The Cryptonomist interviewed Max Kantelia, co-founder of the Zilliqa blockchain, to talk about the recent development of the project, what we can expect from the future, DeFi and more.
2020 has been an exciting year for Zilliqa so far. What are some of the recent partnerships that the team has undertaken?
It has indeed! If you noticed, towards the end of 2019, we placed a great deal of emphasis on building up infrastructural enhancements to better equip the network for enterprise-grade use. We embarked on partnerships with Elliptic, a blockchain forensics firm that actively works with financial institutions and law enforcement to provide actionable insights to monitor platforms for illicit activity, as well as with ChainSecurity, a blockchain security company that identifies security vulnerabilities and verifies the functional correctness of smart contracts, blockchain platforms, and protocols. These partnerships have helped to further bolster our emphasis on security while keeping compliance top of mind, as we look to engage in developing use cases with real-world impact outside of the immediate blockchain industry.
We began 2020 by partnering with Incognito, a blockchain privacy solutions provider, to bring pZIL to our token holders—a 1:1 private version of the ZIL token which allows for completely confidential asset transfers secured by cryptographic algorithms such as zero-knowledge proofs. Most recently, we partnered with Singapore-homegrown decentralised exchange Switcheo to work on developing Zilliqa DEX. This non-custodial DEX is distinguished by off-chain order matching engines and liquidity pools enabling consistent market-making and increased liquidity without the need for centralised intermediaries.
As you can see, these partnerships are designed to add greater robustness to the Zilliqa ecosystem, by addressing some of the core features that are important to both businesses and users alike. Whether that’s a need for increased security, better regulatory compliance, or privacy-centric enhancements, we’ve been able to show that we are in fact listening to our community but also keeping a close eye on what enterprises are demanding from technology solutions providers today. While there are no new updates to share at this time, rest assured, the team is currently hard at work and you can certainly expect to see more in the coming months!
Staking has been a long-awaited development among the Zilliqa community—tell us more about it and any recent progress that readers should be aware of.
Zilliqa has introduced staking as a means of bringing greater decentralisation to our network architecture by opening up access to seed nodes. Seed nodes serve as direct access points for end-users and clients to the core Zilliqa network, consolidating transaction requests before being forwarded to lookup nodes who then distribute transactions to different shards in the network. Today, seed nodes on Zilliqa are being operated by several exchanges, enterprise partners such as Xfers, as well as block explorer provider ViewBlock and the Zilliqa team itself. With staking, we hope to provide community members with the ability to enable increased decentralisation on the network level while ensuring that they meet a threshold for acceptable performance.
In April, we announced that the staking smart contract code for the network was now live on our testnet. We fully open-sourced the code and began inviting bug hunters to vet the code for any security flaws. To bolster this, we’ve also added the code to Bugcrowd’s crowdsourced Bug Bounty Programmes to invite more security researchers and cybersecurity experts outside our immediate community to examine the code. Based on predetermined requirements such as a ZIL 10,000,000 deposit to operate a seed node, we will begin onboarding operators to the testnet this quarter. Following additional testing, we’ll be officially launching staked seed nodes on the mainnet by the end of Q2 2020.
In the last three years, the Zilliqa has seemingly evolved, transitioning away from decentralised applications to more so finance-focused use cases. Can you tell us more about the team’s vision when it comes to building out the Zilliqa ecosystem?
Since Zilliqa’s founding, our vision has consistently been to become the go-to blockchain for enterprises and applications in need of a robust decentralised network to support use cases with real-world impact. In the last three years, we’ve built up a steady arsenal of use cases, spanning sectors such as gaming to digital advertising.
That being said, as a decentralised platform, there are no limitations to what can be built on the Zilliqa platform and we encourage experimentation and creativity among our growing developer community. For one, through programmes such as ZILHive Grants, we’ve been able to help talented teams and developers realise their applications on the network. However, it’s best to not put all your eggs in one basket—a fully-matured blockchain ecosystem is one that is able to see a great deal of activity from developers and the core team alike, and we’re always excited to see what talented individuals around the world can come up with to add to our community.
With the recently announced Zilliqa DEX and the ongoing partnership with Xfers for the XSGD stablecoin, DeFi appears to be a key area of focus for the team. What else is Zilliqa doing in this area?
While these recent announcements certainly help to bolster our position in the DeFi ecosystem, we’ve also acknowledged that in order for blockchain to achieve true mainstream and enterprise adoption, we need to focus on use cases and partnerships with real-world impact. One common point of criticism, for example, that we’ve heard is that the utility of a stablecoin pegged to a currency aside from USD would have little impact on the DeFi ecosystem today. While stablecoins play a role in mitigating price movements of volatile assets on cryptocurrency exchanges, our vision for XSGD far extends beyond that.
In light of that, we believe that it’s important to look outside of the immediate blockchain industry to fully realise the technology’s potential. Our focus is to continue building out an open, interoperable financial network to support next-generation fintech solutions across the Southeast Asian region. Through blockchain and smart contracts, we hope to collaborate with strategic partners across the traditional financial ecosystem as well as the fintech space to effectively meet the needs of the financially underserved. This market remains largely untapped, with only 27 percent of citizens in the region equipped with basic financial services such as a bank account despite high levels of mobile phone penetration. Through this, we hope to effectuate a new model of Open Finance across the region, characterised by inclusion, access, and transparency.
We’re now almost at Zilliqa’s 3rd birthday. What achievement are you most proud of?
I can’t believe that it is only three years ago that we launched Zilliqa: it is too easy to forget that we are still a very young company! For me, the sense of pride comes from watching the team gathering greater and greater momentum each week: the drive and traction are relentless and I can only see the pace increasing as we head into the second half of the year. I just do not see any other project that is advancing at a similar pace. If I am allowed one more answer, it is that I am very proud to see entrepreneurs building dApps on top of our platform and am convinced that we will see some incredible companies come into being with the creative use of blockchain in a way that can benefit consumers and enterprise clients alike.
What’s next for Zilliqa and what can we expect in the year ahead?
There will certainly be more exciting announcements to come—both big and small—whether it be for our community in the form of updates on our ZILHive grants programme or developments on staking or the Zilliqa DEX. For the rest of the year, our ultimate goal is to create a modular network built on open-source principles to improve the interoperability of payment and asset management applications. No longer an arena only open to fintech startups, we hope that by bringing blockchain to the mix, we can impart the spirit of decentralisation and equal access to emerging markets that are accelerating their digital transformation aspirations.