Post

AMA Highlights – CasperLabs

By 03-May-2020 May 13th, 2020 No Comments

AMA Highlights – CasperLabs

By Daniel Dal Bello, Director.

May 3, 2020 – 9 min read.

On Monday 27 April, we welcomed both Mrinal Manohar and Neil Kapoor of CasperLabs into the Hillrise Capital Telegram chat for an AMA. Mrinal is the CEO, and Neil the Business Development Manager of CasperLabs.

CasperLabs are on a mission to create the ‘Blockchain for Builders’. This vision will be supported by a secure and scalable Proof-of-Stake blockchain and smart contracting platform.

CasperLabs Highway is their byzantine fault tolerant consensus protocol providing the high level of security required of a public blockchain.

Following their ‘Exchange Validator Offering’ on BitMax and successful testnet launch, we look to the road ahead for the second half of 2020.

In this post, we have compiled key questions and answers from our AMA event.

Daniel Dal Bello
Welcome to you both and thanks for being here today. I think it would be great as always to start with some background on yourselves and on CasperLabs.

Could you both give us some background on your personal journey into the blockchain-space and how you’ve ended up where you are building CasperLabs?

Neil Kapoor
Hi everyone, thanks Daniel for having us.

Quick background on myself; I come from a finance & accounting background, living in New York for approximately 6 years, I started my professional career working for a few different startups based out of the city, doing mostly FP&A for each.

I helped take a company public on the ASX as Director of Operations in 2016, that’s also when I was first introduced to the industry, as an investor.

I was then introduced to DNA.fund, an early stage investment fund (led by Scott Walker & Brock Pierce). I helped run business development for DNA’s post-raise consulting and advisory arm, where I worked with several notable projects such as Hedera Hashgraph, Polymath, and Everipedia. That’s where I was introduced to Mrinal and the CasperLabs team–just a little over a year ago.

Mrinal Manohar
Hi everyone, thanks for having us.

I started programming when I was 11 and with distributed systems in 2002–when I started undergrad. When I contributed to the BitTorrent project, I found decentralized systems fascinating. I had a more traditional Wall Street career after I got my Masters from Carnegie Mellon with Bain & Company, then Bain Capital after that (PE and LBOs), and then I was the TMT sector head at a $1.2bn dollar hedge fund. I discovered bitcoin in 2010 and started accumulating a position in 2012.

Then I just became a serial angel investor in the space (Ethereum pre-sale, Blockstack, Basis, Maker DAO, Filecoin and a bunch of others).

Through this I got to know bunch of developers in the space and realized there was an opportunity to create what I thought the industry was missing and this led me to co-found CasperLabs hoping to bring something interesting to the market!

Daniel Dal Bello
What comes to the forefront for me when reading about CasperLabs is that you’re a blockchain project, and this is always going to be such an interesting challenge because inherently you have so much competition. What do you feel are the most important distinctions between yourselves and the competition out there, and also in your minds who are your biggest competitors?

Ethereum has come so far and has so much support, but maybe you are more conscious of perhaps better technology elsewhere? Curious to hear your thoughts.

Mrinal Manohar
Well, personally I think the industry is so under-penetrated that the competition is really between the industry and ‘the old way of doing things’. But we’re closest in ethos to Ethereum (especially the 3.0 launch they are working on). It primarily comes down to the fact that we do not sacrifice the decentralized and permissionless nature of blockchains in any way. I feel every single protocol makes key sacrifices here. In addition a lot of protocols rely on probabilistic security and liveness standards (i.e., statistically they should work) and we rely on the CBC or ‘Correct-by-construction’ methodology that ensures the behaviors we want via mathematical proof.

“It primarily comes down to the fact that we do not sacrifice the decentralized and permissionless nature of blockchains in any way.”

I think Ethereum’s devotion to full decentralization is why it’s popular despite the scaling issues and attempts to scale, while compromising this won’t really work because that’s the whole point of blockchain technology.

