The Business Of
By Josh Moir
From working and developing ecommerce solutions, discovering and then building blockchain products, to now building Ethereum's internet of blockchains, an interview with the co-founder of Polygon, Sandeep Nailwal.
The Business Of Interview Series
12th May 2021, 22:00 GMT
Hello, Sandeep, thank you very much for joining us today. We're honoured to have you and we're looking forward to asking you some questions.
Thanks. Thanks a lot for having me here and we're looking forward to this conversation.
So I'd like to begin a bit before you got involved in Polygon, which was previously Matic, can you talk to us about what you were doing before, cofounding a project, I believe you worked as CEO of Scope Weaver and then CTO of E-Commerce for the Welspun Group.
Yeah, absolutely. Let's start right from the beginning. So, after my engineering, I worked as a software engineer with the Computer Sciences Corporation for two years.
Then I did my management that was specialized in technology. And then I joined Deloitte Consulting and I worked there for less than a year. And then I joined this Welspun Group, which is one of the biggest textile groups in India. So they had the e-commerce division upcoming and there I joined as the CTO and I took care of all the tech stack and enterprise integrations and all that. But since my very early days, even in my last year of my engineering degree, I had a small startup where I used to help some clients. I mean, one of our bigger clients was the BJP, the ruling party of India right now. So their Delhi State, where I come from, their Delhi State unit had hired us to do some analytics on previous years' data of election commission and things like that. After that also I had done quite a few small startups here and there, tech-related and all that. So I always wanted to do something on my own.
Even those leadership roles such as at Welspun Group gave me that kind of confidence that I can do it and by that time, I was also able to crack a small angel funding for my idea, which I wanted to build, which was Scope Weaver, which was basically a B2B services marketplace. You can think of it as like Alibaba, but that focuses on services vendors, not like freelancers, but businesses that can provide the services. And these are curated vendors these are not like freelance, where somebody starts as a freelancer and then gets into the system and all that. So more of curated, with multiple subteams, that we use to reach out to the client. They choose, which vendor they want to work with. That business was going well. But as the nature of the projects is, that business was very intensive and I realised that I needed to have at least ten versions of me, at least in terms of the quality of people. You could not leave that to subordinates.
So I realized that it was very difficult to scale that. And then I started thinking about doing something in the high-tech space. So I initially ventured a bit into artificial intelligence. And then there was too much mathematics in it. I was like, OK, I don't want to do this. Then I started looking and by that time it was like, I think 2015 end or something like that or early 2016. Bitcoin had really started its rally. So there was some noise around that and I thought, OK, let me give it a shot. And then I started reading the bible of blockchain, Andreas Antanopolous' 'Mastering Bitcoin' and four, five, six chapters into the book, actually the fourth chapter into the book immediately it struck me that this is not like a currency thing, this is like a big technology. And this can actually change how we human beings interact with each other and, you know, just like everyone else that was my point of falling into the rabbit hole. And, I've been falling deeper and deeper since then.
So then I started becoming a blockchain developer. I initially was consulted by quite a few clients to build their dapps, and ICO solutions and all that. And then, you know, Ethereum like then the Crypto Kitty movement happened and the writing was on the wall that Ethereum is not scalable and you need to have more solutions to scale Ethereum. And then by that time I met my co-founder who was also from the community and all that.
Yeah, and could you give a brief overview of Matic was and could you talk about the history of that for some of our audience who perhaps are not familiar, and then why you decided to rebrand Polygon and also the differences between the two in terms of what you were and what you are trying to achieve?
For sure. So basically, when we started, at that point in time and Joseph Poon is also the author of Lightning Network, because they had come up with this plasma approach and it was picking up traction, it had a lot of hype in the industry and it was touted as the next scaling solution for Ethereum and Talig was very closely involved in that. And my co-founder, Jaynti Kanani, he was involved in that. So when we started Matic we realised that we need to go after the adoption instead of the tech hype and, you know, things like that. So we realized that with this UTXO based model nobody is going to use it. It will be a simple payment mechanism. No user will be able to use it and the developers won't use it because they need full-blown smart contracts, it's not about only the payments.
