural goods, initially with very small user bases of a few tens of thousands of people spread out across the world, and then growing tremendously. I worked there in various leadership roles and then moved to lead Cronos last year.
The story behind Cronos is about taking these ideas to the next level in terms of mainstream adoption. Ours is an open-source, public blockchain network. It is the first Ethereum-compatible blockchain launched on the Cosmos SDK. Our platform is interoperable with all Ethereum and all Cosmos chains, which means that it is connected to two massive user communities. Furthermore, it is supported by Crypto.com and Crypto.org, which have tens of millions of people, likely growing to hundreds of millions in a few years.
So, really, the mission is about bringing the next generation of users to direct ownership of their cryptos, DeFi investments, and NFTs. Judging from the progress since we went live in 2021, we have the technology and ecosystem to do it.
Ishan Pandey: DeFi is slowly emerging as the primary site for financing, with a net amount of over $250 billion locked in. How can we effectively build a bridge between DeFi and NFT sectors?
Ken Timsit: We have barely scratched the surface. If I own an NFT, I want to be able to use it as collateral while I borrow cryptocurrencies against it. There’s a protocol for that! For example NFTfi, PawnFi, TrustNFT or Arcade.
If this NFT is a piece of equipment or superpower in a game, I want to be able to lend it to a player who needs it for an e-sport contest or if it’s an expensive piece of digital art, I want to be able to break it down into small shares owned by hundreds of people, that have market value and are tradable. Several projects are exploring this space, for example, Mutant Cats and Fractional.art.
Ishan Pandey: Gaming was the greatest media genre in 2021, with an overall market size of over $175 billion. Do you think the next surge of Web3 uptake could be heralded in by AAA-quality blockchain-based gaming?
Ken Timsit: What is an AAA game? Generally, it’s a game that costs $15M or more in the production budget, not counting marketing expenses. Setting economics aside, oftentimes it’s also a game that introduces a new universe, substantial characters, and potentially tens of hours of gameplay.
It would be totally great to bring the gaming community to Web3 with AAA games that integrate elements of blockchain.
But I think that having dozens of casual games, mobile games and fantasy sports games built on a blockchain would be pretty awesome too! Even no-loss lotteries are a fantastic idea and I am surprised that they have not grown faster yet.
Ishan Pandey: Please tell us a little bit about the platform and the Cosmos technology which is more of an ecosystem of blockchains?
Ken Timsit: The vision that underpins the Cosmos ecosystem is that we are going to live in a multi-chain world, each chain with its own requirements and trade-offs. The Cosmos SDK makes it possible to quickly create and launch a new blockchain for a particular use case. With IBC (Inter Blockchain Communication), this new chain can also communicate with other Cosmos chains and even control and trade assets on other chains.
This vision is exciting because it creates a framework to bring any use case to the blockchain potentially, whether public transportation payments or games.
But in the short term, it’s really hard to beat the composability and boundless innovation that is enabled by the programmable smart contracts and tooling of Ethereum.
Our platform has opted for a practical approach to build an Ethereum compatible chain now but to build it on the Cosmos SDK to further explore the possibilities offered by Cosmos. This is possible thanks to an open-source project called Ethermint, which emulates the Ethereum Virtual Machine on top of the Tendermint protocol.
Ishan Pandey: Instead of a fake domain name or email address, fraudulent and scamming attempts threatening your persona in the metaverse might originate from a known face, like an avatar impersonating a colleague. Where do we stand in terms of such situations within the metaverse ecosystem from a regulatory standpoint?
Ken Timsit: Let’s take a step back. Every digital innovation brings about a new level of scalability, whether it is dramatically larger store catalogues with e-commerce, bigger friends networks, larger taxi fleets or a broader array of food delivery options.
With Web3, a team of 10 developers can create a financial application that works across borders and handles hundreds of millions of dollars as securely as your bank. But if you ask these developers to deal with 50 disparate local regulations at a time when daily blockchain users represent less than 0.01% of the world population, you kill innovation.
Our priority is to encourage application creators to adopt good development practices and security audits, and to speak up when they suspect scams.
Ishan Pandey: What does the roadmap ahead look like for Cronos and the blockchain industry as a whole?
Ken Timsit: There is no master plan for innovation. At Cronos and at other chains, our role is to make it easier for application developers to make unexpected ideas a reality. So our job is to listen to them a lot and to work on solving their pain points.
Right now they need an easier customer onramp (this means the purchase of crypto assets with traditional means of payment). Clearly, they demand cheaper, faster, and greener transactions. They expect us to deliver on the promise of a multi-chain world, with more secure ways to transfer cryptocurrencies across chains.
They would like users to have better ways to search and discover investment opportunities and track their investments. Users also need crypto wallets that allow them to present themselves under multiple identities in the digital world, that show transaction information in human-readable format, and alert them when a scam is suspected.
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