Daniel Dal Bello
I think this is a good segue into my next question. What is CBC Casper and for those of us here who are less technically adept, could you breakdown how important Highway is for what you are building?

What makes your protocol better than what most of us think of when it comes to a ‘regular’ implementation of Proof-of-Stake?

Mrinal Manohar
Well the CBC stands for ‘Correct-by-construction’ which is an important mathematical methodology. It doesn’t sacrifice decentralization or security (to the level of Nakamoto consensus) to scale. Highway is super important because it’s the first provably live implementation of a CBC Casper protocol. What this means is that the system will always eventually come to consensus and will not grind to a halt.

The regular Proof-of-Stake protocols (DPoS, Ouroboros, Tendermint, Avalanche, Nightshade etc.) either gain scaling because of some level of centralization or permissioning, or are only statistically verified.

Creating a version of CBC Casper that works in the real world took 15 months of research and we were very lucky to have Dr. Daniel Kane help us create this protocol variant. The mathematical proof of which is up on our website. And, it’s running on our testnet (and it’s stable, whew).

Daniel Dal Bello
And so you don’t sacrifice performance or other metrics to achieve that consensus?

Mrinal Manohar
Yeah, no sacrifice to decentralization and security. When done right, PoS gives you a bunch of scaling for free because in PoW (Proof-of-Work) about 90%+ of processing power is used to generate random numbers. That computation can be redirected.

Daniel Dal Bello
You made a point just earlier Neil, about developers working on blockchain implementations in comparison to the total number of developers around the world. I always find myself circling back to this point when we talk about new layer-1 infrastructure, how do you attack growth and getting developers onboard once you launch your mainnet?

Do you have a particular focus area, be that geographic or industry-based?

Neil Kapoor
So with approx. 10-15k developers only focused on blockchain and 26 million total developers out there, we embrace open programming standards–we of course support Rust and Assembly Script and eventually any programming language over time. That helps lower one of the biggest barriers to entry that the industry has seen.

Mrinal Manohar
There are also a bunch of features we have that make the developer experience super easy, such as in-protocol state querying etc. This has enabled us to work with regular accelerators (PnP, CVVC, Spark) who usually prefer to support open programming standards.

But as with anything you need some great proof of concepts to see what can actually be done on the platform. We’re working on 7-8 of these with large companies (under NDA) but can talk about some basic industry use cases like:

  • Supply chain management (Hyundai)
  • Intellectual property and patent management
  • Decentralized finance
  • Medical and healthcare record management… and many more

Daniel Dal Bello
Of those already focused on blockchain, do you have any specific plans to bring them across to build with your architecture?

Neil Kapoor
On this note, we recently launched our incentivized testnet which will definitely help tap into the already existing pool of developers in the space. Here are the details of our testnet.

Daniel Dal Bello
Maybe we could talk about the token, are there any unique or otherwise different utilities or usages in comparison to ETH or other comparable layer-1 tokens? Could you briefly outline the role of the native token?

Mrinal Manohar
It works almost exactly like ETH, or more accurately, how ETH will work once Ethereum 2.0 is launched.

Daniel Dal Bello
I feel like we’re naturally working our way toward this. We of course need to talk about your validator sales and token distribution. We know that you’re going to be a public blockchain, allowing anyone to become a validator. What stood out to me in your documentation was this. “A great deal of effort has been taken to ensure that no single individual or entity acquires 1%+ of the tokens from the onset.”

Has this statement driven your desire to pioneer the validator sales, and what is the ‘Exchange Validator Offering’ (‘EVO’) all about?

Neil Kapoor
Absolutely, the reason for the EVO is to provide the retail investors an opportunity to get involved with the project at the ground floor.

We feel that the EVO provides a win-win-win:

  • For the individual customers: this structure allows access to a private sale that would otherwise usually only be accessible by funds and higher net worth investors;
  • For the exchanges, wallets, and other aggregators: they not only get to offer something unique to their members but will also have many thousands of new token holders and traders once our tokens are released; and
  • For CasperLabs: in the process of completing our private token sale, we will also likely grow significantly our community of interested and engaged stakeholders.