So then JD [Jaynti Kanani] came up with the idea that we should have an EVM based plasma solution. So that's where the journey of Matic started. We kind of diverged from the original plasma implementation and we said that it should be an EVM based plasma implementation, which initially can maybe solve payments in a plasma mode. But then later on, the whole EVM can be plasmafied in a sense, having both data availability and dispute resolution on Ethereum on chain. Our final mainnet was launched somewhere in May 2020. Since then the network has been getting a phenomenal amount of traction.
But all this while the business team, which is led by me at Polygon, we spoke to thousands and thousands of these developers, I should not say thousands but probably at least a few hundred... What we realised is that there is no one solution fits all, and then, these scaling techniques are all going to be commoditised eventually. And what happens is that the community moves from one hype to another hype, like previously it was state channels then it was plasma and it was optimistic rollups then ZK-Rollups, these different flavours of it, like Validium vs on-chain rollup.
What we realized is that we want to build a long-term sustainable solution. We don't want to build a network, which gets used for, a few months, and then after that, nobody cares about it and it dies.
Could you give a brief overview of what Polygon is and explain what attracted you to try and create a protocol and a framework for building and connecting Ethereum-compatible blockchain networks?
Polygon effectively transforms Ethereum into a full-fledged multi-chain system (aka Internet of Blockchains). This multi-chain system is akin to other ones such as Polkadot, Cosmos, Avalanche etc, but with at least three major upsides:
It is able to fully benefit from Ethereum’s network effects.
It is inherently more secure.
It is more open and powerful.
Let’s now talk a bit about the features that Polygon offers for developers including ETH compatibility, Scalability and Security among many others setting Polygon apart. Could you dive a bit deeper and explain some of the features available on Polygon for our audience?
Polygon will support major Layer 2 solutions such as Optimistic Rollups, zkRollups, Validium etc, thus basically becoming a one-of-a-kind “Layer 2 aggregator”.
We are soon launching a Polygon SDK - a modular, flexible framework that supports building and spinning up your own stand-alone chain. They provide flexibility and independence to the Dapps. There is also research going on to support layer 2 Chains such as Optimistic Rollups, zkRollups, Validium etc.
We want to become the premier layer-2 aggregator and the go-to platform for all scalability solutions on Ethereum.
Please find information regarding this here:
Let’s now talk a bit about the projects building on Polygon. Some very exciting projects such as Polymarket, Aavegotchi and Decentral Games are just some of the projects using Polygon Architecture. Could you talk a bit about this and how you envision this growing in the near future.
150+ Dapps including Aave, Curve, Polymarket, Aavegotchi, OpenSea, NeonDistrict, Cometh and Quickswap have chosen Polygon to scale their applications! You can find a full list from the community at awesomepolygon.com
Finally the last question relating to Polygon, could you tell us what your long term vision for Polygon is? Almost where you would like to see the project a few years in the future.
Polygon is open and powerful, primarily in terms of architecture types it can support. This is because (1) Polygon is built on Ethereum, so it can trivially incorporate basically any scaling or infrastructure solution from the Ethereum ecosystem, and (2) we fully adopt Ethereum’s ethos of open innovation and we designed Polygon with it as one of the main design goals.
The mission of Polygon will always be to scale Ethereum and take the power of Blockchain and Crypto to the next million users.
Who is someone that you look up to & what is it about that person that inspires you?
His breadth and depth into various topics is very inspiring. You have people who have deep knowledge of few subjects, you have people who have shallow knowledge on breadth of topics but Vitalik has deep knowledge in a variety of subjects, which makes him fascinating like Elon Musk.
What are 3 major attributes you would contribute to your success thus far? For example, your work ethic perhaps.
Ability to get work done, respect for team members and others, and focus.
Apart from the blockchain space, are there any other industries that you have a particular interest in, for example, Artificial intelligence?
Right now, I think we are getting started with the blockchain space. Blockchain right now is at the point where the internet was in 2003-04. So, I want to focus all my energy on it.
Thanks a lot for taking the time to come on today and speak to us.
Thank you very much for the opportunity.