Interview with Jack Lu & Oliver Birch from Wanchain
Interview with Jack Lu And Oliver Birch from Wanchain
Jack Lu, Founder & CEO of WanChain
Oliver Birch, VP of Communications & Growth
1. Hey Jack and Oliver. Thanks for joining me today. Can you tell me more about yourself and your time in the crypto industry? How did you get started?
Jack: I completed my first degree at Peking University, majoring in Enterprise Management. I worked in the financial industry there before moving to the U.S. to study Economics and Computer Science at Ohio State University. I became a software engineer and stayed in this industry up until I invested in Bitcoin in 2012 and Ethereum in 2014. I was approached by David Johnston and Paul Snow to start Factom, where I became the CTO. In 2016 I came back to Beijing, China to start Wanglu – a “Blockchain as a Service” company targeted towards enterprise and government. Research into blockchain interoperability started in early 2016 with the release of an interoperability PoC later that year.
Oliver: I completed my triple major degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Lancaster University in 2014. After finishing my degree I dove straight into the pharmaceutical industry, where my dad had been for over 25 years. I started as a clinical trial manager at the Madrid site before running all operations and partnerships for the entire country. I started as a community manager for Wanchain in August of 2017, building an international community, supporting the fund raising and managing all Wanchain social channels before joining full-time and taking on more responsibility.
2. How did the concept of Wanchain originate?
After starting Factom with David Johnston and Paul Snow, I decided to create a new company focused on solving the “interoperability problem”. I thought, we have all these siloed blockchains that are unable to speak to each other, we need a solution to bridge them all together. This is when I funded a research team (the beginning of Wanchain) in early 2016 and started a PoC bridging Ethereum to a EVM-based chain. After a successful PoC we started public funding of Wanchain in October 2017, with the vision of connecting all blockchains. We released Wanchain on mainnet in January 2018 and have completed every milestone so far. We were the first project to bridge Ethereum and Bitcoin, proving our cross-chain mechanism works for any blockchain, regardless of the technicalities. We will make the transition to Proof of Stake on September 3rd, allowing any user to help secure the network as a validator or delegator.
To join our PoS community please read the following post: https://medium.com/wanchain-foundation/wanchain-validator-node-mainnet-launch-20263ca43e17
3. What does a normal work day look like working at Wanchain? Where are the team members based out of?
Jack: There is a lot of work and we all have different responsibilities. We have several developer teams, one is focused on Proof of Stake, another on Cross-Chain improvements and Lanchains (our Private Blockchain as a Service). A new challenge everyday. On one side I have to manage the development team which is largely based in Beijing, China, oversee our Business HQ in Austin, TX and coordinate with our remote team. For example, Oliver is based in Madrid, Spain but oversees Europe, Africa and South America. Our VP of Engineering, Weijia Zhang is based in Austin TX along with our marketing team, lead by Dan Reecer.
4. What would you describe as the main objectives of Wanchain?
There are three pillars to Wanchain. The best of all worlds! We need all three of these key ingredients for a sustainable new digital economy: Smart Contracts, Privacy and Interoperability. We forked Ethereum since it was and is the most widely used smart contract platform in the world, and added ring signatures and one time addresses to give users the option of privacy protection. We came up with our own way of doing cross-chain using secure multiparty computation and as part of the technology, shamir’s secret sharing scheme for private key management, locking assets on native chains and proxy token creation on Wanchain. With the three pillars we believe we can achieve the vision we set out in the whitepaper. Locking assets on their respective chains and issuing proxy tokens on Wanchain and other blockchains, was the most obvious mechanism to creating an “interoperability standard”. Hyperledger, EEA and the majority of enterprise involved in this space are all waiting on projects to bring standards to the industry. We are working towards those standards but know it will still take time for the space to realize the technical breakthrough we have accomplished. We still have to make a number of improvements to bring true adoption to blockchain and cryptocurrencies. We need better tools, improve the user experience, more fiat gateways, more gamified tutorials and a number of other things before we see a significant increase in users but we’ve still come a long way since 2017.
5. Can you describe Wanchain’s cross-chain technology, how does it work?
Our storeman nodes control the locked accounts on each respective chain. Each locked account holds a number of native assets. Let’s take Bitcoin as an example. The original Bitcoin are locked by 21 storeman node (each blockchain integration currently requires 21 nodes). Using SMPC we distribute the private key of the locked account amongst the different storemen nodes. Once we lock the BTC on its original chain, a proxy token (“Wrapped Bitcoin”) is deployed on Wanchain. This WBTC is in its WRC-20 format (same as ERC-20) and can be seamless used across the platform. Once you want to redeem it for the original locked BTC , the proxy token is burned and a user can receive the original Bitcoin in their Bitcoin wallet. There is no central single party holding the original BTC. Thanks to our transition to Proof of Stake, will be completely decentralized. To recreate the private key for the locked account we use Shamir’s Secret Sharing Scheme and only k number of nodes need to be live (e.g. not every node that was live during the locking of the asset needs to be live again, just a percentage). This also avoids collusion in the future whereby we will integrate strict economic rules to disincentive any nodes from colluding once Wanchain is fully decentralized and we’ve opened up all our storemen nodes to the public.
