TechCrunch Sessions

TechCrunch held an event in Zug last week. TechCrunch hosted a “Sessions” event on Blockchain and Zug emerged as a natural place. I joined for the morning sessions to see a few talks. Specifically, I enjoyed hearing Nico Brand from Lakestar and a couple of his industry colleagues talk about the future of VC in a decentralized world. And of course, hearing Vitalik and two of his fellow ETH researchers talk about scalability was interesting as well. Their goal is to present and launch the first update next year. When asked about what other projects he follows, it was good to hear that DFINITY was among them.

Video Transcript:

I am currently in Agory, Agory is a small town, not too far from Zug. And Zug has relevance to today’s episode, because last Friday I was at a TechCrunch Event in Zug. Now, you might have heard that TechCrunch hosts events all over the world. There is TechCrunch San Francisco, New York, Berlin, and London; in all these mega cities. So how does Zug fit in? Why they held an event in Zug last week? Well, that was an event mostly focused on blockchain technology. So, last Friday TechCrunch held an event called “TechCrunch Sessions: Blockchain” here in Zug.

Zug: Legal Craddle for Cryptoccurencies

Zug has a lot of relevance, because it emerged as kind of the place to set up your cryptocompany.

I think there are both historic and political reasons: for one, Zug was one of the earliest places to give cryptocurrencies a legal framework to give you some guidance and stability on how to operate with them and what to do with them. And, then, also the Ethereum foundation was founded here and operated from here for a long time. And now Aeternity is here, Bancor, the Tezos foundation is set up in Zug and, of course, DFINITY was also established here.

I, unfortunately, made it only to the morning sessions but, nevertheless, I got a few inputs and I saw a few talks. One of the talks that I enjoyed was with Nico Brandt from LegStar and two of his industry colleagues. And they talked on stage about how we see them evolved now that there’s decentralized funding. That was the talk that I really enjoyed just because I did Tenderloin ventures before joining DFINITY full time.

Blurbs on TechCrunch Sessions

So, I was working in an investment company even though I did not have the size that most large European and especially American VC funds have. I still follow the space quite actively; and that was a question that I’ve asked myself very often like: “How’s this ecosystem gonna change? What’s there it’s decentralized funding? Now, basically, even though regulatory risks still prevail but I mean chances are really high that over time you will develop a way to offer everyone and anyone to invest into companies through decentralized finance.

The other talk that I really enjoyed; there were actually two talks: Vitalik and two of his colleagues at the Ethereum foundation. Vitalik came on stage and talked about the Ethereum together with his colleagues Justin Drake and Karl Floersch. They all work at Ethereum foundation. Obviously, Vitalik is very well known.

One of the questions, obviously, that they faced was, “How is the Ethereum gonna scale?” Now, what I found interesting is that they seem to have a plan by now – something that has changed a lot since I went to DEVCON last year and saw them talk about ideas for how to further scale.

Casper & Plasma

They have these two proposals: Casper. It seems they’ve now packaged them into one and there’s one Casper that they’re working on. One thing that was surprising to me is that they conservatively said that sometime in 2019 is when they hope to have an update and a fork out for this to happen. He also talks about Plasma, which is a way to make transactions faster and, kind of, consolidate them on the application layer so the network doesn’t really have to be changed; that’s something that can be launched right now by various applications. Another thing that I really enjoyed watching was when Vitalik was asked which other blockchain projects in the space he follows and finds really interesting.

Without further ado, please dive in: Here are a few snippets from last week’s talks at TechCrunch sessions.

Snippets from TechCrunch Sessions

How do you look at other blockchains? Do you think there are some implementations that could be interesting in that you could work with to put into the Ethereum project?
There’s definitely some that have that are doing a lot of interesting pioneering work in cryptography that we follow closely. And, you know, we’ve been very close with the Zcash community, for example. Yeah… And that’s the only one? Um, there are others.

We’ve talked to what side you talked with DFINITY people a couple of times, we’ve talked with some: there’re a couple of other blockchains and we also talked to kind of academic research groups that are not, never affiliate with any specific blockchain. And we’ve had close contacts with IC3 for a couple of years, like, the StarkWare researchers, like people at Stanford. It seems like it’s like the most important thing on your mind right now.

How to scale the Ethereum?

The price is a function of supply and demand and so when transaction fee is on any of these blockchains, whether Bitcoin or Ethereum, or whatever else become high. Like, that can we, like, that basically does mean that there are a lot of people who are who are sending transactions and who want those transactions to get on to the blockchains. And that the blockchain is popular enough and people are interested enough in using it that the they, basically, have to compete to get those transactions actually included into the slots in the blocks, right so.

And if you had to design Ethereum from day one today in 2018, would you have made it a bit simpler, to make it a bit more scalable from day one? So, there’s definitely changes that we know about now that we could have definitely made into the protocol from day one that would have made it significantly more scalable. Though… There are also ways in which the problem just as fundamentally hard and the things that we’ve learned over the last two to three years of seeing the Ethereum blockchain live have contributed a lot to our understanding and to, like, our ideas about how to make blockchains better in the future.


Do you think, with the current roadmap, you have the right approach when it comes to security to make sure that everything is normal and business as usual? From the sharding perspective, the security, kind of, comes from pooling all the validators in the same place. And, then, randomly sampling the validators and putting them in the shards. From the point of view of Casper, it’s actually an extremely simple protocol. We can just write math proofs about it; and there are just a few lines long and they give you strong guarantees about things.
So, for example, if you have two inconsistent finalized blocks, then, you have a guarantee that at least one-third of the validators will get slashed. That’s what we mean by finality; it’s actually economic finality in the sense that if something goes wrong, then, a lot of money will be burnt.