BitMart, a premier global digital asset trading platform, recently announced its partnership with CasperLabs, a Switzerland-based blockchain company constructing a high-performance layer-one network powered by the first implementation of the CBC Casper proof-of-stake (PoS) protocol. Through the partnership, BitMart will be part of the founding stake on the Genesis Block of the CasperLabs network and provide all its users the opportunity to purchase and stake CLX tokens, the native cryptographic token of the CasperLabs blockchain.
On May 27, 2020, to better help BitMart users know more about CasperLabs and its team, we held a Telegram AMA with the topic of: "CasperLabs: Leading the Public Chain 3.0". We are pleased to have Clifford Sarkin, COO at CasperLabs, and Medha Parlikar, CTO & Co-Founder of CasperLabs to join the AMA and share valuable insights with our community members.
If you miss the AMA live, check our AMA recap below for more details:
Hello everyone, it’s great to be here! I’m Cliff, CasperLabs’ Chief Operating Officer. My background is as a tech entrepreneur and licensed attorney. Before joining CasperLabs in January 2019, I was VP of Business Development at DNA, a leading early-stage blockchain venture fund. Prior to blockchain, I helped grow and scale three successful technology companies, highlights include: helping scale Duda.co from 12 employees to 70+ from 2012 - 2015 and leading VideoSurf’s $80M acquisition by Microsoft in 2011. I hold a BA from the University of California Berkeley and JD from Harvard Law School.
Good day everyone! Thanks for having us on! I’m Medha Parlikar and I started working with technology in the early 80’s. For the past 2 decades, I have been delivering production software at Adobe, Omniture, Avalara, MP3.com, and DivX. I am one of the co-founders of CasperLabs and the CTO where I build the blockchain. I always strive to deliver high-quality production software while inspiring technical teams to solve tough problems and do their best work. I am an avid fan of decentralization and believe in not compromising decentralization for efficiency.
Q1. In the blockchain industry and decentralized world, the "public chain" is not a new word; we have witnessed the development from public chin 1.0 (Bitcoin) to public chain 2.0 (Ethereum). Nowadays, a lot of public chains are focusing on solving the problems of system scalability, security, and regulatory compatibility. In your opinion, what issues do you think still exist in the use of the underlying public chain?
Well, I think it’s important to first note that every new technology takes a significant amount of time to gain mainstream adoption. For example, Amazon Web Service (AWS) took 9 years to break into the mainstream, and the internet took decades to become the phenomenon that it has become.
I think there are core reasons why public blockchains have not seen mainstream adoption. Mostly it’s because the developer experience is difficult and does not mirror the experiences they are used to in non-blockchain. For example, most layer-one networks are difficult to use and require developers to learn custom programming languages like solidity or plutus, rather than allowing engineers to program in languages that they are already familiar with.
In addition, there are no public blockchains that achieve Scalability while maintaining full Security (not just probabilistic security) and real Decentralization. Most of the newer blockchains have some centralizing features as well as tendency to have very concentrated ownership structures.
These are both challenges that CasperLabs has solved. We do not compromise decentralization while having correct-by-construction security (which means the Math comes first). Every decision has been made to broaden participation, ownership and ease of use.
Q2. How does CasperLabs different from other public chains? Can you highlight some unique features of CasperLabs?
Let’s talk about some of the specific things we are doing.
Firstly we have embraced open programming standards. The chart on the left shows that while solidity is the most used smart contracting language today with ~10k developers, this number is much smaller than the 26 million total developers out there.
The chart on the right shows that Rust has the highest approval rating amongst programming languages (From Stack overflows survey which had over 90,000 respondents).
This tells us that for blockchain to get mass adoption, smart contracting interfaces need to be easy for all developers and they have made their preferences for 1. broadly used and 2. well-supported programming languages very clear.
The CasperLabs blockchain supports Rust and Assembly Script right out the gate as contracting languages. We have integrated our SDK’s into those ecosystems directly. By embracing open standards, we will be able to create a platform that welcomes all 26 million developers. What’s more, is that we support the professional development workflows that these developers and companies expect- such as CI/CD and automated testing. This is table stakes when selecting a platform on which you will build a business on.
Secondly, we have smart contracting features that make the developer experience significantly easier, including:
- Flexible payment code (Sender does not always have to pay)
- Weighted key management (You can create any kind of threshold system)
- Upgradeable contracts (Never lose control of your systems)
- Direct state querying (Easy data access)
Glad to go into detail on any of these.
I built a platform that I would use as a Director of Engineering in a professional software company.
Q3. CasperLabs's technology is powered by a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) CBC- Casper protocol, which once brought a huge discussion in the community. Can you briefly introduce and elaborate on this protocol?