6. What is the biggest problem Wanchain can solve that its competitors are not currently solving, and why is the problem important to solve?
Wanchain is solving the problem of interoperability. By allowing the decentralized, free flow of value across various blockchains. Right now our focus is on digital assets of “value” but we are looking into the cross-chain transfers of data, information in forms of NFTs and a variety of other assets. With Wanchain’s protocol we can bring wrapped assets to Wanchain but we can also bring these assets to other chains. For example with Bitcoin, we can bridge it to Ethereum, through Wanchain’s bridges and network of storemen nodes. Our storemen nodes will require WAN in collateral and tx fees paid in WAN. Any assets we migrate over to other blockchains will need to go through Wanchain’s backend and leverage WANs utility. We intend to come out with a universal plug and play cross-chain solution that will allow anyone, on any blockchain, to transfer assets over. Our private blockchain solution or “sidechains” called “Lanchains” will also need to be connected to other Lanchains and our public network. We plan to expand upon our current interoperability and offer bridges between public-private, public-public and private-private.
7. What’s the added value of the Wanchain in comparison with its competitors?
Wanchain’s added value is that it makes use of sMPC (shamir’s secret sharing scheme) to deploy proxy tokens in representation of locked assets on their native chains. Very few projects have come up with scalable cross-chain solutions and we know we are one of the few. Atomic swaps done via Bitcoin Relay are slow and expensive. We have come up with a faster and more scalable solution to what is out there. TX fees and speed is still a universal limitation but we achieved near-instant cross-chain transactions using state channels between Ethereum and Wanchain for our mobile wallet demo in collaboration with Telefonica’s Eleven Paths in February 2019. We plan to improve upon this and work on Bitcoin’s Lightning Network, Ethereum Layer 2 solutions and other scaling solutions on different blockchains once our first major Proof of Stake updates have been conducted.
8. With Proof of stake coming, what sets you apart from the rest, like known coins such as Dash, or NEO with Gas for Example?
Our Proof of Stake took inspiration from Cardano’s Ouroboros. Ouroboros is one of the few Proof of Stake algorithms with a tremendous amount of academic papers and research backing it. With the sheer amount of research papers available on this algorithm, no need for slashing and top security, we believe it is the right choice for our platform transition from PoW to PoS. NEO uses another token for gas which was something we considered but decided to avoid as we didn’t want users to deal with various tokens to transact. Instead, maximizing utility for one token made a lot more sense. We use WAN for smart contract creation, tx fees, governance, staking, storemen storemen node collateral (when we open them up) and a lot more. Other chains have deployed hybrid versions of PoW/PoS but they have less research and are more risky to deploy on mainnet. We believe a full transition to PoS is more aligned with our vision of rebuilding finance, allowing anyone to set up a validator or delegate. On the right path towards a fully distributed, decentralized, new digital economy.
9. Can you elaborate on the concept of what a Storemen node is versus a regular node?
A regular validator running on PoS is split between two functions: Epoch Leader (EL) and Random Number Proposer (RNP). The RNP group is responsible for generating a random number for each block, to be used as an important seed for selecting which nodes make up the Epoch Leader groups to produce a given block. The EL group is in charge of validating transactions and adding them to the blocks. Storemen nodes are in charge of securing the various bridges between chains. As discussed above, we currently need 21 storemen nodes per blockchain integration. Each node requires a number of BTC and WAN (in the case of Bitcoin) or ETH (in the case of Ethereum) as collateral. Once we upon these nodes up to the public, you can be rewarded in WAN for securing the different bridges. Ultimately, we see WAN becoming a governance token across various blockchains, being used for cross-chain tx, collateral for storemen nodes and incentives to those running these nodes.
For more information about our staking economics please read this blog post: https://medium.com/wanchain-foundation/wanchain-proof-of-stake-validator-economics-for-upcoming-alpha-testing-d57353a4d0f9
10. How has and how will blockchain change the world?
Oliver: I first got into this space in late 2011, researching Bitcoin, writing essays at university and blog posts online. I was living in Spain prior to moving to the UK for my higher degree. The economic collapse I witnessed at the time was catastrophic. The unemployment rate for young people in Spain (under 35) was over 45% between 2009-2010 yet the demand for bitcoin was a lot more than the rest of Europe. Spain was one of the first countries to introduce Bitcoin ATMs and the younger generations were buying it in hope of a way out. Whatever people think about Bitcoin, it still started the world’s biggest digital movement. Blockchain is affecting all industries and will continue to disrupt the world like we’ve never seen before. Cross-border payments, tracking luxury items, interoperable loyalty points, decentralized exchanges, trustless loans, stablecoins and other impressive economic experiments as seen with Bomb token and Ampleforth. Not all will succeed but even the ones that fail, will pave the way for the future. It isn’t easy to use tools or dApps built on blockchain but it’s improving everyday, with more of a focus on UX and UI. In 2017 we witnessed the birth of ICOs as mass-scale but 2018 and 2019 paved the way for projects working on solutions for real problems rather than building a solution looking for a problem.
Wanchain Vision Video
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Authored by @TraderStacking.