This week’s guest on the Cardano SPO Column is a stake pool run by Russell from the UK whose mission is to decentralize the Cardano network and support mental health charities: GrahamsNumberPlus1 [GNP1].
Last week’s guest was a stake pool run by the family of Vasil St Dabov, with the goal of continuing his important work which was cut short by his untimely death.
This initiative is a point of reference for everything Cardano and every week or two we will invite a Stake Pool Operator (SPO) to answer some questions and give us an update directly from within the Cardano community.
Considering that many of our readers are new to the crypto space, we will have a mix of simple and technical questions.
Cardano SPO Column, interview with GrahamsNumberPlus1 [GNP1]
Hi, thanks for your time. Tell us something about yourself, where are you based and what is your background?
My name is Russell Wallace and I own the GrahamsNumberPlus1 (GNP1) Stakepool. GNP1 is a registered company in the UK where I am based. The pool was registered in October 2020 and we are a member of the Mission Driven Pools alliance.
GNP1 aims to support decentralisation of the Cardano ecosystem while also supporting mental health through partnerships with dedicated charities. Our aim is to provide donations of approximately 20% of the StakePool revenue. Our Block Producing Node is located in Germany with one relay also in Germany and a second relay in the United States.
Currently we have minted 27 blocks having maintained an average stake of 300K ADA but have just had a very long dry spell without being selected as a slot leader.
My background has consisted of a combination of investigation and technical related work. This has included high tech investigations, compliance and e-Discovery. I have worked for law enforcement, big 4 consulting firms, financial institutions and regulatory bodies. The objective for GNP1 is to defy the odds and eventually build sufficient delegation so that we can be a profitable Stakepool supporting decentralisation and mental health.
What’s the path that led you to Cardano and to become a Stake Pool Operator (SPO)?
With a technical background, I have been interested in Blockchain technology ever since the inception of Bitcoin. I first tried mining Bitcoin in 2013 but given the already increasing difficulty levels I changed this to Litecoin mining in order to learn the process. I later became involved with Ethereum mining in 2016 and 2017 and built a couple of rigs allowing me to mine Ethereum and further increase my knowledge. I also mined a number of other smaller cryptocurrencies just for fun.
Other ventures included running a Bitcoin Lightning node for a while and when I learnt about Cardano I was very keen to see how I could get involved. I followed a number of tutorials and learned what I could and set up the GNP1 Stakepool in 2020.
As I became more involved with the Stakepool I joined a number of discussion groups on Discord, Telegram and Twitter Spaces to learn more about how other Stakepool Operators were managing. I was pleasantly surprised at how helpful the community was and felt that Cardano was a project with real long term potential. The level of support and assistance within the community has been essential to the ongoing challenges of running a Stakepool especially during dry runs when no blocks are being minted.
What are the costs and tasks involved in running a stake pool? What difficulties do you encounter and what do you think could be done at a protocol level to help small stake pools?
Running a Stakepool takes considerably more effort than what some people may think. There are the obvious costs of setting up, running and maintaining the hardware. This requires a reasonable amount of time and effort to ensure everything continues to work OK and that all updates are completed at regular intervals.
At first I used my own equipment before migrating to the cloud. Both systems have their pros and cons but the actual cost for a small pool like mine is quite prohibitive. We do not mint regular blocks and so we currently lose money but continue with the Stakepool because we believe in Cardano and our mission with regards to Mental Health.
Ultimately we hope to build our delegation to the point where we can make regular charity donations and return a small profit. Consequently we incur a lot of promotional costs through random Giveaways, NFT creation and related Giveaways, advertising and time simply spent promoting the Stakepool to potential delegators.
Our main difficulty is obviously getting the delegation. We are a very active Stakepool and are on Twitter on a daily basis. Even with all our promotional Giveaways and time spent on social media we are finding it almost impossible to get more stake. Times when we have received a sizable delegation we have lost it because of inconsistent block production.
This has been said before and will probably be said again that there needs to be basic changes to things like the k value and minimum pool fee. It is impossible for a small pool that only mints a block every now to attract stake when the protocol automatically takes over 50% from the rewards and gives this to the pool operator. Yes this can be given back to delegators but this is a cumbersome manual process and not very practical.
Generally the system is heavily favoured to influencers and people with large followings. It would appear that even with all the effort an SPO can put into promoting their pool they will generally have no success unless they can build a large following through a parallel social media presence.
Finally it would be far better if the CF (Cardano Foundation) and IOG delegations could be split into smaller amounts and distributed to more SPOs so that these SPOs could at least be given a chance to develop their pool. I know the argument has been raised that they need to keep the delegations large so that regular block production can attract delegators. I disagree with this approach because delegation support should be about helping a pool to help itself. There is no point giving a pool 15M just so they can mint blocks for 3 months and then retire once the delegation is withdrawn. Providing 1M to 15 pools instead will allow those 15 pools if they want to make the effort to at least mint some blocks and then if they put in the effort they may be able to promote, attract and maintain delegators from that point on. The delegation should not be about giving a few a free ride but more about giving a lot more the chance of success if they want to work at it. After all, decentralisation should be about attracting more people to the project.
You’re also focused on supporting mental health. Can you tell us more about this? Why is it important to you and how are the donations processed?
Mental health is always something I have felt strongly about. The reality is that everybody knows or has known someone who has struggled with their mental health for whatever reason. Without your mental health it can be difficult to appreciate even the most basic things in life depending on the severity. To make matters worse people suffering from mental health issues can find it very difficult to receive the attention they deserve. In addition to this, people unfairly suffer the stigma that can be attached to a mental health issue due to a lack of knowledge and education relating to their condition.
GNP1 is committed to donating 20% of our revenue to mental health charities. Whenever we earn through minting a block we make a payment to a mental health charity either in the UK or overseas. We recognise that many of our delegators are not from the UK so we want to try to donate to organisations located in countries where our delegators come from as well.
We are also actively trying to build partnerships with mental health charities based in the UK. All donations and receipts are published on our website with full information provided on Github for audit by the Mission Driven Pools alliance. After minting 26 Blocks we have donated over $4000 in charity payments. Unfortunately due to a very long run without being allocated any new slots we have been unable to make any charity payments for a few months now but hope to resume this soon.
Great contribution. Any final thoughts? Where can people contact you?
GNP1 has been committed to our Stakepool since its origin in October 2020. We have been very active in promoting our cause through various means on social media and have worked hard at producing promotional NFTs, running Giveaways and actively contributing on the various Cardano related platforms. However our survival depends on getting more delegation and support and we would welcome any new delegators.
Disclaimer: The opinions and views of the SPOs are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Cardano Foundation or IOG.