There are several differences between the Proof of Work (PoW) and Proof-of-Stake (PoS). I will layout 2 key differences and then talk about why CBC (Correct by Construction) is important.
The first key difference is the usage of computational power. In PoW 90-95% of computing power is used to generate hashes (Random numbers) and hence there is a very high hardware and energy requirement. In PoS most of this processing power can be redirected to performing actual work. Thereby increasing efficiency as well as the speed of the underlying networks.
Secondly, proof-of-work encourages centralization versus proof-of-stake. The reason is in PoW your reward is based on the amount of relative processing power and is randomized. So if you have 0.5% of the processing power on PoW, you have a 1/200 chance of ever earning a block reward and it might even take days to earn anything. This is why you have very large mining operations that try to make the rewards more predictable by consolidating power. In proof of stake since rewards are not randomized (i.e., since they are split by stake), you always know how much reward you are going to get on a regular basis. Therefore even small validators can participate meaningfully in the network.
Our protocol is unique in that it is built using the CBC (Correct by construction) methodology. This means we start with the mathematical foundations of the underlying behavior and then start creating /coding the protocol. We are very fortunate to have excellent researchers on the team including Dr. Daniel Kane (His Bio: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Kane_(mathematician)) who helped derive the mathematical proof of the underlying protocol. Dr. Kane is a mathematical prodigy with degrees from MIT and Harvard (PhD) as well as winning major mathematical prizes in the USA.
This work as shown in our mathematical research paper (https://github.com/CasperLabs/highway/releases/download/v1.0/highway.pdf) has allowed us to produce a protocol that gives full security, does not compromise decentralization and is mathematically derived so it is not just probabilistic.
Our team focuses a lot on security. Decentralization and permissionless validator set rotation is very important to us.
Q4. In the summer of 2019, CasperLabs raised 14.5 million US dollars in Series A funding with investments from Arrington XRP, Consensus Capital, HDAC Technology, and Chinese investment institutions, including Wanxiang Capital, IOSG VC, Hashkey Capital. What do you think are the key characteristics of Casper that attract those investors?
Yes, thank you Admin. We were very fortunate to have a successful equity Series A last year, even in a tough market. It was further unique because we only sold equity and it was not a token round.
I think the key characteristic was the technical vision as well as the quality of the TEAM. We have a full time staff of 30+ individuals (more than 20 of them being engineers). But If I were to talk about a few…
In addition to Dr Daniel Kane (who Medha just spoke about), Dr. Andreas Fackler got his PhD at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität. He held roles at Google for several years and has also worked on the Maidsafe and Honeybadger protocols.
Mrinal Manohar, one of the founders and CEO, began programming at 11 and got his masters in CS from Carnegie Mellon University. Mrinal worked at Microsoft, Bain, Bain Capital which are all multi-billion dollar companies and funds. He was an open source contributor to the BitTorrent project, has been investing in blockchain since 2012 and was one of the earliest investors in Ethereum.
And of course my co-presenter today is Medha Parlikar is our CTO and one of our founders. Medha comes from industry -delivering production software that has to be up and service thousands of requests per second in mission critical applications.
I wish I had time to talk about everyone at the company, but everyone has similar backgrounds. For example over 80% of the team have Masters and graduate degrees most from Ivy league or equivalent schools. On average members of the team have about 15 years of experience, both at leading companies like Bain Capital, Microsoft, Google, Adobe, Amazon, DropBox, but also protocols such as Ethereum, HoneyBadger, Maidsafe and several others.
There have been many attempts to create a scalable developer friendly blockchain based on fundamental research and I think investors believed that this team had the technical ability to deliver it.
All of our team members and their bios can be viewed at https://casperlabs.io/company/meet-our-team/ (available in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese!)
Q5. How did CasperLabs connect and cooperate with BitMart? What are the common views from both sides in terms of the future development of CasperLabs?
Well, BitMart is an extremely progressive exchange with a strong reputation that understands the evolution of proof-of-stake. Your exchange shares our view that proof-of-stake will be an important part of the blockchain industry’s evolution.
We are very happy to start our technical partnership with BitMart being one of our core validators and enabling their user base to choose to use the fruits of this technical partnership. We expect this relationship to be long-term as together we aim to bring state of the art staking infrastructure as well as an advanced feature set to users of both platforms.
Q6. CasperLabs has become very popular after the successful series A round. What significant progress has CasperLabs achieved since then?
It has been a very busy period since we closed our Series A. Our focus has been building the blockchain and the team. The technology team is now fully built out with 22+ researchers and engineers. We release updates every month and are progressing according to plan, including our testnet launch on March 31st. We launched our testnet in collaboration with validators from some of the largest staking pools in the industry, such as SNZ, Stake.Fish and Hashquark.
