Hugo Feiler, CoFounder/CEO Minima


Pemo: Welcome, Hugo. So pleased to speak to you today. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about Minima and where you’re heading with that.

Hugo Feiler: Hi Pemo, yes, thank you very much for having me. I think just to explain a little bit about what Minima is trying to achieve. Minima is a new layer one blockchain protocol and going back to the core value proposition of our blockchain, which is to deliver censorship resistance through decentralization, the ability to come to consensus on the validity of an online transaction in a decentralized way to avoid the need for third parties to be relied upon process and validate those transactions. But however, in the current blockchain marketplace, all other blockchains have middle men or third parties involved in coming to consensus to secure the chain. If you take Bitcoin for example, you have the miners who, because of the competition to find blocks, are pooling their resources to achieve economies of scale and therefore they’re becoming centralized. Or you have proof-of-stake chains where those with the most stake have the most control in the chain.

Hugo Feiler: So I think, in many ways it’s about the barriers to entry that have either been too high for everyone to take part in the consensus or the cost of equipment and the knowhow is just too much basically. So what we now have with Minima is we’ve now taken this to a whole new paradigm where Minima runs in full on a mobile device. So via an app, a simple app download, every user can run a full constructing and validated node on the device. And so it’s so compact that’ll either running on your mobile or your laptop or eventually on chip and so this means that there’s literally no middlemen within our blockchain protocol. And so that means everyone is an equal, everyone is running it in exactly the same way as anyone else.

Pemo: I love that.

Hugo Feiler: And we have currently 300,000 nodes running on the network across 187 countries. So yeah, that’s what we’re trying to achieve. I mean in many ways people, when we started building this in 2019 and people said, “Oh it’s a great idea but it’ll never happen or I don’t believe you.” So we’ve now been building out our community and our network of people running the nodes over the last year and so we now have the proof of the pudding that actually works and it functions as a full blockchain.

Pemo: Great. Tell me, I think you’re about to launch your Mainnet soon, is that right?

Hugo Feiler: Yes. So we are currently at Mainnet Beta and we have our sort of final version of the protocol up and running and we are looking to launch main net in Q1 of 2023.

Pemo: And tell me a bit more about what that’s going to look like.

Hugo Feiler: We’re aiming to get to a million users on the network when we get to Mainnet launch because the one thing that we need is we need lots of users. So everyone does a small amount of work that gets added together to create the proof of work to secure the chain. So we need lots of users and in order to do that, I mean I think, as I say, in order to be able to make that happen we had to make it as accessible as possible. So you can now go to Google Play Store and download a full blockchain node on your mobile device as an app and it means that anyone can run it as long as you have Android 9 or above, anyone can run it on their device.

Pemo: Wow. I’ll have to do that. I’m on Android 12 so I can do it then. That’s great.

Hugo Feiler: There you go, perfect. Yep, absolutely.

Pemo: So tell me about, of course we’ve all been focused on this Ethereum merge, tell me a little bit about that and how that’s going to affect things in the crypto scene.

Hugo Feiler: So I think yes, I think that was all the headlines in the last few weeks and months about it. And again it was an extraordinary technical feat most people describe as sort of changing the engine of a car while it’s actually moving along. And so I think that was an unbelievable technical feat. But I think that the really interesting thing is to really look at, going back to the original premise of a blockchain is how decentralized it is. Because effectively that’s the whole reason for having a blockchain is so that you can have decentralization. And so now that Ethereum has moved to proof of stake because of the complex cost and complexity of running a full validating node on Ethereum, I mean it costs 32 ETH which is around $50,000 now and it says you need sort of three to five years of backend server experience to actually run a node.

Hugo Feiler: So what that means is that actually a lot of users have actually been delegating this job of running a validating node to centralized firms like Coinbase or Kraken or Lido. And that means that actually 65% of the Ethereum network now is controlled by entities that are regulated. And this is really a form of censorship. So it’s all very well moving to what’s seen as an environmentally friendly consensus mechanism. But actually if you are by the end ending up where you have your layer one chain that’s actually run by potentially sensible entities, then your chain sort of loses its make or value proposition. And so I think this is something that is going to become more and more of a debate in the coming months and years as the middlemen and the third party entities tend towards centralization and become points of potential points of attack.

Pemo: Yes, it certainly changes the whole ideal of that. Bitcoin originally started with obviously. Do you want to explain to me a bit about the difference between proof of work and proof of stake?

Hugo Feiler: Yeah, so I think it’s all about the different consensus mechanisms that are used to verify the chain and to keep it secure. And so with proof of work you actually have to do work, external work processing transactions. It means anyone can take part in that but there’s a competition within proof of work and it sits outside of the chain itself.

Hugo Feiler: Whereas with proof of stake, it’s all about those who get to decide on the validity of transactions are the ones who have the largest stake on the network. And the theory being that largely the stake, the less likely you are to be a bad actor. However, what it does tend towards is that it tends towards those with the largest stake. Those are the richest then effectively get to choose which transactions get validated.

