The 2019 IOHK Summit was held last week in sunny Miami where IOHK employees and community members flew in from over 20 countries. Charles Hoskinson, CEO of IOHK, opened the event with his keynote speech and commenced the event. Past summits were private events that brought together IOHK employees who normally work remotely around the world. Holding this annual event brings everyone together to help IOHK become a better company and ecosystem.
Charles began his talk by introducing the beautiful banners that were displayed on the summit’s main stage. He jokingly added that, like all decentralized movements, the artist to these banners were found through Twitter. The artist was commissioned to create a banner for each of the notable figures of the Cardano project: Gerolamo Cardano, Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Joseph Goguen, Matsuo Bashō and François-Marie d’Arouet known as Voltaire.
He then went on to share the history of the Cardano project. Charles was approached in 2015 by a consortium of people who wanted to create the ‘Ethereum of Japan’ but having been part of Ethereum before, Charles sought out to do something more interesting and more innovative. This is where the 3 pillars of Cardano were born: scalability, interoperability, and sustainability. Scalability: the system needs to get faster and stay at the same performance as it gains more users. Interoperability: there isn’t going to be just one cryptocurrency, or one financial system. There are thousands of different ways to do things and there needs to be communication. Sustainability: this is basically, who pays and who decides.
Once the pillars were decided and the funding came through in 2015. The team at IOHK behind Cardano started to think carefully about important questions like: what does the technology look like? What type of code do we need to write? Do we just fork bitcoin and start there? The answer to the last question being ‘no’. It was important to be foundational and take a step back to again carefully think: what are we actually trying to do? What are the consensus algorithms we could use? What’s the type of ledger we could design? How private do the transactions need to be? What does the metadata need to look like? These deliberations made it clear that foundational research was needed, regardless of the years that it would take. And so began the process at IOHK – they began hiring people in the company, they partnered with research labs at prominent universities, and they wrote papers on programming languages, accounting systems, proof-of-stake algorithms and more.
But nothing is ever truly good until the market says it’s good and until the community says it’s good. So in the Byron era, the Cardano project worked on building a community. It started sharing the message of what a third-generation cryptocurrency was. Making sure people understood the importance of peer-reviewed research for blockchain protocols. And making people care about where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do with Cardano.
As of Q1 of this year, this Byron era is over! The last Byron update, Cardano 1.5, was recently shipped and with this major milestone, the project has achieved so much beyond the software. Cardano is listed on over 25 exchanges and has been in the Top 10. And the once small community has grown to about half a million people, all around the world. More importantly, the community is made up of diverse backgrounds, unified by the concept that we can do better than where we’ve come before and that it is okay to take time to do things better.
And why is that important? Because if IOHK is actually going to build the next generation system worth anything and that will have billions of people – then the system has the work.
“That’s your money. That’s your property. That’s your identity. That’s your privacy. This is your life and if this system has dominion over the things you care most about, it would be really unfortunate if the system didn’t work. It’d be really unfortunate if a glitch cost you your life savings.”
And this is something the cryptocurrency space needs to remember as it continues to grow, and what the Cardano community needs to keep in mind when saying ‘when Shelley?’. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The Shelley era is going to bring staking, stake pools, delegation and decentralization. It is very important that these features work and that’s why everyone at IOHK has been working incredibly hard. And when designing the system, IOHK wanted it to be as fluid and open as possible. That’s why anyone can register a stakepool. How do you do that? On the blockchain. And with what interface? You can use Daedalus! The goal was to keep it simple – not only for user experience but to keep the barrier to entry low.
Other eras described by Charles in the keynote speech included Goguen, which is all about smart contracts, and will be converging near the same time as Shelley. It will build on the concept of decentralization by adding more functionality than Bitcoin. There is also Basho, named after a Japanese, medieval poet, which will be all about scalability. Once Cardano has stake pools in place and the process is well underway, then at some point, we can shard the system. This means that more pools equal more performance. And at some point, we can add layer-two protocols into the system. Parallel chains, side chains, lightning networks – all great innovations that are also in the pipeline. Finally, there’s Voltaire that will bring the treasury system and the voting system into Cardano.
After sharing the Cardano roadmap, Charles went onto to talk about adoption. One can create a functioning, efficient system but its worth nothing without bringing people into it. For Cardano, the soul of the project has always been a Pan-African focus. IOHK has aggressively entered Africa: moving employees there, meeting leaders, setting up offices and signing MOU’s. One in particular has been the MoU with the Ministry of Innovation and Technology in Ethiopia to teach a Haskell course to 23 female developers. More excitingly, an additional MoU has been signed with the Ethiopian government to build a project using Cardano in Addis Ababa (details on this to be shared in another post).
Projects like this fall within a framework called Atala, which was also announced at the IOHK Summit and with more details to come. Atala is an enterprise ledger framework and is specifically being built from the ground up for solving problems within countries. It will tackle issues like academic fraud and verification of credentials, to tracking and tracing products. It will be able to serve as municipal currencies or identity systems and property registration. Charles reminded us that Cardano isn’t about caring about the price of ada, but about making a fundamental change to the quality of life for people. By solving this problem, we have now built a bridge to bring these people into our system! This is an opportunity to bring 3 billion people to come into our economy. The crypto-economy.
“That is how we’re going to get millions and millions of users. We’re going to go and do enterprise deals. And every time we do it, we will bring people into our ecosystem.”
Charles closed off his keynote speech by inspiring attendees that we are all part of the movement that is changing the way everything works and is about putting everybody in charge. And to complete this mission, we need the world to work with us. So we can all do our part – use the product, tell people about it, tell people about crypto and what it’s all about. Cardano has always been open source and patent-free and does not possess any IP. We don’t control anything. Never has been IOHK’s mission - their mission has always been to give it to everyone.