You can interact with the testnet at https://clarity.casperlabs.io
Here is a screen grab from the live explorer.
Below is our roadmap and we look forward to launching main net by the end of the year:
In terms of blockchain centric partnerships. We have made a lot of progress with staking pools and leading exchanges. We will have dozens of staking pools and key exchanges acting as initial validators on the network. We believe this will greatly help create a decentralized and distributed partnership base.
Also we have been able to fine tune the protocol and feature set through the excellent relationships with both blockchain and non blockchain projects that our investor and advisor pool brings. A lot of the core decisions made on the technology are direct feedback from some of the most innovative companies out there, combined with the professional experience from our senior engineers on the team.
Q7. In which countries and regions has CasperLabs established communities? Can you elaborate more on the communities you've built? How many members in the communities? What's CasperLab's current global deployment?
Our community engagement has grown significantly since we finished our Series A. Below is a chart summarizing community:
We have community members in over 15 countries, with USA and China being the largest. Independent groups/communities (In Tukey and Italy) have formed unofficially and we encourage informal community growth. We have recently spoken to over 10,000 participants across AMA’s such as this one and we have seen an average 290% increase MoM in community and exposure since October 2019. Our telegram and we chat groups were in the hundreds but now reach on telegram on wechat is over 3K and 5K respectively and continue to increase. Across our Social channels (Facebook, twitter , LinkedIn etc) we increased from 104K exposures in Q3 2019 to a combined reach of 290k in Q1 2020. Our mailing list has also increased from under 2k participants to just under 11k now.
We are pleased with the initial community interest in the underlying technology but we are just getting started. We will continue to engage deeply with communities and as the restrictions open up, we aim for a lot of in person events, hackathons and much much more which should see these trends accelerate even more.
Q8. CasperLabs BitMart partnership was announced, can you briefly introduce the concept and how participants can become part of the initial network?
We are partnering with BitMart who will become a validator on our network upon MainNet Launch. For an open, proof-of-stake project like ours, engaging with top-notch validators early on and building a broad and organic community of stakers who believe in the project is essential. For the token opportunity to its registered user base in connection with staking, please contact BitMart directly.
Q9. Like Polkadot, Cosmos, and other well-known public chain projects, CasperLabs has set a lock-up period. What are the considerations behind the lock-up mechanism?
For initial validators, there is a short 90 day mandatory staking period. This is important to ensure the stability and security of the network as it launches, and it is necessary from a legal/regulatory perspective to ensure our token remains a “utility.”
We like to refer to this, not as a “lock-up” but rather a “mandatory staking period.” This is unlike a lock-up in the sense that the tokens are released but they just need to be staked at Mainnet launch.
While the core tokens will be bonded to the network, all staking related rewards will be liquid and distributed starting as soon as the network is live. These decisions are primarily driven by technical concerns as it is important to have a robust set of validators to ensure the health of the network.
Q10. CasperLabs has launched the public incentivized test network ("Testnet"), the Zug500, on March 31. How is the eco-development of the Zug500 so far? Can you share any new applications and feedback from multiple validators such as HashQuark, SNZ, and stake fish?
The Zug 500 consists of 3 laps. We are currently on lap one which we initially intended to be a much smaller set of validators to help us fine tune and configure the protocol. We were really happy to see that there was more demand than we anticipated with over 20 pools and community driven validators participating. We expect increasing participation as we transition into laps 2 and 3 and our eventual launch.
Our validators have told us that 'Your system and support is the easiest and best of the projects we have worked with".
We have created tooling for the management and monitoring of the node - much like production systems need in professional organizations.
Here is the announcement where you can read more: https://medium.com/casperlabs/casperlabs-launches-testnet-kicking-off-the-zug500-31495ff93169.
Our focus will shift towards dApp development during the second lap, and our final lap will focus on security and open the testnet for validator set rotation.
I'm also very excited about some of the pilot projects we are working with companies that are building real-world use cases on the platform. We are still under NDA - so we can't talk about the specific companies publicly, but let’s talk about some of the use cases that are being explored.
a) Artist and songwriter copyright management
b) Patent and IP management
c) Healthcare records and clinical research
d) Workforce management.
and many more!
We work actively with the community and these projects during our weekly sessions. You can find recordings on Youtube.
Coming from professional software environments, we understand what node operators need to manage their servers.
We thank everyone for joining today’s AMA. We greatly appreciate our staking partner BitMart for hosting us today, and for @BitMart_Admin to moderare the discussion. We will do our best to answer as many of your questions as possible over the next few hours.
If you have any additional questions for us, please feel free to DM me or @MParlikar anytime. We’d love to hear from you.
Lastly, we invite and welcome everyone to join CasperLabs Telegram: https://t.me/casperlabs.