Hugo Feiler: And so there’s a big debate, I think that the argument often goes that if you want to have a more environmentally friendly consensus mechanism then you move towards proof of stake, but that will tend towards centralization. And so the debate is whether or not you want to have a layer one that tends towards centralization or stays decentralized. And interestingly…

Pemo: Yeah, sorry. So with there’s, I mean a lot of bad actors recently who have lost billions. So how does that figure, if these very rich people that own different platforms can call the shots?

Hugo Feiler: Well, I mean think in terms of the bad actors that tends to be on the application layer or applications that sit above the base layer themselves. I mean I think someone said to me once that the most risky parts of code are the fleshy parts, which the developers or the users that can get hacked through social engineering. And so it’s always those areas.

Hugo Feiler: I mean, you know, you look at Bitcoin and the Bitcoin, the protocol itself has never been hacked. Obviously there are lots of applications where there are exchanges or bridges that have been hacked and continue to be. So it’s those areas that are often the most open to hacks and attacks.

Hugo Feiler: I think that going back to looking at the idea that layer ones could be censored, that might not necessarily be by design. The fact that all the users have pooled their Ethereum and their validating stakes into centralized entities is something that will become a bigger and bigger problem over time. And I think that as soon as you have the centralization at centralizing elements of that, then you lose the power of a blockchain and you might as well go back to a centralized SQL database otherwise you know, are paying for something that you don’t need to be paying for in a way.

Pemo: Right, and so does the world really need another layer of layer one blockchain protocol? So tell us, give us your pitch about Minima, how special it is.

Hugo Feiler: So as I say, I think that if you are in agreement with the original Bitcoin white paper that censorship resistance needs to be achieved for online transactions and that potentially resistance comes from decentralization of the consensus, then you know, need to look at which protocols are out there and which ones are central, which ones… The levels of centralization. Because I think centralization is not on a continuum. It’s either centralized or its not. Because as soon as you have elements of centralization, whether that’s mining pools or that’s staking, then those are the areas that will get attacked at some point, and so you lose the censorship resistance there.

Hugo Feiler: Where Minima’s coming at it is, is that because everyone can run a full validating construction node on their device from the beginning, there’s no elements of centralization within it. So everyone is an equal, no one has more power than anyone else. So every single user is in complete control of their own data and their own coins and their own identity. And I think that is where blockchain should be taking us. And that’s where Web3, I mean that’s the premise of Web3. Everyone should be able to be in control of their own data and they’re all and their own identity.

Pemo: And I guess with the recent shaming of sites like Facebook, such a horrible site and some of the other big tech in Silicon Valley, it certainly sounds very appropriate timing to be coming along with this. And so great. I’ve been following Bitcoin since 2008 when it first started to be talked about. And I was in Dublin, in Ireland at that time with my business and when I went to the US people couldn’t believe they actually called me a liar because they didn’t believe that I could have been following it for that long. But it was like a delayed reaction in the US which is very interesting. But I love the whole philosophy about Bitcoin, I just think it’s fantastic. And it sounds like you are really trying to keep that intact through your platform.

Hugo Feiler: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I think we always go back down to the core principles of Bitcoin and I think that we’ve benefited, Minima’s benefited from hindsight in terms of working out the best way to build it out to be lean and compact, but also benefited from technology developments as well. Back in 2008, the smartphone had only just been born. It wasn’t something that was in everyone’s hands. And so yeah, when Satoshi wrote the Bitcoin white paper to think that everyone would be running Bitcoin nodes on their laptops, then that was one thing, but then obviously the competition meant that it became an industry. Whereas smartphones are incredibly powerful now. And so actually everyone, the vast majority of the world has access to a mobile phone. And the technology that we use means that we can actually run a full validating extraction node not only on a mobile phone but also on sim cards and also eventually on chip as well, which means all connected devices will be able to be part of the network.

Hugo Feiler: I mean, for example, one of the big areas that we are working at the moment, it’s a couple of areas. So we have handset manufacturers who are talking to us about embedding a Minima node at factory stage onto the phones to have Web3 enabled phones. And we are also talking to the automotive industry that are looking to embed nodes into their vehicles to sort track telemetry data of the vehicle itself, but also to be able to communicate securely with other brands that aren’t the same brand as theirs, in terms of data, in terms of data where they are on the car in the road, what other vehicles are around, and also pay for things like electricity charging and toll booths and all of that kind of stuff basically. So that is something where, when you’re trying to create an autonomous world, autonomous vehicles, then you need a blockchain to be able to securely communicate and you need a blockchain that fits in full on devices rather than being centrally run by either validators or Bitcoin miners in mining farms.

Pemo: So inspiring to talk to you today, Hugo, and so impressed by the platform I have to say. And yeah, I just wish you all the success in the world and because this really is more aligned with the original philosophy and yeah, let’s pray that everything goes your way. It’s fantastic. Thank you so much for talking with us today.

Hugo Feiler: Thank you very much for your time. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.

Pemo: Thanks Hugo.