Mina Foundation CEO, Evan Shapiro – Q & A session

Our goal in the coming months will be to keep you up to date with the news and info from the most exciting project in crypto, Mina Protocol. Mina Protocol is the worlds lightest Blockchain and the ground-breaking tech behind this layer one Blockchain has the potential to change the way we interact with the internet and mobile applications for years to come.

Previously the head of (0)1 Labs, the team that developed MINA (previously CODA) and now newly appointed Mina Foundation CEO, Evan Shapiro took a break from his busy schedule to answer a few questions, some of which were submitted by our readers.


What has been the most challenging aspect about the Mina Protocol project up to this point? Has it been difficult to make the transition mentally from a coder to a CEO? Will you be wearing a suit into the office from now on? 
 

Yeah, I think learning how to build a company and launch Mina was a challenge. It’s not something you can learn easily, both are so much dependent on your context and what you’re trying to do, there’s no rulebook that will tell you exactly what to do.

I think having been through this once at O(1) Labs definitely makes things easier at the foundation. Definitely no suit still, no!

q: You are now CEO of the Mina Foundation, what was the driving force behind moving from the head of o(1) labs, what will your everyday tasks be in the new position? Will they be very different? 
 

I wanted to help Mina realize its potential as an ecosystem, and community. I also believed in our team at O(1) Labs to be able to build out snapps and run O(1) Labs, and that I could best serve the project by leaving the company in their hands, and continuing to build at the foundation.

My role now is to do what I can to get many many different people working on Mina, by helping onboard them, and coordinate incentives for their work. At its core, company building is very similar here at Mina Foundation, as it has been at O(1) Labs. The rest of the work feels like a continuation of what I’ve been doing at O(1) Labs – moving from launching mainnet, to building out an ecosystem – which feels right for me and Mina as well. I’m very excited to see if we can realize the potential of the project.

I’ve written a letter to the community sharing my thoughts about what the Mina Foundation will focus on versus O(1) Labs, feel free to check it out.


q: The demo of Mina working with Teller to provide SNARK-powered DeFi shows the potential Main has to integrate with web applications. When can we expect to see more similar projects?  Also are you still talking / collaborating with the Ethereum foundation? How would you like to see that relationship grow? 


Yep, the RFP with Ethereum Foundation is still in progress. Expect to hear more on next steps with the RFP soon, as well as collaboration with other projects. This is definitely somewhere that we want to keep expanding on too, we feel good that we’re able to contribute something to the space, and we’re excited for what Snapps and zero knowledge proofs could mean for developers, especially in DeFi.


q:There has been some controversy regarding Mina’s archive nodes, do you think this has been overstated? Can you see how some people might say that these compromise the decentralisation of the Mina Protocol? 

Fortunately for us, and the promise of Mina, this was false. Running Mina has no dependency on archive nodes.

A bit of information on them – an archive node stores the history of all accounts on the network. But it’s not necessary for running a consensus node (which can drop history), tracking the history of your own accounts, or any other normal operation of the network. This is fundamentally the point of Mina, that it stays small and easy to operate, verify, and interact with, independent of throughput or how long it’s been running for.

What was really interesting to me was seeing how this hearsay worked. What was a bit sad to me was that the version of it that spread wasn’t just that Mina needs archive nodes, but also that its archive nodes are only on Google cloud. Which would indeed be disappointing, but fortunately of course, is not at all the case–archive nodes not only are optional to the functioning of the network, but they can run on any Linux system.


q: What do you see as the biggest problem to solve in the next couple of years for the Mina Foundation? When do you hope we will be able to run a node on a mobile phone? 
 
The next step is to help get Mina widely integrated into the space. We’re doing that via things like the Ethereum RFP and other project bridges mentioned above. This will both bring zero knowledge proof programming to other protocols via Mina’s Snapps, and trustless bridges between projects.

After that, it is using Mina to provide a verified link between the real world and crypto. This will include things like getting information on chain via Snapps. But it’s also providing secure, full node access to crypto, as existing chains continue to get larger and harder to verify. That’s where running a node on a mobile phone comes in. Chainsafe is currently working on the WASM version of Mina. That will let Mina run basically anywhere, bringing this support in.


q: Mina has a relatively low transaction speed at the moment compared to some other blockchains. While this isn’t a big problem currently, some critics of the project have pointed to it as a potential stumbling block to overcome before mass adoption, do you envisage this being easy to scale up? 
 
So yes, increasing TPS is not a fundamental protocol challenge, it’s a strategic decision of what to focus on. Right now, we’re focusing on other priorities to bring usage to Mina, such as Snapps. In terms of base layer scaling, this should be relatively easy. And each tps gained won’t weigh down the system, it will stay lightweight.

Beyond base layer scaling, Mina also has other opportunities to scale not available to other chains. With Mina, each account can itself be a zkRollup. We’re exploring ways to make this appear native, with the same guarantees as normal application of transactions. 
 
q: Do you pay much attention to the cryptocurrency markets? Who has been the biggest influence on you in the Crypto world? 

Yep. I’ve been following the space for a decade or so now, so it’s been crazy to watch crypto go from a conceptual idea to the level of establishment it’s reached. I often feel like my expectations are still locked at when Izaak and I started Mina at the beginning of 2017, when crypto was a fraction of where it is now.

These days, what I’m mostly interested in following are new areas of applications, and protocols with novel tech or communities. Vitalik has probably been the biggest influence for me, I’ve been impressed by and am a close reader of his writings on the intersection of communities, decentralization, and technology.


q: How important do you think a community is to the success of Cryptocurrency? 

I think at the end of the day, cryptocurrencies are communities. A piece of code by itself doesn’t make a cryptocurrency, it needs a community too. That’s why we’re attempting to think very thoughtfully about community design, and what processes can we build to enable community members to engage and contribute where they want to, and how to incentivize this. I think it’s very much the early days for the space here, and I’m very excited to see what new collective processes the space comes up with for engaging communities with projects.

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