Evan Shapiro, CEO & Co-Founder of O(1) Labs – Interview Series

by Gordon James

The Interview Series is a series of articles and blog posts where we interview the founders, founders teams, and big players in the Ethereum ecosystem. Our goal is to provide critical insight for the Ethereum community and to provide the community with a better understanding of how these people think and work. If you are interested in these posts, please reach out to me, Evan Shapiro, on Twitter, or email me at [email protected]

This is a series of interviews with the CEO and Co-Founder of O(1) Labs, a decentralized computing platform, that will be published monthly.

What if you could send money anywhere in the world in just a few minutes, without a bank account or an exchange? What if you could send money to anyone with an email address, without the need to go through a middleman or central authority? Well, you can do exactly that with a system called decentralized blockchain-based currency.

Evan Shapiro is the CEO and co-founder of O(1) Labs, the company responsible for launching the Mina protocol. Evan’s background is in computer science, machine learning, distributed systems, and robotics task planning. What does O(1) refer to? O(1) Labs is a company that my co-founder Isaac Meckler and I started in 2017 to research and solve the data centralization and security problems behind blockchain. The team we set up at O(1) Labs ended up creating a blockchain of constant size, the Mina protocol, to solve this problem. O(1) refers to a concept in the theory of algorithm complexity, the Big-O notation, which describes the time taken by an algorithm given the input data. The notation O(1) denotes an algorithm that is always executed in the same time (or space), regardless of the size of the input data set, while other algorithms may be O(n), O(logn), etc. Thus, the time required to execute the algorithm remains the same regardless of the size of the data. We get this property with a concise Mina blockchain – no matter how many transactions the chain has processed or how long it has been in existence, the blockchain constantly needs time to verify. Hence the name – O-of-1 Labs. Can you tell us the story behind the creation of O(1) Labs? I started programming in high school. When I first heard about cryptocurrencies, I was intrigued by their potential to change the internet. I’ve read almost every white paper published in the early days of cryptocurrencies. Co-founder Isaac Meckler and I began to realize that the design flaws of older blockchains, like Bitcoin and later Ethereum, boiled down to one fundamental problem: The design of these blockchains meant that they would eventually become too data-intensive for anyone to participate in mining and verifying the nodes. This will have implications for decentralisation and security. Co-founder Izaak and I founded O(1) Labs to solve this fundamental problem, and Mina is a solution that is the result of years of research, development and testing. In 2017, O(1) Labs launched the Mina blockchain (formerly known as Coda Protocol), why did you think it was the right time to launch a new blockchain? For us, it wasn’t about timing, it was about solving a major technical problem in the cryptocurrency world and optimizing the launch of the test network at the time when it was ready for the community to participate and provide feedback. We spent many months collecting and integrating user feedback before launching the main network on the 23rd. March 2021. The Mina community’s token sale ended shortly after, with $18.75 million raised in 4 hours. Mina is a lightweight blockchain, with a size of only 22 KB. What are the benefits of a small blockchain? Nodes must charge the entire chain to participate in the consensus. Legacy blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum are now incredibly overloaded with data, so nodes must meet certain resource requirements to participate (for comparison, the Bitcoin blockchain currently requires about 349GB and Mina 22kB). These high demands on computing resources limit the choice of appropriate nodes for consensus, which affects the degree of network decentralization and ultimately security. By encompassing the entire state of the chain in a simple zero-knowledge proof, Mina is much easier to bootstrap, increasing the number of suitable nodes and increasing availability and decentralization. Can you explain what the proof of zero knowledge is? Essentially, zero-knowledge evidence allows the sender to prove the truth of a fact without reporting it himself. Thus, zero-knowledge proof is ideal for demonstrating that the sender has access to private information without disclosing the private information itself. Mina uses recursive zk-SNARKs that capture the state of the entire blockchain as a lightweight snapshot, rather than the chain itself. When the next block is created on the network, it takes a snapshot of itself – with a snapshot of the previous state of the blockchain as a background. This new snapshot is in turn used as the background for the next block, and so on – this is the recursive part. Incredibly, although it can hold an infinite amount of information, the image always remains the same size. Apart from the size of the blockchain, what sets Mina apart from competing blockchains? By using zk-SNARK’s recursive Mina, developers can create controllable applications that give users control over the data they want to share. Since users do not have to share sensitive information, these applications, called Snapps, protect user data from hacking and leaks. If Snapps were used all over the web, the internet would be a much safer and more private place for users. Can you clarify what Snapps is? Snapps are verifiable applications created using the Mina protocol. An example of Snapp is the decentralized lending protocol Teller Finance, which Mina uses to let users prove that their credit score is higher than 700 without giving the applicant the actual credit score or other sensitive personally identifiable information (PII), such as. for example, a Social Security number. Mina connects to the credit bureau, issues a proof (e.g. exceeding the credit threshold) and shares this proof with the requesting party. By providing evidence rather than factual data, Teller Finance never puts users’ personal information at risk. What is Mina’s blockchain team currently working on? We look forward to bringing Mina’s privacy features to other blockchains and are working to build bridges with other chains. We also have a fantastic and very active global community. Is there anything else you’d like to share about O(1) Labs or Mina? To keep up with our latest developments and join our global community, visit our website and our social and community channels: Discord: https://bit.ly/MinaDiscord Telegram: http://bit.ly/MinaTelegram Twitter: https://twitter.com/MinaProtocol Support: https://medium.com/MinaProtocol YouTube: https://youtube.com/c/MinaProtocol Thank you for this great interview. Readers interested in learning more are encouraged to visit O(1) Labs and/or the Mina Protocol.O(1) Labs is a startup based out of Toronto, Canada. They have a goal to make the world a better place by reducing the cost of holding and transferring value in the digital realm. O(1) is a trustless and decentralized protocol which allows for the creation of an ecosystem for the trading of cryptocurrencies. O(1) Labs is comprised of a team of talented individuals, each with their own unique skillset.. Read more about evan shapiro crypto and let us know what you think.

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