We’ve had a successful EVO on BitMax, and we just lauched one on Coinsuper today. We will be making several more announcements with exchanges over the next couple months.

Daniel Dal Bello
Just on point three, to clarify, will there be any ‘regular’ token sales? (e.g., no validator lockup?) Because that is the arrangement as I understand it, your tokens are locked up and staked during that period, correct?

Neil Kapoor
That’s correct, our current private sale offering is subject to a lockup. When we launch, we are planning on having a public sale, however I cannot share any details on that just yet.

Daniel Dal Bello
You mentioned the incentivized testnet, Neil. Can you tell us more about that? How has your testnet been progressing, and what have you learned so far? Following on from that, we know that this space changes and evolves fast. How far away is your mainnet, and do you think timing of that release can impact your growth and success?

Neil Kapoor
Absolutely. So far the testnet is running and has been very stable, we’re happy to be working with some key partners on this such as Acheron Trading, Hashquark, SNZ Pool, StratX, Block Blox, Ledger Leap, and Arcadia Group.

Mrinal Manohar
We are learning a lot, especially how to optimize the configuration to find the sweet spot between having all validators catch up and letting the system get very fast.

Daniel Dal Bello
How is it incentivized exactly?

Mrinal Manohar
We have set aside a significant amount of validating tokens for participants in the multi-month testnet.

Daniel Dal Bello
I want to circle back to your consensus protocol and talk about consensus monopolies. I can’t recall another blockchain startup talking about that term or maybe even caring about such a concept. How does your protocol discourage any validator cartels, and why should we care about it?

Mrinal Manohar
Great question, so we have a detailed post on it here. In essence the protocol has a lot of censorship-resistant features that prevent a cartel from silencing other participants in the network. In addition, our distribution strategy has helped ensure that there aren’t concentrated pockets of tokens, primarily our decision not to do our Series A through a token sale but via a pure equity round.

Daniel Dal Bello
A question for your both, as you could each have some differing priorities and perspectives here. What are your most important milestones and goals looking forward to the next couple of months?

Neil Kapoor
In my opinion, our biggest priorities are: community growth, the incentivized testnet working, and getting the protocol right. And of course, as we near mainnet, we plan on launching a bunch of hackathons and community engagement events to build out the developer community and expand on the number of projects that will be utilizing our platform.

In order to get there, we want to ensure successful validator participation as well as launch more strategic partnership initiatives from a business development perspective.

Mrinal Manohar
Yes, we have been very fortunate to have some really great partners and investors. They have in fact already started working with us on several fronts:

  • Several of them are staking pools with cutting-edge technology that are participating in the testnet and really helping us create a differentiated offering in terms of security and performance;
  • Many are software development firms that have already started building packages on top of our system and can start rolling them to their customer bases at launch; and
  • HDAC (Hyundai) for example is using our execution engine on their own blockchain and we are working together on a public supply chain management system. This is complex and will take a ton of development work.

In my opinion, to extend what Neil has said. We are working on a very comprehensive ‘Developer DAO’ that will incentivize building on the network (both core functionality and applications). We are also working with some great partners on some really great launch applications that show what a blockchain is really capable of doing, especially in the areas I alluded to earlier.

Our focus is really technology first and ensuring we create the right tools/applications that will hopefully help take the industry forward from what we view as an extremely under-penetrated one (10-15k developers vs. 26m worldwide).

Daniel Dal Bello
Thank you both. I’m really conscious of time as we’ve gone slightly over an hour, so let’s close on this note.

Neil Kapoor
Thanks for having us!

Mrinal Manohar
Thanks for having us Daniel! Feel free to contact the team via our public channels.

The text in this summary has been edited to correct grammatical errors and for presentation purposes. We thank both Mrinal and Neil for joining us for this AMA. For more information on CasperLabs, visit https://casperlabs.io/.